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Mars Transition V, by Daein Ballard

Fry: Very impressive. Back in the 20th century we had no idea there was a university on Mars.
Professor Farnsworth: Well, in those days Mars was just a dreary, uninhabitable wasteland, much like Utah. But unlike Utah, it was eventually made livable, when the university was founded in 2636.
Leela: They planted traditional college foliage; ivy, trees, hemp. Soon the whole planet was terraformed.

A Speculative Fiction staple, the act of turning an otherwise human-unfriendly environment into an Earth-like, or "Terra-formed" planet. Narratively, this is done to give the cast a place to go outside the ship (off Earth) that won't require them dressing in Space Clothes constantly. Within a given setting, it's often done to showcase humanity's drive to explore and colonize new places for the famed trifecta of God, Gold and Glory. (Hey, at least one setting actively proselytizes, at gunpoint!)

Often used to explain why All Planets Are Earth-Like.

Terraforming itself is an actual area of study right now, as scientists try to design methods to create both self-contained environments (Bio-Domes being famous examples) and species that can survive in a hostile environment and improve it until it has a self-sustaining biosphere that can sustain humans. Easier said than done. Literally, because soft sci-fi settings tend to sneeze out terraforming efforts and planets like Martians with a cold. According to the NASA, terraforming Mars is simply not possible with our current technology (see press release here).

Harder sci-fi settings can construct entire books about the sciences and engineering involved, not to mention the political and social effort these huge undertakings would entail.

Often applied to the Colonized Solar System. As seen in the trope picture, Mars is likely to be a popular target for any terraforming operation in both fiction and reality. It has one of the shortest travel distances (second only to Venus), and is solid. Venus is also a popular candidate in fiction, being almost completely similar to Earth in terms of size and gravity, but it's second to Mars because warming something up is a lot easier than cooling it downnote , and unlike Mars, Venus's slow rotation would have to be dealt with.

Sometimes though, the planet is only harsh to humans, not other forms of life. The planet is plenty alive... too alive, with man-eating plants, semi- to hyper-evolved sentients, and scores of other dangers. A few old sci-fi serials and pulps would have their heroes' effort designed to create a "domestication" of savage planets, much like The American West was "tamed" with all the attendant heartache and extinctions.

More recently, however, some shows turn this around by showcasing how terraforming an already-living world can be ecologically disastrous, or ethically questionable, or even weaponized; or just plain pisses off the near omnipotent residents. Some works even turn the concept inside-out, showing how aliens arrive on Earth and mess the ecology up so badly that the planet becomes barely if at all habitable for humans (with similarities to Global Warming) in a process called xenoforming. When either of these variations happen, it's Hostile Terraforming, sometimes termed un-terraforming.

NOTE: Examples where an environment is terraformed/xenoformed in a way which negatively impacts the original inhabitants go on the Hostile Terraforming page: please list all appropriate examples on there instead of this page.

Compare the Genesis Effect, for when an entire planet is actually created instead of just made livable.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • ARIA takes place on Mars, which got mostly covered with water from the pole regions after terraforming and subsequently got renamed to Aqua.
  • This is in progress on Mars as of the first Armitage III OVA. In the epilogue to the sequel, it gets oceans courtesy of a lot of dropped comets.
  • Cowboy Bebop has numerous terraformed planets, moons and asteroids; it appears that only small sections of Mars that are protected by some sort of force-field dome are livable, though on Venus the plants used to terraform could cause some people to develop "Venus Sickness" with such side effects as going blind. Ganymede is completely covered in ocean, while Titan is all desert. Terraforming has become a necessity since, inversely, Earth has become almost uninhabitable due to the moon getting destroyed and debris bombardment that continues. Pretty much the only people who still live on Earth are those who can't afford to leave, and underground shelters are needed because of the constant meteor storms.
  • Near the end of Getter Robo Go, Shin Getter Robo instantly terraforms Mars with a blast of Getter Energy. It does this so it can hibernate on the planet long enough to combine with it and become an even larger robot.
  • Gundam:
    • The beginning of an attempt to terraform Mars is mentioned in the finale of Mobile Suit Gundam Wing. The sequel novel Frozen Teardrop has it completed roughly 20-30 years later thanks to an accident involving algae from Jupiter's moon Europa (previously studied but deemed too impractical).
    • Mobile Suit Gundam AGE makes this central to the backstory. Around a hundred years prior to the series, a serious attempt at terraforming Mars was made. An unexpected and extremely deadly plague made the Federation give up, in the process abandoning the settlers already there because they expected them to die out pretty quickly anyway and sweeping the whole matter under the rug. A few colonists survived though, and formed a nation called Veigan... which is now attacking the Earth Sphere for revenge and is known to them only as the "Unknown Enemy", or UE.
    • In Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans, Mars has been mostly terraformed: it has a breathable atmosphere and crops can grow on its surface. The process is not yet complete though, and the planet is still mostly barren.
  • Almost all populated planets in Kiddy Grade became inhabitable through terraforming. One episode even has Éclair and Lumière scavenge terraforming-equipment for usable parts.
  • Mars Daybreak features a Mars where terraforming has Gone Horribly Wrong, somehow flooding the entire planet except for the peak of Olympus Mons.
  • In Martian Successor Nadesico, Mars is terraformed through the use of Nanomachines. How these machines affected native Martians becomes a major plot point later on.
  • Osamu Tezuka's Mazin Garon is a Humongous Mecha with the ability to alter planets to mimic the conditions of any other planet, even going so far as to be able to control gravity.
  • In Negima! Magister Negi Magi, Negi's plan to save Mundus Magicus is revealed to be terraforming Mars so that it can support life.
  • Supplementary materials for Neon Genesis Evangelion reveal that Adam and Lilith are actually alien terraforming biotechnology called Eggs meant to seed life on worlds. The problems on Earth are the result of Adam and Lilith landing on the planet — planets are only supposed to get one of the "Eggs". Fortunately, the Eggs' creators included control rods (the Lances of Longinus) with each Egg that automatically seal them if another Egg had already landed. This is what happened to Adam since Lilith landed on Earth first. Unfortunately, curious humans removed Adam's Lance, kicking off the series.
  • The bad guys in Space Carrier Blue Noah want to terraform the planet Godom for their own needs.
  • The main premise of TerraforMARS, when the terraforming process Gone Horribly Wrong as the partially terraformed Mars now filled with swarms of hyper-evolved cockroaches.
  • The world-settlers in Trigun set out to terraform a new planet, but unfortunately ended up crashing onto a desert world (losing much of their tools and resources in the process) and what resources they still have are almost solely devoted to surviving. Due to this, the work has barely even started at the time of the series, and it's implied that they'd already been there for several decades or more.
  • Zone of the Enders features a partially terraformed Mars. In Dolores, i, it's shown that some of the planet's oxygen supply is being generated by seaweed that has grown huge in the new environment, with fronds hundreds of feet long. You still don't want to go out there for long without a spacesuit.

    Comic Books 
  • In Buck Godot: Zap Gun for Hire, the Prime Mover (a Sufficiently Advanced Alien and Obstructive Bureaucrat) is Terraforming a planet as a hobby, in his room, by hand. In his defense though, he did have a really big bucket.
  • In the Star Wars: Legacy comics, Project Ossus was a collaborative effort between the Jedi and the Yuuzhan Vong to terraform several planets that had been devastated in the Vong invasion nearly a century before, using their Organic Technology to repair the damage it had been used to wreck. They were successful on Ossus, the Jedi's new homeworld, but on later planets the Sith sabotaged the process in order to start a war between the Empire and the Alliance.
  • Superman:
    • In The Immortal Superman, the titular hero travels to the far-flung future and discovers Earth has been turned into a lifeless rock after millennia of wars and environmental damage, so he sets out to make Earth inhabitable again with his own hands.
    • The Untold Story of Argo City reveals that Superman and Supergirl turned a random uninhabited planet into a copy of Krypton as a giant memorial monument.
  • Transformers:
    • The Transformers (Marvel): Some comics written by Simon Furman have a variation of this: In the distant past, the war between alien gods Primus and Unicron was ended when Primus tricked them into eternal imprisonment in large metal planetoids. Over time, Primus terraforms his planetoid into the planet Cybertron (and creates sentient robotic life forms in the process), while Unicron terraforms his into a giant Transforming Mecha body.
    • Note that in Transformers: Cybertron, the titular planet is also a Transforming Mecha. Primus just prefers to remain as a home for his children.
    • Transformers: Generation 2: The Liege Maximo's Cybertronian Empire has a trend to terraform conquered planets to make them similar to Cybertron.
  • WildStorm:
    • In the Wildstorm universe, it's eventually revealed that Earth was in fact terraformed by technology created by the ancestors of the Kherubim, who were far more Sufficiently Advanced than even the present-day Kherans were aware. This explains in part why humans and Kherans can interbreed; our DNA is partially based on theirs.
    • However, a totally different explanation is given at the end of Warren Ellis's run of The Authority. Here, the Earth was placed in its proper orbit by what is, essentially, God: a pyramidal being the size of our moon with four thousand hearts and pores the size of Staten Island. God even placed some "watch spores" on the planet to make sure everything stayed perfect, then went off to wander the universe for a bit. In the meantime, a big chunk of something hit the Earth, then started orbiting, becoming our moon. By sheer chance, the watch spores were among the matter blown off by the impact. This tilted Earth's axis, altered the atmosphere, and eventually led to the development of life as we know it today. God eventually comes back to discover that its vacation home has suddenly developed a totally poisonous (to it) atmosphere and grown a six-billion-strong infestation. In order to return the planet to its "proper" state, God drops some disgusting organic machinery into the African veldt that begins restoring the original atmosphere. It's not so much terraforming as un-terraforming. The Engineer even tries to come up with a term for it:
      Engineer: What would you call that? Un-terraforming? Monsterforming? Disgusting stuff. Turdscaping.

    Comic Strips 
  • In Safe Havens, Samantha comes to an agreement with Mars to use her genetics research to terraform Mars in exchange for Mars sparing Earth from being destroyed by Mars' asteroid launching weapon system. However, this gets her kicked out of the scientific community for tampering with Mars' natural habitat. She's reinstated when her terraforming enables Mars to Heel–Face Turn and use its weapon system to redirect a comet that threatened to destroy Earth just enough to miss it completely.

    Fan Works 
  • In A Charmed Life, this is Light's project for the Shinigami realm.
  • In Forward, the terraforming process in the planet of Silverhold resulted in the unexpected creation of a deadly, heavy silvery gas that renders it nearly impossible to survive below a certain altitude.
  • I'm Nobody: After the discovery of Remnant, a.k.a. Barsoom, technology on Mars, which made the atmosphere breathable, the Alliance starts having serious discussions about terraforming the planet, which was previously considered impossible. There already was a colony there, but it was mostly a research center entirely dependant on external resources.
  • In Kara of Rokyn, the survivors of Krypton have settled in a desert world called Rokyn, and their collective efforts to make the planet inhabitable are progressing neatly. The City of Kandor has grown, more cities are being built and there're large tracts of cultivable land being farmed.
  • Mass Effect: End of Days: A - rather minor, all things considered - part of the conflict between the Citadel Council and the Systems Alliance is that the latter has perfected terraforming tech while all other races either never attempted it or are failing miserably. The reason is that while the other races could use the Relay system to find habitable planets, humanity couldn't so they had to focus on making their planets habitable instead.
  • In The New Age Of Monsters, Biollante has transformed a good part of the Sahara into a prehistoric jungle. Public opinion is divided on whether this is a good or bad thing.

    Films — Animated 
  • Titan A.E. has the Titan, which can completely and quickly remake a planet, just like the Genesis Device. Unlike the Genesis Device, though, the planet doesn't collapse back on itself after a year.note  The Titan doesn't so much remake a planet as make a whole new planet using a local nebula for raw materials. They just happen to call it "New Earth". Besides, we all know it's really called Planet Bob.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In 2010: The Year We Make Contact, this is revealed to be the aliens' plan for Europa. The Stinger shows that they have succeeded.
  • Aliens shows that Weyland-Yutani has terraformed the unihabited planet from the first movie sufficiently for a breatheable atmosphere in the past 57 years. The aliens have holed up in a massive atmosphere generation tower, with an unstable fusion reactor. A cut scene shows that while the terraforming has been going on for years, it is still a work in progress. The atmosphere near the atmospheric converter (and thus near the main colony site itself) is breathable, but further out supplemental oxygen masks are recommended.
  • Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019): Godzilla and other monsters like him can cause terraforming on a regional cause, causing ecosystems to regenerate where they tread and even creating whole new ecosystems in formerly-barren environments. For example, one of the creatures causes an entire rainforest to sprout up in the Sahara of all places. Hence why the eco-terrorists want to set all the monsters free on the world. King Ghidorah on the other hand destroys the world's ecosystems instead of healing them, although one of the humans remarks that even he is probably in actuality xenoforming the planet to suit himself instead of humans.
  • Possibly occurring to parts of Mexico and the U.S. in Monsters (2010). Trees in the "Infected Zone" are being used to host alien spores.
  • In Red Planet, minimal terraforming efforts had been made to give Mars a breathable atmosphere. However, something went really, really wrong...
  • Star Trek:
    • The Genesis Device from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan turns a nebula into an Earthlike planet. Sadly, the planet tore itself apart within a year. If it had been used on a rocky planet instead of a nebula, the planet probably wouldn't have fallen apart if that terraformed underground location Khan imprisoned Kirk and co. in was any indication. While the film never gave the fate of the test cavern inside the asteroid by Regula 1, the novelization of the film has David and Saavik revisiting the little world and discovering that the little world, too, doesn't seem right, a Foreshadowing of the Genesis World's fate. In Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, David Marcus admits that he had used "Proto-matter" (a highly unstable element) in the design of the Genesis device. Even if Genesis had been aimed at a rocky planet, it would have fallen apart.
    • Although it's not seen on-screen, the dialogue in Star Trek: First Contact suggests that the Moon has been at least partly terraformed by the Next Generation era. When Riker, a Fish out of Temporal Water, stands in awe at the sight of the 21st century Moon and Zefram Cochrane rolls his eyes and sarcastically asks whether they still have a Moon in the future, Riker answers that it simply looks "a lot different": in the 24th century, "Lake Armstrong" and several lunar cities are visible from Earth. This does contrast a few earlier episodes, where the 24th century moon put in an appearance and looked the same as ever, though it may be possible that he was referring to it being colonized, not terraformed.
  • Total Recall (1990) does this to Mars, supposedly by rapidly melting the planet's icy core to flood the atmosphere with oxygen. All at once, with no harmful side effects to billions of tons of air suddenly blasting on to the surface faster than any tornado. A window gets broken, that's it. There's not even any dust kicked up. On Mars.

  • 2312 picks up a hundred years after the final installment of the Red Mars Trilogy (below), showing humans living throughout the solar system (the main character is a native of Mercury). A minor (but crucial) plotline deals with the terraforming of the planet Venus, which brings its own subtle conflict; do you rush the job, sealing up the remnants of the thick atmosphere under tonnes of rock and using a sunshade to give you artificial days and nights, or do you use the mass of the former atmosphere to spin the planet up — a project that will take far longer, but leave a far more sustainable end result? In the process of terraforming, Robinson's solar system has become an endless playground for sci-fi tropes — giant robots scooping up frozen carbon dioxide on Venus, 'hanging ships' floating in the clouds of Saturn and fully tented moons that physically hold their atmospheres in.
  • Aeon 14 has the Future Generation Terraformers, who for thousands of years were frontrunners for human space colonization. By the 9th millennium, they have become The Illuminati in Space, seeking to guide humanity from behind the scenes while fostering extended colonization in far-away places which might survive a general galactic catastrophe.
  • In Aristoi, terraforming is so easy that humanity's spread through the cosmos is limited only by the Aristoi not wishing to have to run any more planets.
  • Children of Time: Colonists fleeing a dying Earth make their way to a planet already terraformed by one of humanity's earlier projects, started when humanity was in its hey-day before it almost managed to destroy itself. Unfortunately for them, a rogue scientist's plan to fast-evolve sapient monkeys hadn't exactly gone to plan (giant sapient spiders, anyone?). In the course of the story, they also end up visiting a world where the terraforming attempt had gone horribly wrong and created a world covered in Grey Goo.
  • In the CoDominium universe, New Caledonia is a formerly barren world still being terraformed; for already life-bearing planets, the process is more a matter of altering the local ecology to support Earth life (which is usually grossly simplified for story purposes).
  • Jack Williamson actually coined the term in a 1942 novella titled "Collision Orbit", which can be considered the Trope Namer.
  • In part three of Alexander Kazantsev's Destruction of Faena, Mars' surface is made inhabitable by bombarding it with rockets made of ice, which melts, creating the first ocean.
  • The major theme of Dune is the back-and-forth attempts by humanity to terraform the desert planet Arrakis inhabited by the various life-cycle stages of sandworms (which create an extremely necessary commodity) and by the (non-sapient) sandtrout phase of the worm species to counter terraform Arrakis (and later other worlds) back into desert.
  • Farmer in the Sky is about a terraforming effort... on Ganymede.
  • The Forgotten Planet by Murray Leinster is about a planet that was partially seeded and then lost in the galactic bureaucracy. Microbes and insects were seeded, but not vertebrates, resulting in a planet of giant insects.
  • In Isaac Asimov's story "Founding Fathers", a crew of multinational astronauts crash-lands on an uncharted planet with just enough ammonia in the atmosphere to be unsuitable for human life. There are live plants on the ship, though, and if they can be coaxed to thrive somehow, a tipping point could be reached where the extra oxygen would wipe out the ammonia in a cascade. As the astronauts die, they never reach the tipping point. The last surviving human tries to bury his dead friends in their garden. It still doesn't work. He dies in the garden without having ever seen the plants grow vigorously enough to cause the atmosphere to change to a human-compatible oxygen-nitrogen mixture. However, they deliberately died in the garden so that their body would be added to the fertilizer as well, and the narration says that when humans do eventually come to the world, there would be no sign that there had ever been too much ammonia in the atmosphere.
  • In Hammerjack, multiple attempts were made to terraform Mars, but all ending up failing. The most recent attempt was destroyed by an outbreak of a deadly alien pathogen termed the Mons virus.
  • In Helm, Epsilon Erdani II — known to its settlers as Agatsu.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: The Magratheans seem worthy of a mention, taking this idea to its logical extreme by creating a custom planet-building business.
  • Honor Harrington:
    • A major factor in the economics of the various colonies is how well they were terraformed. This is largely a function of when you left Earth and how much money you had when leaving. Haven and Manticore were settled fairly late with good resources. Other planets like Grayson were settled by cold sleepers who left very, very early, had poor terraforming technology, and ended up on a planet full of heavy metal poisoning.
    • The state of the terraforming efforts combined with the cultural base also give genetically engineered solutions to a poor ozone such as the Albino Zulus.
    • In Manticore's case, it's stated that the only terraforming that was needed was the introduction of a few Terran plants, and that the unusual compatibility of the native life allowed a hybrid plague to develop. It's probably no coincidence that the most populous planet in the Manticore system is the one that doesn't have high gravity or turbulent storms.
  • Hothouse: The Moon was terraformed, largely by accident, by immense plants called traversers. These originally wove their webs towards the Moon to have somewhere to anchor lines with which to bask in solar radiation and away from their predators on Earth, and their migrations gradually carried over seeds and wisps of gas that slowly seeded the Moon with air and plant life.
  • In the backstory for Hyperion Cantos, humanity terraformed all their worlds, regularly committing genocide against sapient indigenous species. This bothers pretty much no one, human, A.I., or transhuman.
  • Roger Zelazny's character Frank Sandow in Isle of the Dead and To Die in Italbar makes a business of building planets, to order, or to his own design. Near the end of the first book, he has a vision of every planet he's built. After seventeen names, it trails off with "and so on". (He's over twelve centuries old; he's had time.)
  • Known Space:
    • Most life-bearing planets were seeded with life by the Slavers; not to terraform, but simply to grow enough food for their vast and inefficiently run empire. Specifically, most planets only had a strain of yeast their prey animals enjoyed eating. When the Slavers War ended with the Suicide Night that killed all life on the level of lobsters and higher in the entire Galaxy, the majority of new life evolved from their yeast farms, which explains why we are biochemically compatible.
    • Protector reveals that Earth was partly Terraformed by the Pak, with the issue there's not enough thallium for the Pak's final lifestage to complete.
    • Ringworld has much of the same issue being explored with humanoids left alone on a mostly terraformed Ringworld until they differentiate into ecological niches.
    • Done accidentally on the planet Canyon. Originally it was a Mars-like kzinti garrison world, with a very thin atmosphere and hydrosphere. During the Third Man-Kzin war, the humans hit it with the Wunderland Treatymaker, gouging out a giant canyon twelve miles deep and two hundred miles long. All the air and water drained into the canyon, creating a perfect living environment (people live on the canyon walls and central ridge, since the floor of the canyon is flooded).
  • In Last and First Men, the Fifth Men begin terraforming Venus when the Moon starts falling towards Earth. Pre-terraforming Venus is apparently an ocean under the cloud cover inhabited by various creatures that feed on radioactive materials, unfortunately oxygen is extremely toxic to them, and the Fifth Men don't realize that some of Venus's native life is sapient until they've already started the oxygen enriching chain reactions, so they just keep on going. Three more incarnations of Man evolve on Venus before the sun expands and the Eighth Men migrate to Neptune.
  • The Man in the High Castle: The Nazis have drained much of the Mediterranean Sea and turned it into arable farmland. There's also mention of them launching space exploration and establishing colonies on Mars and Venus (but bear in mind that in 1962, when the book was written, it was not yet known that those planets were as inhospitable as they are).
  • Mother Earth: Each of the fifty Outer Worlds were colonized by terraforming them into something hospitable by human standards. Aurora is used as an example to provide Exposition on the vagaries of taming a new world to human preference. However, much of the terraforming was based on transplanting swathes of Earth onto the planets. The steady processes of erosion and adaptation produce microscopic changes in the plants, affecting the animals, and eventually the humans. Having forbidden trade with Earth, the humans on each of the Outer Worlds will develop quirks unique to the chemistry of their planets.
  • In the New Jedi Order, this is a specialty of the invading Yuuzhan Vong. Picture a cross between Super Saiyajin and species 8472.
  • In Philip K. Dick's short story "Oh to Be a Blobel!", Earth and Titan are in an uneasy peace because of a war that was held because humans terraformed Mars. There were already people of Titan on Mars, but they couldn't breathe oxygen. By the time the humans learned of the Titanians, the terraforming had already begun, and "you can't terraform just part of an atmosphere..."
  • The Red Mars Trilogy is the definitive hard sci-fi account of terraforming, going into exhaustive detail about Martian terraforming. He portrays a process that runs for more two hundred years over the course of the three novels, which themselves are named in allusion to key steps in the terraforming project (Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars). One of the ongoing themes of the series is the increasing conflict between the Reds, who want to maintain the pristine beauty of Mars, and the Greens, who want a second Earth. The novels strongly imply that neither outcome is possible; Mars will change the terraformers just as they change it. In the final installment (Blue Mars), we see humans expand out to live on the moons of the gas giants, and inward to establish a constantly moving city on Mercury.
  • Riverworld is set on a planet terraformed into one big twisting river valley, to maximize the surface area ideal for human habitation.
  • In Arthur C. Clarke's novel The Sands of Mars, Mars is being terraformed by selection and spread of oxygen-generating plants native to Mars, as well as by turning Deimos into a continuous thermonuclear explosion, effectively providing the planet more sunlight than the Earth gets for a hundred years. It's sometimes regarded the first sci-fi novel on terraforming (1951).
  • In Savior by Robert Reed, a rapidly failing alien starship uses a massive laser cannon to melt the ice bergs to try and make the Earth habitable for them. Naturally, this doesn't go to well for the aliens.
  • In Seveneves humanity has to re-terraform Earth after a "hard rain" of bolides from the exploded moon has sterilized the surface.
  • In Spin, when the Earth is placed under a membrane that slows down time (which means that for the people of Earth the Sun will expand in a few decades), humans successfully terraform Mars; a whole civilization appears there within a few years (for those on Earth)/a few millennia (for the people of Mars — humans who have evolved slightly differently).
  • In Spinward Fringe, terraforming is a long, slow process; many inhabited planets are at risk of becoming uninhabitable if the constant wars and corporate takeovers disrupt the constant oversight and maintenance required. The organization which largely carries out exploration and terraforming is also one of very few entities largely left out of said wars and intrigue, since no-one else wants to be stuck with the effort and expense involved.
  • Kin Arad's job in Strata.
  • In the Takeshi Kovacs novels, the terraforming efforts on Mars and the first extrasolar colony were disastrous. Something in Mars' atmosphere killed the first colonists to breathe the air within a day, the extrasolar world spawned some nasty plagues and macro-life. By Kovacs' time colony barges are loaded with specialized A.I.s that thoroughly plan out the new ecology, including what parts of the native ecology to destroy, before the colonists are even decanted from their cloning tanks.
  • Jack Williamson's Terraforming Earth involves Earth itself being terraformed — not once, but several times, due to asteroid impacts, alien invasions, runaway technology, et cetera.
  • In Terran Confederacy, the Dolbrians terraformed a number of worlds before vanishing, including Mars. Humans re-terraformed Mars, and also terraformed Titan and several other large moons of the outer planets. Those colonies were later destroyed in a Grey Goo incident and the reactions to same.
  • Venus Prime:
    • In one of the earlier books in the series, Sparta muses that at the same time that humans are trying to make Venus more like Earth, Earth is becoming more like Venus, thanks to extensive use of coal power, coupled with humans' over-reliance on air-conditioning.
    • The Shining Ones involves the protagonists traveling through a black hole into distant past and witnessing a race of squid-like aliens attempting to remake Venus based on a very specific template. They redirect comets to crash on Venus and create water. Unfortunately, they fail to anticipate a meteor storm that destroys their efforts. The settlers then split based on their opinion towards the official doctrine, which states that settled planets must be exactly like their homeworld. The rebels end up joining the humans and traveling to Mars to terraform it. One of the ways they do that is by inserting artificial spinning black holes (in containment, of course) into the poles in order to increase gravity to Earth-norm. In the end, though, the loyalists end up attacking Mars and destroying their efforts, returning the planet into the desolate rock we know. The rebels settle for traveling to Earth and lying dormant in the oceanic depths for human life to emerge.
  • Many of the planets in Vorkosigan Saga have to be terraformed to a greater or lesser extent. The inhabitants of Komarr have had four hundred years of domed living, with another four hundred to come, while the solar mirror array and genetically engineered plants make the atmosphere breathable and warm enough. Barrayar is at the other end of the scale, although as of A Civil Campaign, there has been some interesting progress in genetically engineering life-forms that convert the native plant life into something compatible with the human biosphere.
  • The Voyage of the Space Beagle: Anabis, a galaxy-spanning consciousness that has terraformed all planets in its own galaxy by ripping a piece of its planet's surface off and sending to to the target planet through hyperspace (called junglescaping).
  • In We Are Legion (We Are Bob), the first system Bob travels to (Epsilon Eridani) has a barely habitable planet one of his clones dubs Ragnarok. After all but one Bob leave the system, Bill (Bob-3) decides to slightly improve the planet's habitability by bringing in Kuiper belt objects (composed of ice) and parking them in a slowly decaying orbit above Ragnarok. The atmospheric friction would melt the ice, allowing it to rain down and raise the sea level. The intention is to create a world ocean rather than a series of inland seas. Later, Milo (Bob-4) finds two habitable planets in 82 Eridani, plus a large moon with a thin atmosphere. The Bobs speculate that they could bring in atmosphere from elsewhere for the moon. While it would eventually dissipate, the process would take a very long time, from a human perspective. The other two planets have some minor annoyances, such as extremely annoying bugs and an extremely smelly jungle, but are perfectly habitable.
  • In A World Out of Time, delivering biological terraforming packages to suitable extrasolar planets is the job given to the corpsicle Corbell.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Alien Worlds (2020): In order to escape their homeworld's imminent destruction, the Terrans decide to settle on a safer, outer-system world. However, their prospective planet is frozen over and has no atmosphere, a problem that they resolve by sending robots and automated systems to thaw out the ice, produce an atmosphere, and make the planet habitable before they move in.
  • In Babylon 5, humanity is in the first stages of terraforming Mars.
  • The Cosmos episode "Blues for a Red Planet" discusses the possibility of terraforming Mars with dark-colored, hardy plants.
  • Defiance: The Votan terraformed at least one planet in their home system and brought the technology with them to Earth. They decided not to use it when they found that Earth was already inhabitable and inhabited, but when the Arks were destroyed, the equipment they were carrying malfunctioned and created a variety of bizarre hybrid creatures when it crashed.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "Terror of the Zygons", the Zygons plan to modify the Earth’s climate to make it more suitable for their species.
    • In " The Doctor's Daughter", the planet Messaline is turned from a desolate wasteland into a beautiful planet full of life by using a terraforming device.
    • In "Orphan 55", Tranquillity Spa turns out to be secretly located on the titular Death World, and is trying to raise enough capital to terraform the planet to make it prime real estate.
  • The Expanse features an independent Mars that is currently in the middle of its terraforming process. While it's still not possible to walk on the surface without a suit, the atmosphere has become noticeably blue. Part of what fuels Martian resentment of Earth is that the Mars should have been fully terraformed decades before but the ongoing cold war between the two planets means that resources have been diverted to the military and the terraforming project is now a hundred years behind schedule. An older Martian laments that he fears the terraforming will never be complete, as the younger generations are used to living under domes and aren't as driven to complete the project as their parents and grandparents who remember the open sky of Earth.
  • Firefly: The system where the series takes place is small cluster of five stars with "dozens of planets and hundreds of moons". Very nearly every one of them is terraformed using massive machines brought from Earth That Was, but human labor is still needed and it's hard, dangerous work. Plus, terraforming often has unintended side effects, like the newly introduced atmosphere interacting with minerals or gases to cause a massive plague. Sometimes the terraforming fails entirely, leaving nothing but an uninhabitable "black rock." Which makes a convenient excuse when the Alliance wants to hide an entire planet...
  • In the second season of The Man in the High Castle, Reichsminister Heusmann shows Joe Blake plans for the creation of new land and energy by draining the Mediterranean, something carried over from the book (although there it was already implemented). This was based on the real "Atlantropa" plan by German scientists who favoured a "southern policy" of European settlement in Africa over the conquest of territory in Eastern Europe preferred by the Nazis. The younger generation of Nazi youth oppose this plan, as environmentalism is gaining traction in the Reich.
  • Red Dwarf:
    • "Terrorform" is set on a sentient moon which forms itself based on the psyche of those who land on it... and it's long been established that Rimmer's psyche is not a good place to be.
      Dave Lister: Remember, it's Rimmer's mind out there. Expect sickness.
    • Terraforming is the background plot of "Back to Reality": planet engineers in an ocean seeding ship had terraformed an ocean moon and created a marine ecosystem teeming with lifeforms by vastly speeding up evolution. Unfortunately, it backfired when one lifeform arose that wiped out everything else: the Despair Squid.
    • In "Rimmerworld", Rimmer — abandoned to his own devices (by his own cowardice) on an uninhabitable world for 600 years armed with only a planet seeding pod — creates a Single-Biome Planet of Rimmers. He lasts barely forty years before being slung in jail by the rest of him.
  • In Space: 1999, the Moon is terraformed to have a livable atmosphere by aliens on the episode "The Last Sunrise". They do this because they believe real hard that Humans Are the Real Monsters; the terraformed Moon's atmosphere makes it impossible for the Alphans to deploy ships to check the Moon (let alone visit other planets), and they remove it once the Moon is too far away for the Alphans to explore their planet (which they foresaw as a massive potential contaminating hazard, not wanting to take their chances).
  • Stargate SG-1:
    • This series has two whole galaxies full of planets terraformed by the Ancients and the Goa'uld, complete with Transplanted Humans.
    • There's also a "pyroforming" species, similar to the Pyrians in Andromeda, except these are Actual Pacifists, who wouldn't fight back when they were attacked by the Goa'uld. They have no problems "pyroforming" a world filled with plant and animal life (indicating they aren't completely "nonviolent"), but on the other hand when they learn that sapient beings (namely, some of the aforementioned transplanted humans) have made their home on the planet, they are understanding and do their best to help.
  • Star Trek: Enterprise has Mars terraforming in-progress. They had the atmosphere thickened enough to allow people on the surface without pressurized suits, and that's about it. By 2155 you still need oxygen tanks and thick clothing to stay alive.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985): In the episode "Voices in the Earth", all life on Earth was wiped out and the planet made uninhabitable by a disaster a thousand years ago, including changing the atmosphere to methane. At the end of the episode a group of ghosts restores the biosphere, including changing the air back to normal, recreating life in the oceans and accelerating its evolution.
  • The Neo Frontier of Ultraman Dyna was a terraforming project to colonize the solar system. During the series itself, settlements have been created on Mars.

  • In the Twilight Histories episode "Blue Dragons", this has happened to Venus. You’ve been sent to investigate who did it and how they accomplished it.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Battletech: Practically every settled world in the setting (excepting Terra) was at one point terraformed to one degree or another. During the initial expansion phase of humanity heavy terraforming was often required to make the planets sufficiently Earth-like for human habitation, and even then some things, like the emissions of the local star or the planet's orbit or general size or rotation speed, are beyond the human ability to fix and can at best be compensated for. Notably, within Sol system itself, Venus and Mars are both terraformed to be livable. Well, Venus was, until the Star League Civil War when Emperor Stephan Amaris repurposed the planet's solar shades in an attempt to use them as a solar-powered Death Ray and causing it to regress to its original state.
  • In the Centauri Knights setting for Big Eyes, Small Mouth, the planet being colonized has had its ecosystem wiped clean to the bedrock by nanomachines made by the natives. The native ecosystem survives on a couple of still-working, but unoccupied, space habitats near the planet. One of the conflicts in the game's politics is: do we terraform the planet into a new Earth, rebuild its own ecosystem by transplanting from the colonies, leave it a barren desert and mine it for technology, or abandon it and go home?
  • In Buck Rogers In The Twenty Fifth Century, Mars, Venus and Titan (the largest moon of Saturn) are all in the process of being terraformed.
  • In Eclipse Phase, the Planetary Consortium is terraforming Mars as part of their plan to make the planet transhumanity's new home; at the current point genetically modified "Ruster" morphs are capable of breathing the atmosphere. They were planning to do a similar thing on Venus but when the Morningstar Constellation seceded, they adopted a more cost-effective plan to only alter the upper atmosphere (where the majority of Venusian habitats are located anyways). The Pandora Gates have been used to discover dozens of more easily terraformable planets (as well as a few that don't need it) and the TerraGenesis hypercorp has made it a specialty of theirs. Finally, the Reclaimers hope to eventually re-terraform Earth.
  • In Empire of the Petal Throne, humanity made some (relatively minor) adjustments to the world of Tékumel to make it habitable for themselves. The locals naturally took this as a hostile act. 50,000 years later, they still bear a grudge.
  • Life on most of the Known Worlds in Fading Suns is supported by ancient terraforming engines. Unfortunately, many of them are now failing.
  • In Hc Svnt Dracones, Mars has been turned into practically a lower-gravity copy of (pre-nuclear war) Earth, while Venus tried to preserve as much of the original landscape as possible and the eco-engineers got a bit creative with the flora and fauna. Ganymede also has a breathable atmosphere but it's so cold that most of the population still lives in domes. Transcendent Technologies Inc only terraformed Europa a little bit for their research into the Monolith.
  • In Metagaming's Invasion of the Air Eaters, as part of an Alien Invasion, creatures form another planet try to convert the Earth's atmosphere to sulfur dioxide so they can colonize it.
  • Basically done by all the Colors in Magic: The Gathering, as gameplay revolves around players putting lands into play in order to summon creatures or cast spells. However, Green is particularly known for this, due to having a lot of cards that allow players to either play more than one land per turn or to add lands to their hands, which makes sense given the color's propensity of doling out the Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever using creatures that have high power and toughness and fittingly high mana costs.
  • The Mutant Chronicles universe has a terraformed Mars and Venus. And let us not forget about various asteroids, moons and the caves on Mercury.
  • The Robotic Age: In the 22nd century, humanity developed the technology to halt and somewhat reverse the worst effects of Global Warming on Earth. Now it's being used to terraform Mars.
  • Terraforming Mars makes each player a corporation or other entity tasked with building up Mars's atmosphere, surface temperature, and ocean coverage to increase their "Terraformer Rating", and thus their final score. Other factors necessary for human life can also increase the TR on a case-by-case basis, such as ringing the planet with superconducting wires to give Mars a magnetic field. The creators have also Shown Their Work by making the endgame parameters the same as in Real Life (9% ocean coverage, 8 C temperature, and 14% oxygen).
  • In the board game Terra Mystica, the players take on the roles of fantasy races expanding their empires across a continent, which involves transforming the terrain to meet their various needs. The sci-fi themed sequel Gaia Project plays the trope straight, replacing fantasy races with aliens and a board made up of multiple planets.
  • In Transhuman Space, terrraforming was started illegally on Mars by an anarcho-capitalist group called the Duncanites. After driving them off world, the nations colonizing Mars decided the damage was done and continued the project. In 2100, modified humans can breathe the atmosphere. The Duncanites are currently attempting to terraform Europa and are at war with environmental activists trying to protect the native (microbial) ecosystem.
  • Warhammer 40,000: This is done by two factions, inverted by another, and subverted by a fourth.
    • The Imperium still has the know-how to terraform planets that aren't already inhabitable by humans but may end up turning them into Polluted Wastelands dotted with hive cities and manufactorums regardless.
    • Back at the height of the Eldar empire, the aliens started long-term alteration projects to make some worlds on the galactic fringe inhabitable. Ten thousand years later these Maiden Worlds have developed into pristine paradises that unfortunately are very attractive to human colonists. Often the first sign that humans have settled a Maiden World is an Eldar warhost bent on exterminating the vermin infesting what they consider part of their ancestral empire.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh!, there's a card called "Terraforming" that lets you search your deck for a field card. You literally make the environment more friendly to your creatures — whether human, beast, angel, demon, crystals, or whatever.

  • Mata Nui does this as he reforms Spherus Magna in BIONICLE, making parts of the desert Bara Magna into jungle, mountains, etc.

    Video Games 
  • Ascendancy has terraforming as something that can be done only after discovering a fairly high-level technology. All territory consists of "squares", which can be different colors, each color corresponding to its suitability to different tasks (green for prosperity, red for industrial, for example). Black squares are uninhabitable (except to one species) unless terraformed. Further, the Lush Growth Bomb project increases the maximum population of a planet.
  • At the beginning of Asteroid 5251, you're given a "Bio-Terrain Kit" that includes grass, saplings, flowers, wheat seeds, cacti, and sugar cane, allowing you to terraform the crater you crash-landed into, which then prompts cows, pigs, wolves, etc to spawn in.
  • Called "kobolforming" in Battlestar Galactica Deadlock, after Kobol, humanity's original home world. Not done within the game itself, but mission briefing text notes that Aquaria (think planet-sized Antarctica with one somewhat habitable continent) was the last of the Twelve Colonies to be kobolformed.
  • Civilization: Beyond Earth has three main paths for your faction to take: Harmony, Supremacy, and Purity. Only the Purity path involves terraforming the planet to be more Earth-like in order to allow humans to breathe the air (it's normally poisonous). The other two paths, instead, focus on adapting the human body in either the biological (Harmony) or technological (Supremacy) manner to survive on the planet without the need to terraform it.
  • Code 7:
    • The purpose of the crew of Schrödinger Station, the first station beyond The Milky Way Galaxy, is to find out if Gershwin 610 B could become a new habitable planet for humanity.
    • Oriens Station, located on Mars, was the successful testing colony before the interstellar settling program was launched.
  • In Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars, it's revealed that the onset of Tiberium on Earth was part of an alien mining operation. The Scrin seed worlds with the substance, which leaches resources from deeper within the crust and brings them to the surface in the form of green (or blue) crystals which can then be converted into just about anything. Any native populations will naturally seek to utilize this miraculous mineral and fight for control of it, while at the same time Tiberium's mutagenic properties will corrupt native lifeforms and the world's ecosystem. So, both directly and indirectly, Tiberium serves as a Depopulation Bomb that lets the Scrin descend upon a planet all but unopposed before harvesting the crystals at their leisure. The only reason they can't do the same to Earth is because Kane tricked the Scrin into arriving early, in the middle of a world war.
  • Creature Shock is set in the future where an apocalypse has drained Earth of its resources, and humans now live in space stations while seeking a new home before resources run dry. In the best ending, you manage to reverse-engineer an organic terraforming device that terraforms Mars' surface from a wasteland to a world filled with trees, water, and assorted resources, thereby securing a future for the human race.
  • In Destiny, the Traveler terraformed several planets across the Solar System when it arrived, making those worlds in habitable for humanity, including making the incredibly inhospitable Venus and Mercury into lush garden worlds and making Mars an inhabitable, if still dry and desert, planet. Destiny 2 shows that it did the same for many smaller moons, such as Io. Titan was terraformed by humanity into a world with a giant liquid methane ocean and yet a breathable atmosphere (they hoped the Traveler would come and do a better job after it was done with Io). The alien Vex have also xenoformed worlds in the system, including turning the barren 7066 Nessus into a strange mixture of Vex machine architecture covered with a verdant alien ecology, as well as Hostile Terraforming the previously-terraformed Mercury.
  • Doom³: Terraforming Mars is part of the sales pitch for two of the UAC's products: the Elemental Phase Deconstructor (a system designed to break down iron oxide into subatomic particles) and the Hydrocon (a secondary to the EPD that reassembles the particles into hydrogen and oxygen atoms, synthesizing hydrogen fuel, breathable oxygen and clean water). However, by the time of the game's events, these technologies are still in the experimental stage, and Mars is still inhospitable.
  • Dragon Quest Builders 2, being a Minecraft-inspired game, puts a great deal of focus on altering your environment to suit your needs and gives hundreds of different types of blocks and foliage to work with.note  This isn't purely for decorative purposes either, as changing enough terrain in an area will alter how it appears on the minimap and (within The Isle of Awakening) control what type of monsters spawn there. Certain building projects during the main story also put specific focus on this, like making an entire river from scratch.
  • Elite Dangerous has a few terraformed planets, including Mars in the Sol system. Candidates for terraforming are a rare and valuable find while exploring.
  • Endless Space:
    • The first game features this deep in the colonization and exploration tech tree. However, terraforming a hostile world isn't easy, and there are multiple stages of planet types that must be successfully transformed in order to slowly turn a hostile world into a garden: Barren becomes arctic becomes tundra becomes terran, for example. Terraforming sideways within tiers, or even down tiers, is also possible. Gas giants and asteroid belts, however, can't be improved at all. In a separate form of terraforming, negative and mixed planetary anomalies such as strong magnetic fields, seismic activity, and toxic environments can be alleviated through other technologies in the same tech tree — the first stage allows the removal of minor anomalies, then later the ability to remove severe anomalies. Played with in that descriptions for remedied anomalies indicate that it's just as often the result of adapting the colony's systems to the environment.
    • Endless Space 2 continues the tradition of terraforming for the majority of races with the stipulation that a planet cannot be converted into a less hospitable type. The Riftborn however are unique in that they prefer the more hostile planet types and can terraform planets into more hostile variants.
  • Escape Velocity: Across all games, Mars is always the first planet to be terraformed. In the first game, it didn't really take, leaving Mars a rather dry, harsh place. In the second game, the Martian terraforming just hasn't gone on for long enough for there to be all that much of a difference yet. In the third game, things went wrong, souring general attitudes on terraforming for generations to come. Said third game, EV Nova, also lets you see somebody get terraforming right in one quest line. The Polaris have largely mastered it, with several planets listed as terraformed in the "communicate with planet" dialog box.
  • Fallout has an example in the Garden of Eden Creation Kit (GECK), which turns several square miles of nuclear wasteland into a lush, green paradise. Fallout 3 features one side-quest involving a mutated tree and its offspring which are (thankfully) non-hostile and thriving in the wasteland. A small cult has sprung up around worshipping this tree and they believe it may eventually re-terraform the entire planet (or at least the DC area) into a state more capable of sustaining life and human populations.
  • Final Fantasy IV: The After Years reveals that the Four Elemental Crystals that show up in so many games of that series are actually terraforming implements. They're a bit less reliable than slower methods though, given that their terraforming effects tend to wear off once they're removed or destroyed.
  • Freelancer has no terraformed planets, but instead has terraforming planets like California Minor. It also shows a little bit of the process with Planetform, Inc., the company that handles terraforming operations, and by letting you trade stuff like terraforming gases, alien organisms that eat carbon dioxide and release oxygen, and H-Fuel to power these operations. The game also features the Gaians, a rebel faction of Well Intentioned Extremists who firmly believe that terraforming is the same as ecocide. Not that all these efforts are successful. A Planetform NPC in Bretonia mentions that the efforts to terraform a planet in Bretonian borders has had mixed results. Although habitable, the planet is mentioned to be suffering from bouts of extreme weather and the NPC mentions it will revert to its original state as soon as Planetform packs up and leaves.
  • Galactic Civilizations has multiple levels of terraforming techs that improve the quality of your already-inhabited worlds, while the second game's first expansion introduced planets with extreme conditions — high gravity, radiation, toxic atmospheres, etc. — that required expensive technology to be researched before you could even settle them. Meanwhile, one particular mega-event involves someone randomly poking a Precursor artifact that immediately turns every uninhabitable world within a couple of parsecs into a verdant planet (including, oddly, the gas giants), sparking a galactic scramble to settle as many of them as possible or a major power shift if it goes off in the middle of someone's empire.
  • Haegemonia: Legions of Iron has terraforming capabilities for all races. Planets can be sorted into four groups: for humans, the first group is gaia/terran/oceanic (can be colonized from the start), the second is forest/swamp/desert/arctic/plains/volcanic/rocky (needs research), the third is barren/acidic (needs more research) while the final one is gas (uninhabitable). Kariaks and Darzoks have different qualifications; for example, both like barren. If it's not good enough, it can be terraformed once which improves the quality of the planet; once the next level is researched, it can be terraformed again. For example, level 1 human terraforming can turn plains into forest while level 3 instantly pushes any planet to oceanic/terran. In the expansion The Solon Heritage, spies can actually reverse-terraform, causing an ecological catastrophe (talk about overkill...).
  • Halo:
    • Several human worlds are at least partially terraformed to make them inhabitable, though their technology has its limits. After the end of the Human-Covenant War, humanity has been actively (re-)terraforming glassed worlds to make them livable again; this can be seen in both Halo: Reach's epilogue and the ex-colony of Meridian in Halo 5: Guardians. Slipspace FTL travel being both slow and incredibly convoluted and dangerous justifies this for humanity; they can't travel very far and thus make use of every vaguely habitable planet they can get their hands on (every single star system with a specified location, and there are dozens, is less than a hundred light-years from Sol). Due to having infinitely faster FTL travel and mastery of slipspace, the Forerunnners were a lot more picky with what they colonized (despite having far more advanced terraforming technology), "only" having 3 million planets at their height despite ruling most of the galaxy while the humans have several hundred while stuck in a ~100 light-year bubble on the Orion Arm.note 
    • Covenant terraforming is advanced enough that they can even engineer planets to naturally produce large quantities of plasma for their industries.
  • Horizon Zero Dawn: The titular Project Zero Dawn was in fact this. Knowing that the war against the Faro Plague was hopeless and that the robots would consume Earth's biosphere long before humanity could successfully hack their systems, humanity's top scientists created the GAIA AI system that would first deactivate the machines and then restore the organic life they destroyed. Most of GAIA's subordinate functions handled fixing the damage; AETHER and POSEIDON detoxified Earth's polluted air and seas, DEMETER and ARTEMIS restored its flora and fauna, and finally, once Earth was habitable again, ELEUTHIA restored the human race.
  • In Imperium Galactica II, you can use Genesis-type devices on planets that explosively terraform them to your civilization's needs.
  • This is part of the background in Infinite Space. At one point, you visit a newly discovered planet still being terraformed and the resident Mr. Exposition scientist explains how it all works.
  • In Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, one of the planet/levels that you visit, Citadel Station, exists for this purpose. This is a different take on the trope, however, in that the planet, Telos, was originally habitable, but the Sith razed the planet for no particularly good reason.
  • The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker: The Koroks are periodically sent out by the Great Deku Tree to plant trees on the islands of the Great Sea, in an attempt to create forests and to reclaim land from the sea.
  • This features in Lost Planet, though the original plan for making E.D.N. III hospitable would have fried the Akrids and more importantly the colonists already on the planet.
  • In Machines: Wired For War, this is the Machines' primary function before they get into a war.
  • Mass Effect:
    • Only very mild degrees of terraforming take place in-universe, as the process is noted to be extremely expensive. With Casual Interstellar Travel on the level of several thousand times the speed of light for conventional Alcubierre drives and millions of times the speed of light for mass relays, it's much cheaper and easier to just find a planet that's life-sustaining on its own than it is to spend years and absurd amounts of money to make a lifeless rock livable, rendering terraforming Awesome, but Impractical on a galactic scale. The codex entry for Mars actually notes that the humans were terraforming it, but abandoned the idea when they discovered FTL travel and had effectively limitless planets to pick from, leaving the only livable places on Mars dome cities that they'd already built.note 
    • However, in the Arrival DLC for Mass Effect 2, it's revealed that the Batarian Hegemony has been trying for years to force Aratoht to support life via heavy importation of cyanobacteria. According to the codex, after 23 years of labor, their efforts have resulted in a 1% increase in atmospheric oxygen.
    • Interestingly, it's also suggested in the codex that some degree of terraforming is taking place on Earth in an attempt to undo the environmental damage that resulted from present day burning of fossil fuels.
    • This is central to the plot of Mass Effect: Andromeda, where the heroes have to reset some malfunctioning Precursor terraforming machines to alter planets in the Heleus Cluster to their liking (the planets had originally been inhabitable but were damaged while they travelled there). The technology is considered dangerous however, since no one has a clue how the machines work, and anything that can alter a planet's weather patterns in seconds is some seriously powerful tech.
  • Master of Orion:
    • In the first two games, terraforming goes on for much of the game. Together with the tech for planetary gravity generators, radiation shields, enriching biospheres and installing biospheres, it's possible to transform an empire into a verdant garden where previously inhospitable planets have between three and fifteen times their original population limits. In the second game it's then possible to fashion asteroid belts and gas giants into new planets and terraform them as well. It's great fun for those who get attached, and well out of place in games of galactic politics and warfare where genocide is what's for dinner.
    • Interestingly, despite the ability to take a gas giant, squeeze it into a rock, and turn that rock into a lush world, you can't de-toxify a planet. Possibly, an oversight on the part of the creators. The only alternative is to destroy the planet with a Stellar Converter and then rebuild it into a world of your liking.
    • The third game has a more complex system, with each planet having a certain temperature and atmospheric pressure, and each species having a different preferred value for each. Instead of having a few discrete states, terraforming is a continuous process of slowly moving each along the scale towards your sweet spot. Gravity is also important, but the effects of it being too high or too low are countered by specific buildings and technology rather than being included in terraforming. Since an empire can contain several different species, it could be tricky to know exactly what conditions a planet is being terraformed at any given time, and this could change as population growth and migration change the demographics.
  • Minecraft, sort of — planting lots of trees to ensure a healthy wood supply is an important part of the game, and if you're in a desert or a tundra it can come off as turning the wastelands into a forest; the largest building projects also tend to result in this, especially once the player engages in sufficient sculpting of the landscape, and the process of reshaping hills, valleys and plains into more pleasing or convenient shapes is typically referred to as "terraforming" by players. However, the weather patterns won't change, and creatures specific to your intended biome still won't spawn.
  • Ogame: You can do this with one building, the Terraformer, that gives you extra fields to build in.
  • Outpost has terraform-buildings available in the late game. Of course, it takes an inordinate number of turns for them to complete their job, and successful terraforming provides no real benefit over the life-support buildings you have since Turn 1.
  • Outpost 2, in its Genre Shift to real-time strategy, makes terraforming into the cause for the game's plot — a huge increase of natural disasters and the unleashing of an all-consuming biological nightmare likely to be The End of the World as We Know It. Second world, that is — Earth was already gone by that time.
  • Perimeter has terraforming as important game mechanic. Not so much terraform the whole planet as local area, but idea's the same.
  • Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri has terraforming as a big part of the gameplay, even allowing you to decide how much you want to incorporate the native environment (which is a good idea, because this environment fights back!).
  • SimEarth has terraforming machines for its Mars and Venus scenarios.
  • Space Empires: Starting with Space Empires IV, you can terraform a planet's atmosphere to suit your population.
  • In Space Quest V: The Next Mutation, a biological agent meant for terraforming planets turns out to have horrible effects on actual living beings, including humans. The company that made it bribes a corrupt StarCon captain to get rid of the stuff by dumping it on "unwanted" planets, which ends up causing something similar to a Zombie Apocalypse.
  • Spore: By using various upgrades to your starship, or purchasing other, various, one-shot machines, you can improve the "T-score" of a planet (which range from T-0 to T-3), which allows it to sustain life better, which, in turn, allows you to plunder it for more Spice to sell. It can also be used to kill all Grox on a planet by raising the T-score to at least 1. Colonized planets can only sustain a number of settlements equal to the T-score. T-0 planets can be claimed by placing a colony, but they will not be able to produce any spice until the atmospheric conditions are improved and then a basic ecology is introduced, establishing a T-score of at least T-1. It's also possible to deterraform a planet, lowering the T-score.
  • Starbound adds terraformers in the 1.2 update, which allow the player to turn a part of the planet (or even all of it) into another biome at the cost of some ancient essence. Actually making them is a different story, as it requires the player to gain access to a Terraforge, which in turn requires going through an Ancient Vault, which in turn requires obtaining a Vault Key, which in turn requires defeating the Ruin...
  • In Star Control II, the Mycon use their "Deep Children" to pyroform worlds to their standards.
  • StarCraft: Zerg buildings are built on a thick matting of purplish organic material called creep that is spread from certain buildings. It prevents other species from building on it but recedes if the producing building (creep colonies in the first game, creep tumors in the second) is killed. In StarCraft II, zerg ground units move much faster while on creep. In StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm, the Protoss on the icy planet Kaldir were attempting to alter its orbit to be more hospitable to Protoss life, but their efforts were interrupted by the arrival of the Zerg Swarm.
  • Star Fox: Andross apparently plans to terraform Venom, a rather barren planet with acidic oceans. In Star Fox Command, this becomes central to the better endings since these oceans are also the home of the hostile Anglar. In two endings, his invention is used successfully and causes Venom to be as fertile as Corneria.
  • Star Wars The Gungan Frontier has the player setting up a complete ecosystem on one of Naboo's moons so that the Gungans can colonize it.
  • In Stellaris, terraforming is an expensive process using mid-game tech to change a planet's type (arctic, arid, continental, ocean, etc.) over decades to something more easily inhabited by one or your empire's species.
    • Initially, you can only terraform worlds within the same climate/moisture range (arid to desert, continental to tropical, arctic to tundra, etc.). Researching another tech allows you to terraform between climate ranges. The third terraforming tech allows you to terraform tomb worlds devastated by nuclear war, as well as make certain barren planets habitable. Finally, a rare late game tech lets you turn any habitable planet into a Gaia world, which are 100% inhabitable by all species regardless of the nature of their homeworld. The more complex the terraforming operation, the longer it takes. Terraforming within a climate range takes just 5 years, while terraforming between climate ranges takes twice as long. Restoring a tomb world's habitability or making a barren world habitable takes about 20 years and creating a Gaia world takes over 40 years.
    • Other late-game terraforming options include an Ecumenopolis, i.e., making the entire planet a city. This massively increases living space and room for buildings but deprives the planet of most of its natural resources. Machine civilizations eventually have the option of turning planets into Machine Worlds, which are completely uninhabitable by living creatures but optimized for industrial production.
    • There is also a random event that may pop up on one of your colonies involving ancient terraforming tech that was left behind. You can either turn it on or scrap it (the latter reveals the Terraforming tech and gives you some resources). If you scrap it, there's a chance that the planet may return to its original barren state. If you choose the first option (which is a huge project that sucks up your science resources), after a long time it will produce one of several results:
      • It turns the planet into a worse climate (who said it was supposed to terraform it to terrestrial standards?).
      • It releases dangerous creatures that will likely overrun your ground forces, unless you prepare ahead of time.
      • It turns the planet into a Gaia world. Save Scumming is an option for this one.
  • Surviving Mars: The expansion "Green Planet" is all about terraforming Mars, using a wide variety of methods, either exploiting existing technology (such as deliberately burning carbon fuels to warm up the planet with greenhouse gas) or the local geology (setting off a Martian supervolcano, or steering comets into the planet, to increase its atmosphere). There are four independent stats that have to be improved: atmospheric density, temperature, water availability, and flora biomass. Every method to increase these takes a long time to give up results, and the planet's lack of a magnetic field and natural soil toxicity will hinder progress.
  • Sword of the Stars has terraforming as a mandatory part of colonization. You can get techs that boost terraforming speed and the range of environments that are cost-effective to terraform, though some planets will always remain out of reach. However, since up to five different races can live on a planet at a time, all with different ecological backgrounds, sometimes some population juggling is necessary. It's possible for a race to colonize planets that are completely inhospitable to another — and conquering these planets instantly pops their habitability zone right to yours (when using assimilation plague missiles). Useful when most planets are hostile.
  • TerraGenesis: The player is tasked to terraform the uninhabitable inner planets, Earth's moon, and even Earth itself!note  Terraforming is done through setting up cities and its buildings to control the world's components: temperature, pressure, water, and oxygen. If Biosphere is toggled for a game, the player can manage the world also by controlling the organisms.
  • Terra Nil: You use limited terraforming (reintroducing plant and animal life in successive stages, controlling temperature and humidity, and dig canals) to restore a Polluted Wasteland into a lush healthy ecosystem.
  • Terraria lets you plant trees and build mountains and such, but you can also change the surrounding biomes!
  • UFO: After Blank: Afterlight has this as much of the point. Humans, forced off of Earth, travel to Mars to create another habitable planet. Terraforming technology very slowly changes the red planet to a blue and green planet in real-time, and tactical combat maps change from red and deadly to green and (relatively) safe. In fact, if you fail to start the terraformation process shortly after the beginning of the game, the environmental hostility will quickly go out of control, and your space suits will not protect you. The terraformation is also shown in "stages", with the dead, red planet as stage 1, small "plant" organisms and cacti as stage 2, and the appearance of water and more complex organisms as stage 3.
  • The Universim: Once your Nuggets enter the Space Age, you can unlock several buildings that make planets more hospitable to life. Hydro-colliders create water, oxygen and cloud generators create an atmosphere, and terraformers change the surrounding terrain into grassland.
  • Warframe:
    • Mars is a dry desert world with occasional snow. It's apparently been terraformed for so long that everyone has forgotten it even needed to be terraformed in the first place.
    • The Orokin terraformed Venus with the simple and expedient method of dumping a truly ridiculous amount of coolant on its surface. Now Venus is habitable, albeit as an ice world, and the Corpus mine the coolant for their industry. The Fortuna expansion goes into more detail on the Corpus' attempt to re-terraform the planet. Most of Venus requires heat lamps to survive outside for any length of time, but an area called Orb Vallis, centered on an inactive Orokin terraforming tower, is more survivable. It's still very cold, but not lifeless, and there are mushroom forests draped in ice and snow. The Fortuna colony is trying to reactivate the terraforming tower to expand Orb Vallis and create more livable land on Venus.
    • Several other worlds at least have a viable atmosphere, but most don't. Many maps take place entirely inside ships or bases because of this. It also can be hard to tell whether a planet has actually been terraformed or if there is just a smaller technological solution. The great sky-bases on Jupiter and Saturn are open air, but they are probably contained in bubbles of normal air rather than making entire gas giants breathable.
    • The Orokin originally planned to terraform the Tau system; this seems to be the only extra-solar activity they engaged in. The robots they sent to do the job evolved into the Sentients, who decided that the Orokin would just screw up the Tau system like they did the Origin System, so they went to war to destroy the Orokin.
  • WildStar: The Eldan have left plenty of these devices on Nexus. Sometimes, it works on a very small, local scale (Deradune), and sometimes, encompasses an entire region (the Northern Wilds).
  • X has terraforming as the event that started the whole series. The Terraformer fleets at first worked very well, but after a glitched software update, the Von Neumann machines that man had sent out to terraform the gate system started "terraforming" everything, including inhabited planets and ships. Mankind fights back, the Terraformers swat them out of the way, and all seems lost until they're tricked into moving en masse to a distant part of the universe — which they promptly start "terraforming" as well.note 

  • The Cyantian Chronicles: In Campus Safari, the Cyantians are terraforming Mars and Venus as gifts for humanity when they make First Contact. Their colony on Mars doubles as a Wacky College.
  • Far Out There uses this to explain its habitable planets (as well as why Trigger grew up in an underground bunker).
  • Freefall is set on an alien world which is in the process of being terraformed by the N.G.O. Superpower Ecosystems Unlimited. Projects include hauling a moon into orbit, excavating the desired terrain features, and cultivating ecosystem patches to propagate across the landmasses. One of the main characters is a parasitologist who consults on the planet's microorganism populations; another is Sawtooth Rivergrinder, a robot who does exactly that.
  • In Homestuck, Betty Crocker tries making Earth more like her homeworld Alternia, introducing Alternian life and flooding the planet. She also tries to subvert human culture to more closely resemble her species', but it fails miserably because of basic biological differences (really basic differences). Her attempts to genetically alter humans to use the Alternian mode of reproduction and blood castes results in complete extinction.
  • In The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!, Butane, the planet of dragons is a terraformed world in the Kuiper Belt. Jolly the Giantess has been given the job of helping to maintain it.
  • A Miracle of Science has a terraformed Mars that has become a Hive Mind of post-human and A.I. inhabitants. They also terraformed Venus and Europa to give the rest of pre-singularity humanity more places to live. In the case of Mars and Venus, the process is still ongoing: Venus is constantly raining, while one character (a Martian, of course) works on a project to restart Mars' plate tectonics and make the atmosphere self-sustaining.
  • Schlock Mercenary: Mars, Venus, Europa, and Luna (Earth's moon) have all been terraformed. This becomes a plot point when they visit a planet which hasn't introduced any oceanic predator species because its economy is based on tourism and ocean resorts. There are a few deaths which look like shark attacks, and the first suggestion offered by a character is that someone made a robotic shark with a mechanical jaw to murder people.

    Web Original 
  • Mahu: In "Second Chance", the Galactic Commonwealth reaches such a technological and logistical level, they are able to do this to many previously empty planets within their domains.
  • Orion's Arm has an article on the topic, and numerous examples. Mars has been terraformed just enough for genetically modified "tweaks" to live there. Venus, after millennia of terraforming and wars, is practically a second Earth. Many exosolar planets have also been terraformed to varying extents, and some alien species such as the To'ul'h have their own versions of terraforming (To'ulforming). One of the tools used for terraforming is the terraformer swarm, which consists of Nanomachines.
  • Serina: The titular world is a gas giant's moon that was terraformed and seeded with a selection of Earth life. By whom, how, and why, the author never explains.

    Western Animation 
  • In Ben 10: Omniverse, it's revealed that Galvan B was terraformed by the Galvans (led by Azmuth), but their terraforming attempt created a new sentient species that they called Galvanic Mechamorph.
  • In Exo Squad, Mars and Venus were terraformed. This is a key part of the Backstory, since it's the job that the exoframes and Neo Sapiens were invented for.
  • Mars has been terraformed in Futurama, as explained in "Mars University". Later episodes, however, show that much of the planet is still desert. Oddly enough, the native Martians that still live there don't seem to have any negative effects from the wholesale transformation of the atmosphere.
  • In the Phineas and Ferb episode "Moon Farm", the main characters decide to terraform the moon so that they can take cows there, and make the best ice-cream ever, as detailed in the lost sacred stanza of "The Cow Jumped Over the Moon".
  • In StarCom: The U.S. Space Force, parts of Mars have been terraformed. The canyons have breathable air, Earth-like temperatures,note  and fertile soil, allowing the people who live down there to walk around without space suits and even practice agriculture. The rest of Mars is considerably less hospitable.
  • The Gems of Steven Universe have colonized multiple worlds in this fashion and would have hollowed out the Earth if the Crystal Gems hadn't rebelled. There's been off hand mention of certain types of Gem with powers designed for this purpose, which explains quite a bit about Lapis Lazuli.
  • Superfriends: An inversion appears in the 1973-74 episode "Too Hot to Handle", in which the Solar Terrarians try to move the Earth closer to the Sun so it will get hot enough for them to move here and live comfortably. Unfortunately, that would make it so hot that humanity would perish.
  • Some Transformers continuities have a thing called cyberforming, whereby a planet is made suitable for Transformer life.
    • In some continuities, Unicron was originally created as a quick and dirty terraforming engine by an alien named Primacron. He was meant to eat lifeless rocks and shit out planets suitable for habitation, but he decided to skip step two and absorbed planets of any kind into himself to increase his power.
    • Transformers: Prime: The Omega Lock, when activated, has the potential to restore the dead Cybertron to a pristine and hospitable state, and reactivate the Energon production that's essential to the maintenance of Cybertronian life. In Season 2, the Decepticons test the Lock on a desolate Cybertronian building, restoring it, and then they decide that they'll try using the Lock's power to cyberform Earth first, restore Cybertron second. In the Season 3 finale, the Autobots succeed in stopping the former and accomplishing the latter.
    • Beast Machines ends with Cybertron being turned into a technorganic paradise, with most of the Cybertronians restored as technorganic lifeforms. Unfortunately, this required the Heroic Sacrifice of Optimus Primal, who pulled a Taking You with Me on Megatron.

  • This French mini-film about the terraforming of Mars.

    Real Life 
  • The Earth, in its long existence, has had three atmospheres. The first, composed of hydrogen and helium, is believed to have been blown by the solar wind. The second, believed to have been formed by volcanic outgassing, was around 100 times as dense as our current atmosphere, and composed mostly of carbon dioxide with some nitrogen. This was converted into our current atmosphere by two processes. One, the carbon dioxide was scrubbed by chemical interaction with minerals dissolved in the oceans, forming carbonate rocks. Second, the development of photosynthetic bacteria started producing oxygen, which eventually built up in the atmosphere.
    • Venus is basically stuck with a stage two atmosphere, because it lacks liquid water. Possibly something to do with being too close to the sun, and thus outside the habitable zone. Earth had, literally, oceans of water even early in its existence. Where the water came from is still a subject of debate. But water is necessary for the carbon sequestration that removed most of the carbon dioxide from the stage two atmosphere.
  • Terraforming planets, by current human technology standards, is possible, but scientists theorize that any such process to turn a completely uninhabitable planet into a habitable one would take hundreds of years, perhaps even a full millennium. Planets that are closer to Earth standard might be capable of terraformation in as little as 300 years. So, don't count on it. (As a point of interest, many scientists theorize that Venus would be a better candidate for terraformation, instead of Mars, due to the fact that Venus is tectonically active, while Mars isn't.)
    • To terraform Mars, the main goals would be to warm up the planet, thicken the atmosphere, make the atmosphere breathable and then protect the atmosphere from being removed by the solar wind. Warming up the planet could be done using greenhouse gases, reflecting more sunlight onto it with orbital mirrors, and/or darkening the surface so it absorbs more sunlight. The atmosphere would also thicken in the process due to release of frozen CO2 from the icecaps, though not by much, so more gases would need to be imported or produced from local materials. Making the atmosphere breathable could be done by introducing plants or using artificial methods of producing oxygen. Protecting the atmosphere could be done by building an artificial magnetosphere, which would deflect the solar wind much like Earth's magnetosphere does.
    • The opposite approach would be needed for Venus: here, the main goals would be to cool down the planet and remove most of the super-dense atmosphere (in addition to making it breathable). These goals could theoretically be achieved using the same method, however. Cooling down Venus (e.g. using orbital or floating mirrors to reflect sunlight away from the planet) would cause the CO2 of the atmosphere to condense and freeze onto the surface. Removing the CO2 atmosphere (e.g. by turning it into carbonate rock, injecting it into existing rock, or lifting it up into space) would reduce the greenhouse effect and thus cool down the planet (though not to Earth-like temperatures, so mirrors would still be needed).
    • NASA's even done studies on the idea of terraforming the Moon into an Earth-like world. While the lunar gravity's too weak to hold a permanent atmosphere, it'd take thousands of years for a newly created one to dissipate, and in the meantime the Moon could conceivably have blue skies, oceans and forests. It seems like a colossal waste of resources by today's standards, but the possibility does exist for any future civilization that really wants to go sunbathing on the Moon.
    • One of the problems with terraforming is an ethical one. If, hypothetically, microbes exist on Mars (which is possible), terraforming would likely lead to their extinction. This may seem insignificant until you realize that humanity has also evolved out of microbial life, so we would potentially be exterminating intelligent life before it is even able to evolve to that point. This is the subject of a lot of debate within the scientific community with some in favor (Mars Society founder Robert Zubrin, for one) and others opposed (such as the late Carl Sagan). It doesn't help that some terraforming methods involve exploding nuclear bombs all over the surface or redirecting comets to hit the planet. Another issue is that microbes or chemicals may have been brought to Earth from Mars via asteroid strikes. And if Mars does have native microbes, then the situation could turn into something out of H. G. Wells The War of the Worlds. At the very least, both the Earth life and the Mars life would have a long drawn-out battle with unpredictable results.
  • To an extent, terraforming is already happening right now, here on Earth:
    • Human beings have been "reclaiming" land from the sea for centuries, particularly in the Netherlands, Hong Kong, and Dubai.
    • Then there's the creation of a forest on Ascension Island, which was previously barren. This was done back in the 19th century at the suggestion of Charles Darwin.
    • European colonists have done this to other parts of the world for centuries, bringing their home plants and animals even to places where local domestic alternatives existed. This has sometimes lead to ecological disasters, particularly on islands.
  • The age of a star can change the conditions of whatever planets orbit it as it grows bigger and hotter as it ages by pushing the habitable zone (an invisible boundary where liquid water can exist) outwards. While doing so will render any planet originally in that habitable zone uninhabitable, it will also make planets too cold for life to become warm enough for life to evolve. When our Sun dies in about 5 billion years, this will actually happen to all of the outer planets in our Solar System. In fact, even Pluto may eventually become Earth-like one day!
  • An alternative to full terraforming is paraterraforming, which essentially involves constructing habitable domes on a planet until the entire surface is covered (the final structure is also known as a "worldhouse"). It could be more practical than terraforming since you'd get return on your investment more quickly (people could start living on the planet as soon as the first dome is finished) and you wouldn't need to modify an entire planet's atmosphere, just the portion that's enclosed in the worldhouse.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Terraforming, Xenoform


Project Genesis

Dr. Carol Marcus explains a project that could be used to terraform planets.

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