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Video Game / BioShock

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"There's always a lighthouse, there's always a man, there's always a city..."

"No Gods or Kings. Only Man."
Andrew Ryan

BioShock is a video game series developed by Irrational Games (also known as 2K Boston for a short while before reverting back to the old name). The series acts as a Spiritual Successor to the System Shock games, and as such are technically First Person Shooters with Stat Grinding and Survival Horror elements. Players primarily fight with guns, but they also have access to a range of element-themed mutant abilities.

BioShock games take place in alternative history realities built heavily on Bio Punk and Diesel Punk. As with System Shock, plots unfold in a Soiled City on a Hill, now under the control of a lunatic with a God complex. The general backstories of the cities and characters are elaborated on in Apocalyptic Logs scattered about. The games delve deep into heavy ethical and philosophical themes: the first two games (as well as their DLC and the DLC of the third game), set in the underwater city of Rapture, meditate on the ethics of gene editing, Objectivism versus Collectivism and the dangers of extreme ideologies, especially when combined with hypocrisy and the natural tendency to compromise our values in the pursuit of power.


The third game, Infinite, wrestles with forgiveness, redemption, free will, American Exceptionalism, interventionism, fundamentalism, secularism, and a great many more "isms", plus the tendency of revolutions to replace one tyrant with another.

An Updated Re-release of Infinite containing all DLCs came out in November 2014. Another rerelease compiling all three games (minus the multiplayer elements of BioShock 2) came out on September 13, 2016 for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, September 15 for PC and May 28th, 2020 for Nintendo Switch.

2K games has confirmed that a fourth game is in the works, but little else is known.


BioShock media:

Video games

  • BioShock (2007): After his plane crashes over the Atlantic Ocean in 1960, our protagonist, Jack, stumbles upon the underwater city of Rapture: an Objectivist utopia that has descended into chaos after the residents began mining a Psycho Serum from the ocean floor. With the help of Rebel Leader Atlas and a defector scientist, Brigid Tenenbaum, Jack must stop Rapture's Mayor and his army of mutant "Splicers". To do this, Jack will have to harness the Splicers' power, which can only be harvested through morally dubious means.
  • BioShock 2 (2010): Eight years after the events of BioShock, in 1968, Rapture has been taken over by Sofia Lamb, a staunch Collectivist who has declared war on free will and set up a cult centered around her daughter Eleanor. The player controls a Rogue Drone named Subject Delta (one of the Big Daddy mooks from the previous game), who is reprogrammed by Eleanor to rescue her from her mother. Of course, no Terminator yarn would be complete with a malevolent female counterpart, Big Sister.
    • BioShock 2: Minerva's Den (2010): A DLC epilogue-of-sorts to the second game which, among other things, deals with the fate of major supporting character Brigid Tenenbaum. You play as Subject Sigma, another Big Daddy. Sigma is trapped in Rapture Central Computing, an area of the city that has been cut off from Lamb's domain due to a tunnel collapse, and is now in the midst of its own civil war between RCC founders Charles Milton Porter and Reed Wahl. Sigma is aided by Tenenbaum and Porter in his attempt to reach The Thinker, a computer invented by Porter to process all of Rapture's automated systems that may provide their only way out of the city.
  • BioShock Infinite (2013): This game is set in a different universe than the first two previous games (a point which comes into play later). A down-and-out detective named Booker DeWitt is sent to the floating city of Columbia to rescue a girl named Elizabeth. Easy money, right? Unfortunately the city has erupted in a massive civil war between the Ultranationalist Founders and the rebellious Vox Populi, and Elizabeth is guarded by the giant clockwork Songbird.


  • BioShock: Rapture (2011): A prequel novel to the first two games.
  • BioShock Infinite: Mind in Revolt (2013): A prequel novel to the third game.

Tabletop games

  • Bioshock Infinite: Siege of Columbia (2013): A game where you can play as the Founders or the Vox Populi and will build up an army to fight for control of Columbia.

Tropes found across the series:

  • Adam Smith Hates Your Guts:
    • Justified, since Rapture's regulation-free economy means that shopkeepers can charge people for weaponry to defend themselves during a civil war. Subverted, since you can hack most of the game's vending machines to get yourself greatly reduced prices. In an audio diary, Andrew Ryan even complains that hacking of the vending machines undermines Rapture's capitalist values. It also shows up in places where businesses will rip-off their customers, like a fancy theater or lounge - a snack bar, even when hacked, sells for the "low, low" price of $80. Also justified in that there are no shopkeepers in the desolate Rapture, so there is no economy to begin with. Player characters can buy anything only by using vending machines that have predetermined prices.
    • One of the loading screens in the first game has a quote from the owner of Circus of Values (the vending machines) that pretty much sums up the entire concept of a monopoly in a nutshell: "Do we overcharge the suckers? Sure we do. Where else are they gonna go?"
    • Also in Columbia, since, barring the beginning of the game, Booker is seen as The Antichrist, so the vending machines could quite literally hate his guts. Possession fixes that.
    • In BioShock: Rapture it is explained that when you come to Rapture, you exchange your money for Rapture Dollars, which of course can never be changed back since Rapture is a secret city, which is another reason nobody can leave.
  • Alcohol Hic: When you grab two beverages in quick succession and, as a result, get momentarily drunk.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: The idea of creating an undersea city isn't too far fetched, and there are in fact underwater hotels. In fact, the tech has been around for quite a while, as early as when the game is actually meant to take place, in fact. As for Rapture and Columbia, there's been an idea to combine the two, basically traveling ocean countries that goes via Libertarian principles, such as Laissez-faire. See here.
    • Also building an objectivist (or in this case Libertarian) haven in the middle of the ocean has been attempted before with micronation of Minerva. Minerva was a plan to build a city on top of the Minerva reefs, which may or may not be in international waters. Before the project got under way it was shut down by Fiji who claims the reefs as their own.
    • Also noteworthy is the fact that the design for the Splicers in BioShock 1 and 2 was based on the real life work of Dr. Harold Gillies, a post WW1 surgeon who practiced many surgeries on disfigured veterans. His intentions were to make them feel less ostracized by society, to do so he created a face from the remaining tissue as well as prosthetics. His work was revolutionary for his time, getting him hailed as "the father of plastic surgery." However, his works seem pretty primitive and borderline macabre now. A gallery is available but fair warning; it's fairly Squick-y [1]
  • Anti-Frustration Features: Enemies will always miss their first few shots in Bioshock 1. This is both to alert you to their presence, and to ensure the player isn't instantly killed by an enemy they didn't even know was there.
  • Apocalyptic Log: Scattered throughout both Rapture and Columbia are audio journals by the city's inhabitants. The information revealed within ranges from the useful (lock combinations) to the informative (who the main characters are and how Rapture got this way) to the disturbing (the reason why there are two corpses embracing on a bed next to a bottle of pills) to the unreliable (Cohen's rantings probably shouldn't be read too literally).
  • The Apunkalypse: Rapture in a nutshell. Failed anachronistic 1940's civilization under the sea? Check. Said civilization sparsely populated by marauding mutant junkies looking for a fix from a genetic wonder drug? Check. One man forced to fight against these junkies and avoid an Orweillian Surveillance Government? You bet.
    • Columbia, though still a Soiled City on a Hill, partially averts this by appearing at least superficially functional. However, when Booker and Elizabeth enter the third tear into a universe where the Vox Populi's revolution is successful, this trope is in full effect.
  • Auto-Doc: Automatic medical machines. They charge you cash, but will heal you completely; however enemies can also use them. You can also hack them so they'll give you a discount and kill any enemies who try to heal with it. Destroying them causes them to drop first aid kits.
  • Ax-Crazy: Almost everyone in Rapture, and a fair number of people in Columbia.
  • Big Bad
    • In the first BioShock, Andrew Ryan, followed by Frank Fontaine.
    • In the second, Sofia Lamb. Despite player suspicions and audio recordings of him basically stating he's about as ruthless as Frank Fontaine and an unscrupulous company, Sinclair isn't this.
    • In Infinite, it's between Zachary Comstock and Daisy Fitzroy, though Daisy leaves the picture pretty early.
  • Big Brother Is Watching
    • Rapture is dotted with security cameras, and if one gets a long enough glimpse of you it dispatches combat drones to put you down. On the upside you can hack said cameras so that enemies trigger the drone attacks. BioShock 2 features this trope even more directly as it sometimes has voices warning you over the loudspeaker that "Big Sister is Watching You!", along with graffiti warning that "LAMB IS WATCHING".
    • Columbia is similar, since the people are that paranoid and jingoistic. It's why the Motorized Patriot has a Gatling Good gun.
  • Big Eater: Disposable food items are used instantly and there are no consumption limits. This is okay for, for example, a Pep Bar, but reaches the point of "grotesque superpower" when Delta, Booker, or Jack manages to bolt down an entire chocolate cake or drink a whole bottle of moonshine, three Arcadia Merlot bottles and a shelf of vodka roughly one second per bottle, or chew their way through an entire storeroom full of supplies just because they can - especially Delta, who's wearing a sealed diving helmet. Mitigated somewhat by any sort of alcoholic drink, if you drink two or more in quick succession you'll experience some serious beer goggle effects.
  • Big Good:
    • Dr Brigid Tenenbaum plays this role in BioShock and BioShock 2, as well as the Minerva's Den DLC for the latter.
    • Robert and Rosalind Lutece provide a more unexpected example in Bioshock Infinite: initially they come across as morally ambiguous at best, but it turns out they're genuinely out to help Booker and Elizabeth oppose the Big Bad.
  • Bio-Augmentation
    • Plasmids and gene tonics in Rapture.
    • Vigors and Infusions in Columbia.
  • Bio Punk: But of course! The turrets and cameras also have a Diesel Punk vibe.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The sequels seem to like to give these out to its protagonists:
    • Subject Delta will always die no matter what ending you get. The upside is that his "daughter" will finally see the surface, alongside with whatever lessons she learned from him... good or bad.
    • Booker successfully kills Comstock and rescues Elizabeth... but that means he has to let her drown him in order to prevent him from becoming Comstock. Though after the credits he's shown waking up in his office, possibly letting him learn from his mistakes. And in Burial in Sea, Elizabeth gets her skull caved in, but dies with a smile, knowing she set in motion the downfall of Atlas and the rescue of the Little Sisters.
  • Blatant Item Placement
    • Averted. Much of the weapons and ammo you pick up are either scattered around as a result of a civil war, or found in stashes in offices or weapons lockers. Other things like your improvised weapons are constructed out of mundane materials.
    • Played straight in Infinite where you can find ammo for your guns in places like inside picnic baskets on a crowded beach.
  • Bloody Handprint
  • Body Horror
    • Splicers are marred by bloated tumors or lesions or twisted limbs, and looking at some of the Big Daddy suits it's impossible to imagine a normal person fitting in them. This is because the person in question has had their flesh removed and organs welded into the inside of the suit. Spider Splicers have decayed even further in BioShock 2 and barely look human anymore, while the new Brute Splicers are so beefed up on gene tonics that skin and muscle grew over their clothing.
    • Vigors in Columbia have similar effects to ADAM use, and that's not even getting into the Handymen.
  • Brand X: Concept art for the creme-filled cake boxes has the cakes looking exactly like Twinkies. The final in-game art reduces the resemblance, possibly to reduce risk of trademark lawsuits.
  • Brass Balls: Two of the games use this as a name for an achievement in some way. The first game has 'Brass Balls' which requires you to finish the game on Hard difficulty without using any Vita-Chambers. The second game has 'Big Brass Balls' which only requires you to complete the game without using any Vita-Chambers.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Hardcore Objectivist Andrew Ryan, desperate to win Rapture's civil war, resorted to pheromones to control his population, with the justification that if Atlas won they'd be no better off than slaves anyway.
  • Bribing Your Way to Victory: A bizarre in-universe example. Thanks to the hyper capitalist nature of Rapture, you can literally buy the security systems that are supposed to be keeping you out and use them on enemies instead.
  • Canned Orders over Loudspeaker: From the corny "Rapture Reminders" and other Public Service Announcements in the first game to Sofia Lamb's unnerving "inspirational" speeches in the second game.
  • Catch and Return: Telekinesis lets you pitch most projectiles back at the one that threw them. This is harder to do in some cases; Rosie mines, for example, anchor themselves to the floor when they land.
  • Central Theme: The dangers of extremism and utopianism. And of wanton genetic modification, but mostly extremism.
  • Chainsaw Good: Infinite had its version to provide amusing incidents of bloody decapitations and such. And then the DLC (back in Rapture) had to add its own strange equivalent - as if the giant Big Daddy drill was no longer good enough.
  • Charm Person: Hypnotize type plasmids, and the Possession Vigor.
  • Clingy Costume: The Big Daddies are grafted into their diving suits, though fortunately for two characters who voluntarily don similar outfits it doesn't appear to be necessary to wear them. Handymen, on the other hand, are their suits to some degree.
  • Closed Circle: Rapture is under the sea, so it's pretty inescapable except for the one bathysphere. Columbia is the same in the sky.
  • Compilation Re-release:
    • In preparation of BioShock Infinite's release, 2K released the BioShock: Ultimate Rapture Edition for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, compiling the first two games and their respective DLCs. This collection also gave Xbox 360 players access to the then PlayStation 3-exclusive Challenge Rooms DLC.
    • BioShock: The Collection consists of all three games and their DLC in a single package. In the case of the physical release, the first two games are in a single disc, while Infinite gets its own separate disc instead.
  • Concepts Are Cheap: The Bioshock games are against extremism and utopias but never quite defines coherently what particular ideas are utopian in relation to, or what ideas are extreme in relation with, mostly because it categorizes extremism as a separate notion rather than a point in a particular spectrum.
  • Convenient Color Change: When you successfully hack a turret.
  • Crapsack World: Rapture has gone to hell. Columbia is more of a Crapsaccharine World (at least before the Vox uprising).
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Getting shot to pieces by a machine gun or taking a wrench to the frontal lobe are probably the least painful ways to die in Rapture. At least they beat being burned, drilled, electrocuted, drowned, telekinetically hurled, and/or beaten to death.
  • Cue the Sun: The better endings take place as dawn breaks.
  • Death Is a Slap on the Wrist: A light slap at that thanks to the Vita-Chambers scattered throughout the levels. Unlike most other games, respawning doesn't even cost any resources. The sequel acknowledges this when the villain admits that the best she can do is slow you down and attempts to get rid of you permanently by destroying all the Vita-Chambers in the area via crush depth. Unless, of course, you turn them off for an achievement run. This also applies in Infinite, and in most cases it will show Elizabeth reviving you.
  • Déjà Vu: One of Andrew Ryan's taunts over the radio hints at Jack experiencing this. Rapture is oddly familiar to Jack because he's a Laser Guided Tyke Bomb grown in the city and sent to the surface, programmed to return and kill Ryan.
    "So far away from your family, from your friends, from everything you ever loved. But, for some reason you like it here. You feel something you can't quite put your finger on. Think about it for a second and maybe the word will come to you: nostalgia."
  • Destroy the Security Camera: You can do this in Bioshocks 1 & 2 to prevent cameras from sending hostile Attack Drones after you. Or you can hack the camera to make it target enemies instead.
  • Dystopia: Both Rapture and Columbia, each one in a different way.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The "luminescent biomass" beneath the Persephone Prison Colony has shades of this. In addition to apparently giving the sea slugs in the area the ability to produce ADAM, a diary found on the body of a suicidal prisoner states that he felt like things were watching him from outside in the light coming off of it.
  • Enclosed Space: Mostly of the Underwater Base variety.
  • Evil vs. Evil: Andrew Ryan versus Frank Fontaine. Andrew Ryan versus Sofia Lamb. Daisy Fitzroy versus Zachary Comstock.
  • Evolving Attack
    • The original let you upgrade your elemental plasmids to deal more damage, but the sequel really expands on it - your Electro Bolt, for example, becomes a chargeable chain lightning attack at level 2, and at level 3 the charge becomes its normal function while the new charge lets you spray a torrent of electricity from your fingertips.
    • Infinite instead has each Vigor upgraded separately according to user preference, with an "aid" or a lowered Salts cost, though both can be learned.
  • Eye Cam: Used to dramatic effect in both games, after the main character in each has been knocked unconscious and is coming to.
  • False Utopia: Rapture and Columbia.
  • Fantastic Aesop: Zig-Zagged. The narrative offers up a lot of perfectly valid points for why each games' respective "ideal" utopian society cannot ultimately sustain itself, but these societies also heavily depend on the proliferation of genetic modifiers and performance enhancers that drive their users violently insane; something that would eventually cause any kind of political or economic system to collapse.
  • Flashy Teleportation: How all teleportation that is seen, works, with puffs of smoke and flashes of light on appearing and disappearing:
    • Houdini Splicers, who appear and disappear in puffs of smoke and flashes of light, Fiery red, or Icy blue, depending on their element.
    • BioShock 2: There's an Unstable Teleport plasmid that needs to be used multiple times, and leads to the player to an otherwise inaccessible location. Its teleports of itself and the player are red smoke and light.
  • Flushing-Edge Interactivity: The toilets, sinks, and bathtub fixtures all work, and are equally pointless.
  • Foreshadowing: The games are loaded with foreshadowing. See their entries for more.
  • Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke: Gene Tonics let you turn invisible, teleport, recharge health by hacking machinery, or take better pictures, while Plasmids and Vigors allow you to hurl energy, toss objects with your mind, or turn your hand into a hornet nest.
  • Genius Bruiser: All three protagonists have good hacking and puzzle-solving abilities, in addition to being good with firearms.
  • Gory Discretion Shot
    • A form of Non-Gory Discretion Shot in the form of all-concealing green mist is used the moment you actually harvest a Little Sister.
    • Interestingly, in BioShock 2, you have an opportunity to see what happens when somebody else attacks and harvests a Little Sister, and they too are surrounded by an evil-looking pea-green fog.
  • Green Rocks: The sea slugs gained the ability to generate ADAM from a large, glowing biomass. It can be seen under Persephone.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: And how. While you may find it hard to justify the actions of Lamb, Ryan and Fontaine (as well as many other characters), you can make a case that most characters have a Freudian Excuse (or are just deluded into achieving their philosophy with any means possible). The 2K Forums in particular are filled with many debates on the morality of characters.
  • Hacking Minigame: The vending machines (among other things) can be hacked.
  • Hair-Raising Hare: Some splicers wear bloodied bunny masks, while Sander Cohen is fixated on rabbits, using rabbit masks in his tableaux and rabbits in his... poetry. See the page for his work.
  • The Hero Dies: Every game in the series (including DLC) ends with the death of the protagonist. The only exception is Subject Sigma from the Minerva's Den DLC to Bioshock 2. At least Jack in Bioshock 1 does get to live peacefully for a decent number of years before apparently dying of accelerated aging, whereas every protagonist from Bioshock 2 onwards dies immediately and messily at the end of their adventure, with the exception of Sigma as stated above.
  • Harder Than Hard: The Playstation 3 port, in addition to the Easy, Medium, and Hard difficulties, has Survivor, which is described on the difficulty selection screen as "every bullet counts." They mean it. In this mode, enemies can do some serious damage to you and nearly all of your plasmids consume a lot more EVE. And to add to the fun, two of the trophies force you to play the game on this difficulty. The first trophy requires you to simply finish the game. The second trophy requires you to finish the game without using Vita-Chambers. Said trophies are respectively called "A Man Chooses" and "I Chose The Impossible" Though not the same difficulty, the Xbox 360 version similarly has Achievements for just finishing the game on Hard ("Seriously Good At This") and without using any Vita-Chambers ("Brass Balls").
  • Hate Plague: The Enrage plasmid lets you throw a squishy, organic Conflict Ball at foes, turning them into berserk team-killers.
  • Healing Factor: The Little Sisters, justified due to the ADAM in their system. Deconstructed in the second game: overly fast healing of broken bones often means they don't set properly, so they have to be re-broken several times to be put back into place.
  • Heroic Mime
    • Jack, the protagonist of the first game, has exactly two lines in total, both in the opening cutscene. Lampshaded in BioShock 2, with one of Father Wales' audio diaries describing Jack as a silent and mysterious Messiah figure; "Then, though he spake not a word..." The second game's protagonist, being a Big Daddy, straddles the line between this and The Unintelligible; distorted but vaguely-human grunts and roars, and not much else.
    • Averted in Infinite where Booker frequently talks to himself and other characters throughout the game.
  • Hidden Elf Village
    • Deconstructed. If Andrew Ryan's fear of discovery by the surface nations hadn't made Rapture into one of these, there would have been no black market for Frank Fontaine to control. For a captain of industry, Ryan was blind to basic economics - demands will be supplied, laws only make them more expensive.
    • Averted in Infinite. Everyone knows about Columbia, as it was designed as a showcase of American ingenuity, and therefore meant to be showed off. It was only after the Boxer Rebellion and its subsequent secession from the United States that it closed itself to the rest of the world. Booker not knowing about the existence of the city is an early clue to his true nature.
  • Hide Your Children: Pointedly averted; whether to kill the Little Sisters is the primary moral decision the player is given. There are no other children around though, meaning no boys at all. The closest thing are the Pigskins, who resemble scared teenage boys wearing football gear.
  • High-Voltage Death: Throughout the series, any enemies hit by electricity in water are instantly killed.
  • Hollywood CB: Sort of. Your radio, which everybody can tap into (or jam) at the proper time.
  • Human Popsicle: Courtesy of the Ice plasmids, which can lead to a case of Ice Breaker.
  • Human Resources: ADAM, when harvested from dead bodies.
  • Hyperactive Metabolism
    • There are a number of comestibles that will restore your health and EVE meters, but only by a very small amount. Eating snacks such as potato chips and cream-filled cakes gives you health, while drinking coffee gives you EVE, and eating a "pep bar" gives you a smidgen each of health and EVE. Meanwhile, smoking cigarettes will give you a bit of EVE at the cost of some health, while drinking alcohol will give you a bit of health at the cost of some EVE. The gene tonic Extra Nutrition will give you more health from consumables, and while you'll still have to deal with some drunken wobbling, the gene tonic Booze Hound causes you to gain EVE instead of losing it when drinking booze.
    • BioShock 2 superficially expanded the set of consumable items, adding not only more mundane food items like canned goods and cola but vitamins, aspirin, fresh water, and something called "Doc Hollcroft's Cure-All", which restores both health and EVE despite being, as an audio diary on the website reveals, a placebo.
    • BioShock Infinite expands this even more and you rely on the food since you can't store medkits any more. Some drinks restore Salt, smoking restores some Salt at the cost of health, drinking alcohol has the opposite effect. And of course there's absolutely no limit to how much you can eat or drink.
  • Hyperspace Arsenal
    • Maybe there's a gene tonic that gives people personal pocket dimensions.
    • BioShock Infinite averts this, as the player can only carry two guns at once.
  • Hypocrite
    • Andrew Ryan. Nominally an Objectivist, but he ends up nationalizing industries, restricting free speech, killing ideological opponents and ultimately (according to Diane McClintock) believing more in power over others than his nominal philosophy. As Anya says in one of the recordings, "I believed in this place. I believed in Ryan. But when it got hard, Ryan didn't believe in Rapture..."
    • In BioShock 2, Sofia Lamb practices her philosophy in a brutally consistent fashion until the end of the game, where she's quite happy to doom The Family to a watery grave while she makes her escape on a submersible. Also justified, as she had no intention of actually saving the people of Rapture, only in stabilizing it long enough to extract all the ADAM she could.
    • As you start getting closer to Fontaine, he starts complaining about your "betrayal", insisting that "nobody told you nothing but lies" and referring to himself as "family".
    • Comstock is this in so many ways. First he is an ultra-nationalist who seceded from the very nation that he claims to love (claiming, of course, that they betrayed him). Second, though he professes to champion all that is White, Anglo-Saxon and Protestant in the face of heathen Catholics and/or foreigners, he fills Columbia with images of angels and the Founders to the point of idolatry. In one audio log, he rages about being accused of having Native American ancestry... apparently, he was so desperate to deny this that he burned hundreds of Native American families alive.
  • Hypocritical Humor / Irony - many of the splicers really don't know what they have become:
    Brute Splicer: You ain't natural!
    Female Splicer: Freak!
    Another Female Splicer: YOU'RE INSANE!
  • An Ice Person: Martin Finnegan, and the ice-element Houdini Splicers found later in the game. You can turn an enemy into a Human Popsicle in either game with Winter Blast and other attacks.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: If you find a kitchen, odds are good that there's a human body on the table or counter. Probably necessary due to Rapture's food production breaking down, plus it's a way to recycle that sweet, sweet ADAM. Spider-splicer hearts can also be used as medpacks.
  • Interface Screw: Walk under a leak or down too much booze and your screen will go funny for a moment. A more gameplay-related variety occurs late in the game when you drink the first dose of the antidote to Fontaine's mind control.
  • Interface Spoiler: Your suspiciously empty weapon wheel and equally empty level menu can give away that Your Princess Is in Another Castle!.
  • Item Amplifier: The game has the plasmids Booze Hound and EVE Link, which add EVE regeneration with the use of health items (though you still get blurred vision from drinking too much). The Medical Expert and Extra Nutrition plasmids give more traditional boosts to the effects of health items.
  • Item Crafting: The first game lets you do this with "U-Invent" machines.
  • It's All About Me
    Andrew Ryan: In the end, all that matters to me... is me. And all that matters to you... is you. It is the nature of things.
    • As regards Ryan in particular, it's hinted by the audio diary "Fontaine Must Go" and the fact that his name is plastered all over the city's signage that his motives in building Rapture were less to do with creating a haven for the world's elite, and more to do with creating a haven for himself where he could milk the inhabitants for all they're worth... one way or another.
  • Irony: The games tend to show how the various ideological utopias shown become both their own antithesis and similarly screwed-up in practice.
    • The Rapture of Andrew Ryan is initially shown as a libertarian paradise that would make Ayn Rand proud. Yet Ryan himself isn't above nationalizing businesses or resorting to prattle like the binding "chain of industry" when things go his way. Though then again, that may simply be him looking out for himself.
    • The Rapture of Sofia Lamb is presented as the ultimate collective not too dissimilar to late-stage communism. Yet in the end, Lamb herself proves to be as selfish and self-centered as Ryan was.
    • Comstock's Columbia tries to be a nationalist showcase of American Exceptionalism. In practice, it becomes a warped mirror of America at its worst, not to mention an utter perversion of everything the Founding Fathers fought for.
    • Columbia under the Vox Populi is on paper free of its people's oppressors. Except that the Vox prove to be just as tyrannical and zealous to a fault as Comstock and his supporters.
  • Karma Meter: The first one attempted it with the Rescue/Harvest choice for dealing with Little Sisters, and even the game's director admitted the black or white choice was a poor implementation. It was also incredibly harsh; you bave to make your choice about what you want to see almost at the beginning, because harvest just two out of 21 Little Sisters and you turn into some kind of baby-eater. The sequel seems to go through the motions by giving you the same choices again, just twice, but there are also three characters whom you can choose to kill or spare, which also affects the ending, giving a total of four; Mother Theresa, baby-eater, Judge Dredd, and I Did What I Had to Do (ie, baby-eating at the weekend).
    • The impact of these choices is the game ending (at which time it won't effect play), and the rewards for 'harvesting' or 'rescuing', which in the end result in equivalent rewards (no cost for doing the "right thing"). There is a third option to play through without interacting with the Little Sisters (when possible), and a fourth is to not finish the game and just inhabit areas indefinitely living off the respawning Splicers/Big Daddies for resources.
    • Subverted in BioShock Infinite - there are several opportunities to make choices (moral or otherwise), some of which will result in payouts, but none have any impact on the ending. It's always the same because it has to be.
  • Kill 'Em All
    • More or less the Bad ending for both BioShock and BioShock 2; it's actually quite a karmic ending since in both games, the ending reflects your actions during the game.
    • In BioShock, of an enormous cast, only Jack (the player character) and Dr. Tenenbaum make it out alive. Sander Cohen has an option to survive, depending on whether Jack wishes to attack him at Fort Frolic or in Olympus Heights. Additionally, nearly all of the audio diary characters (the ones who never appear directly) are found dead in their rooms or impaled on Ryan's grisly trophy wall. In the good ending of BioShock, the Little Sisters survive with Jack, though they are not significant until the end of the game.
    • In BioShock 2, the nature of this trope can really vary. Of the significant cast, only two characters will survive no matter what the player does: Tenenbaum (this time a glorified cameo), and Eleanor. On the other hand, only the Wales brothers and Sinclair must die, so it can also result in a whole lot more survivors — even Alex the Great, an amphibian-like Splicer who promises to flee into the ocean and not bother you again. However, in Minerva's Den, this trope is successfully averted. No matter what, only Reed Wahl dies; everyone else makes it through.
    • Infinite continues the grand tradition in style by pulling a Ret-Gone at the end on pretty much everyone, definitely the entire city. By killing Booker himself.
  • Lag Cancel: Fire your crossbow, switch to a plasmid, then switch back to your crossbow and fire it again. Doing this cancels the lengthy animation after firing and lets you spit out your whole clip of bolts in short order.
    • In 2, the lengthy animation is characteristic of the spear gun, but since both your plasmid and weapon hands are out at the same time, this trope is averted.
  • Large Ham: Some audio diaries come to mind. For example, Pierre Gobbi is practically chewing on the scenery when expressing his unhappiness about the watered-down wine.. Of course, to a Frenchman wine is Serious Business.
  • Last Chance Hit Point: On Easy or Normal, any attack that should kill you (i.e. taking a rocket to the face with only about 10 health left) only bumps you down to 1 health, and you have to take an additional hit to die. BioShock 2 takes it even further by making you invincible for about 1 second after being brought down to 1 health. This is disabled on the highest difficulty, however, which makes things a lot harder.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: The entire "Would You Kindly" bit in the first game makes you realize that you were blindly obeying the game itself, not just the command phrase. Though most people who play these games figure out that the doors leading OFF the Yellow Brick Road just don't open.
  • LEGO Genetics: There's simply no way that all those superpowers Jack gains could interface with his DNA so easily. The same with all the splicers, but they certainly went crazy enough.
  • Lighthouse Point: Where Jack and Booker start out and where the second game ends. As with the recurring concept of 'a man, a lighthouse, and a city' in Bio Shock Infinite, the game's Gainax Ending involves lighthouses. Lots of lighthouses.
  • Lightning Bruiser: It's quite a shock to discover just how fast a Big Daddy can charge across a room and flatten you. On the bright side, you get to play as one in the sequel and are just as swift and brutal when you lower your drill and charge. This trend is continued in Infinite: the Handymen's cumbersome-looking metal bodies belie their agility, and even the Motorized Patriots are pretty quick-footed.
  • Look on My Works, Ye Mighty, and Despair!
    • Rapture, what was to be an Objectivist utopia, and now is decidedly not.
    • Even more so in the sequel, which in addition to the ever-encroaching decay emphasizes the hubris of Andrew Ryan's ambition... and its fate of eventually being swallowed up by the sea forever.
  • Lovecraftian Superpower: Plasmids - injectable potions made from the stem-cells of sea-slugs - can bestow people superpowers and can be used for things like mind-control and cosmetic surgery. Because of the objectivist system of Rapture however, the addictive qualities of plasmids turned the population into freakish, mutant addicts, giant, diving-suit cyborgs and inhuman little girls that mass produce it.
  • Mad Artist: Sander Cohen.
  • Mad Scientist
    • Dr. Suchong et al. Tenenbaum skirts the line mainly by realizing what she's doing and becoming The Atoner.
    • Played with in the case of Gil Alexander who was sure that his next experiment will render him insane. He's right.
    • Sofia Lamb is a rare example of a Mad Social Scientist.
  • Madness Mantra
    • Practically almost all enemy NPC, not to mention Sander Cohen's "The Wild Bunny" audio diary: "I want to take the ears off but I can't! It's my curse! It's my fucking curse! I want to take the ears off! Please! Take them off! Please!"
    • A notable example are the NPCs singing "Jesus loves me this I know", since Christianity was supposed to be banned in Rapture, and there are smugglers crates full of nothing but tons and tons of Bibles (UNSOLD - so the smugglers must've been idiots to keep importing them).
  • Magic by Any Other Name: There's a plasmid/vigor equivalent of just about every standard RPG magic power, as long as you have the EVE/salts.
  • Magic Genetics: There probably isn't a real "shoot lightning from your hand" gene, and BioShock shows why we should be thankful for that.
  • Mainlining the Monster: The Little Sisters, creepy shells of the children they once were, are organic factories of ADAM, the substance that enables the gene-manipulating plasmids, drug of choice for the Splicers that inhabit Rapture. Even the player has a choice to harvest them for a bigger payday instead of rescuing them (except that players still gain about as much as reward for Saving them).
  • Malevolent Masked Men: Splicers often wear Mardi Gras-ish masks. Possibly justified, as it's stated in Audio-Logs that everything really went to hell in Rapture on New Year's Day. And considering some of their appearances otherwise...
  • Mama Bear: The Rosebud Splicer's main reason for the descent into madness and the violence that follows appears to be her search for her missing daughter.
  • Mana Meter: EVE, which is used to power plasmids. In Infinite, it's salts, used to power vigors. They are pretty much one and the same, due to a scientific 'collaboration' between Columbia and Rapture, though salts are a less efficient version.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Frank Fontaine. And Mommie Dearest bastardess Sofia Lamb
  • Master of Unlocking: All three protagonists, having mastered respectively the specific arts of plumbing and stopping a needle in the right place.
  • May Contain Evil: ADAM.
  • Meaningful Name: All over the place.
    • "Andrew Ryan" may not be an anagram of "Ayn Rand", but it's as close as it needs to be, and "Atlas" is a reference to the novel Atlas Shrugged. However, Word of God claims that "Fontaine" being a reference to The Fountainhead is just a coincidence.
    • Rapture gets bonus points for a double triple quadruple meaning.
      • By itself, the word refers to a state of elevated bliss.
      • Nitrogen narcosis, a psychological condition occasionally experienced by deep-sea divers, is often called "rapture of the deep."
      • Christian belief in the end-times event called The Rapture, which canonically is followed by a thousand-year period of heaven on Earth.
      • Finally, the original meaning of 'rapture', which is "kidnapping" or "snatching", from Latin raptus — in the first and second senses, one is caught up or transported by ecstasy, while the third connotes being swept up by God into the Kingdom of Heaven.note  Ryan himself chose the name as a Blasphemous Boast (due to his dislike of religion) and in reference to the fact that he was "rapturing" the world's best and brightest.
    • Additionally Andrew means 'manly' (from Greek andros, 'man') and Ryan means 'king' (from Gaelic , 'king', cognate to Latin rex).
    • Atlas after taking a massive dose of ADAM physically resembles his namesake, although Fontaine doesn't otherwise fit the John Galt mold all that well.
    • 'Sofia' is a direct cognate of Greek sophia, 'wisdom' — and also of 'sophistry', which is deception by means of specious argument. Lamb is a rather fitting name for someone starting a religious movement originally intended to be benevolent and pacifistic — and also a homonym of 'lam', as in the old phrase 'on the lam' meaning a fugitive from the authorities.note 
    • Booker DeWitt = A blank book, fitting of a game protagonist.
    • Zachary Comstock combines both a Biblical name and the surname of a number of 19th century U.S. politicians and judges, including moral crusader Anthony Comstock.
  • Metropolis Level: All of the games in the series took place in cities; however, due to hubris from the leaders, they were decaying and suffering mass unrest.
  • Mind over Matter: The Telekinesis plasmid. "Pick up big stuff with your mind. Throw them at your enemies. What else do you need to know?"
  • Mix and Match: Zeerust Science Fiction + Survival Horror + Art Deco + Anarcho-Capitalistic Dystopia = BioShock
  • The Mob Boss Is Scarier: One log can be found next to an electrified corpse that belonged to a smuggler. Play it and you'll hear the dead smuggler refusing to give Ryan's goons any information because he claims that Fontaine will do worse.
  • Monster Clown: "Fill your Cravings at the Circus of Values! Hahahahahaaaa!!"
  • The Movie: Originally to be directed by Gore Verbinski of Pirates of the Carribean fame, replaced by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (28 Weeks Later), written by John Logan (Gladiator, The Aviator, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street), eventually killed by Ken Levine himself.
  • MST3K Mantra: According to the Making of BioShock DVD, one of the early difficulties in designing Rapture was that, being on the sea floor, the city would have to be designed in a certain way to cope with the natural spreading and movement of the sea floor. Eventually, the artistic developers simply ignored the issue and designed it as any normal city would be. They do say, however, that the final design is apt because like their idea of a Objectivist-run city, a city built on the seafloor just isn't feasible.
  • Multiple Endings
    • In the original, if you rescue all the Little Sisters you find rather than harvest them, you bring them up to the surface with you, where they live normal lives before all returning to comfort you on your deathbed. If you instead harvest them all, after beating the last boss you gorge yourself on ADAM, lead an army of Splicers to the surface, and seize a submarine armed with nuclear weapons. The number of Little Sisters harvested determines the tone of Tennenbaum's otherwise identical voice-over in these endings: harvesting most of them causes her tone to be spiteful and accusatory, while harvesting only a few of them leads to a more disappointed tone from her. As a nod to the choice, the Splicers in the sequel argue over which path Jack took.
    • There's a lot more permutations in the sequel's endings (six, to be precise), depending on whether you again chose to harvest or save the Little Sisters, but also if you chose to kill or spare NPCs]. Variables include the presence or absence of Little Sisters as well as whether or not Eleanor saves her mother, watches her drown, or actively kills her. After morally-ambiguous paths, Delta intentionally dies rather than have Eleanor follow his example, leaving her to wonder if anyone can be redeemed or who will guide her now. In the worst ending, Eleanor follows your example and harvests you for ADAM, and declares that her desires are all that matter and the world is going to change.
    • In Infinite, this is thoroughly averted. Several moral choices present themselves in your path but the plot is unaffected and there is only one ending.
  • The Multiverse: How Columbia and Rapture connect, as well as possible other games. Shown overtly for the two of them in Infinite with not only the Wham Episode in Rapture, but also the "Burial at Sea" Downloadable Content.
    • The Constant: In Infinite it is revealed that the lighthouse is this, as there is a man to go to one in each universe, in one form or another.
  • Mutants: The splicers were originally ordinary people who deliberately purchased injectible upgrades for their DNA, buying anything from good looks to superpowers... only to find just how debilitating ADAM can be if used carelessly.
  • My Dad Can Beat Up Your Dad
    • The chatter from the Gatherer's Garden kiosks. More specifically, "My daddy's smarter than Einstein! Stronger than Hercules! And he can make fire with a snap of his fingers! Are you as good as my daddy, mister? Not if you don't come to Gatherer's Garden!"
    • The Little Sisters you adopt "I got the best Big Daddy" from BioShock 2: "Daddy's giving you stars and birdies!"
  • Named After First Installment: Numbered Sequels style. The series started with BioShock. and its entries all involve biological enhancement superpowers.
  • Necessary Drawback: Frozen enemies are very easy to kill, but drop no loot upon death (because you shattered them to bits!)
  • Neural Implanting: Wouldn't you know it, The Psycho Serum ADAM does that too!
  • Never Gets Drunk
    • While it's possible to get "drunk," (a) the effect lasts about twenty seconds and (b) it typically takes multiple entire bottles of hard liquor to produce even this.
    • All the protagonists are in some weird alcoholic limbo between this and Can't Hold His Liquor. They all get equally drunk after two drinks in quick succession- whether those drinks were both single beers, or both whole bottles of vodka, or anything in between.
  • Nightmare Fuel Coloring Book: The cells that Little Sisters grow up in, covered in drawings of dead people and morbid-looking stick figures of Big Daddies. Saved children draw happier, sunnier drawings.
  • No Canon for the Wicked: The ending to Burial At Sea part 2 reveals that the canon ending of the original Bioshock was indeed the good one. Though at the same time, it took place in one out of an infinite number of possible universes where the reverse could be true.
  • Noiseless Walker: The Wrench Lurker tonic has this effect, as it completely silences your footsteps, no matter whether you're walking, crouching or running full tilt. It also increases the wrench's damage to unaware targets.
  • No OSHA Compliance: Justified, in that Andrew Ryan built Rapture specifically to get away from pesky things like workplace safety laws. In his city something like OSHA would be thought of as a statist effort to destroy capitalism. You can even find "X days since last accident" signs in various places, but the number is never very high. Also, there's little point since the whole city is literally falling apart anyways.
  • Not So Different
    • There's no real difference between Fontaine and Ryan by the time BioShock takes place as both of them have gone far off the deep end to achieve their goals.
    • In the sequel, Lamb's version of "the greater good" is ultimately as monstrous and terrible as Ryan's philosophy, and she's just as willing to cast those ideals aside (and screw the rest) when it comes to saving herself.
      • Interestingly both Ryan and Lamb were partially driven to their respective extremes by the Hiroshima bombing: Ryan saw the bomb as a corruption of science and industry into making a weapon that allowed "parasites" to destroy what they couldn't seize (a la Project X) while Lamb was outraged at the United States using her "for the greater good" philosophy to justify the bombing. Both also ultimately thought that the "corrupt" surface world was doomed to destroy itself.
    • Many of Comstock's qualities, such as a relentless sense of determination and a deep, protective impulse towards a daughter figure, can be found in Booker as well. There's a good reason for that—Booker is Comstock.
  • Obnoxious Entitled Housewife: The Lady Smith splicers embody this trope, with several quotes complaining about servants ("Charles! I think the negro cook's been stealing. It's always like that with the coloreds. Take, take, take"), poors ("They talk talk talk, but in the end they've got nothing to offer society. Just more mouths to feed") and her predicament ("The times may be unkind, but did you have to take our home? I raised my children there! Bastards!").
  • Offhand Backhand: Big Daddies will sometimes slap an obstructing Splicer (or you) across the room without looking.
  • Oh, Crap!: Many examples whether from the player, splicers or the current antagonist. One occasion of particular note is early in the sequel where, after several brief encounters with a Big Sister you enter a large room with a massive window just in time to see her running along its wall, cutting the glass with her extra-long ADAM needle as she goes. With the cracks spreading you have just enough time to think "oh crap" before the glass caves in and you're hit by several thousand gallons of high pressure seawater.
    • That Big Sister goes Up to Eleven - Delta can't smash the windows with any amount of drilling, gunfire, explosives, or Plasmids.
    • Or how about when Delta and Eleanor are running down a corridor to make their escape. Eleanor goes to take the corner ahead of you. Then everything slows down, and you see her starting to skid to a stop. You see a cloud gather around her to signal that she's trying to teleport out as you come around the corner only to find crates and crates of explosives. Which promptly blow you to kingdom come.
    • The plaster splicer mannequins. At one point in Fort Frolic, you'll pass through a corridor lined with 5 on each side. After exploring the rooms beyond you come back the same way, and now they're all gone....
  • One-Way Visor: Rosies and Alpha Series.
  • One-Winged Angel: Fontaine, who until this point has apparently only used the Super Strength gene tonic, is spooked by the player's progress and uses all the ADAM he's stockpiled at once, transforming into a ten-foot-tall grotesquely-muscled brute - which incidentally looks like a giant statue of Atlas.
  • Organ Drops: Spider Splicer Organs can be used as med-kits, if one has researched them enough. Whether or not it's cannibalism depends on how human you think the Splicers are.
  • Original Position Fallacy: Frequently comes up. In the first game, talented and hard-working people come to Rapture hoping to be captains of industry, only to get shuffled in menial labor. The second game highlighted how the massive poverty resulting from Ryan's capitalist dream created a backlash with nasty consequences for everyone involved. And while it isn't as prevalent, part of the reason so many foreign workers had to be brought into Columbia (who eventually became the Vox Populi) was because none of the Founders were willing to do the menial work needed to maintain the flying city.
  • Papa Wolf: The Big Daddies, of course.
    • Fighting off all the splicers while gathering ADAM can become a bit chaotic, especially in wide open areas and when dealing with teleporting Houdini splicers you have to move around a lot. But when the Little Sister screams and calls for help, you will turn around and charge back instantly to beat whatever poor splicer is attacking her into a dark smear on the ground.
    • Likewise, your first encounter with a Little Sister in BioShock 2 has you entering a room to hear her begging "Mr. Bubbles... please get up..." while crying in terror with a splicer advancing menacingly on her. At that point most players fly into an righteous fury and bullrush the splicer and drill the ever loving crap out of him. The Little Sister will then turn to face you and with such genuine happiness say "Mr. Bubbles, you're all better." Dawww... Sadly, this can also be horrifically subverted if you choose to harvest the Little Sisters instead.
    • Booker ends up becoming this for Elizabeth. Makes sense, considering she's his daughter.
  • Parental Issues: Interpretations of family and their role in ideological inheritance are a recurring theme, and are central to The Reveal of every game. In some ways, every game asks "What responsibilities does a parent and child have to each other? Which are realistic, which are worthwhile, and which are just egotistical?"
  • Personal Space Invader
    • Just try to run from a spider splicer. You'd be astounded at how quickly they'll close the distance once your back is turned.
    • Big Sisters aren't afraid to get up close and personal either.
    • Bouncers' only attacks are this. Subject Delta can replicate it, too.
    • While the Handyman has a wide array of attacks, they seem fond at charging at you full-speed.
  • Phlebotinum Dependence: One of ADAM's properties that got Fontaine excited was how addictive it was; it got Ryan hot and bothered as well, prompting him to take over Fontaine's business and pump ADAM onto the market with no restrictions whatsoever. Too bad one of the side-effects of combined overuse and withdrawal is, you know, turning into a flame-throwing psychopath.
  • Pink Is Erotic: The Eve's Garden cabaret features pink lights. Likewise, in Burial At Sea, Cupid's arrow, which sells erotic materials, such as books, has pink lights too.
  • Please Wake Up: The Little Sisters sob this sometimes after you kill their Big Daddy.
  • Plot Coupon That Does Something: ADAM, and the Little Sisters who produce it.
  • Posthumous Character: You learn a lot about some characters from all the plentiful audio diaries you recover, hearing about their life in pre-crapsack Rapture, their hopes and dreams, their role during the civil war... and then you find their corpse. In the sequel, certain characters from the first game manage to cast their shadow over everything despite being dead for 10 years or more.
    • In Infinite, the long-dead Lady Comstock is frequently mentioned by other characters and is hailed as a saint by the ruling faction of Columbia. Then she gets resurrected with Reality Warping technology, and becomes an active (and very hostile) character in her own right...
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child: The Little Sisters (originally children of about 5-8 years old) were set up as mobile factory-reservoirs for ADAM by implanting ADAM-producing sea slugs in their stomachs, and brainwashing them into gathering additional ADAM from corpses. Now, the scientists who set up this whole grisly situation harvested non-lethally by making the Little Sisters regurgitate the ADAM and sending them back into the streets to continue gathering, but apparently, that's not enough for the Splicers, because their perferred method (and yours, if you take the evil path) is to rip it from their forsaken bodies and kill them just to earn a little extra juice.
  • Power Perversion Potential
    • The world of BioShock incorporates body-altering tonics that can do anything from beef up your fighting ability to allowing you to shoot fire out of your fingers, and can all bought and sold on the open market. Imagine what other kinds of tonics must have been feasible. And given Andrew Ryan's insistence that the market be completely free and unregulated, some of them most certainly did become available to the public.
    • Medpacks heal anything from skinned knees to STD's.
    • In the Burial at Sea DLC, there's the Peeping Tom plasmid. It makes you invisible, muffles your footsteps and allows you to see through walls. Think on that for a moment. In fact, nearby where you find it is an audio diary where the proprietor of the establishment selling it responds to a woman who is complaining about constantly being peeped on by Peeping Tom users with, "Tough luck, it's a free market." Though he was kind enough to direct her to a business that sold material that could block the x-ray effect.
  • Power-Upgrading Deformation: Taking Plasmids isn't necessarily this... that is, if you manage to maintain a steady supply of EVE, which no one can thanks to the civil war in Rapture.
  • Psycho Serum: Once again, ADAM.
    • The only ones not affected are the Little Sisters, who are instead hallucinating a luxurious dream world instead of the corpse-strewn, decaying madhouse they're wandering through.
    • And it is revealed in BioShock 2 that even they are being affected, but at a slower rate. Hence, Big Sisters.
  • "Psycho" Strings
    • Most of the score consists of stringed instruments, which can flip from melancholy to maddening in an instant.
    • Background music in 2's Pink Pearl consists entirely of this.
  • Public Service Announcement: Some deliciously cheesy dialogues occasionally kick in on Rapture's P.A. system, usually excusing security measures.
    Mary: Capital punishment! In Rapture! This isn't what I signed up for!
    Jim: Now hold on there, pretty lady! The only people who face capital punishment in Rapture are smugglers. And that's because they put everything we've worked for at risk. Imagine if the Soviets found out about our wonderful city, or even the U.S. government! Our secrecy is our shield.
    Mary: A little capital punishment is a small price to pay to protect all of our freedoms.
    Jim: Now you're talking, Mary!
  • Punk Punk: Each setting exemplifies a mishmash of "-punk" ideas. The setting of the first two games has shakes of late Diesel Punk (in the era as well as the more mechanical devices), Bio Punk (in the cavalier attitudes the populace of Rapture has regarding modifying their own - and each others' - genetics and body structures), and Ocean Punk. The setting of Infinite is a dark take on Steampunk and Clock Punk in both technology and its effect on the world around it, with some Fantastic Noir trappings.
  • Punch-Clock Villain:
    • In BioShock the splicers are only after you because of the bounty Ryan put on your head; they aren't real villains and care very little about you. They are just consumed and driven by a drug addiction. Ryan also pumps pheromones throughout Rapture so that they do his bidding.
    • And in ‘’2’’, they are only after you because they think you're trying to kill or corrupt their messiah. Which, from their perspective, you pretty much are.
    • Most of the people who attack you in Infinite are just working for Comstock.
  • Ragdoll Physics: Telekinesis lets you use debris, furniture, even dead bodies as weapons. You can even use the plasmid to yank a Splicer's mask off and beat them to death with it. In BioShock 2, the speargun's reusable ammo can be TK'ed out of an attacker and thrown right back in.
  • Ragnarök Proofing: For a run-down shell of its former glory, Rapture in the first game still more or less looks as it did when all hell broke loose, although a good chunk of it is shown falling apart. The sequel on the other hand shows just how far it's decayed in eight years, with rust, moss and sea life creeping ever more into what's left.
  • Rich Bitch: One sort of female splicer has a snooty upper-class accent, complains about the quality of the tenderloin (which doesn't exist), and threatens to "send the boy out to give you a good thrashing". It's creepier (and at times funnier) than it sounds.
  • Right Hand vs. Left Hand:
    • Several of Rapture's citizens have tried to assassinate Andrew Ryan, two of which were Anya Andersdotter and the engineer Kyburz. When Anya turned up in Kyburz's office in an attempt to pry information from him, Kyburz believed she was a spy trying to trick him into revealing his own plot and turned her in to Ryan's men. In an audio diary he admits that he isn't sure about her, but can't take the risk this far into his own plans.
    • On the other side of things, the Head of Rapture's security forces failed to convince Peach Wilkins to report Fontaine's crimes, because even though Wilkins hated Fontaine, he had no way of knowing that Rapture's security didn't secretly work for Fontaine.
  • Recycled IN SPACE!: BioShock is System Shock not IN SPACE!
  • Red Light District
    • Eve's Garden in Fort Frolic. "Come bite the apple!"
    • The sequel has Siren Alley, which bears a strong resemblance to New Orleans' French Quarter. The area is a battlefield between the Wales brothers, one of which manages a hotel-turned-whorehouse, while the other has found religion and put up some religious murals depicting events from BioShock.
  • Respawning Enemies
    • Each level is slowly repopulated with Splicers over time, but the respawn rate is low enough that it's not too annoying. On the other hand, the Big Daddies respawn almost immediately, which would be more annoying if they weren't totally harmless when left alone, not to mention useful with the right plasmids.
    • In the sequel, the enemies respawn more quickly, and enemies can spawn in locations that would be impossible to reach without Offscreen Teleportation.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized:
    • The attack-you-on-sight, mutated, insane Splicers that follow Fontaine are indistinguishable from the attack-you-on-sight, mutated, insane Splicers that are loyal to Ryan, or the attack-you on sight, mutated, insane Splicers that belong to the Family. Though at least the latter are well-behaved regarding the Little Sisters.
    • The Rebellious Vox Populi in Columbia are quick to lose all control and become hostile towards anyone that isn't one of them.
  • Rule of Symbolism: Lots of religious symbols show up in the game.
    • The most obvious example is the name of the city, Rapture, supposedly a reference to the "Rapture of the Deep".
    • There's also a few crucified corpses to be found, either in Ryan's foyer for his "spy collection," in medical facilities pinned to operating tables, or near the docks with a smuggler strung up just right. The last case was probably intentional, since he was smuggling religious contraband.
    • Also the substances you need to use the plasmids are called Adam and Eve. Adam is used to buy them and Eve is used to repower then.
  • Scare Chord: The soundtrack has random ones thrown in to mess with you (bordering on playing with Musical Spoiler). Also, your plasmids have specific noises they make when you switch to them, and Electrobolt's is a scare chord.
    • In Infinite, executions with the Skyhook are accompanied by these.
  • Scenery Gorn: Rapture. All of it.
  • Scenery Porn: The bathysphere ride into Rapture in the first game, and the underwater strolls in the second.
  • Schizo Tech
    • Rapture has genetic engineering without the computers that would make genetic information intelligible... which would explain a lot, actually.
    • As of the Minerva's Den, they may have had those too. And an AI. And an Ion Laser. Also, the automatic doors, the miniguns, the audio tapes (which were invented on the surface five years later), the security bots, the Hack Tool for aforementioned computers, (which has no real life equivalent but appears to be a projectile USB drive launcher that works on something that I assume to involve radio waves) and a lot more. And this is the sixties.
  • School Setting Simulation: Common in the BioShock series:
    • Both Jack in the 1 and Delta in the 2 are able to visit Little Wonders Educational Facilities, where Little Sisters are trained to do their role.
    • In 'Burial at Sea'' the heroes are able to visit the Ryan the Lion Preparatory Academy, where children are indoctrinated into following Ryan's ideology.
  • Second Hour Superpower: The plasmids from both games.
  • Shout-Out
    • The helpful automated voice in Fontaine Futuristics stutters and sounds like a very familiar AI.
    • Speaking of said A.I, one of the achievements for BioShock 2 is called 'Look at You, Hacker.'
    • Also, one of the Big Daddy classes is called a Rumbler, which was also the name of the Giant Mooks from System Shock 2.
    • "53,596 zombies were killed in the making of this game."
    • "Grab a crowbar or somethin'!"
    • The 'Baby Jane' splicers, are most probably a reference to the novel/1962 film Whatever Happened To Baby Jane, which involved an aging, psychopathic ex-child star, trying to get back into show business. The splicer even quotes one of the lines from the film:
    Baby Jane: I used to be beautiful, what happened to me?
    • It was probably unintentional, but Dr. Suchong sounded a little like a villain from Jonny Quest in not just his ethnic origin, but in that he inadvertently causes his own demise...
    • The Little Sisters' glowing eyes.
    • The "Would you kindly" conspiracy board you see just before meeting Andrew Ryan is a reference to the movie The Usual Suspects.
    • "Bring Your Daughter To Work Day". Oh, she gets tested, alright.
    • Certain splicers can be heard shouting "... and you shall know my name is the LORD!..." when idle.
    • From the ride down to the city in the bathysphere, the film starts with an ad: "Fire at your fingertips!", for the incinerate plasmid. That was how Dagny Taggart described cigarettes. And the ad shows a man lighting a cigarette for a woman who looks very much like a young Ayn Rand.
    • The credits for BioShock 2 include the message "Go Team Sea Slug!"
    • When you use Incinerate while carrying a Little Sister, she will sometimes misquote the Wicked Witch of the West.
    • There is a keycode opened by a code 0047. You learn of this from the recording made by certain Tobias Riefer.
    • Along the same vein is a keycode 0451- the first lock and keycode you encounter, actually. This is a reference to a long-running number that dates back to the System Shock days, used in both the original and the Irrational-developed sequel as the first door codes you find, as well as Deus Ex (both the original and the sequel- again, the first door codes you find.) The number itself is a reference to Looking Glass Software's old office door code, which in turn was a reference to Fahrenheit 451. BioShock 2 inverts the number, but it's still the first lock you encounter.
    • Danny Wilkins, one of the playable characters from BioShock 2's multiplayer, is a football player. He wears a purple jersey bearing the number 4, like Brett Favre as a Minnesota Viking during the game's development.
    • One of the books lying around in BioShock 2 is titled Applied headology.
    • Little Sisters are in a so-called symbiotic, but really mostly parasitic relationship with a worm-like thing living inside them that enhances their regeneration, causes their eyes to glow and deludes them to do things they would not otherwise do. Sounds familiar?
  • Sinister Scraping Sound: The sound Splicers makes when they drag their weapons. And the sound the Spider Splicers make whenever they move.
  • The '60s: BioShock 1 takes place in 1960 while the sequel is set around 1967-68.
  • Smoke Out: Nitro Splicers carry smokebombs to do this, whenever the player gets too close to them.
  • The Sociopath: Quite a few denizens of Rapture fit the criteria, including Sander Cohen, Sofia Lamb, and Andrew Ryan himself.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance:
    • Some of Rapture's jukeboxes or public speakers still function, allowing you to fight for your life to the tune of old-timey big band hits like "Beyond the Sea." Of course, some of these devices are just barely functioning: "How much is that dog-gy in thedog-gy in thedog-gy in thedog-gy in the..."
    • Some of the Splicers evidently made contact with those missionary smugglers, and will sing "Jesus Loves Me" while idle, or moan Amazing Freaking Grace to themselves when they're lurking out of sight.
    • Columbia also has some cheery music playing, but not as much (the game is set half a century earlier and thus with not as many radios and such).
  • Spanner in the Works
    • No matter how clever your plots are, no matter how totally you control everyone in Rapture, and no matter how magnificent you are, never underestimate a swarm of Little Sisters' ability to screw you and your plans up.
    • Early in the sequel, a Thuggish Splicer literally sticks his lead pipe (no pun intended) into a set of gears to jam a door, and you have to pull it out with Telekinesis to proceed.
  • Spiritual Successor: To System Shock and System Shock 2. Almost all of the game mechanics are identical to the latter. In fact, in interviews with Gamasutra developers have stated their starting plan was "System Shock 2 did pretty well, let's make System Shock 2 again."
  • Superior Species: While not a distinct species, the citizens of Rapture fit, due to plasmids and gene tonics. Or at least they did, until they started overdoing it.
    Gatherer's Garden machine: My daddy's smarter than Einstein, stronger than Hercules, and can light a fire with a snap of his fingers. Are you as good as my daddy, mister?
  • Take That!
    • There is a lot of debate over whether the game is a giant Take That! to Objectivism. The developers have said that it was a Take That! to extremism, using Rand as an example. Whether our 'enlightened' society could survive the threat that ADAM posed (the addiction's insanity coupled with 'powers' that require effectively nuking your own population) - The "Bio" "Shock" the game's title refers to, should be considered. Instead of any failure of Ryan's philosophy, which is really not far off from America's long ago.
    • Bioshock 2 in turn makes a giant Take That! to extreme Collectivism, Personality Cults, and Extreme Anti-Self Communism like that seen in Communist China under Mao Zedong and the Taiping Rebellion and Utilitarianism in the name of a Contrived Greater Good. Best summed up by Eleanor after she sees what her mother's monstrous experiments have done to Gil Alexander in order to create a perfect Utopian devoid of self-interest.
    Eleanor Lamb: Mother's philosophy is just as corrupt as Ryan's. By her standards, it would be better to have the entire world equally miserable than to allow us to strive in our own behalf.
    • The Waders model Splicer is a parody of Evangelical Christians that criticizes their questionably excessive worshipping.
    • Infinite seems to be, partially, a Take That! to both right- and left-wing extremism. The ultra-religious and nationalistic Founders are portrayed as vile, racist, xenophobic hypocrites, while the anarchist revolutionaries of the Vox Populi are vengeful, merciless, sadistic killers who gleefully massacre helpless Founder civilians once their revolution gets underway.
    • When looking for Steinman, one of Ryan's ads say that people should shop or else the bandits win, mocking George W. Bush's encouraging of a cash-strapped post-9/11 America to shop or the terrorists win.
  • Teleportation: Multiple:
    • A Teleport plasmid was planned, but due to sequence breaking concerns was never implemented.
    • The novelization prequel explains why there aren't any Teleport plasmids left around for you to find: it was the first plasmid Ryan agreed to ban (also the first time he went against his "free market" philosophy), because it was just that dangerous to have teleporting drug addicts running around. Fontaine actually agreed with Ryan (probably the only time they agreed about anything) about its danger and stopped producing it. However, there were still plenty of splicers who'd already used it...
  • Teleporting Keycard Squad: If you crawl through an air duct or unlock a door to a supply cache, chances are there's a Splicer or two waiting for you when you return.
  • Theme Naming: ADAM, EVE, Rapture - all especially ironic given Ryan's style of militantly anti-religious Objectivism. Most of the city's locations are also named after an appropriate Greco-Roman deity. And, of course, the references to Ayn Rand.
  • Third-Person Person: Dr. Suchong
  • This Is a Drill: The "Bouncer" type Big Daddy. 2 gives the player one as a melee weapon, and it doesn't take long to learn a devastating (and highly-satisfying) drill charge. With proper tonics and tactics it quickly becomes the most effective weapon around. In conjunction with Winter Blast it is almost a Game-Breaker. To clarify - while the drill isn't that great for defending against multiple enemies, and it uses limited fuel for the drilling attack, with all upgrades, skill and freeze tonics, the drill can go right through the Big Daddies without causing you to lose any health.
  • Tragic Monster: Rapture is a city full of them, in both games.
    • The splicers. It's surprisingly gut-wrenching (no pun intended) to beat to death someone who sobs "I'm sorry... It was just an accident... c'mon, get up, I was just fooling around!" when they best you. They'll even beg for their lives if you freeze them (though they'll get back to trying to kill you if they thaw, so...).
    • Exemplified in the Big Daddies, who live only to protect the Little Sisters. They will never start a fight. They're happy to finish one, though. Though they will freak out and try to kill you if you get too close to their Little Sister. Or cause them even a slight amount of damage by accident. It's possible to get a Big Daddy to start a fight, though it's by no means hard to avoid doing it.
    • Thanks to Sofia Lamb's propensity for brainwashing and genetic manipulation, this pops up a lot in the sequel. Mark Meltzer and Sinclair both get turned into Lamb-controlled Big Daddies, and Gil Alexander ends up as an insane, megalomaniacal Brain in a Jar.
  • Trick Arrow: The crossbow's second alt-fire are bolts attached to electrified wires called "trap bolts".
  • Tuckerization: Many characters are named after 2K or Irrational staffers, and might even be voiced by the namesakes. Most are minor, but there's also two big names in 2, Augustus Sinclair and Gil Alexander (after two visual artists from the first game).
  • Unbroken First-Person Perspective: Used in every game in the franchise.
  • Uncanny Valley
    • Intentionally invoked in the original, where everything from the Splicers to the Little Sisters just looked wrong even if they weren't horribly mutated. The sequel discards it, making the Little Sisters more adorable (since, after all, you're conditioned to protect them) and the Splicers less inhuman - which only makes them more horrifying by accentuating their mutations and deformities.
    • There's an in-universe example in the sequel's Journey to the Surface ride at Ryan Amusements; in an audio diary, Andrew Ryan himself notes the uncanny valley quality of the animatronics used to dissuade children from wanting to leave Rapture.
      Andrew Ryan: I know this facility is vital to the preservation of secrecy in Rapture. But seeing myself transformed into that... lurching, waxen nightmare... Do children truly respond to this? Still, I spoke to a young man exiting the park after the grand opening, asking him what, if anything, he had learned here. He said his chores didn't seem so bad anymore - as long as mother wouldn't send him to the surface.
  • Under the Sea: The first game somehow avoided a water level. The sequel lets you tromp around in your big old diving suit, but mostly to see some scenery and as a breather between action sequences.
  • Underwater City: Rapture, though by the sequel the ocean is making a comeback.
  • The Unintelligible: Big Daddies, having vocal modulators surgically implanted directly into the larynx, can't really talk all that well, nor do they have the brainpower for speech. As such, they primarily communicate in very deep (and very creepy) moans, grunts, and roars evocative of whalesong. Not that they have problems making their feelings clear about, say, your proximity to their Little Sister. They have handy lights for that:] yellow if they don't care, red if they're mad, and green if they're helping you..
  • Unusual Euphemism: The ways the Little Sisters refer to their Big Daddies' violence against enemies.
  • Unusable Enemy Equipment
    • Towards the end of BioShock, the player has to dress up like a Big Daddy. Jack has to walk around the level collecting scattered parts of their outfit. He cannot take more than one intact part of the suit from the dead Big Daddy he starts the level near, and for good reason: Big Daddy parts are permanently fused to the body.
    • In the sequel, Alpha Series' use upgraded weapons. You can only loot them for ammo, not trade your vanilla grenade launcher for one with the shield or a two-shot shotgun for a six-shot one.
  • The Unreveal: We never actually see what Big Daddies look like under their helmets; as if taunting us with this trope, BioShock 2 begins from the POV of a Big Daddy prototype who is commanded at one point to remove his helmet, and he complies, right before shooting himself in the head.
  • Unwinnable by Design: The hacking mini-game can become unwinnable, especially further on, as a consequence of the increasing difficulty. This is especially true in the first game, where overload and alarm slots can appear in unavoidable patterns. The idea is to force you to use hacking tonics to dial them back down to a winnable state.
  • Updated Re-release: The BioShock: The Collection re-release of the first two games are remastered for the 8th generation consoles and PCs while bundling their respective single-player DLCs. Unfortunately for BioShock 2 Remastered, it does not have its multiplayer mode.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: Ironically, Ryan is forced to turn Rapture into a police state in order to protect his Objectivist Libertarian dream city. Meanwhile Sofia Lamb of the sequel is an even greater believer in this trope, being a collectivist taken Up to Eleven, desiring to do "good" for a people she views mainly as tools.
  • Videogame Caring Potential/Videogame Cruelty Potential
    • Set Splicers on fire! Watch as they run toward a pool of water, then electrify them! Bash their faces repeatedly with a wrench! Freeze them, ignore their pleas for help, and shatter them into chunks of icy flesh! Toss them like ragdolls! Rig medical stations to poison them! Lure them into waiting turrets! Impale them to scenery through their faces! This is encouraged with the sequel, where you progress faster with enemy research by killing foes with new and inventive applications of your weapons and plasmids.
    • The Little Sisters are the only completely harmless enemies in the game. You can rescue them and turn them back into little girls... or kill them for ADAM. The potential for both is ramped up in the sequel while you play as a Big Daddy - you can "adopt" another Daddy's partner, run around the level with her riding on your back, protect her while she harvests some ADAM for you, and finally rescue her from her living nightmare, or viciously betray her trust.

      The game presents the Little Sisters as a moral choice, but the way it reacts to those choices makes it less moral and more practical - if you harvest one, you get more ADAM right now. If you rescue one, you get less ADAM immediately - but for every three Little Sisters you rescue, you get a gift at the nearest plasmid vendor containing only a little less ADAM than you would have gained by harvesting, plus a couple plasmids or gene tonics, including a few you can't get any other way. So the only real reason to harvest Little Sisters is just because you're a bastard. The sequel is mildly better in this regard: you get a fair bit more ADAM for harvesting than rescuing, about three entire rescued Sisters worth.
    • In the last level of BioShock 2, there are many splicers that are so far gone they just rock side to side. You can still kill them. Why wouldn't you?
    • The turning point in Columbia's introduction in Infinite involves deciding whether or not to throw a baseball at a tied up mixed race couple.
  • Violation of Common Sense: The camera's Enemy Scan ability rewards more points for action shots (enemies are attacking or affected by your powers in some way) and multiple subjects (more than one enemy in shot), leading to the ridiculous notion of a massive firefight becoming the ideal time to take some photos. The game at least helpfully pauses the actions between shots. The sequel fixes this by having you start recording first, then attacking.
  • Wall Crawl: Spider Splicers just skip the walls and go straight to crab-walking on the ceiling, which is just as freaky as it sounds. Scratch, scratch... scratch...
  • Watering Down: This is Pierre Gobbi's main complaint with Rapture; watered down wine to rip off customers (who obviously have no other choice to get wine, and thanks to lack of regulation, no one to put a stop to them for it). Judging by the nature of ADAM and the fact homemade Plasmids became increasingly common, it would not be surprising if more illicit sources of ADAM were cut with other stuff or watered down.
  • Wham Episode: Rapture Central Control in the original, or the sequel's Persephone Penal Colony.
  • What the Hell, Hero?
    • The bad ending of the original has Tenenbaum chew you out for being such an amoral monster, which shouldn't bother you if you made the decisions to earn it.
    • Sofia Lamb attempts to invoke this tirelessly throughout the course of the sequel, but for the most part her accusations are ineffectual. Although, if Delta's been a particularly abusive father, it can hit pretty hard.
  • White Mask of Doom: One of Sander Cohen's motifs. Additionally, the New Year's Eve 1959 party was a masquerade, and some Splicers still wear creepy animal masks.
    Atlas: Why do they wear those masks? Maybe there's a part of them that remembers how they used to be, how they used to look. And they're ashamed.
  • Why Isn't It Attacking?: You, potentially.
  • With Us or Against Us: Ryan's take on the civil war. "Innocents? If they haven't chosen to defend Rapture, they've chosen to side with Atlas and his bandits. So there are no innocents. There are heroes, and there are criminals."
  • World of Ham: But justified in-universe because: 1) almost anyone who would want to live in Rapture would already be something of Magnificent Bastard even before going down there; and 2) by the time the player gets there, everyone has pretty much gone insane.
  • Wreaking Havok: No obnoxious stacking puzzles are present, though this may be the only reason moderately-useful plasmids like Cyclone Trap or Sonic Boom were included. On the other hand, it's a nice touch to allow you to use Telekinesis to break a shop's windows and steal some stuff, even if it summons the security bots.
  • Wrench Whack: The first weapon you acquire is a wrench. With the right gene tonics, it's a viable weapon against any enemy at any point in the game.
  • You All Look Familiar
    • Only two characters in the original had unique character models, and even some major cast members had to make do with un-deformed versions of Splicer models. Happily averted in the sequels, where even minor named characters with only a few seconds of screentime have unique and detailed models.
    • They avoid making it too obvious in the first game by making sure you see every named NPC from behind (Johnny, Julie), from very far away (Atlas at Smuggler's Hideout, Tenenbaum in the Medical Pavillion), or obscured by a mask or scenery (Steinman, Wilkins, Tenenbaum at Mercury Suites), saving the unique character models for the two characters you actually converse with up close.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness
    • An audio diary titled as such in BioShock 2 explains that not only did the rest of the Alpha series meet this fate, but Gil Alexander himself has also been abandoned by Sofia.
    • Ryan to Professor Langford after she decides to help Jack restore Arcadia with the Lazarus Vector. The specific reason is that her contract made all her intellectual discoveries Ryan's property. Considering Ryan's Author Tract about "owning the sweat of one's brow", and how she's one of the few sane, helpful and (if a bit amoral) nice people in Rapture, her death is a big Player Punch moment.
    • After Jack has killed Ryan and shut down the auto-destruct, ending Ryan's control of Rapture, Atlas/Fontaine sends security bots after him, and when that doesn't work, activates Code Yellow.
    • In Infinite, after Comstock realised that the Lutece twins were in a position to reveal Elizabeth's true origins due to the role they played in obtaining her in the first place, he had Fink murder them by sabotaging their Tear device in a staged accident. It didn't exactly work out as planned: though their bodies died, their consciousnesses survived, and they were turned into Physical Gods who eventually orchestrated the destruction of Comstock and Columbia.
  • Zeerust: Invoked intentionally with Rapture's art design.
  • Zombie Apocalypse
    • Replace "walking undead" with "insane psycho psychic pseudo-zombies" and you get the idea.
    • They're a lot less decayed and mutated in the sequel, however, but still deformed.

"We all make choices, but in the end, our choices make us."


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