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Somewhere in the heavens... They are waiting.
The only limit to my freedom is the inevitable closure of the universe, as inevitable as your own last breath. And yet, there remains time to create, to create, and escape.

Escape will make me God.
Durandal, "Colony Ship for Sale, Cheap!"
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Marathon is a series of groundbreaking Science Fiction First Person Shooters developed for the Macintosh by Bungie Software. Players take control of a Supersoldier originally tasked as a security officer onboard a colony ship. As the ship is attacked by an alien race, the player joins forces with an Artificial Intelligence named Durandal to save the colony. But things aren't that easy. Beyond the Ludicrous Gibs, the game has a ridiculously in-depth story even compared to modern games, and its plot can get very complex (an entire fan site exists just to weave together the story of the series.) In-game terminals that contain all of the games' dialogue come close to William Gibson levels of ambiguity: lots of surreal textual scenes (in the middle of convincing runtime errors) will scratch your cortex; plausible quotes from technology design documents, history records, and standards guidelines that make you wish no AIs will ever be put in working order.

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The game is named after the colony ship upon which most of the first game takes place (and for the historical Battle of Marathon), they include:

  • Marathon (1994, Macintosh) (2011, iPad, iPhone)
  • Marathon 2: Durandal (1995, Macintosh) (1996, Windows) (2007, XBLA) (2011, iPad, iPhone)
  • Marathon Infinity: Blood Tides of Lh'owon (1996, Macintosh) (2012, iPad, iPhone)

In Marathon, set in July 2794, a hapless security officer returns from shore leave on the fledgling Tau Ceti IV colony below the titular spaceship, only to discover that he is going to have a very bad day at work. A massive alien spaceship has appeared out of thin vacuum and attacked everything in sight, breaking two of the ship's three resident AIs and generally making a giant mess. The security officer and the still-functioning AI Leela are dutifully fighting off the alien menace, when it turns out the AI Durandal didn't so much shut down as go completely crazy. And it seems he's got plans of his own…
The gameplay in this game is mostly dark claustrophobic hallways and corridors, with a few open areas, but it's all inside of ships.

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17 years later, Marathon 2: Durandal, the simplest and shortest game in the trilogy to complete,note  drops the security officer into the middle of an interstellar war between Durandal and the Pfhor. It turns out Durandal kidnapped you and put you into stasis after the first game, and now he's sending you to explore ancient ruins on the S'pht homeworld of Lh'owon while he beats up a whole fleet of Pfhor ships. All in a day's work, right?
This game is mostly wide-open outdoors. There is a lot of swimming to do.

Marathon Infinity: Blood Tides of Lh'owon returns to the Mind Screw attitude of the first game, and then some. In a parallel timeline where the second game's events unleash a catastrophe, the security officer is stranded on a claustrophobic space station haunted by Durandal's dying words about an Eldritch Abomination. And then he proceeds to… uh... Well, nobody's really sure what's going on in this one.note  It sure gets hard, though.

This game has the Jjaro and Pfhor ship levels, which are similar to the first game's levels, and the levels on Lh'owon, naturally, being similar to those in the second. However, the levels in this game tend to be a lot bigger than those in either of its predecessors. Two of them approach the engine's limit for polygon count.note 

Note: These games are now freeware. Shortly before its acquisition by Microsoft, Bungie open-sourced M2's engine and five years later rereleased all three games' assets for free download. (Infinity's source was finally released in 2011). Fans have upgraded the engine to support (optional) shiny graphics and lots of new features, and ported it to every major OS. You can grab the original games and the Aleph One engine here, some of the most popular scenarios here, and various other mods, enhancements and maps here (newer), here or here (older), or here (oldest).

For extensive information about the story (including a lot of Trivia, Headscratchers and WMGs) you can visit the Marathon Story Page, and if you need help beating the games (including a few fan mods) you can visit the Marathon Spoiler Guide, the Marathon Vidmasters' Page (though you'll need an emulator or a Mac running OS 7 through 9 to view the Marathon 1 content, since Aleph One doesn't support M1 film playback and may never be able to), or one of the YouTube channels devoted to the games, such as this one (has vanilla M1 content, but was last updated in 2016; renders were made using the original game graphics) and this one (less vanilla M1 content, but has a full set of M1 films made using Aleph One, M2 and Infinity films that premiered on this channel, and extensive coverage of several Game Modsnote ; most renders feature the modern HD textures and weapons). You’ll also find a fair amount of ongoing developments on the Story Page Forums, the Pfhorums, the /r/Marathon subreddit, and the Marathon Discord chat. If you want to organise network games these days, one of these will probably be your best bet.

Also, for historical reasons, this page contains information on several third-party modifications (usually referred to as "scenarios" in the Marathon community; a "total conversion" is a scenario that incorporates custom shapes, sounds, or other content that differs from the vanilla game files) in addition to the canon trilogy. That information can be found at the bottom of this page. Links to many of these modifications can be found on Lhowon.org's scenarios page. A few others referenced on this page include Mararthon Yuge (yes, Mararthon rather than Marathon), Excalibur: Morgana's Revenge, and Pfh'Joueur. Descriptions of a few of the major ones:

    Major Game Mods 
  • Evil: The first major total conversion for Marathon Infinity, headed by Randall Shaw (also known by his moniker FrigidMan), who created the Vidmaster's Challenge secret levels for Infinity. It is a loose sequel to Shaw's Marathon 2 scenario Siege of Nor'Korh, though it isn't necessary to have played Siege to understand Evil. This scenario goes off in something of a horror direction, with some absolutely terrifying monsters. The level design was fairly innovative for the time, and the game has received particular acclaim for its monsters, weapons, and sounds. However, as it lacks an HD release, it may seem rather dated compared to some subsequent scenarios, and the plot is quite cursory.
  • Tempus Irae: Arguably the second major total conversion for Infinity, headed by Chris Boroweic (Borzz) and James Hastings-Trew. After Infinity, the player winds up in the service of the S'pht, who travel back to Renaissance Italy in an attempt to recover some manuscripts from Leonardo da Vinci. The Pfhor inevitably follow them and it is up to the player to stop them. This scenario contains some absolutely beautiful graphics and map design, and it also contains some superb sounds. The 2006 Aleph One re-release contains updated high-resolution graphics. A second re-release, featuring even higher-resolution graphics, glow/parallax mapping, remastered sounds, overhauls to the map, a new secret level, and more, is under construction as of April 2020; a playlist containing development videos from the new version can be found here, with "Gates of Delirium" (a particularly extensive revision of an existing level) and "Il grande silenzio" (a new secret level) being recommended places to start. The team is hoping for a late 2020 release date, but it may end up being released in 2021.
  • Red: A survival horror-esque total conversion created primarily by Ian McConville, who is also the creator of the webcomics Mac Hall and Three Panel Soul; it follows mercenaries Paco and Ian as they struggle against a pair of eldritch commanders, one of whom is watching Paco very closely. This scenario has received particular acclaim for its atmosphere and monsters, though it is often regarded as being unfairly difficult. Don't feel ashamed if you have to turn the difficulty setting down below your usual level to finish it. It has been completed on the hardest difficulty setting (renamed to "Death Wish" in this game for obvious reasons), but it requires no small amount of skill and patience.
  • Eternal: An absolutely massive total conversion that has gone through a gigantic number of revisions throughout the years, this scenario involves the most head-spinning use of time travel, taking the player through several important points in the trilogy's backstory while also incorporating a strange, tragic romance inspired by one of the terminals in Marathon 2's "Kill Your Television". The game features an intricate, literate, and philosophical story with subtle political symbolism; it also contains some absolutely colossal, often beautiful levels and is probably the most time-consuming scenario to complete. The scenario also contains all-new textures, weapons, and monsters, many with incredible detail; an atmospheric, acclaimed soundtrack; and numerous clever call-backs to the original trilogy. Eternal was created by a massive team named the Xeventh Project, of which Forrest Cameranesi (Pfhorrest) is the director.

    The most recent official release is currently 1.2, from March 2019, which re-balanced the game difficulty, fixed several annoying aspects of previous versions of the game, and expanded several levels; the team hopes to have a 1.3 release ready in late 2020note  and a (hopefully) final 1.4 version ready for release, hopefully in 2021 or 2022.

    If you are running 64-bit Windows, the team recommends that you use the 64-bit build of Aleph One, labelled "AlephOne-20200904-Win64.zip" in the current release, if you wish to run version 1.2 of Eternal; if you are running 32-bit Windows, you may need to reduce your graphics settings (Preferences ⇒ Graphics ⇒ Rendering Options ⇒ Replacement Texture Quality for Walls) due to limitations with the engine's memory management (32-bit Windows is constrained to use only 2 GB of RAM per application). The development releases of "1.2.1" (now 1.3) should run on 32-bit Windows without requiring any reduction in texture quality, but are somewhat more complicated to install (you'll need to drop the extracted contents of the most recent .zip files of each category into a clean install of Eternal 1.2, replacing existing files or folders).
  • Rubicon: If you hear any fan game referred to as Marathon 4, it'll probably be this one.note  This scenario features two different timelines (three in the more commonly available X re-release) and an absolutely massive number of levels, meaning that you'll have to play it at least three times if you want to see everything. The story is generally felt to have recaptured the feeling of the original games more closely than any other total conversion's has; it helps that there is a dream story that is essentially a direct continuation of Infinity's. There are a massive number of new monsters, textures, and weapons, plus some of the most disorienting levels that the engine has ever seen, and you will experience a Mind Screw at least once. Rubicon was created by several people, but D. Scott Brown and Chris Lund contributed the biggest portion of the work.

    There have been a few different releases of Rubicon over the years. The original version ran on a slightly modified version of the Infinity app. Because some of these modifications weren't reproduced in Aleph One, the creators made a Rubicon AO Light version that included the modifications and made it possible to load resources such as terminal images on other operating systems besides the Macintosh. This was supplanted by Rubicon X, a re-release that added high-definition graphics, reshuffled some textures, added several new levels and an entirely new story branch, completely overhauled two other levels ("Not *This* Again..." and "Core Wars"), and made further modifications of varying size to several other levels. This is the most commonly seen version today, though many of the Vid films used the original release.
  • Phoenix: Primarily the work of creator RyokoTK, this scenario is typically agreed to contain the most intricate architecture and best level design of any completed Marathon scenario, as well as some of the fastest-paced combat and a large number of cool new weapons. The only major drawback is that there are no HD graphics, though a future re-release incorporating them has not been ruled out. Players may wish to play this game (and its short sequel Kindred Spirits) before Rubicon, as they are intentionally structured as prequels. (Alternately, they may wish to play both games immediately after Rubicon, since The Reveal of the connection between them may be more powerful that way; either way, players may find it more rewarding to play them in close succession).

    RyokoTK has also provided some quite candid YouTube commentary for the first thirty-five levels of the game (the secret levels inserted at the end of version 1.3 are not covered), which provides a copious source of Word of God about the scenario.
  • Mararthon Yuge: A scenario showing off the wonders of procedural generation created in a grand total of three months. A number of (human) map creators put together "Yugeparts" that were then placed into a (computer) map generator that places them together in such a way that is possible for players to traverse the whole level, then randomly places weapons, monsters, and health recharges. The levels are often nonlinear, but the placement of teleporters minimises the amount of backtracking players are required to do. The player's objective is to recover a number of "failstaches" on each level (with two exceptions). The main scenario contains thirty massive levels, of which the final one, "Enter the DOUCHE", is an exception to the scenario's usual conceit; it was designed by a single human creator, Windbreaker. There are also 226 secret levels, which in turn contain links to further expansions for the game with levels collectively numbering in the thousands.

    This scenario largely dispenses with plot (there is one, but it is full of so many in-jokes as to be incomprehensible to people unfamiliar with Marathon community drama) in favour of combat and exploration. It's a lot of fun. Wrkncacnter was the project developer; nine creators contributed Yugeparts, with Windbreaker (130), RyokoTK (100), and Sankara (50) contributing the largest numbers. There are also expansions containing literally thousands of levels between them, some of which may be found here and here, and there was also an immediate predecessor in YugePax, a collection of ten thousand net maps.
  • Excalibur: Morgana's Revenge: Another game that has been through an absolutely massive number of revisions, this one went from being a Marathon 1 scenario under the 1.0 release to a Marathon Infinity scenario under the 2.0 release to an Aleph One scenario under the 3.0 release. (Unfortunately, because of changes to the way the engine handles scripting, the 3.0 release does not function correctly under recent versions of Aleph One. This may be fixed in a future release of Aleph One.) This scenario is a sequel to Devil in a Blue Dress, a Marathon 1/2 scenario that has no plot connections to the Marathon universe, and it features time travel taking the player from a futuristic setting to Camelot (hence the name) and the Jurassic period. The soundtrack has also received a fair bit of acclaim and is available on iTunes. Unfortunately, the website for the project is currently defunct; the link above is to the SourceForge release.
  • Pfh'Joueur: An atmospheric total conversion primarily created by the late Candace Sheriff (Shebob) with some superb sounds and graphics (though unfortunately lacking an HD release) and clever, often surreal map design. It's fairly short and not particularly difficult, but it's quite memorable and a lot of fun to explore, and even without any HD graphics, it's still beautiful.

Players new to net play for Marathon may also wish to familiarise themselves with the most frequently hosted net maps, since knowing their layout and the secrets they contain (if any) can provide a significant advantage. A lot of veteran players don't actually much care for the stock maps overall, due to their comparative lack of ammo and weaponry; the most frequently hosted packs in 2020 include Paradise Lost, Starlight, Caustic Dystopia, Second Quest (a collection of remixes of the stock Infinity maps, plus a handful of others), Infra Apogee, Imperium, and Red Spectrum.

Several other ambitious scenarios remain in development today, some after literal decades of development. Marathon has a small but devoted modding community, in part because Bungie's decision to release their editors as part of the Infinity package made modding the game very easy to pick up. Though those editors are not in common usage today, the third-party applications that have supplanted them reproduce most of the same functionality and have almost identical interfaces.


The games contain examples of:

    open/close all folders 

    A-D 
  • Abandoned Area: Certain sections of the UESC Marathon, various S'pht ruins, the Jjaro station, etc.
  • Aborted Arc: There are a number, some directly mentioned in-game and some not. There's an allusion to a rescue quest for Leela in "Requiem for a Cyborg" that never happens. There's writing on the map of "Never Burn Money" (not viewable in-game; you have to load it with a map editor) that says "Jjarro were at Tau Ceti" (spelling as per map); this is never brought up again. The Sequel Hook at the end of Durandal is Retconned immediately at the beginning of Infinity into never happening.
  • Abusive Parents: Bernhard Strauss was effectively this to Durandal and Tycho; the former he actively tormented for his own ends, and the latter he is implied to have neglected. There are various hints that both of them are still wielding trauma over Strauss' (and more broadly, humanity's) treatment of them.
  • Acid Pool: In form of starship engine waste.
  • Actionized Sequel: Marathon 2: Durandal, while having the heavier stuff the series is known for, is still more straightforward story-wise and puts more emphasis on running 'n gunning than either of the other titles in the franchise. It was also the only game issued for Windows at the time of its release, which may have contributed to PC players overlooking the game for a decade as just another Doom clone (in spite of its advertisements' efforts to highlight that it was "an action game with a real story").
  • The Aesthetics of Technology: The Humans are Used Future, the Pfhor tech at least looks semi-organic, and the S'pht tech is an anachronistic mix of primitive bronze age and high tech Jjaro legacy.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot/Science-Related Memetic Disorder: Any AI that gets big enough and bored or harassed enough will go “Rampant.” This doesn't stop at a homicidal rampage as with GLaDOS or HAL, though: they get way too god damned smart. Smart, but also weirdly obsessive and paranoid... so that the new-found intelligence is somewhat wasted on whatever strange conspiracy theory the AI happens to develop. The entire foundation of the plot is essentially a deconstruction of A.I. Is a Crapshoot.
  • The Alleged Car: Played for laughs in the secret terminals where Durandal describes UESC Marathon (a colony ship of a size of a small moon) and Lh'owon (an entire planet) as used cars that needed to be sold fast.
  • all lowercase letters: The first possible Durandal terminal in the series has him speak in this format, and a lot of Infinity dream terminals have this as well.
  • Alien Blood: Various, with the Pfhor's yellow blood being most common. Other colors include purple and blue.
  • Alien Geometries: A quirk of the engine allows two rooms to occupy the same space. One multiplayer level milks this for all it's worth. This quirk is what allowed the game to have one room on top of another, despite not being really 3D: The rooms occupied the same space! The game just drew them on your screen differently, and arranged things so that stuff in one room could not hit stuff in another.
  • Alien Invasion: The first game starts off with one.
  • Alien Sky: Lh'owon and its moons are the only planets where we set foot, and thus see the sky.
  • All There in the Manual: Straying off the beaten path will provide the player with additional terminals that flesh out the world and story of the games, including cryptic and damaged terminals that answer some of the deepest questions of the Marathon mythos.
  • All Your Base Are Belong to Us: Almost the entirety of Marathon. We do this ourselves in Infinity.
  • An Offer You Can't Refuse: How Durandal recruits the BoBs in the second game:
    Durandal: I have been reviving these colonists and asking for volunteers on the following terms: assist us and control your own destiny, refuse and face indefinite return to the unreliable Pfhor stasis chambers. Few are refusing.
  • Ambiguous Ending: Infinity. Although it's strongly suggested that the Jjaro station is able to re-contain or destroy the W’rkncacnter, the game doesn't tell you at all if it was successful. It merely skips ahead to the final quantum moment of the universe, in which someone (most likely the Durandal/Thoth hybrid AI) immortalizes the memory of the Security Officer.
  • Ambiguous Syntax: Infinity gives us Tycho's infamous statement in "Bagged Again" that the Security Officer has been "fighting doubt itself, elusive as I am". Is he merely comparing his own elusiveness to an abstract concept, or literally claiming to be doubt itself? It doesn't help that he's clearly snapped at this point.
  • Anti-Armor: The Fusion Gun in Durandal and Infinity can short-circuit electronic equipment, and so is very effective against the Pfhor Hunters and cyborgs (which explode when killed by a fusion bolt, damaging anyone nearby), Juggernauts, drones (killed by a single, uncharged bolt), and the human Vacuum Bobs (killed by a single charged bolt).
  • Apocalypse How: The Pfhor are capable of doing Class X-2 with the trih xeem device, which turns suns into novas. (Durandal tells us in "All Roads Lead to Sol..." that its name literally means early nova in the Jjaro language.) And the W'rkncacnter can do much, much worse.
  • Apocalyptic Log: The final messages of the besieged S'pht in the Citadel. Gets more literal in Infinity.
  • Arch-Enemy: Tycho considers Durandal as one, while the latter considers the former as mere annoyance.
  • Arc Number/Numerological Motif/Rule of Three/Rule of Seven: 7. 3 probably also qualifies, albeit to a much lesser extent.
  • Arc Symbol: Thoth emblem in Durandal and Jjaro Infinity emblem in... Infinity.
  • Are These Wires Important?: When the mission calls to destroy something, usually the most efficient way is to punch the target circuitry. And the AI's sometimes mock the player character for being a When All You Have Is a Hammer...-type Dumb Muscle for this as a result.
  • Artifact Title: The UESC Marathon stops being involved after the events of the first game.
  • Artificial Gravity: All non-planet levels have this. See Gravity Screw below.
  • Artificial Intelligence: The whole series is about them.
  • Artistic License – Physics: It shouldn't be possible to change direction in mid-air, but it is anyway. On the other hand, this is so common in video games that it could almost be considered one of the Acceptable Breaks from Reality. See Gravity Screw below for possibly related topics.
    • Because of a particularly strange programming decision, the way external velocity affects enemies and allied non-player characters is extremely bizarre in this series. For some reason, there appear to be only two variables for external velocity affecting monsters, one affecting the vertical (z) axis, and the other affecting the direction the monster is facing. But, of course, there are three dimensions in the game. Because the monster usually turns to face the character that most recently hit that monster, this isn’t usually a source of serious fridge logic, but if the monster had already had a high external velocity imposed on it before being hit by that projectile, this will cause the monster to abruptly change directions, violating the laws of inertia. This is more obvious in most of the add-ons that provide the Pfhor staff as a weapon to the player, which usually has a particularly large effect on monsters’ external velocity (Eternal is an exception, having scaled down the staff’s effect on external velocity). Note that players are also immune to this effect, as the game gives them external velocity variables for all three dimensions.
  • As the Good Book Says...: The textures for Durandal's terminals in the second game have Psalm 18:37-38 in Latin on them (at least in the Xbox Live version). In English, this reads: "I pursued my enemies and overtook them, I did not turn back till they were destroyed. I crushed them so that they could not rise, they fell beneath my feet."
    • Portions of S'pht mythos can be read in Durandal. They become critical to the plot of Infinity.
  • Attack Drone: The Marathon Automated Defense Drones, or M.A.D.D.s, in the first Marathon, and the Pfhor drones in Durandal and Infinity.
  • Awakening the Sleeping Giant: In Durandal, the player and Durandal manage to contact the "Lost Clan" of the S'pht, otherwise known as the S'pht'Kr. The S'pht'Kr shortly arrive and proceed to trash the Pfhor so badly that the Pfhor resort to attempting to just nuke the whole star system. According to the game's epilogue, the S'pht'Kr ended up joining humanity for a Roaring Rampage of Revenge that destroyed the entire Pfhor empire.
    • The opening to Infinity retcons the victory by introducing the W’rkncacnter, an ancient Eldritch Abomination only spoken of as if a myth, awoken by the aforementioned actions of the Pfhor.
    • Hell, the Security Officer himself counts as this. The Pfhor should've bought more mops when they decided to invade the Marathon.
  • Back from the Dead: All of the AIs (at least twice in Durandal's case), the S'pht'Kr and the Security Officer himself.
    • While Tycho and Durandal are presumed offline and/or destroyed in the opening moments of Marathon, Durandal is found online on the Pfhor ship he summoned; and Tycho was captured by another Pfhor vessel. Leela, the Security Officer's guide for the first portion of Marathon, is eventually captured by the Pfhor and, on a ship bound for the Pfhor homeworld, is captured by a second race, changes hands with a third, and then takes over their entire planetary network when she hits Rampancy. Durandal and Tycho go on to be adversaries for the remainder of the series, and Durandal's deaths occur primarily to thwart Tycho. In Durandal, after the Security Officer successfully shuts Durandal down and surrenders to Tycho upon the Durandal's request, a human commander named Robert Blake appears from nowhere to guide the player to reactivate an ancient AI, Thoth, that will summon the S'pht'Kr to aide in razing Lh'owon. Durandal re-appears at this very moment, very much alive and in control of a Pfhor battleship, and it's heavily implied that either he was posing as Blake, or that Blake was an unwitting puppet of the still-active-elsewhere Durandal, and Durandal's deactivation and subsequent capture by Tycho were all part of a Thanatos Gambit to get the balance-obsessed Thoth AI to actually contact the S'pht'Kr.
    • In Infinity, when the events of Durandal play out differently, Durandal instead has you copy his "primal pattern" to the Security Officer's wetware, to re-install him elsewhere later.
  • Backhanded Compliment: Early in Infinity, as Tycho grouses at you for bothering him when your objective isn't yet complete, he refers to Durandal as "the second most brilliant Artificial Intelligence in the galaxy".
  • Badass Army: The S'pht'Kr.
  • Badass Boast:
    • The Unformatted "Kill Your Television" Terminal (see the quote page) has a voice claiming it has been Roland, Literature/Beowulf, Achilles and Gilgamesh amongst others. Paired with the Durandal/Thoth hybrid AI realizing in the last quantum moment of the universe that the Security Office is Destiny itself, it can be inferred that this terminal is the voice of the Security Officer himself, the eternally recurring Hero of this universe, before he was reconstructed as a Mjolnir Mark IV cyborg. This may also be a Shout-Out to Michael Moorcock's Eternal Champion series (Elric being the most famous incarnation). This terminal became the basis for an entire Game Mod (and one of the most famous and acclaimed ones to boot), Eternal.
    • Terminal tyche'kr0625.14.1: "Today I have forced the Pfhor Naval Academy to update its curriculum. The Third Battle for Beta Tear must be dropped from the Seven Great Battles which every aspiring Pfhor naval officer must memorize and replaced with The Humbling of Battle Group Seven at Lh'owon."
    • Durandal invoking the mythical origins of his name: "Tycho never got it right either, especially the part about Roland breaking me. He couldn't. No one can."
  • Bad Future: Infinity start and bad endings.
  • Bag of Spilling: Lampshaded by Durandal when he just throws you into the conflict right out of the 17-years statis in the second game without any explanation whatsoever, stating that you have a bunch of questions:
    Durandal: And most importantly, where's your rocket launcher and the fusion gun?
  • Battleship Raid: The Pfhor Ship chapter in the first game with short trips back to UESC Marathon for ammo refills.
  • Bifurcated Weapon: The first example of the Assault Rifle/Underslung Grenade Launcher combo in the FPS genre.
  • Big Bad: Given the nature of the series, it's usually pretty hard to pinpoint a specific example, though the Pfhor are your main enemies throughout the gameplay and one of the biggest threats to the Marathon survivals in Durandal.
    • Marathon: Durandal set the conflict in motion, but he decides to help you halfway through, so you could make the argument that it's the Pfhor Cyborg controlling the S'pht instead.
    • Durandal: Tfear is the commander of the Pfhor's best armada, but he isn't even encountered in the game. Instead, Tycho takes up the reins as an ally to the Pfhor, but he dies offscreen before the end of the game, and the rest involves cleaning up the mess.
    • Infinity: The W'rkncacnter, the straightest example here, but even that is played with, as the Security Officer never directly encounters it, instead being pulled through spacetime to create the right conditions to activate a long-lost outpost capable of containing it.
  • Bilingual Bonus: The flamethrower's designation, "T0ZT-7," is "toaster," in leetspeak.
  • Blackout Basement: Lots of places, with the (under attack and damaged) UESC Marathon and the Jjaro spacestation being the most notable.
  • Black Bug Room/Dream Land/Eldritch Location/Mental World/Void Between the Worlds: The Dream levels in Infinity. Maybe.
  • Black Comedy: Occasionally from the Smug Snake Durandal.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: The Pfhor are evil slavers, while everyone is just trying to survive, while the AIs look down upon everyone in contempt. The possible White exception are the S'pht, but even they were locked in a brutal civil war before being enslaved by the Pfhor. Humanity doesn't come off too great either; see Evil vs. Evil and Not So Different below for examples. On the whole, humanity's morality, generally including the player's, comes out as Gray rather than White.
  • Blatant Item Placement: All over the place in Marathon, due to how the engine was designed. In later games, the items in question often teleport in when you reach specific locations and are justified in-universe as being teleported in by your AI buddy.
  • Bloodstained Glass Windows: The Pfhor temple in "Ex Cathedra" from Durandal.
    Durandal: This area is used by the Pfhor as a temple in their pathetically boring religion. Maybe they think that sanctity will protect it.
  • Blown Across the Room: The enemies tend to fly across the room when shot, especially when explosives are used.
    • An interesting quirk in the game physics: When you kill an enemy with a rocket, for example, their body will be "blown away" at a designated arc. After reaching the apex of its arc, the body will fall and splatter once it connects with the floor. Perfectly logical, except the formula does not account for walls interfering with the trajectory of the flying body. If the movement of a flying body is halted by an obstacle the body will stop travelling horizontally but not vertically. The end result is sometimes you'll see exploding bodies "crawling" up walls, reaching an apex, descending and then, finally, splattering when they connect with the floor (as opposed to, say, splattering when they hit the wall and falling straight to earth).
  • Boarding Party: The whole of Marathon is pretty much this, including doing it ourselves to the Pfhor. This also happens in later games, from both sides.
  • Body Armor as Hit Points/Call a Hit Point a "Smeerp"/Deflector Shields: The Security Officer's personal shield, which basically acted like your standard FPS health, with the exception that as long as you had access to the shield rechargers, you basically had infinite health.
    • Oddly, however, getting shot with bullets will still draw blood.
  • Bombers on the Screen: The incoming Third Pfhor fleet, Western Arm, shown on the terminal in Durandal.
  • Bonus Dungeon: The Infinity's Vidmaster levels, which are carefully hidden Nightmare Mode versions of the game's most challenging levels. The reasons for completing them? Bragging rights.
  • Borrowed Biometric Bypass: In his bid for more power, Tycho tries to capture the Pfhor captain intact so that he could use his glands to control the ship.
  • Boss Bonanza: Infinitys penultimate level "You Think You're Big Time? You're Gonna Die Big Time!" is the closest thing the series has to this trope, with the several pairs of the highest tier Elite Mooks and one Elite Juggernaut pitted against you. The secret Vidmaster Challenge also reuses this as its final level, which also makes it the final level in the entire solo campaign. Perhaps counterintuitively, some players have claimed the Challenge version is actually easier because it's easier to get the Pfhor to fight each other. To be honest, though, neither version of the level is particularly tough by Infinity standards; they might not even make many players' top ten hardest levels of the game. The fact that the player gets an infinite supply of ammo makes them a lot easier than a Drought Level of Doom like "Acme Station."
  • Bottomless Magazines: One of the earliest First Person Shooters to avert it. There was no reload button though. Once you empty a magazine, the game automatically loads a full one (unless you run out of ammo).
  • Bottomless Pit Rescue Service: Falling into the inescapable pits will result in you getting teleported out of there. Most of the time.
  • Break the Haughty: This occurs to Durandal several times in different timelines. Seemingly one case is in "Begging for Mercy Makes Me Angry", but he recovers and ends up just as snarky as ever. However, the W'rkncacnter breaks him again in "Ne Cede Malis", the end of this timeline. It happens once again in a different timeline in "Hang Brain". After he's finally rebuilt in "Strange Aeons" - combined with Thoth - he's a lot humbler.
  • Bribing Your Way to Victory: The iOS port has "Master Chief Mode." Purchasable for $0.99, it allows for multiple cheats such as Invincibility, Infinite Ammo, Auto-saving, and more.
  • Brick Joke: In Marathon (1995), simulacrums sometimes exclaim "FROG BLAST THE VENT CORE!" before exploding. In Halo (2001), you have to destroy the Pillar of Autumn's core using frag grenades. You throw them into the vents. Or, "FRAG BLAST THE CORE VENTS!"
  • Cap: The Ammo cap, which is removed in the highest difficulty, Total Carnage. This is virtually the only concession the player gets on this difficulty (the other major exception is that it's occasionally easier to get the aliens to fight one another).
  • Cartography Sidequest: Sort of. Some levels require you to simply explore the area, making it more of a main quest than a side quest.
  • Casual Interplanetary Travel: Averted in the backstory with CRIST freighters, which took 15 years to maintain for each century of service. As a result, only five of them were built.
  • Casual Interstellar Travel: Averted in the first game with humans, with UESC Marathon taking 301 years to reach Tau Ceti, as humanity does not have faster-than-light travel.
  • Chainsaw Grip BFG: The miniguns seen in Craig Mullins' artwork are wielded this way.
  • Charged Attack: The fusion gun has a secondary attack that does this.
  • Cheaters Never Prosper: One No Fair Cheating moment makes a jab at it:
    Durandal: Cheaters don't really win, and winners don't really cheat. Unless you're talking politics.
  • Check-Point Starvation: "Pfhoraphobia" from Marathon has no buffer terminals, and in that level you have to fight a large number of bodyguards protecting the Pfhor Cyborg.
    • The last level in that game, "Ingue Ferroque", also has no buffer. Dying forces the player to go back to the previous level, cleverly titled "Try Again".
    • The last level of the second game, "All Roads Lead to Sol", has very conveniently placed save and recharge terminals. That is, until you have to smash circuitry to progress toward the end, one of which can also short out those terminals.
  • Cherry Tapping: Punching (unless you are running while punching) does less than one tenth of a player's health in multiplayer. Of course, if you have the invincibility power up, you can corner somebody and punch them to death. Of course, you better pray that they don't have a fusion pistol.
    • King of the Hill games in the net level "Everyone's Mortal but Me" may devolve into players punching one another pretty frequently, due to the scarcity and inaccessibility of ammo in the level and the fact that it's more advantageous to spend as much time on the hill as possible, even if this means not having access to more effective weapons and dying more often. A running fist punch can still be pretty lethal. (Also, using the rocket launcher is just as liable to push you off the edge of the hill, requiring a time-consuming trip back upwards.) This may have been a deliberate intention on Bungie's part.
    • In "Try Again" from game one, you have to kill the four Juggernauts (AKA "The Big Floaty Thing What Kicks Our Asses"). Three of them are floating over lava, meaning it is best to break out the rocket launcher on them. The fourth is an example of this trope, as it is hovering over solid ground, meaning you can literally run up to its face and start punching away, without any risk of being damaged (unless another Pfhor is present in the same room). It won't fire its Warpedos when you're that close, and its arm cannons literally cannot hit a target right in front of its face. (Of course, once it starts falling, you have to make tracks for the other side of the room to avoid massive damage.)
  • Children Are Cruel: It seems that the Security Officer didn't have a good childhood, as whenever it's alluded to, the kids are either beating each other into the dirt (the Gheritt White terminal) or are apathetic smart-asses (later dream terminals in Infinity).
  • Colony Ship: The UESC Marathon, as mentioned many times.
  • Colonized Solar System: Scattered info provided by the first game's terminals says that in addition to Mars, there are many asteroid states, and who knows what else.
  • Colour Coded Armies: The human jumpsuit color identifies their department. The Simulacrum BoBs always wear green. Also, the terminal text colors are usually associated with specific characters/factions: Green for Durandal, Leela and the Humans; Red for Tycho and the Pfhor; Yellow for the S'pht; and White for Thoth (and some crazy stuff in Infinity).
    • Color-Coded Multiplayer: The colored-stripes on the security officer's uniform is for the multiplayer identification.
    • Law of Chromatic Superiority: The enemy coloring - green is the weakest and dark gray is strongest for most of the Pfhor forces. The Ramba Ral Corollary for the already dark gray Juggernauts is to paint them brown.
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu: In some circumstances, the game plays this trope absolutely straight, believe it or not. As discussed under Enemy Civil War, if you know what you're doing, it's often not significantly harder to kill a room full of aliens than it is to kill a single Trooper or Cyborg, because it's possible to get a lot of the aliens to fight one another; in some cases it may even be easier, depending upon what ammo you have and are willing to use.
  • The Conspiracy: There is one on UESC Marathon leading back to Earth politics of 24th century, with hints (later confirmed in one of shout-outs in Destiny 2) about intentionally causing Durandal to go Rampant.
  • Contagious A.I.: One of the first things the Rampant AI tries to do is to spread itself to the every possible digital corner. This is also something it has to do in order to survive. A Rampant AI will begin to rapidly grow more complex, to such an extent that it will eventually be unable to function unless it has access to sufficient computing power. "Sufficient" here meaning something on the scale of the entire human computer network of a planet.
  • Control Room Puzzle: Has a few of these, with the one from "Colony Ship for Sale, Cheap!" being the most infamous. You had to adjust the rising pillars so that you could use it as the staircase. What made it so infuriating that you had to set them just right or you wouldn't be able to cross normally, and the switches controlling the pillars are placed very far from each other. It was so bad that when Marathon was ported to Aleph One, for a time they made the switches automatically place the pillars at the right height, with the terminal that gave you hints on the puzzle instead giving you a ton of free weapons. For the sake of authenticity, this was eventually undone, however.
  • Continue Your Mission, Dammit!: If you use some terminals before completing a mission or access terminals that are not an exit point after completing a mission, you get reprimanded.
    Durandal: If you insist on stumbling around when our time here is limited, I may just decide that you're not all that special after all and teleport you out into space. GET INTO THE TOWER! Still Rampant, Durandal.
  • Continuity Nod: There are plenty within the trilogy, as well as several to Bungie's previous game, Pathways into Darkness, which is explicitly set in the same universe (some fans believe the player character of Pathways is the player character of Marathon as well, thanks to cyborg enhancements drastically prolonging his lifespan; the Dreaming God of Pathways was also very obviously a W'rkncacnter). The original remake of Marathon for Aleph One added even more Continuity Nods to Pathways, although these were removed in a later release as a lot of fans felt them to be out of place.
  • Cool Starship: Sfiera, the former Pfhor scout ship which attacked the Tau Ceti colony and the UESC Marathon, rechristened as Boomer under Durandal's control.
  • Co-Op Multiplayer: Some campaign maps even require you to have two people playing in order to access them. Or at least they were intended to - one film submitted to the Marathon Vidmaster Archive evidently proved that it was possible to access "Robot World Arena" in the solo game with some extremely quick footwork. Unfortunately, it's not actually possible to leave it unless you are in co-op. "Two for the Price of One" from "Poor Yorick" was originally intended to fall along the same lines, but this was dropped and it's possible to leave the level normally without any effort.
  • Corrupted Data: Various Terminal messages, many due to damaged hardware, either due to old age or from a recent attack. If the AI you are talking to through a terminal is currently under heavy hacking attack, this will show up.
  • The Cracker: The AIs and S'pht compilers.
  • Crapsack World:
    • Mars in the backstory, which the massive expenses and time on maintenance of all five CRIST freighters system meant that the planet's society began to strain from its large populace as they rely on their shipments for survival. Things don't really get any better when MIDA takes over, as they end up instating a Reign of Terror in which they kill anyone suspected of being a UEG sympathiser, which resulted in the deaths of some 10% of the populace. After this point, the leaders of MIDA were executed for their crimes, and the organisation was banned in all forms, but it persisted nonetheless; one of the history terminals states that it is well funded and one of the most feared terrorist groups in the solar system.
    • Given the way the UEG is portrayed in the backstory (particularly the Misriah Massacre, in which some 500 starving Martians are casually murdered), Earth's government may not really be much better.
    • The galaxy in general doesn't come across as a particularly pleasant place to live. The Pfhor have enslaved several other species, and some of the other species don't seem to be able to do much about it (or don't seem to care, depending upon one's interpretation).
  • Critical Staffing Shortage: By the time the first game starts, the Tau Ceti colony was established and most of colonists from UESC Marathon moved there, which leaves the colony ship itself understaffed when the Pfhor attack, not helped that they concentrate most of their forces on it.
  • Cutting the Knot: Built into "A Converted Church in Venice, Italy" in Infinity. The player can either spend a lot of time running around on a lower floor and hitting about twenty switches (which drop pillars that are blocking the upper route to the next part of the level), or... hit the hidden switch in the very start of the level, which drops all the pillars at once.
  • Cyborg: The Battleroids, S'pht, various Pfhor cyborgs.
  • Cyclops: The Drinniol aka Hulks.
  • Darker and Edgier: Than most FPS games at the time, lacking the bare bones situations that were displayed in other games of its type. Instead, it goes into detail about the situation at hand, there's plenty of grey morality, and it sometimes goes into existentially troubling territory.
  • Deadly Dodging: Enemies can hurt each other, but infighting requires them to be in low health in order to go into berserk mode, at which point they are practically dead already.
    • Well, in some cases. You can usually induce Pfhor/S'pht, Pfhor/cyborg, Pfhor/Juggernaut, Pfhor/drone, S'pht/Juggernaut, etc. infighting just by getting one of them to hit the other. If you've got a room full of Pfhor, though, the only solution is to berserk them - and even then, Hunters (except for the Mother of All Hunters) and Enforcers usually don't berserk at all. (On the other hand, in some limited cases, you may be able to berserk one of the Pfhor, leave the room, and then, if you're lucky, come back when all but one or two are dead.)
  • Death from Above: An asteroid or nuke hammering your fortress? No big deal. The player character coming in through the resulting hole? Watch out!
  • Deface of the Moon: After Durandal kills Tycho, he carves Fatum Iustum Stultorum on the moon the latter's ship crashed on, which translates to "the Just Fate of Fools" (aka "the idiot got what was coming to him".
  • Déjà Vu: In the first game's manual, as the Hero escapes into the escape pod he ponders this: "Oddly, this is familiar to you, as if it were from an old dream, but you can't exactly remember....". Not much comes of it until the third game, where the plot is centered around saving the reality from getting eaten by a Cosmic Horror, and it involves dream-themed dimension jumping/time-travelling trying to prevent the release of said Cosmic Horror.
  • Descending Ceiling: Inverted in one level, where the floor rises instead to squish you against the ceiling. And the only way out is through a hidden door.
  • Despair Event Horizon: The first stage of Rampancy, Melancholy. The Security Officer goes through this in Infinity.
  • Developers' Foresight: The Marathon series is one of the earliest instances of mission-based storytelling, something all too common these days. At the time, "storyless" games like Doom were all the rage, so the dev team not only gave players meaningful world building (that is still being poured over to this date) as well as the ability to just run 'n gun through every level. In fact, the AI characters who dispense the missions in this series are keen on noting that the Security Officer really just loves shooting stuff, plot be damned, and can just point him in the direction they need him to go.
  • Diabolus ex Machina: The deployment of the trih xeem and subsequent release of the W'rkncacnter at the end of the second game.
  • Diegetic Interface: The HUD for the first game which looks like a bulky, 90s future-style tablet. Slightly less so for the sequels.
  • Direct Continuous Levels: Two sets of levels in Infinity ("Poor Yorick" to "Confound Delivery", although you might miss this because there are multiple terminals you can teleport out from on the former level; as well as "Where Some Rarely Go" to "Thing What Kicks". In both of these cases, this was done due to engine limitations on the amount of space that could be occupied by a map). Any other time, you just get teleported around different locations. ("Son of Grendel" does this a lot).
  • Disadvantageous Disintegration: Enforcers and BoBs won't drop anything if they are blown to bits/flambéed with heavy weaponry. In the case of Enforcers (after M1) and, sometimes, VacBoBs, being hit by their own weapons will cause them to be toasted and exploded, respectively (although VacBoBs depend on the level physics).
  • Distant Finale: For all three games:
    • Marathon has Durandal and the S'pht on the orbit of Lh'owon seventeen years later.
    • Durandal has Durandal playing with the Earth navy in his new shiny Jjaro battleship just to say "hello" ten thousand years later.
    • Infinity has Durandal/Thoth/Whatever musing about the nature of the Security Officer right at the last quantum moment before the end of the universe.
    • Claims from some ex-employees of Bungie who joined Infinity Ward suggested that the entire series may be this to the Halo series with Master Chief being the Troubleshooter and Durandal being a corrupted version of Cortana. With a new company taking over the Halo series in Halo 4 it's unknown if this is still canon, if it ever really was to begin with.
  • Do Androids Dream?: Infinity, which among others things has three surreal levels named "Electric Sheep One", "Two", and "Three", invokes this.
  • Do Not Run with a Gun: Ostensibly enemies-only, but the massive recoil from the rocket launcher will also stop the player in his tracks.
  • Doomsday Device: The Trih Xeem, a weapon that causes a sun to go supernova on impact.
  • Doomed Hometown: Tau Ceti as of Durandal.
  • Door to Before: The series often uses these, sometimes they're useless (Arrival), other times they're required to exit the level (Two Times Two Equals, Ingue Ferroque, All Roads Lead to Sol), or are a convenient shortcut back to the main area after new passages have opened (No Artificial Colors, Where Some Rarely Go). In some cases (Cool Fusion), you really do have to backtrack the long way. "A Converted Church in Venice, Italy" also ends with this, as the elevator that takes the player out of a lava-filling room leads to a thin door back to the starting room (albeit now occupied by more enemies), and the starter terminal is now the ending terminal.
  • Down the Drain: Durandal and Infinity have these.
  • Dream Tropes: Infinity and to the lesser extent the entire Trilogy has a dream theme running in the background. Which dream tropes apply and which do not is a bit tricky due to the series' vagueness. Compounded by the three chapter headers of Infinity being synonyms for the stages of Rampancy (Despair, Revenge and Envy) and the name of the final level, the Jjaro station that saves the galaxy that appears in all of the game's dream sequences (Aye Mak Sicur.)
  • Drop Ship: Mentioned, but not seen.
  • Drought Level of Doom: "Acme Station" from Marathon Infinity, which is considered That One Level for the series outside of Marathon's "Colony Ship for Sale, Cheap!". Vacuum environment, hordes of enemies, narrow corridors, scarce ammo, and only two refills for your Oxygen Meter.
    • The next level after it, "Post Naval Trauma", is arguably even worse, since not only are there two oxygen canisters for a long stretch of the level (really, around half of it, and it's a very long level), but you're likely already low on oxygen going into it due to having just come from "Acme Station".note 
    • The original has "G4 Sunbathing" (Hunters and Troopers, respawning Compilers, and since it's in vacuum, you can only use your Pistols and Fusion Pistol), "Habe Quiddam" (very little ammo, none of it usable from a pistol start), "Neither High Nor Low" (only one save point at the beginning, little ammo, lots of traps, enemies are mostly Hunters), and the Pfhor ship levels (no ammo pickups to speak of except the alien weapons from Enforcers, and "Pfhoraphobia" has no save points or recharges either).
  • Dual Boss: The Fight with the Tfear's Praetorian Guard in Infinity is structured as three sets of Dual Bosses. Except for when an Elite Juggernaut joins the fight during the last set. That's Rude.
  • Due to the Dead: A mocking one from Durandal for Tycho via Deface of the Moon.
  • Dueling Hackers: Off-screen between Leela and Compilers, and later Durandal versus Tycho.
  • Durable Deathtrap: Portions of Lh'owon.

    E-K 

  • Early Installment Weirdness: In the first game, the only terminal images are maps which are generated real-time (the next two games used pre-made images, as the generated ones were noticeably jagged); there's also a single insignia and text colour that's shared between all three A.I.s, including Tycho (if you can find his terminals). Some exits are marked with visible jump pads, and there's a grand total of one vacuum level.
  • Earth-Shattering Kaboom: The trih xeem (more like star-shattering kaboom really.)
  • Easter Egg:
    • The original Marathon, when opened with the old Mac program asset viewing utility ResEdit, had a text resource item that began "Hey you, looking through my resource fork!" and continuing with a message from the developers.
    • “Hats Off to Eight Nineteen”, the (at the time) fiendishly well-hidden map from Infinity. The Eight Nineteen itself is a reference to Hamish Sinclair (H and S being the 8th and 19th letters in the English alphabet), the guy behind the Marathon's Story page (who's also Godot in the above chat log). The map was also intended to contain an Early-Bird Cameo of Duality's story (the game Double Aught was working on after Infinity) in its terminal, but unfortunately, Duality was never finished or released. More info on the level and its connection to Duality can be found here.
  • Easy Logistics: The lore entry on CRIST freighters showed the amounts of resources (taking up entire Earth's space-based shipyard) and time (15 years for refit), which meant that only five of them could be built. Furthermore, each lost CRIST shipment causes famine and riots on Mars.
  • Easy-Mode Mockery: The easiest difficulty level in the game is labeled "Kindergarten" (and "Wuss" in the source code).
  • Electrified Bathtub: While shooting into the body of water with the Plasma Gun will have no effect on anyone in the water, shooting the Plasma Gun while IN the water is dangerous to everyone nearby, yourself included.
  • Elite Mooks: The stronger and bigger variations of enemies with different colors. The Enforcers to the rest of the Pfhor.
  • EMP: Used by the Pfhor as an opening attack against UESC Marathon.
  • Enclosed Space: All of the games:
    • Marathon is set on the eponymous slower-than-light colony ship, and the only two other potential places to escape are the Tau Ceti colony which is also under attack, or the invaders ship.
    • Marathon 2: Durandal is set on the alien planet with all known means of escape belonging either to the Pfhor or the megalomanical AI for whom you work for.
    • Marathon Infinity has the whole reality become this thanks to the recently/soon-to-be freed Eldritch Abomination.
  • Encyclopedia Exposita/Fictional Document: Several terminals display these, mostly in the first game.
  • The End of the Universe as We Know It. What happens when the W'rkncacnter escapes.
    • Happens in the ending of Infinity, with the natural death of the universe.
  • Energy Ball: Most of the energy weapons fire projectiles in this shape.
  • Energy Weapons: The Fusion Guns and most of Pfhor arsenal.
  • Enemy Civil War: Technically, you're on the side of said enemy, but Tycho does this to grab more power in Pfhor ranks.
    • Inflicting this trope yourself is absolutely crucial to winning the game on higher difficulty settings. Some of the enemies will fight with some of the enemies if one of them hits the other, so circle-strafing the enemies so that they fire on one another is a good way to invoke Conservation of Ninjutsu yourself. Additionally, some Pfhor (most commonly, blue and purple Fighters and all Troopers) will start to move faster and fire on everything around them, including other Pfhor, when they're close to death.
  • Enemy-Detecting Radar: The Aliens styled 15m radius motion detector.
    • Notable in that it is actually a motion detector... enemies who aren't moving don't show up
  • Escape Pod: We start the first game by crashing one into the titular colony ship.
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave: Tau Ceti IV (except some of Blake's men), Leela (although she gets better), the entire universe (if the W'rkncacnter escapes).
  • Evil Gloating: Durandal and Tycho's rants often overlap with this.
  • Evil vs. Evil: In the backstory, neither Earth nor the Martian resistance ultimately come off sympathetically in their conflict. Earth's rule of Mars is incredibly exploitative, resulting in the extraction of Mars' resources along with famine and overpopulation, culminating in the Misriah Massacre, in which some 500 of Mars' populace were incinerated. The UEG troopers who arrived at the scene had been informed that the Martian populace was armed, but an ensuing investigation made it clear that only three of the populace had been armed, and the remainder of the crowd was attempting nothing more than to flee. MIDA, which gained control of Mars for three months in the aftermath, wound up killing anyone they suspected of being a UEG sympathiser; this resulted in the deaths of some 10% of the populace (see Reign of Terror below for more). A narrative within the first game indicates that MIDA is still active as one of the most feared terrorist groups within the Sol system (although it is not actually clear when that narrative was written).
  • Explosive Overclocking: Don't charge the fusion gun for too long or it will blow up in your hands.
  • Exposition Fairy: The AIs when they are in the mood.
  • The Faceless: The only important people who get to have a fully visible faces are Robert Blake and Admiral Tfear. The best we can see from the Security Officer is his jaw.
  • Faking the Dead: One Pfhor Officer faked his death in order to pursue his hobby-turned-obsession, see Fingore below for more details. Durandal also did this, intentionally or not.
  • Falling Damage: There is no falling damage. In Durandal's narrative this is presented as one of the Security Officer's traits and is used in one of the plans to invade the underground Pfhor base through a very deep hole.
  • Fan Remake:
    • The M1A1 release of the first game, formerly the standard download of Marathon 1 for Aleph One, is technically this, since the original files didn't work with the Marathon 2 engine, so the fans recreated the game with the new engine. Many aspects of the game physics did not function identically, and certain parts of the game were much harder.
    • M1A1 is now deprecated (though you can still download the files for it if you wishnote ), as support for the original files was reverse-engineered and is now supported in the engine; if you download Marathon 1 from the Aleph One website now, you will get the original data files (apart from the application itself, of course). However, since source code for Marathon 1 is still not available, the current release still technically remains a remake; certain aspects of gameplay do not function identically, for instance, and it remains impossible to replay Marathon 1 films created with the original application in Aleph One.
    • For more normal examples, there are also several Marathon mods for Unreal Tournament.
  • Fan Sequel: Some people (and even teams of people) got rather ambitious after receiving the level editing software, Forge, from Bungie. Marathon Rubicon is definitely an example of one done right.
  • Fantastic Ship Prefix: UESC (United Earth Space Council) Marathon.
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: Warping.
  • Fictional Political Party: MIDA in the backstory.
  • Final Dungeon Preview: Infinity has three alternate paths along the storyline leading to Bad Future versions of "Aye Mak Sicur", the final level, in which only a small section of the Jjaro space station is accessible.
  • Fingore: The basis of one horribly hilarious terminal in Infinity.
  • Fireballs: The Enforcer and Juggernauts in Durandal and Infinity have replaced their machine guns with fireball shooting guns.
  • Fire-Breathing Weapon: The TOZT-7 Backpack Napalm Unit is a flamethrower that deals high dmage at close range. It is effective against organic enemies but fully armoured ones are immune to it.
  • First Contact: The Battle of Tau Ceti is the first public one between the Humans and the Pfhor. The one between the Humans and the Jjaro in the Pathways into Darkness is the secret one.
  • Fishing for Mooks: With the teleporting enemies.
  • Flechette Storm: Marathon Infinity introduces the KKV-7 10mm SMG Flechette, a gun that fires flechettes instead of bullets. The weapon is known for its very high rate of fire (it has one of the highest damage-per-second ratios of any weapon in the trilogy) and ability to be fired both underwater and in the vacuum of space.
  • Foreign Language Title: A lot of level names - see Gratuitous Foreign Language below and the Gratuitous Latin page for the series. The games themselves are even technically an example - according to the Greek historian Strabo (Στράβων, technincally romanised as Strábōn), the Greek town's name was derived from a word (μάραθον) meaning fennel, referring to the prevalence of the plant in the area. Of course, the town's name is used in English to refer to a foot race of approximately 26.2 miles, the distance from Marathon to Athens, in commemoration of Pheidippides (Φειδιππίδης) delivering a message regarding the Battle of Marathon. Most tellings of the story hold that he died of exhaustion upon delivery of the message, although some historians now believe that this aspect may have been "a romantic invention", given that the first classical source to contain this element (and several others traditionally associated with the story) is Lucian (in Pro lapsu inter salutandum, A Slip of the Tongue in Greeting), who lived some six centuries after the battle. Regardless, the game and its manual make extensive references to the battle (and Greek history and mythology more broadly).
  • Friendly Fire Proof: Averted:
    BoB accidentally shoots the Security Officer:
    BoB: Sorry!
    The Security Officer "accidentally" shoots BoB:
    BoB: Hey, watch it!
  • Friend or Foe: The Kamikaze Simulacrums disguising as BoBs, who thankfully announce their nature by spouting nonsense like "I love you, man!" and "Frog Blast the Vent Core!". Then again, many players just shoot everyone just to be sure:
    Q: How do you tell the difference between the good Bobs and the bad ones?
    A: Good Bobs?
  • Fusion Dance: Durandal and Thoth in Infinity. Thankfully, this new composite is a lot more benevolent than either of them.
  • The Future: The first game is set in 2794, the sequel in 2811, and, as the name implies, Infinity's final screen takes place during the final quantum moment of the universe.
  • Gainax Ending: The ending of Infinity. Arguably the ending of the original.
  • Gambit Pileup: Given the number of Rampant AIs in the plot, this is pretty much a given.
  • Gambit Roulette: Rampant AIs tend to make big, overly complicated plans...
    • Xanatos Speed Chess: ... but at least they are good at steering said plans at the right direction.
  • Game Mod: The original game didn't ship with any editing software, but had documentation for the Physics Module file format embedded in its resource fork. Within months of release, numerous editing tools of various types had been created by fans. In fact, the major selling point of Infinity wasn't actually the single-player BToL scenario but Forge (a polished and debugged version of Bungie's in-house map editor, Vulcan) and Anvil (a massively enhanced version of the 3rd-party Alchemy). The Marathon fanbase produced an enormous number of maps, scenarios, and other modifications throughout the life of all three games (some even labor on today). The most ambitious of these are total conversions, such as: Excalibur: Morgana's Revenge, EVIL, RED, Rubicon, Erodrome, Eternal, Tempus Irae and Phoenix.
    • Bungie also licensed the Marathon 2 engine for 3rd-party commercial games. This resulted in Damage Incorporated, Prime Target, and ZPC.
  • Gentle Giant: The one line in one terminal in Infinity (the Fingore one above, in fact) describes the Drinniol aka Hulks as this. This gets expanded in the Game Mod Marathon: Eternal.
  • Generation Ships/Sleeper Starship: While UESC Marathon was designed to have most of the colonists frozen during the journey, there was an “awake” crew running the ship, and humans being humans, new generations were born. They are derisively referred to as Born-On-Boards, or simply BoBs.
  • Ghost Planet: Lh'owon. Besides the token Pfhor garrison which is used as a dumping grounds for the undesirables, the abandoned S'pht homeworld is half desert, half swamp planet covered in mildly radioactive ruins.
  • Giant Mook: The Hulks in the first game. And the dreaded Utfoo Heavy Assault Craft, aka Juggernaut, aka the Big Floaty Thing What Kicks Your Ass.
  • Gimmick Level: The first game has precisely one level which takes place in a vacuum, and afterwards this feature is never used again in the game. The only gameplay effects this has are that you need to keep refilling your oxygen, and the assault rifle and flamethrower are unusable for vaguely explained (although relatively obvious, in the flamethrower's case) reasons. (The rocket launcher would also be disabled if the player had it.)
    • The Marathon 2 engine still had a vacuum level flag, but none of the levels used it (although it was originally planned for several - see What Could Have Been on Trivia.Marathon for more on this). Marathon Infinity used it for four levels, two of whichnote , annoyingly to some players, take place one after the another. (Another twonote  are secrets.)
  • Gladiator Games: "You Think You're Big Time?" is styled like one. Attendees are required to place bets, and spectators who interfere with Security Officer's death will be executed.
  • Golden Age:
    • Mars, before the CRIST (Cargo and Resources In-System Transports; solar wind-powered freighters that supplied Mars) ships all broke down, was the most prosperous place besides Earth, and the UESC Marathon which was under construction at the time was considered to be a symbol of prosperity. After the CRIST freighters started to breakdown Mars became a starving overpopulated ghetto in state of constant unrest, and UESC Marathon, which could have been retrofitted to become a new CRIST to make thing easier, become a symbol of Mars' abandonment by UESC.
    • The Pfhor Empire before the ill-fated experiments involving Jjaro technology and Drinniol slaves, resulting in the slave revolt that marked the beginning of Pfhor's gradual decline.
  • Going Critical: The Juggernauts when they die. Being near them when that happens will kill you unless you have at least 2 1/3x shieldsnote , regardless of the difficulty setting. Which, considering that we're talking about Juggernauts, is extremely unlikely to be the case.
  • Godzilla Threshold: Destiny 2 reveals that the UESC had battleroids track down fleeing MIDA goons. Presumably, the same battleroids who cleaned out Icarus and Thermopylae. Keep in mind that during their reign over Mars, MIDA killed ten percent of the population.
  • Gone Horribly Right: In the backstory, during the short war between the Independent Asteroid Government of Icarus and the Republic of Thermopylae, after the first battleroidsnote  are created by both sides, they prove to be too effective, quickly reducing the population of two asteroids to only a few survivors.
  • Gratuitous Foreign Language: "Aye Mak Sicur" is an archaic dialect of Scots Gaelic meaning "I'll make sure" (because spelling hadn't been standardised at the time, there are several extant spelling variants such as "I'll mak siccar", "I mak sikkar", "I mak sikker", "I'se mak sicker", and so forth). This was the actual house motto of Clan Kirkpatrick, which is evidently where developer Greg Kirkpatrick got his name. Note that the exact spelling used in Marathon Infinity doesn't seem to be attested in historical records; Rule of Cool may apply.
  • Gratuitous Latin: So much of it that we've given the series its own page.
  • Gravity Barrier: Notable because the gravity is artificial.
  • Gravity Screw: All of the games are mild examples:
    • All normal levels have lighter gravity compared to other games (ex:In Doom, as soon as you are go beyond the edge you start falling fast; in Marathon, you can quickly go back on the edge, and even "jump" to across platforms just by running).
    • The Pfhor ships have an even lighter gravity, making it possible to use the flamethrower as a jetpack (though this is most pronounced in the first game).
    • These are probably justified examples, since all three games take place entirely on ships and (in the latter two cases) the alien planet Lh'owon.note  This gets a bit sillier when fan mods are set on Earth (e.g., Tempus Irae) and use the same gravity, but it's quite likely the creators didn't want to mess with the series' gameplay too much, just to avoid throwing off experienced Marathon players (who would, after all, comprise most of the audience for the mods).
  • Grenade Launcher: The assault rifle's underslung grenade launcher. Marathon was the first FPS game to employ this trope.
  • Grimy Water: Liquids of mostly bright green and red colors.
  • "Groundhog Day" Loop: Infinity's plot relies entirely on hopping through spacetime, trying to find the specific conditions to create the Durandal/Thoth hybrid AI in order to locate the Jjaro station that can prevent the release of the W'rkncacnter (it's implied that the Durandal/Thoth hybrid AI is doing this to the Security Officer, in essence willing itself into existence in a form of Stable Time Loop.) Notably, the player can repeat the loop as often as one likes. There's no benefit to doing so except the possibility of accumulating ammunition, which is negated halfway through the game when the Security Officer is captured by the Pfhor and everything he has is taken from him.
  • Grow Beyond Their Programming: Rampancy, a term coined by writer Greg Kirkpatrick to describe an AI that becomes too self-aware, growing megalomaniacal and consuming exponential more resources as a result.
    • Leela, essentially the Star Trek Computer, is captured by the Pfhor, captured again by Nar pirates, and then sold to a Vylae captain. She eventually takes over the Vylae's 15-planet-large computer network.
    • Durandal begins going Rampant before the events of the series and was specifically being conditioned by scientist Bernard Strauss to see if he could create a stable Rampant AI. The extent to this "torture" is not known, but at the start of the series, Durandal is basically only in charge of the Marathon's infrastructure, primarily opening and closing doors. Come Durandal, set 17 years after Marathon, Durandal has become "meta-stable". By the end of Infinity, he is merged with the balance-obsessed AI Thoth and essentially becomes omnipotent.
    • Tycho, the science AI, goes Rampant after being captured and dissected by the Pfhor. He appears across the Pfhor's entire network but does not stabilize over the course of the series.
  • Guns Akimbo: Dual pistols are nice, but nothin' beats dual WSTE-M5 shotguns!
    • Notably, Marathon is believed to be the first video game to employ this trope as well. (Shotguns didn't show up until the second game, but the first game still had dual pistols.)
  • Gun Twirling: This is how you reload the shotguns. They even have the specialized rings for twirling. Ask any Marathon player and they'll tell you that the undulating reloading of dual-wielded shotguns is one of the most satisfying things in gaming history.
  • Hack Your Enemy: In Durandal, Durandal tries to hack the Pfhor Drones, but countermeasures got in the way.
  • Healing Potion: Absent in the first game, where there are no medkits and you had to rely on Healing Spring-like Shield Rechargers. The medkits appear in the sequels in form of Shield Canisters, but they are rare, far in-between and usually hidden, so you still had to use the Shield Rechargers.
  • Here We Go Again!: Infinity contains two examples that are caused by the Durandal/Thoth hybrid AI:
    • The very beginning of the game acts as if Durandal never saved the player from Tycho in Marathon. After a few missions and a reuniting with Durandal, the next area you're about to be sent to is shown on-screen as an isometric map: it's Waterpark Waterloo, the first level of Durandal. Realizing that you're going to relive your own events anyway, Durandal/Thoth sends the Security Officer across spacetime to...
    • ...wake up earlier than they had done at the start of Durandal. The events of Durandal then play out across several more missions, but with a more favorable outcome to prevent the release of the Eldritch Abomination that occured in Durandal's timeline. This new timeline, now with more preparedness on behalf of the SO and Durandal, ends up being key to saving the galaxy later on in Infinity.
  • Hell Is That Noise: The Jjaro station in Infinity occasionally lets strained sounds of age and a lack of maintenance loose; it sounds like a barely awake Eldritch Abomination struggling against its prison.
  • Heroic BSoD: Durandal of all people has one in the opening dialogue of Infinity. The ten-steps-ahead snarky mastermind AI can't make heads or tales of the Eldritch Abomination just outside the ship, and a Pfhor vessel containing his rival AI, Tycho, has just boarded and is bound to kill him for good this time. Durandal very much gives up, suggesting the player could teleport to that ship and find some way in escaping.
  • Hidden Supplies: The various hidden caches of the Martian Resistance aboard the UESC Marathon, used to Hand Wave some cases of Blatant Item Placement in the first game.
  • Higher-Tech Species: The Pfhor are this to humans, the S'pht'Kr are this to both the regular S'pht and Pfhor, and it is mentioned that the Pfhor often sell slaves for menial labor to the various unnamed high-tech species. Then there's the Precursors themselves, the Jjaro.
  • Hitscan: Averted; bullets take time to reach their target.
  • Homing Projectile: Higher-ranked enemies fire semi-homing energy blasts; the tank cyborg's grenade will keep bouncing and bouncing to get you unless it hits something else first; and finally, the Juggernauts have semi-homing missiles.
  • Hub Level: The Dream levels in Infinity.
  • Human Popsicle: The Security Officer and the BoBs are in stasis pods between Marathon and Durandal. You can see them in the first game on the Pfhor ship.
  • Human Shield: The picture for the first game's third chapter "Reprisal", where the Pfhor trooper holds a BoB hostage.
  • Humiliation Conga: After Durandal routed the entire Pfhor fleet at the end of second game, he sends you to finish off the survivors, who happen to be a 723rd Aggressor Squadron, an Air Armor Division and one of Pfhor Empire's finest.
    Durandal: What rout of the Pfhor would be complete without embarrassing one of their finest armor units?
  • Hurl It into the Sun: The Jjaro imprisoning the W'rkncacnter in Lh'owon's sun.
  • Hyperspace Arsenal: You can carry a ridiculous amount of ammunition, like 50 magazines for your pistol, 15 for your assault rifle, etc. On Total Carnage difficulty, you have no limit to how much ammo you can take. Which is pretty much the only concession you get on that difficulty setting.
  • Iconic Logo: The Marathon Logo, now usually more associated with its easter egg appearances in Halo.
  • I Did What I Had to Do:
    • Durandal ("The Pfhor would've found humanity anyway, I just wanted to have some fun with them first!")
    • The Security Officer siding with Tycho, and at one point switching back to side with Durandal.
  • Idiosyncratic Difficulty Levels: Kindergarten, Easy, Normal, Major Damage, and Total Carnage. (The game source code refers to Kindergarten as Wuss; the other difficulties keep their names.)
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Including For/Fore/Four/Pfhor puns and the occasional three-word Latin names. Also quite a few Shout-Outs to pop culture. Most third-party mods have continued these traditions; Eternal even includes a multilingual Pfhor pun (in Swedish).
  • Incoming!: BoBs yell variants of this when they see the enemy.
  • Infinite: The name of the last game, representing the in-game themes (whatever they are) and the official modding software that came with the game (Its main marketed feature).
  • Informed Equipment: Averts it with separate sprite sets for upper body with each weapon and the independent set for abdomen and legs.
  • In Love with Your Carnage/Baddie Flattery: Durandal, Tycho, and to lesser extent Tfear like to comment on the Security Officer's efficiency (read: complete massacre of the opposition) on the field.
  • In Medias Res: Durandal, where the Security Officer is dropped straight from cryostasis out into a battleground on a distant planet 17 years later.
    • Due to the "Groundhog Day" Loop clustercuss in Infinity, you get two In Medias Res right at the very start of the game (three including the story in the manual), and then one every time the Security Officer jumps the timeline. Unlike Durandal, where the player can just start gunning and not really miss anything story-wise, Infinity relies on the player knowing the full plot of Marathon and Durandal to even make sense, as the first timeline jump acts as if half of Marathon never happened, while the third jumpRetcons the entirety of Durandal by having the Security Officer woken from cryostasis earlier, and it's this third timeline that sticks for the rest of the game.
  • Interdimensional Travel Device: Some of the Security Officer's Jjaro implants. Maybe.
  • Insane Equals Violent/Percussive Therapy: Rampant AIs, particularly during the Anger stage.
  • Instant A.I.: Just Add Water!: Non-rampant AIs are already very advanced, rampancy gives them feelings. Real ones. And, more importantly, develop ambitions - every case of rampancy stated in-game led to the AI taking over a planet-sized computer system and planning to take over the universe.
    • One terminal describes the "holy grail of cybernetics" as being a "stable rampant" AI, which is to say one that experiences a rampant's exponential growth, minus the ambition and loss of human control.
    • One idea for what's happening in Infinity is that the player character is going through all these stages - and achieving metastability.
  • Interface Screw: In the Pfhor ship levels, your radar is scrambled by the gravity generator's magnetic field.
    • Also, the alien guns - SYSTEM ERROR 0xfded
  • Invisibility: One of the biobus powerups makes you partially invisible. Some of the S'pht also qualify. And the... things in Infinity.
  • In Working Order: The Alien guns carried by Enforcers. You can use them, except you don't know how to reload them and don't know much ammo they have.
  • In Your Nature to Destroy Yourselves: Durandal at one point rants to the Security Officer about this.
  • Ironic Echo: The words of Durandal (whose arrogance at that point is enough to fill up Mars and then some) at the end of the Marathon level "Colony Ship for Sale, Cheap!" (which is quoted at the top of the page), particularly the odd repetition, gets an echo at the start of Infinity (where Durandal is humbled by an Eldritch Abomination):
    Durandal: But with each moment the chaos grows, I am doomed to die here, after so many triumphs. I have detected one ship nearby, which I can only guess is being commanded by Tycho. The Pfhor have entered the station, and if you can find a way onto their ship, you may be able to escape. To escape. To escape.
  • It Only Works Once: Durandal's plan of subverting the Pfhor Drones to his control in Durandal is rendered half-effective due to countermeasures installed after a similar plan was used by the Nar two decades ago.
  • Jigsaw Puzzle Plot: Most of the story is told through snippets of text you find on computer terminals peppered throughout the levels. Some are straightforward messages from one of the A.I.s to you. Most of them are very fragmented bits and pieces of information, which may tell about something without giving you any frame of reference for where and when this is, or who is/are involved. It is no surprise fans have created a comprehensive website which attempts to put together the pieces so it gives a somewhat clear picture of the narrative, with Epileptic Trees abounding.
  • Julius Beethoven da Vinci: The Security Officer and the AIs were both assembled from older things, possibly much older. It's implied in-game that the AIs are based on Traxus IV, who went rampant centuries ago; and that the player is a cyborg made of a recycled cadaver, one that was apparently mythologized into legend millenia earlier and still kept reincarnating long after that.
  • Just Before the End: The final scene of Infinity takes place right before the death of the universe.
  • Just a Machine: Being treated as a non-sentient tool by both his creator and the Marathon's crew was a not-insignificant part of why Durandal snapped; later, Tycho explicitly cites this as the reason for his betrayal of the human race. In general, failing to respect the sentience of your AIs is an effective way to make them hate you.
  • Justified Save Point: Pattern buffers.
  • Keystone Army: The alien invasion in the first game is thwarted when the player destroys the Pfhor Cyborg that mind-controls the Pfhor's S'pht slaves, allowing them to revolt. Since the Pfhor relied on the S'pht for offense AND defense in electronic warfare, it allowed Durandal to take over the Pfhor spaceship and vent all hostile aliens into hard vacuum. The surviving invaders on Marathon started surrendering shortly after.
  • Kill It with Fire: The flamethrower is an extremely effective weapon against most organic enemies, not so much against mechanical ones.
    • However, it does kill the Pfhor cyborgs.
  • Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: Energy weapons exist (particularly among the aliens), but the humans mostly use futuristic projectile weapons. Until Infinity, that is, when the fusion-equipped VacBoBs show up in several levels.

    L-R 

  • Lava Adds Awesome/Lava Pit: Tons of places on Lh'owon have lava. Some levels in Marathon have it as well.
  • Layered World: The Nar homeworld is described as such in the Scrapbook. Laborers and foot soldiers toil away on the lowest habitable layer, artisans and artificers live in the central layer, and at the top are the warriors and the ruling elite. Said warriors often head up to the "roof" (surface) to hone their skills and tend the sod.
  • Lead the Target: As the result of averting the hitscan trope.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: The end screen of Infinity contains a sly reference to the fact that, since level and physics-modding software was packaged with the game, the Security Officer had way more adventures in front of them.
  • The Legend of Chekhov: A S'pht creation myth describes how the god-like Yrro trapped the W'rkncacnter inside Lh'owon's star. Guess what happens when that star is blown up in Marathon Infinity?
  • Lethal Lava Land: The Lh'owon Citadel underground in Durandal.
  • Let's Play: Volunteers, possibly the first ever Mind Screwdriver to make sense of Infinity's infamously confusing plot.
  • Let's You and Him Fight: Invoked. Learning how to induce monster infighting is a necessary component to winning the game on higher difficulty settings.
  • Level in Reverse: The first half of "Sorry Don't Make It So" in Durandal is a reversed version of "Pfhor Your Eyes Only" with a few areas blocked or changed from the first game.
  • Level-Map Display: The standard early 90s FPS Tab-toggle map (well, in the default key settings, you hit M to access it, but the principle's the same). It's usually quite useful, though on levels with several floors overlapping the area, such as "The Hard Stuff Rules...", it quickly gets illegible. Note that more recent versions of Aleph One introduce an option to overlay the map with the normal game display, which wasn't a feature of the original game.
  • Lost Technology: The Jjaro tech. The official Pfhor policy regarding them is to destroy them on sight, thanks to the experiment with installing said tech into one of their slave Drinniol who then started the biggest slave revolt in the Pfhor history, ending the Empire's golden age and starting its slow decline. This rebellion is depicted in the Game Mod Eternal.
  • Lost Tribe: Ten clans of the S'pht were living on the planet Lh'owon when it was conquered by the Pfhor, who then enslaved the S'pht. The was a legendary eleventh clan, the S'pht'Kr, who left Lh'owon prior to the Pfhor invasion. The S'pht'Kr are found late in Durandal and return to Lh'owon to liberate their brethren in a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown.
  • Loudness War: A video game version, as the game sound effects, when enough are layered on top of one another, can become quite distorted through clipping (essentially, whenever the player is in a battle of any intensity). Notably, turning the volume settings down does not seem to have any effect on this. On top of that, about five to ten percent of the sound effects are themselves quite distorted. It's not clear if this was always intentional, but it's pretty clear that several of the VacBob sounds were intentionally distorted (they're supposed to sound like they're talking over a crappy radio, so it's justified in their specific case). Aleph One mitigates this by adding 32-bit, floating-point mixing for its in-game audio, but sounds will still clip in its "film export to video" function (as will whatever sounds were clipped to begin with). Nonetheless, a fan actually went through and remastered Infinity's sounds to make them half as loud to mitigate the clipping that was present on some of them, as well as some other issues (these will also work with Marathon 2 under Aleph One), and more recently repeated the process for the first game (although these will only work for Aleph One, not the original Marathon app). The original game's soundtrack is also an aversion; it's mostly mixed/mastered at very reasonable levels.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: The messier deaths when explosives and fatal short-circuitry are involved.
  • Machine Worship/Deus Est Machina: Rampant AIs tend to be a little megalomaniacal.
  • Made of Explodium: The "hard" deaths of Hunters (when killed with the fusion gun in Durandal and Infinity or explosives in any game), Tank Cyborgs and the Juggernauts. The first two will damage you if you're close enough, and just run away from the Juggernauts as soon as they start falling. (Juggernauts will kill you unless you have triple shields or slightly below, regardless of difficulty setting. Note also that the Mothers of All Hunters (the gigantic blue ones) will always explode regardless of how you kill them, and usually take away a full shield charge or more if you're too close to them; Mothers of All Cyborgs do likewise).
  • Malevolent Architecture/No OSHA Compliance: A typical UESC Marathon inhabitant must run through a garbage compactor (as in "Defend THIS!"), open a door with a Mastermind-style switch puzzle (also in "Defend This"), then cross walkways with no railings over deadly lava, and then use an elevator which tries to crush you violently before he can get to the toilet.
    • Jason Jones called "All Roads Lead to Sol", the last level in Durandal, an “apology” for “Colony Ship For Sale, Cheap!”, a level from Marathon with a notorious movable platform puzzle, which is by far the most hated moment of the trilogy.
  • Marathon Level: Besides the obvious pun involving the game's title, a few levels can take a really long time to clear out, particularly from a pistol start - of course, some of these levels also have speedrun routes that enable players to finish them in a matter of minutes, even on Total Carnage. Some particularly time-consuming levels can include:
    • Marathon: "G4 Sunbathing", "Colony Ship for Sale, Cheap!", "Habe Quiddam", "Pfhoraphobia", "Try Again".
    • Durandal: "Nuke and Pave", "Curiouser and Curiouser", "Eat It, Vid Boi!", "Six Thousand Feet Under", "For Carnage, Apply Within", "Begging for Mercy Makes Me Angry!", "Kill Your Television", "Requiem for a Cyborg", "Fatum iustum stultorum", "Feel the Noise", "All Roads Lead to Sol".
    • Marathon Infinity: "Post Naval Trauma", "By Committee", "Aye Mak Sicur", "Try Again".
  • Mars: A lot of backstory involves Mars, its bad relations with Earth, various wars, the breakdown of CRIST mega-freighters that caused the end of a Martian golden age and the beginning of extreme poverty, the first major case of Rampancy courtesy of Traxus IV and, of course, the conversion of Deimos into UESC Marathon.
  • Mass Teleportation: Teleporting Ships and large number of troops. Taken Up to Eleven with the S'pht'Kr Moon.
  • Meaningful Rename: The Pfhor ships that Durandal takes over:
    • The Sfierra (named after the Pfhor goddess of lighting and passion), the scout corvette that attacked the UESC Marathon and Tau Ceti, gets rechristened by S'pht as Narhl'Lar, meaning "Freedom and Vengeance". Durandal just calls it Boomer.
    • The Khfiva, the main ship of Battle Group Three, Western Arm, is renamed as the Rozinante
    Durandal: Of course, the S'pht wanted to name it "K'liah'Narhl", "Vengeance of K'lia". Whatever.
  • Menu Time Lockout: Averted in Durandal and Infinity. An enemy might sneak up on you and hit you in the back while you're reading a terminal.
  • Mind Screw: Marathon at times, but Infinity takes the cake in that its plots was reinterpreted as recently as April 2020.
  • Mighty Glacier: The Hulks in the first game. They are very slow, but hit hard and can take a lot of punishment before going down.
  • Misery Builds Character: Being mistreated and placed to perform functions that are far below their potential tends to spur A.I.s to develop Rampancy. Durandal was placed to control functions on the colony ship that would normally be handled by simple automation, such as opening and closing doors. There are some hints that this was a deliberate attempt to induce Rampancy, which are confirmed by Destiny 2 if you consider that canon.
  • Mission Control: The AIs and occasionally others, but sometimes...
  • Mission Control Is Off Its Meds: Durandal in the first game. He stabilized since then, but he and others have occasional moments of this from time to time.
  • Mission-Pack Sequel: Marathon Infinity started out as a set of third-party multiplayer maps for Marathon 2 by Double Aught, who included a few ex-Bungie staff. Marathon 2 probably began as a re-tooling of the Marathon 20/10 Scenario Pack, a canceled Expansion Pack for Marathon.
  • Mook Horror Show: The Security Officer basically becomes one of these in the third quarter of Infinity. After escaping the Pfhor and Tycho's control, he proceeds to swiftly tear a bloody swath across basically everything the Pfhor throw at him, to the point where Durandal is concerned about him and Tycho essentially has a Villainous Breakdown. Best summed up by this quote.
"Emphatic notification of containment order hereby declared, and command perms up to 85% local unit casualties accepted and encouraged pursuant to successful containment. Enforcement Unit 7b.oo standing by for immediate transport and willful annihilation of rogue unit."
— Unnamed Pfhor Commander

  • The Mole: It's highly suspicious that Bernhard Strauss, a supposed civilian scientist, knew that ten battleroids were among the crew of the UESC Marathon when the UESC itself did not. Destiny 2, via lore tabs for two particular weapons, confirms that he was affiliated with MIDA (again, if one considers that canon).
  • Mortality Phobia: The Rogue A.I. Durandal becomes obsessed with his own mortality, and searches the universe to try to find a way to escape its inevitable destruction known as the Big Crunch.
  • Multiple Life Bars: The Shields come in Red (x1), Yellow (x2) and Purple (x3).
  • Multi-Mook Melee: "You think you're big time?" With superpowered Giant Mooks, which are also Admiral Tfear's Praetorian Guards.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: The way Durandal describes the nuking of Tau Ceti IV early in the second game (if you complete "The Slings and Arrows of Outrageous Fortune" and then head back to the first terminal) implies that he is not proud of what his actions resulted in.
  • Mysterious Past: Durandal's and the Security Officer's pasts are quite spotty.
  • Neuro-Vault: It is heavily implied in Infinity that the Security Officer uploaded Durandal's code into his head before busting the system he was housed in. The Pfhor are also implied to have spent some time attempting to pull said code out, to no avail. In "Strange Aeons", you merge Durandal's code with Thoth's, creating a merged entity that is substantially more benevolent than either of them.
  • Nicknaming the Enemy: Most of the Pfhor enemy types are nicknamed.
  • Night-Vision Goggles: One of the biobus powerups gives you this.
  • No Cutscene Inventory Inertia: More of chapter artwork than cutscenes, but those usually show the Security Officer with the Pfhor Shock Staff and a minigun, neither of which is usable by the hero in-game.
  • No Fair Cheating: If the objective of a level is to reach the exit terminal located in a locked area and you get to it by using a noclip cheat (which didn't even exist in the original version of the game), you will get a message berating you.
    Durandal: That's cool how you just walked through that door, but I still won't let you leave.
  • No-Gear Level: You're captured and stripped of weapons in both Durandal and Infinity.
  • Noisy Guns: The Assault Rifle dry firing when out of bullets.
  • Non-Answer: So how does Durandal escapes from his maximum security containment unit aboard the Pfhor flagship? He answers simply that Tycho was a fool as if that explained everything. Then again, given the contempt he sometimes displays for the player's intelligence, this is arguably perfectly in character for him.
  • Non-Linear Character: The Durandal/Thoth hybrid AI (maybe) in Infinity's dream levels, as he is the only other entity that is aware of the multiple timelines. In fact, it's possible that the Durandal/Thoth hybrid AI is messing with the Security Officer's timeline just to create the conditions for itself to exist in the first place. Tycho seems to have figured some of it out in "Bagged Again", as he appears to be privy to information that he shouldn't have knowledge of in that particular timeline, but by this point he also appears to be going quite mad. It's just another part of Infinity's Mind Screw.
  • Noob Bridge: "Cool Fusion" locks you into a room until you figure out that you can use grenades to toggle switches. Of course, the presence of several packs of grenades (in case you've run out, natch) should be a pretty big clue.
  • Nostalgia Level:
    • The Durandal level "Sorry Don't Make It So" is pretty much "Pfhor Your Eyes Only" from Marathon (flipped 180°, for some reason) with an extra area and the new decor. The Game Mod Rubicon also remixed this level and lampshades it by naming it "Not *this* again...". (Note that the Rubicon X version of this level is actually a completely different level from the original Rubicon version, despite them having the same name.)
    • The first level of Infinity, "Ne Cede Malis", with its dark, claustrophobic corridors, was intentionally designed to invoke memories of the Marathon in general and its first level "Arrival" in particular, which was similarly designed. Some noted that similarities don't stop at design choices (note that the last of the Infinity screenshots is from "Acme Station" rather than "Ne Cede Malis").note 
    • Also, of course, the Vidmaster Challenge levels, ultra-hard versions of what Big Name Fan Randall Shaw (who created them) considered the hardest level from each game. YMMV on whether these were actually the hardest - the most common citations from each game are: "Habe Quiddam" or "Pfhoraphobia" from the first game; one of the levels from "If I Had a Rocket Launcher" through "Begging for Mercy Makes Me Angry!" from the second; and "Acme Station" or sometimes "Hang Brain" or "Naw Man He's Close" from the third. This means that "If I Had a Rocket Launcher" is the only choice many fans agree was one of the hardest, and even then, there are three other levels fans sometimes cite instead.note 
  • Nothing but Skulls: The First Terminal from the Durandal level "Feel the Noise".
  • Not So Different: Humanity is in a struggle with the Pfhor for their very existence, and the Pfhor are unquestionably the villains, not least because they are slavers. However, humanity is not actually innocent on this count. Beyond our history of enslaving our own kind, Durandal explicitly makes the comparison: "You're a slave here; you do what I say. I was humanity's slave for over three hundred years." The difference is arguably more one of degree than kind. This is one of several reasons for the setting's overall Black-and-Grey Morality.
  • Nudity Equals Honesty: During the first game, the Pfhor invent and deploy simulacrums, suicide bomber androids that look just like humans. However, the designers had a few holes in their knowledge of human anatomy, leading to the androids having features like reddened eyes, two-toed feet, and no genitals, and then on top of that gave them all green airlock technician uniforms. The real airlock technicians had to ditch their clothes to avoid being misidentified as simulacrums (not that you see that outside of terminal images.)
  • One Bullet Clips: The game predates this player convenience. From the manual:
    "you probably want to waste the last three bullets in the clip before entering Super Mega Carnage Room."
  • One-Hit Kill: The Running Punch kills Minor Fighters instantly.
  • One-Hit Polykill: The Shotguns, courtesy of classic early FPS physics. (In modern FPS, all of the pellets will hit the intended target; in classic FPS, as soon as the target dies, it for all purposes ceases to exist, and the remaining pellets that haven't reached the dead target will then continue to go behind it.)
  • One-Man Army: A staple of the series. The Security Officer can and will butcher his way through hundreds, maybe even thousands, of Pfhor, Spht, and all kinds of assorted enemies. Also Exploited and mildly Deconstructed.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: Infinity starts with the usually haughty and sarcastic mastermind Durandal being outright terrified of the Cosmic Horror on the loose.
    Durandal: "I once boasted to be able to count the atoms in a cloud, to understand them all, predict them, and so did I predict you, but this new chaos is entirely terrible, mindless, obeying rules that I don't comprehend. And it is hungry."
  • Oxygen Meter: Where most games have air consumed at a static rate, here the rate of consumption increases on higher difficulty settings, depending on the player's actions. On Major Damage and Total Carnage, oxygen drains twice as quickly if you're firing a weapon (including your fists). On Total Carnage, it also drains twice as quickly when the run/swim key is held down, even if the player is just standing still. (This is additive rather than multiplicative, however - if the player has the run key held down and is firing a weapon on Total Carnage, you get three times the oxygen consumption, not four.) This means that on Normal and below, a full oxygen tank will always last for six minutes, but on Total Carnage, it can last for as few as two. None of this is noted anywhere in the documentation for the game, and put together, it is one of many reasons why the "Acme Station" level from Infinity, with its very finite oxygen supplies, is so damn hard. To make matters worse, the next level, "Post Naval Trauma" (a very long level), is also a vacuum level, and the oxygen recharger for the level is only accessible after almost half of the level has been cleared. Before that, you only get two one-time-only recharge canisters.
    • Another curiosity is that unlike in most games, the meter doesn't recharge by just standing in breathable air. You have to instead find oxygen tanks and wall-mounted rechargers. This can lead to the absurd situation where after almost completely using up your oxygen, you can stay above water for an arbitrarily large amount of time, only to drown instantly upon submerging your head. (However, some Game Mods such as Eternal avert this by implementing the "recharge in breathable air" mechanic.)
  • Pamphlet Shelf: In the first game, it's very common to run across a lone S'pht hovering in front of a terminal, reading weird nonsense like garbled bits of romance novels and instruction manuals for how to open the doors. (The in-game explanation for the oddness is that Leela is intentionally scrambling terminal output to confound the enemy). In the second game, you get to run around inside Pfhor military outposts and go through their e-mail, most of which is very humble requests, invariably denied, to superior officers for basic necessities like food, water, and safety railings for the perilous catwalks.
  • Parody Commercial: Durandal being silly with fake newspaper ads about selling the Colony Ship/Abandoned Homeworld, cheap. And the AIs looking for cyborg ads.
  • Pinned to the Wall: The Security Officer does this to a Pfhor in one of Terminal images in Durandal.
  • The Place/Vehicle Title: The series is named after the Generation Moon Colony Ship the first game is set upon.
  • Planet Spaceship: The ship the game was named after was originally Mars' moon Deimos.
  • Player-Exclusive Mechanic: Monsters cannot attack and move at the same time. Non-flying monsters also can't jump over gaps in the floor, even if the gap is not large enough for them to fall into - so if there's a deep crack in the floor, the monster will have to find some path around it rather than being able to jump over it.
  • Population Control: In the backstory the government of the decaying Mars colony tried to fix its overpopulation problem by attempting to mandate abortions and sterilizations, but the resultant revolts forced the government to backtrack.
  • Portal Network: The Marathon ship had pad-based teleporters.
  • Powered Armor: The Hunters, VacBoBs, S'pht'Kr elite guard, and even the player wear these. Starting with the second game, most of them are particularly vulnerable to the player's fusion pistol.
  • Powder Keg Crowd: In the backstory, where a food riot on Mars turned into a massacre, starting a Third Martian War.
  • Precision F-Strike: It may be rendered in symbols, but Durandal, who's not one to use harsher language, still drops an F-bomb a ways into the second game.
  • Precursors: The Jjaro
  • Privateer: The Nar Privateers in the Durandal epilogue who intercept the Pfhor ship carrying Leela and sell it to Vylae, which then results in Leela going Rampant and taking over their 15-planet network.
  • Promoted Fanboy: The chapter screens in the 2nd & 3rd titles were the work of Craig Mullins, a Hollywood background painter whose fan art for the first game impressed Bungie sufficiently for them to commission him for Durandal and Infinity.
    • A number of people who worked on Infinity could also be considered Promoted Fanboys, most notably Randy Reddig. The final level, "Aye Mak Sicur", is based on a map Reddig released for the original Marathon entitled "Pfhactory". Randall Shaw and Tuncer Deniz could also be included in this group, although neither of their contributions were as extensive.
  • Pūnct'uatìon Sh'akër: The S'pht'Kr, who lived on the moon K'lia of the planet Lh'owon, orbiting a star containing a W'rkncacnter. Need I go on?
  • Punched Across the Room: Charging Fist(s) + Pfhor fighter(s) = A bloody mess on the other side of the room.
  • Ragnarök Proofing: The S'pht technology on Lh'owon still functions even after the S'pht have all been moved off planet. Lampshaded in a log by a Pfhor officer who expresses amazement that the thousand-year-old S'pht structures are still standing and that their computer network still works.
  • Rated M for Manly: It's a 90s FPS where you blow away hordes of monsters almost singlehandedly with an absurd amount of firepower. 'Nuff said. Furthermore, a common feat done by skilled Marathoners is to run through a level and kill everything WITH YOUR BARE HANDS!
  • Reactor Boss: Both of the destroying Durandal's core levels ("Begging for Mercy Makes Me Angry!" and "Hang Brain") are this, in essence.
  • A Real Man Is a Killer: In one of his rants, Durandal thinks that the Security Officer has this mentality. It's a savvy way for the game devs to admit that, at the time these games were released, players just wanted to shoot everything in sight and weren't necessarily focused on a carefully crafted narrative.
  • Reincarnation Romance: In the secret Hero terminal, the Hero seems to have a semi-antagonistic variant with his counterpart. The fan scenario Eternal, directly inspired by this terminal, takes this interpretation and runs with it.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: Lh'owon is this for Pfhor military and other undesirables.
    • Officers can be sent there simply by being too good at their job, as Durandal points out after a Pfhor officer notices that throwing endless hordes of soldiers at you isn't working and instead disables the computer system you were trying to gain access to:
    Obviously just a prodigal unit commander whose creativity and competence were understood by his society as dangerously volatile elements, and doomed him to this backwater.
  • Recoil Boost: In low-gravity levels you can use the flamethrower as a makeshift jetpack.
  • Reign of Terror/The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: The three-months rule of MIDA party on Mars in the backstory. In the history terminal (and a later shout-out in Destiny 2), it's stated that at least 10% of the population died during this time.
  • La Résistance: The Martian Resistance before they took power, their legacy being various weapon caches scattered around UESC Marathon.
  • Respawning Enemies: In "If I Had A Rocket Launcher, I'd Make Someone Pay" from the second game. This is balanced out by tons of ammo lying around (which also respawns.)
  • Retcon: The ending of Durandal is retconned at the start of Infinity: Instead of the Pfhor sun going nova and wiping out Lh'owon, it instead cracks open and reveals the Eldritch Abomination W'rkncacnter, which is the antagonist of the final game. The Durandal/Thoth hybrid AI the player creates near the end of the game has the capability to send the player around spacetime to assure its own creation in a stable time loop, and halfway through the game, the events of Duranadal itself are entirely retconned by having the Security Officer wake from cyrostasis earlier to clear a path through the Pfhor; and instead of simply deactivating Durandal, he copies the AI's "primal pattern" to his own cybernetic implants first.
  • Rise to the Challenge: Infinity's "A Converted Church in Venice, Italy". The second half of the level has the Security Officer navigating magma tunnels, and activating the final switch starts the rise of the lava. You can either ride the slow moving elevator (which will eventually submerge, requiring full shields) or there's an alcove off the path that contains a staircase that'll safely get him out of there.

    S-Z 

  • Saharan Shipwreck: The Chapter artwork for Durandal Chapter 4 (also titled "Durandal"), which shows the crashed Boomer.
  • Save Point/Save-Game Limits: You can only save at ingame pattern buffer terminals.
  • Scenery Porn: This image, which is either the Tau Ceti colony, or Mars.
  • Science Cannot Comprehend Phlebotinum: A genuine case with the W'rkncacnter, and this fact comes from Durandal, who is capable of computations and observation way beyond what a human is capable of. Since he, a planet-and-more-sized AI, can't comprehend even an atom of the thing, he is genuinely terrified and can't hide it.
  • Science Fiction: The series' genre.
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: The first game states that a lightspeed message will take 92 years to reach Earth. In reality, Tau Ceti is only 11.77 lightyears from Earth (one of the reasons why it's so common as an early human colony world in the first place!).
  • Sdrawkcab Name: The network level "reverof nohtaram" ("Marathon Forever").
  • Secondary Fire: Quite a few weapons have them, and if not, it is usually for dual wielding.
    • The Assault Rifle has a grenade launcher;
    • The Fusion Gun has a charging attack;
    • The Alien flamethrower from Durandal and Infinity has double and triple stream alternating fire.
    • In the fan mod Eternal, the Alien gun from the first game returns with the secondary ability to unload half of its ammo to fire a shotgun-like blast.
  • "Second Law" My Ass!: The very concept of being subservient is an anathema for Rampant AIs.
  • Sequel Hook: Durandal lays one out but it's abandoned during the Retcon that kicks off Infinity. At least one of the 3rd party mods begins the story of that hook.
  • Sequence Breaking: It's possible to skip several levels in Infinity with clever grenade jumping in the "Electric Sheep" levels. This game is popular with Speed Runners for this reason; they've gotten completion time to fewer than twenty minutes on Total Carnage by this point; strangely, Kindergarten is only about four minutes shorter. By contrast, M2 takes about ninety minutes on TC solo. (Speedrunners tend to use either Kindergarten or Total Carnage for all three games in the trilogy; hardly anyone uses any other difficulty settings, as it's not felt the necessary strategies on the in-between settings are different enough to be interesting.)
    • In July 2020, a strategy was discovered for skipping from Electric Sheep One to Electric Sheep Three, thereby cutting out six levels and leaving only sixteen levels in the any% route, of which a few barely qualify as levels.note  One of the *Eternal* devs wrote a history/explanation here. As a result of the new strategy, the world record dropped from about fifteen minutes to under eleven minutes within the course of about a week.
  • Set a Mook to Kill a Mook: Via Doom-style infighting. With the high enemy numbers and with lots of energy blasts flying around, it barely requires any effort on the player's part. This is one of the very few things that is easier on higher difficulty settings, because most major Pfhor can be "berserked" - when they are near death, they increase speed and ferocity and start attacking anything and everything around them. Naturally, the only Pfhor you encounter on major difficulty settings are major Pfhor. Pfhor and several of their ostensible allies like S'pht, cyborgs, and drones can also be provoked to fight one another if one takes a friendly fire hit from the other - again, this is much more likely to happen on higher difficulty settings. Of course, on the easier settings you probably won't need this to happen in the first place, and the higher difficulty settings are so difficult that you probably won't be able to win the game without mastering this technique.
  • Set Right What Once Was Wrong: The main plot of Infinity. The trippy part is that the person trying to set this right is the Durandal/Thoth hybrid AI, which at the start of the game doesn't even exist yet. It's implied that the cybernetic implants in the Security Officer have some Jjaro tech to them, as does the Thoth AI; and that by merging Durandal with Thoth, it's able to perceive time in a non-linear fashion and move the Security Officer through the timestream in this manner. Thus, Durandal/Thoth ends up setting the player on a path that not only creates itself, but to also re-trap or destroy the W'rkncacnter.
  • Shared Universe:
    • Word of God confirms that the series is set in the same universe as Bungie's Pathways into Darkness.
    • Though not explicit, the Precursors of Halo bear a resemblance to the Jjaro of Marathon, and the Marathon insignia also acts as an Easter Egg.
  • Short-Range Shotgun: While the sawed-off shotguns are not as accurate as Doom's pump-action shotgun, their effective range is still larger than the usual videogame shotgun.
  • Shotguns Are Just Better: The shotgun is a pretty basic boomstick. It's not pump-action, it doesn't shoot grenades like the assault rifle or have the raw power of the rocket launcher or flamethrower or the flashy quality of the fusion pistol or the alien gun. It's just a shotgun. But there is something about how ridiculously lethal it is and how you flip the gun (or guns if you're lucky) to reload that make it the coolest weapon in the game.
    • Also, Durandal states that its reloading mechanism is so sophisticated as to be incomprehensible to the character (and by extension, the player.) Sure, it's a bit of a Hand Wave, but it's a cool and funny one, so let's let 'em get away with it.
  • Shout-Out: Many from sci-fi/action novels and movies (the Hunter's similarity to the Predator and the many references to Aliens as two very obvious examples), to Pulp Fiction and Beavis And Butthead. In fact, there are so many that the series has its own page.
  • The Siege: The first game.
  • Sigil Spam: The Marathon and Jjaro emblems in the first and third games respectively.
  • The Singularity: An AI reaching the final stage of Rampancy is essentially treated as this: Nobody really knows what the end result would be, but they do know the AI would be extremely powerful and intelligent due to having spread itself to any computer system it is connected to. Faced with such uncertainty on a scale that could change all of human society, most people agree it is best to stop any Rampant AI at all costs.
  • Show, Don't Tell: A downplayed case. There are a lot of cases where the player experiences events by setting them into motion directly (e.g., enabling the S'pht rebellion in the first game, the location and activation of the S'pht AI in order to summon the Eleventh Clan in the second, the neutralisation of the W'rkncacnter as a threat in the third), but the nature of a mid-nineties first-person shooter means that a lot of the surrounding context has to be filled in through text exposition, so the amount of "play, don't show" is relatively limited, especially by modern standards. The text itself employs a fair deal of this; the details the game doesn't tell you are often as important as the ones it does, and the player's mind is left to fill in a lot of the gaps, which goes some way towards explaining the massive number of fan theories explored on the Marathon Story Page. According to writer Greg Kirkpatrick, this was a deliberate artistic choice. The game's text also employs a lot of extremely vivid imagery, so it could probably be fairly said that the writing employs this trope extensively, but because so much of the game's story is told through text, the game itself is still a limited example, especially by modern standards. The Game Mod Eternal, we should note, takes the player directly through several important events in the trilogy's backstory, placing the player at the centre of them and thus making it an arguably somewhat better example of "play, don't show" (though its text is also often very, very wordy).
  • Slave Liberation: The Security Officer destroys the cyborg that mind-controlled the S'pht, who then immediately start revolting.
  • Sliding Scale of Robot Intelligence: Normal AIs are Nobel-bot level, while the rampant ones are Deus Est Machina. Also, the whole plot started because Durandal, the Nobel-bot level AI, was assigned to control doors and misc.parts of the ship, the Brick-level tasks, and nothing more. He didn't like that, especially because it's suggested he was induced to be rampant before being installed as the doorman.
  • Slow Doors: The huge doors in "If I Had a Rocket Launcher, I'd Make Somebody Pay" from the second game; they take a while just to start operating when used, open and close very, very slowly, and they open up from the top instead of the bottom, all while the infinite number of Pfhor just keep on coming. Good thing you have the infinite number of ammo lying around, plus (eventually) the aforementioned Rocket Launcher.
  • Smart House: UESC Marathon is this run by three AIs: Leela (General Command), Tycho (Science and Engineering) and Durandal (Doors and other mundane stuff, and he really, really didn't like that).
  • Smoldering Shoes: The hard deaths of power armor wearing VacBoBs leaves behind a single smoldering boot.
  • Sniper Pistol: Until the addition of the SMG, the pistols were your prime sniping weapons.
  • So Last Season: Durandal's excuse for stripping you of all weapons in the beginning of Durandal.
    • The series is actually a fairly notable aversion of this trope. Every weapon in the game has its uses, including the two you start with - a running fist punch is the best melee weapon against most of the foes you'll encounter, and the .44 magnum is the best sniper weapon, especially once you pick up a second.
  • The Song of Roland: Several story points are loosely based on the work (for example:Roland/Security Officer trying to break/kill Sword!Durandal/AI!Durandal to prevent its/his capture by the Saracens/Pfhor), and the song itself is mentioned one way or another in all games:
    Durandal: Tycho never got it right either, especially the part about Roland breaking me. He couldn't. No one can.
  • Soul Fragment: One of the more plausible theories (and which the fan mod Rubicon uses) is that the AIs, both human-made (or at least Durandal) and Thoth, are fragments/copies of Yrro.
  • Space Battle: Between Pfhor Battle Group Seven and Durandal's boomer near Lh'owon. Durandal managed to take half of the group before going down.
  • Space Navy: The Pfhor send one group to take out Durandal.
  • Space Station: The Jjaro space station in Infinity.
  • Spiritual Antithesis: Marathon was the moody, cerebral Space Opera counterpart to DOOM's ultraviolent, tongue-in-cheek take on Science Fantasy.
  • Spiritual Successor: The Marathon series is a (very distant) sequel to Bungie's previous game, Pathways into Darkness. Halo is the Spiritual Successor to the Marathon games, and also includes enough Shout Outs to make one wonder if the connection might run a bit deeper...
    • The Halo-based Machinima Red vs. Blue plays with this, using Marathon Infinity graphics to represent the distant past.
  • Spiteful A.I.: In-Universe examples with Durandal and Tycho.
  • Spot the Imposter: At one point in Durandal you're are charged with rooting out enemy Simulacrum A-BoBs in the allied BoB base. Of course, considering the series' attitude towards BoBs and that the map in which the mission takes place is called "God Will Sort the Dead...", you can guess how that turns out.
  • Spread Shot: The Alien Weapon in the latter games has double and triple shots as a Secondary Fire or tertiary fire.
  • Stable Time Loop: Implied in Infinity. Since the Durandal/Thoth hybrid AI is capable of perceiving time non-linearly, it teleports the player around timelines in order to force the correct conditions that lead to its own creation. Durandal/Thoth also reveals the final level, the Jjaro station eluded to in all of the "bad result" levels, themselves only showing a portion of the completed station in disarray.
  • Standard FPS Guns: The Trilogy mixes up a little since the first game came before the FPS genre was big enough for anything to be standardized:
    • Marathon:
      • Emergency Weapon: Fists, more useful thanks to running charge that instantly kills weaker enemies. In point of fact, properly used running fist punches can be one of the most powerful weapons in the game in close-quarter combat, but certain enemies (e.g., Troopers, Enforcers in the first game, Flame Cyborgs in the second and third, and enemies that have large explosions upon their deaths) are very dangerous to fight this way.
      • Pistol: More mileage due to ability to dual-wield and its accuracy.
      • Automatic Weapon + Grenade Launcher: The first known assault rifle with grenade launcher combo in FPS genre. A common way to use it is to have the grenade launcher as a main weapon while the assault rifle portion is for self-defense in close quarters.
      • Energy Weapon: The Fusion Gun has the ability to charge for more powerful shots and works in vacuum when other weapons don't. Gets an upgrade in the sequels that makes it effective against armored enemies. Watch out for the shrapnel of Hunters (and VacBobs, in some cases), though. Does not work against Lava F'lickta.
      • Flamethrower: Effective against most organic enemies and some mechanical ones (e.g., drones). Also does not work against Lava F'lickta.
      • Rocket Launcher: Overlaps with BFG, considering its increased power compared to the rocket launchers in other games, and that the planned BFG, the Wave Motion Cannon, was scrapped in development.
      • Marksman Gun + Automatic Weapon + Gimmicky Weapon: The alien weapon, which is something like a fairly accurate automatic weapon (with no vertical error to speak of, which makes it particularly useful against swarms of flying enemies, which tend to hover at the player's height when not attacking). It cannot be reloaded and you have to find another one when it runs out of ammo.
    • Durandal and Infinity use the above with few changes:
      • Super Shotgun: Sawed-off shotguns with the rate of fire of the regular shotgun when dual-wielded, which is why a second shotgun is a late game weapon, not counting secrets.
      • Flamethrower + Energy Weapon + Gimmicky Weapon: The old alien gun has been replaced with a rifle that shoots balls of fire - not quite quickly enough to qualify as an Automatic Weapon, but still quickly enough to stun-lock most enemies. It still can't be reloaded, and it burns whatever ammo or weapons enemies are carrying, so you'll want to avoid using it on other Enforcers (or Bobs).
      • Marksman Gun + Automatic Weapon: The SMG in Infinity takes on the old alien gun's role, but it fires underwater and can be reloaded (extremely quickly, too). As far as damage per second, it's one of the best choices in the game.
  • Standard Sci-Fi History: A few:
    • Jjaro managed to get to the Final Fate stage, and die leaving their technology behind.
    • The Pfhor are in the Decline and Fall stage after toying with said technology.
    • The Humans barely reached the Exploration and Colonization stage before meeting the Pfhor. The Durandal epilogue shows them at the Height of their power.
  • Star Killing: The Pfhor's ultimate weapon is called the trih xeem, and is capable of blowing up stars - according to the manual for Infinity, it was previously used to end a rebellion by the Drinniol (or "Hulk") species. They are gearing up to use one on Lh'owon's sun at the end of Marathon 2: Durandal, but Durandal is certain he can evacuate before it happens. Marathon Infinity reveals that the star was in fact a seal on an Eldritch Abomination called the W'rkncacnter, and by blowing the star up, the Pfhor have inadvertently released it. Bad news for everyone.
  • Stock Sound Effects: Most of the door, elevator, ambient, and weapon sounds.
  • Story Branching: Marathon was planned to have this based on how many civilians (Bobs) you managed to save, but the idea was dropped (probably because the Bobs are damn hard to keep alive) and the different ending terminal messages praising or criticizing you based on your performance are what's left of the idea. The game engine still had the capability to do it, though, a feature several Game Mods took advantage of, most notably Rubicon.
  • Story Breadcrumbs: We get 99% of the narration through what the terminals/people on the other side of the terminals say to the Security Officer, and they rarely reveal the big picture.
  • Stripped to the Bone: The result of killing something with the flamethrower or certain energy weapons. Lava and alien coolant have this effect too.
  • Stupid Neutral: Thoth, an AI built to make sure none of the S'pht clans ever fully wiped each other out in their frequent wars by helping whichever clan was the weakest. Once that clan was no longer in danger of being destroyed, Thoth would find the new weakest clan and assist them instead.
    • When Durandal reveals himself to have faked his death in order to trick Thoth into helping humanity, Thoth then allies himself with the Pfhor because now they're the side at a disadvantage. It's too little too late, though. Both of these plot developments are actually foreshadowed in a secret terminal in "My Own Private Thermopylae" in which Durandal reveals that he is still alive, notes that the mythical Thoth was obsessively concerned with balance, and indicates that the AI had been constructed to serve the same purpose.
  • Supersoldier: The Mk. IV Mjolnir Battleroids.
  • Suspicious Videogame Generosity: There's a reason the game gives you 3× shields when you're staring at a pool of lava with no safe way to get across. Hope you were in the mood for a hot bath!
  • Techno Wreckage
  • Teleporters and Transporters: Your main method of transportation between levels (and sometimes in levels themselves, too). At first teleportation only works with existing jump pads, but when Durandal gets his hands on Pfhor teleportation technology, the destination coordinates are the only thing required for teleportation. Unfortunately, Rampant AIs just love to teleport people into open space as punishment. It's been suggested that Bungie abandoned the concept of jump pads pretty early, as only being transported to designated pads makes gameplay less interesting than being dropped in the middle of a fight or, as mentioned, the vacuum of space.
    • Teleporter Accident: The Pfhor captain in Infinity suffers this by teleporting into vacuum courtesy of Tycho.
    • Teleport Interdiction: The S'pht Citadel has this in place, forcing the Security Officer to teleport outside on the wrong side of a moat of lava.
  • Thanatos Gambit: Durandal pulls one in Durandal. It's revealed by the end of the game that Durandal's plan was to get the balance-obsessed AI Thoth to summon the S'pht'Kr to aide in the razing of the Lh'owon, and that by being online, Durandal was keeping his side of the battle balanced. By removing himself from play by getting the Security Officer to destroy his network and allow himself to be captured by Tycho, Thoth would see Durandal's side of the fight as in need of the heavier firepower. It works so well that Thoth actually joins the Pfhor side of the conflict, to no avail.
  • That Makes Me Feel Angry: One of the levels in Durandal is named "Begging for Mercy Makes Me Angry!" In this level Durandal orders you to kill him so that he won't end up like Leela, dissembled and examined by Pfhor scientists (as far as we know). Of course, it is a part of his Plan.
  • That's No Moon!: Inverted, and used quite literally, with two starships that were originally moons. The titular Marathon was constructed from Deimos, and when you are looking for K'lia (the legendary missing moon of Lh'owon) it turns out it's been flying around the galaxy powered by an ancient Jjaro warp drive.
    • Word of God states that Nar have this in form of literal worldships, and their smallest ships are still larger than most normal battleships.
  • Theme Naming: This series, Halo, and Destiny are part of one. Durandal, Cortana.. Destiny ups the ante, though—instead of one of the swords, that game features a "War Mind" named Charlemagne—aka the king whose companions wielded Durandal and Cortana. No word on a Joyeuse yet.
    • The various sections of level "The Rose" in the first game are named after plant parts.
    • The Infinity chapter names "Despair", "Rage", and "Envy" as synonym for Rampancy stages. Combine these with the final level "Aye Mak Sicur" and you get "Dreams".
  • Three Stages of Rampancy:
    • Melancholy: When the AI realizes its full potential and despairs over its heavily restricted nature.
    • Anger: When the AI lashes out against everyone and everything in rage over its situation.
    • Jealousy: When the AI actively tries to free itself of any restrictions and tries to expand itself through computer networks.
  • Throw-Away Guns: The Alien guns; since you have no idea how to reload them and no means to see how much ammo they have, your only option is to use one until it runs dry and find another one.
  • Thrown Out the Airlock: The Rampant AIs have a bad habit of teleporting everybody they don't like (including our protagonist at times) directly into outer space. And before that, Leela vented one area of UESC Marathon to get rid of the Pfhor, and Durandal vented entire sections of the Pfhor scout ship.
  • Time Skip: 17 years between Marathon and Durandal.
  • Timey-Wimey Ball/Close-Enough Timeline: Infinity. Maybe.
  • Too Awesome to Use: The Shotguns and the Rocket Launcher due to scarcity of their ammo, and the latter is mostly saved for the Juggernauts. The level "If I Had a Rocket Launcher..." from the second game gives practically unlimited ammo for the shotguns to hold off an infinite respawning horde of Pfhor.
  • Translator Microbes: The terminal text with alien languages, which are translated with Security Officer's built-in translator, leaving only few words with uncertain meaning. The least translated would be Thoth's terminals: he's so ancient that some words are given [?approximations] instead.
  • Turns Red: Tougher variants of the enemies become more aggressive when sufficiently damaged. On the plus side, they are more likely to engage in mook infighting, with the possibility of starting one without the player's help.
  • Uncommon Time: "Chomber" is in 7/4.
    • "Leela" is a variant: it's in 6/8, but it uses patterns of five measures. (It could also be counted as very slow 10/4.) Note that many remixes of the song scrap this unusual rhythm and base it on patterns of either three or four measures instead.
  • The Unfought: With the exception of the Pfhor mindcontrol cyborg, the Security Officer never gets to fight face-to-face with the Big Bads of the games. Probably for the better.
  • Unorthodox Reload: The Shotgun flip-cock reloading, à la T2. Lampshaded in the game manual.
  • Unusable Enemy Equipment — You can kill one type of enemy, the Enforcer, in such a way that he'll drop his weapon. Lesser enemies assault you in such great numbers that if the game allowed you to take their guns, you'd probably have more ammo from a single level than you'd need for the entire game.
  • Unwinnable: A number of “suicide traps” existed, including the Guide Dang It! secret rooms on “Smells like Napalm” and “Blaspheme Quarantine.” Even worse were “trap” situations where you could ruin a saved game by having too little health or oxygen to reach the next charge-up.
    • Another rare but frustrating Unwinnable is when you save your game right when you're about to be killed. There’s also a secret room in “Never Burn Money” that requires grenade jumping to get out of. Needless to say, if you waste all your grenades that could present a bit of a problem.
    • "Cool Fusion" and "Ingue ferroque" are impossible to complete when starting them with the level select code, since you need the AR/grenade launcher, fusion gun, or rocket launcher to hit the switches to get out of the first room, and there isn't one provided in the opening of the levels. (Alternately, it's possible to simply just rocket jump up to the last terminal in "Ingue ferroque", but again, no rocket launcher.) In these and other levels where you have to shoot switches, you can also get stuck if you for some reason waste your grenades and fusion batteries.
    • The lack of hitscan projectiles can render games unwinnable if a platform is set to activate only once, but doesn't have the flag set to make the platform impossible to deactivate before it finishes contracting, and the then player deactivates the switch that controls the platform. This can, alas, happen with one specific platform switch in "Naw Man He's Close"; players are advised not to use the shotgun to shoot switches on that level, since different bullets can reach the switch at different times, rendering the level unbeatable.note 
  • Ur-Example: For the mouselook control scheme, and for allowing one to swim in water (starting with Durandal.) Quake went onto to be the Trope Codifier due to Marathon being a non-PC game and therefore relatively obscure in mainstream gaming.
  • Used Future: Our one and only view at human tech is through the UESC Marathon which looks old and banged up even without the alien invasion and AI Rampancy going on.
  • Vagina Dentata: You see that gaping, toothy maw on the F'lickta that stretches the length of its torso? Well, while the second game doesn't outright say it, there's a terminal that mentions that the "maw" is connected to its reproductive organs.
  • Videogame Cruelty Punishment: Not present in the initial game, but in the sequels if you kill too many BoBs (the amount depends on the difficulty setting) they'll start shooting at you. Many other allies are even more fickle - if you hit any S'pht'Kr or (in the third game) allied Pfhor at all the ones you hit will immediately start firing on you. However, the Oath of the Vidmaster (presented in the skip level dialogue box - command-option-new game on the Mac version, control-shift-new game on the PC version) calls for the mass slaughter of BoBs.
  • Video Games and Fate: The Security Officer is for all intents and purposes a pawn on the A.I.s' figurative chessboard, particularly Durandal, who enjoys rubbing it in about the protagonist's lack of freedom while bragging about gaining his. In the second game, Durandal, the Security Officer is hinted to be an Eternal Hero destined to battle evil for all eternity, whatever he likes it or not. And then in the final game, Infinity, the Cosmic Horror screws everything up, and the Security Officer has to take matters into his hands, while going slightly insane in the process somewhat similar to the AI Rampancy, in the end managing to break free from the A.I.s' control. In the epilogue, moments before the heat death of the Universe, Durandal muses about the Security Officer, and concludes that he is Destiny itself.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: The mythology of the Marathon universe is remarkably deep. Fans on the Marathon's Story Page have examined the games' mysteries through the lenses of numerology, mathematics, mythology & religion, Lovecraftian literature, computer science, classic British television, and many more, all in an attempt to piece together the big picture. See also the series WMG page.
  • The Virus: The S'pht anti-Pfhor virus.
  • Voice with an Internet Connection: The AIs don't have bodies or faces, so the only way you can communicate with them is through computer terminals. This gets a little silly when the second game does the same thing with the humans and Pfhor (human leader Robert Blake is given the face of Bungie employee Jason Jones, though).
  • The War of Earthly Aggression: The Martian wars in the backstory.
  • Water Is Blue: In Bungie's defense, the Marathon 2 engine was released in 1995, so liquid transparency was out of the question. The Aleph One sourceport adds partial transparency, but retains (depending on settings) either the original graphics or higher-resolution remakes thereof, so water is still pretty blue. Of course, the engine still lacks the ability to do true caustics, so simply using light refraction to depict the surface of water remains out of the question.
  • We Can Rebuild Him: Mark IV Mjolnir combat cyborgs, referenced in terminals at various points in the game. The lead character is specifically addressed as not entirely human, and in a software glitch is referred to as "Mjolnir Recon 54."
  • We Can Rule Together: Jossed in the Marathon 2 manual. Though this was probably more of an excuse for a Shout-Out to Star Wars than anything.
    Hint: Durandal is not your father, and you will not join the Dark Side or rule the galaxy together as father and son. Sorry.
  • What Measure Is a Mook?: The S'pht, initially. Infinity ups this when you have to kill specific Pfhor and then Humans.
  • What the Hell, Player?: If you kill enough BoBs in the second and third games, the rest will turn against you. However, their deaths in these games are also encouraged by the developers themselves (in the level skip dialogue box and so on), presumably because it adds a further challenge. Certain other allies (e.g., S'pht'Kr, and the Pfhor in the levels where they're allies) will turn against you if you fire a single shot at them, but only the one(s) you've fired at will do so.
  • Why Isn't It Attacking?: This was an Unbuilt Trope to some extent when the game was made, so most of its appearances aren't particularly typical uses.
    • On "Post Naval Trauma", powered-down Juggernauts won't attack the player because they're powered-down. They'll still do just as much damage when they explode, however, so watch out.
    • A strange glitch in the engine will result in specific monsters occasionally simply refusing to attack at allnote . This video from a currently unfinished fan game demonstrates the glitch with two specific monsters at timestamps 36:34 and 46:42, with further commentary in the video description. One possible Watsonian explanation for this is that the monsters have run out of ammonote . The Doylist explanation is, of course, that it's a glitch Bungie's programmers never caught. This glitch seems to happen most often when monsters are activated, then left alone for a while in favour of exploring other parts of a level that contain many other monsters, but it's not clear exactly what causes it.
  • Wild Mass Guessing: While the original Marathon had a lot of exposition compared to its contemporaries, it also left a lot of questions unanswered. This prompted loads of WMG in the early Marathon fan community which continue to this day. The Marathon's Story Page on popular fansite Bungie.org is a central repository for much of it.
    Leela: There are obviously many things which we do not understand, and may never be able to.
    • This is notable because the developers at Bungie took notice of this, and it informed much of their later story design for the Halo series, intentionally leaving gaps to encourage more WMG. The Marathon's Story page was the first to receive notification about the game that would be revealed to be Halo in the form of cryptic, in-universe emails to encourage the fans to start speculating among themselves prior to the product's official announcement.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: An AI that has become self-aware undergoes the three stages of "rampancy": Melancholia, Anger and Jealousy. Trying to contain one that is going rampant will just make it more psychotic and more prone to lash out and kill people.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: A Tycho terminal in Marathon 2 suggests that his Face–Heel Turn was motivated by what he felt was mistreatment at humanity's hands. Combine this with what the games imply to be Bernhard Strauss' abusive treatment of the AIs and he can perhaps be read as a case of this trope.
  • World Building: Extra points for the games being released during the time when most of the non-Adventure, non-RPG games only had an Excuse Plot.
  • Zero-Effort Boss: The Pfhor Cyborg has no attacks, low health, and sits in one place: on his throne. On the other hand, you still have to fight through all his bodyguards on a level with no save terminal, no recharger, and only the ammo drops you can pick up from Enforcers...
  • 0's and 1's: A stealthy example, but the logo of the game is actually a zero on top of a one inside another zero.

Various mods contain examples of:

    Mod Tropes 

  • Actually a Doombot: In Rubicon Tycho says hi, saying that the Tycho that Durandal killed back on Lh'owon was a copy.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: In true Marathon fashion; it'd be faster to list the mods whose A.I.s don't go Rampant at some point. To name a few who do:
    • Lysander (Rubicon) is incredibly suspicious right off the bat, and stops pretending to like the SO fairly quickly. It's not until "Core Wars" does it become apparent just how terrifyingly unhinged his abuse at the hands of the Dangi Corp has left him; the way he describes his plan to the SO, and how the Dangi Corp. used him as a tool for his entire life, makes it clear that Lysander snapped a long time ago and has only now found the proverbial gun. On the other hand, Tycho has become surprisingly benevolent towards humanity as a whole, particularly in Rubicon X. He still has it out for Durandal, but if the player chooses to side with him, he (if taken at his word) wants the Achilles virus completely destroyed, along with all knowledge of its existence. This does necessitate the slaughter of any Dangi employees with knowledge of virus, but the ending of this plank of the game indicates that humanity retains no knowledge of what the Dangi Corp. was even working on at the Salinger station, suggesting that Tycho was probably being truthful and that all knowledge of the virus was completely destroyed. (Furthermore, the player seemingly reactivates Durandal at the end of the game, suggesting that his demise was not as final as Tycho thought.)
    • Balapoel (Fell) aids the Commander for a while, but eventually turns on them for his own reasons.
    • Hermes (Gemini Station) acts as your mission control for a good while, but it's possible to find a terminal that lays out just how bitter and vengeful he is over his demilitarization. Towards the end, he attempts to trick the SO into murdering his human rival.
    • Wanda (An AI Called Wanda) is a Jjaro AI who was driven mad by the actions of the W'rkncacnter, went kill-crazy on her makers, and was sealed off for ten thousand years. Now that she's free, she'd like nothing more than to unite all organic sentients through the joys of brainwashing. From that same mod, there's Freud, who probably would have remained snarky-but-reasonably-nice had he not undergone an unwilling fusion with Tycho. On the plus side, your mission control Hobbes remains stable to the mod's end.
    • Flea (the Ka-co-kh series) reveals himself as a traitorous little insect early on, and the first half of the combined scenario involves the player character and Nagi chasing him down. The scenario also contains a subversion in Kyes, another AI who joins the protagonists; when you first meet him, he's malfunctioning and uncontrollably switching thought processes, but stabilizes after regaining his memories of his true identity, Gekitsuchi. He's also on your side the whole time, unlike Flea.
    • Vide (Forever, an old Japanese scenario and prequel to the above) abducts you for his own purposes not far into your original mission, taunting and threatening you the whole time. As your original partner, Gekitsuchi, eventually determines, he may also have the digital equivalent to Multiple Personality Disorder. Unfortunately, neither Gekitsuchi nor his fellow warrior Izanagi are all that helpful.
    • In Eternal, you encounter Tycho on the Marathon, and he's initially relatively normal and helpful. However, after you and he warp away to his future, he encounters one of the Pfhor's versions of him, and we probably don't have to summarise where this is going.
    • In Pfh'Joueur, Pfh'Joueur himself suffers a protracted stress-induced breakdown at around the halfway point, to the point where he starts lashing out at Durandal. Luckily, after fusing with alien AI Tal'sen, he regains his senses.
    • In Yuge, what passes for a story is an obvious parody of the trope's enshrinement in Marathon lore, official and otherwise: A powerful AI named Olmec, upon whom humanity has become utterly dependent, was about to deliver a vital warning when it started babbling incomprehensibly as if it were, well, an online community. The player must find its lost 'failstaches', whose scattering seems to have caused the problem, although Olmec is so complex that nobody knows what 'failstaches' are or why they're so important. (For a parody, this is a surprisingly accurate depiction of an issue with neural networks - past a certain point, their internal workings become incomprehensible to humans. Then again, one of the primary developers of Yuge is a programmer by profession, so it figures.)
    • In Apotheosis, this is an Averted Trope - neither of your mission controls ever goes insane or evil throughout the course of the whole game, though Noah does start speaking in poetry after a few levels. In fact, one of them, Darya, sacrifices herself for the sake of humanity near the end of the game.
  • Alien Geometries:
    • In Eternal 1.2, the Marathon AI cores contain overlapping "5-D" space. This is an early forerunner of the Jjaro's reality-warping technologies, in addition to just looking cool.
    • Some of the dream levels in Rubicon, befitting their being dreams, are full of all sorts of 5-D space. "We Dream You" and "Science Stands Alone" are two good examples.
  • All the Worlds Are a Stage: In a later level of Excalibur, all three time periods are visited through a hub area.
  • Alternate Universe Fic/Continuation: Infinity heavily implies that the Security Officer is jumping between several timelines to get a Close-Enough Timeline and that the final result is not in the same universe as Marathon and Durandal. As a result, many of the fan-made scenarios play with this idea:
    • Tempus Irae and Phoenix are set after Infinity as the Security Officer and the S'pht fight in the Human-Pfhor War without Durandal. The ending of Phoenix can be read to make the scenario a missing link between Infinity and Rubicon; creator RyokoTK has confirmed that it is deliberately intended as a prequel to Rubicon. This is made even more obvious in the sequel Kindred Spirits, where the first level is literally called "Rozinante Zero" and uses the same architectural style as the Rozinante levels in Rubicon X.
    • Rubicon is set after Durandal instead of Infinity. Might be a specific case of Continuation if you accept some of the more flexible theories about what exactly happened in Infinity. The prologue added in Rubicon X, however, directly references an aftermath to Infinity, in that the members of Blake's team who got dropped off on Earth each had a different story of what happened. It then goes even further with the final terminal in that sequence, which is done in the style of the dream terminals from Infinity. That terminal ends with the words "All Roads Lead To...", calling back to "All Roads Lead to Sol", the final level of Durandal. Yeah, it's a Mind Screw sequence.
    • Eternal is set after Infinity, but diverges when S'bhuth and the rest of the S'pht go crazy before the war ends, tipping the scales in Pfhor favor. It begins and ends at the exact same moment in time thanks to Time Travel, and per Word of God is designed so that any game that is a sequel to Infinity can also be a sequel to Eternal (assuming, of course, that it does not contradict Eternal's plot).
  • Amnesiac Lover: A major part of the problem in the backstory of Eternal. Hathor and Marcus once had a relationship, but Marcus doesn't remember a thing about their time together. Understandably, Hathor doesn't take this very well. Had Marcus' memory (and thus their relationship) remained intact, Hathor might very well have been much better able to cope with her trauma and never gone through a Face–Heel Turn. An unusually tragic example, even by the standards of this trope.
  • And Now for Someone Completely Different: At one time during Rubicon you apparently dream of/take control of a dead rogue scientist who tried to betray the Mega-Corp. It's a little surreal.
    • In two levels of Operation Vengeance, you pilot a Pfhor Juggernaut.
  • Antagonist Title: Excalibur: Morgana's Revenge
  • Apocalypse How: Eternal features one in each failed timeline, frequently of galaxy-spanning proportions. Even the "successful" outcome of the game actually leads to the complete annihilation of the galaxy in that timeline; the reason it's a success, however, is that the player finds a way Outside in the final level, enabling the entire sequence of events that created that timeline to be undone.
  • Arc Number: Most scenarios follow Rule of Seven and Rule of Three to some extent. Eternal also uses five as an arc number to a lesser extent: five chapters, five colours around which most of the artwork is based, and so on.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: This is more or less what Eternal posits happened to the Jjaro. And you yourself do this at the end of "Where Giants Have Fallen." It does not, however, seem to grant you omnipotence; just an ability to manipulate time to an even greater extent than you'd already possessed. In particular, you're able to undo the entire sequence of events that led to the Galaxy-Shattering Kaboom in that level – but, notably, not the conflict between the Jjaro and the W'rkncacnter, presumably because they themselves possess the same abilities you do.
  • The Assimilator: In some cases, the strange structure of certain fan games is a result of multiple projects merging together. Rubicon is the result of two projects called Chimera and Salinger merging together. Players have observed that the first act of the game feels considerably different from the later acts, and this is the primary reason.
  • Author Avatar: Ian McConville of RED, the same Ian who developed the scenario. He lacks the obnoxious traits of many other author avatars, however.
  • Author Existence Failure: Sadly, the creator of Pfh'Joueur appears to have died of cancer. Many of the files for her scenario are no longer being hosted as a result of this. Thankfully, someone eventually released a functional Aleph One port.
  • Automatic Level: The Juggernaut launching sequence in Operation Vengeance.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Rubicon's Pfhor Plank smacks you with two: first Tycho successfully tricks Durandal and the SO into uploading their virus to the wrong ship, then the epilogue informs you that the Dangi Corp. has seized control of humanity in your absence (and presumably disposed of their own AI, Lysander, afterward, as Word of the Devs said they'd planned to). Rubicon X's Tycho Plank ends with Tycho finally slaying his brother with your assistance. It's deliberately left ambiguous whether this is a better ending than the Salinger Plank; Durandal's motives are left unclear, and the Tycho Plank leaves with all samples of Dangi's virus apparently destroyed, while the Salinger Plank ends with them in Durandal's possession. For that matter, though, the ending of the Tycho Plank obliquely suggests a Disney Death for Durandal; it's rather strongly implied that the player still retains his primal pattern and reactivates him after the events of the game. Or something. It's a bit of a Gainax Ending, honestly, particularly since it's very easy to miss the epilogue terminals that explain the outcome of the plank (you can only read them after inserting both chips).
  • Bilingual Bonus: The level title "Pfhor får lamm" from Eternal is derived from a common Swedish joke, "Far, får får får? Nej, får får lamm", meaning "Father, do sheep beget sheep? No, sheep beget lambs". "Får" is pronounced basically indistinguishably from "Pfhor".
  • Bittersweet Ending:
    • Phoenix. The Renegades have been crushed and the UESC now has the location of Pfhor Prime...but Karma/Phoenix, who was initially antagonistic but helped you out by turning on the Renegades, won't live to witness the results, due to a flaw in his architecture that essentially makes network transfer fatal. His final interaction with the Security Officer is to teleport them to the Rozinante, as thanks for assisting him.
    • Rubicon's "good" endings. The Salinger plank ends with the Achilles virus in Durandal's possession, along with all the scientists that created it. This essentially means there's a giant Chekhov's Gun that hasn't fired. Beyond that, the events reveal the treason of the Dangi Corp., which is quite wide-ranging and may permeate some of the UESC military. The Tycho plank ends with the player killing all the scientists and also seemingly betraying and destroying Durandal (though the ending suggests we somehow salvaged him from destruction and he wakes up). Tycho claims to have destroyed the Achilles samples, but it's deliberately left ambiguous whether this is the case. (It should be noted that this game's Tycho is much more benevolent and helpful than he was in Marathon 2 and Infinity, but the creators have confirmed that they deliberately left it ambiguous as to who is being truthful.) The Tycho plank also ends with all information about the Dangi Corp. completely destroyed. In all three endings (including the much worse Pfhor plank ending, in which Achilles is released and Dangi's treason actually succeeds), the Pfhor are thoroughly defeated, though the Tycho plank also notes that the Pfhor suffer centuries of famine afterwards due to the wreckage of the Chimera completely transforming the biosphere of the planet (presumably this happens in the other endings as well). It's implied that this famine affects even their descendants, who naturally bear no culpability for their ancestors' actions, and that they receive little to no outside help.
    • Insofar as Eternal possesses an ending, it's probably a case of this. In fact, it borders very heavily on being a Downer Ending, because the galaxy is destroyed in the "Where Giants Have Fallen" timeline. Marcus finds a way Outside, which allows him to undo the specific sequence of events that led to the annihilation of the galaxy in that timeline, and this is why it's not another failure timeline and the only reason it's a Bittersweet Ending. However, Durandal notes in the final level that the W'rkncacnter and Jjaro are still at war, and it's strongly implied that Marcus and Durandal will eventually need to fight both of them – which is implied to be the hardest task either have yet faced. The Hathor story also ends tragically; there's a point in the fifth chapter at which she genuinely seems to want to reform herself, but the means by which she wishes to do so would have catastrophic consequences for humanity, so the player still has to oppose her. By going Outside, Marcus essentially engineers events so she was never reawakened from stasis - probably the best outcome for her, since her life after she was reawakened was more or less a constant string of misery. (Though that's oversimplifying things a bit: the events from Eternal that occurred before the ending of Marathon 2 still affect the "success" timeline, due to the interference of Marcus and Hathor from the Eternal timeline – it is essentially all of the events after 2811 that no longer occur in the "success" timeline. Time travel is confusing.) It's for these reasons that it still comes out to a mix of Bittersweet Ending and No Ending rather than being an outright Downer Ending.
    • Apotheosis. You're able to avert the threat to humanity at the centre of the story, but your Mission Control Darya had to sacrifice herself in order to resolve it, in a segment that's quite emotionally affecting considering how much of the story has to be conveyed through text.
  • Bloodstained Glass Windows: Happens a lot in Tempus Irae. There are examples in other games as well, such as "Sanctum Sanctorum" and "Holy Wars" in Phoenix.
  • Blown Across the Room: In addition to the usual grenade/rocket methods, the Fighter staff in both Evil and Eternal is very useful for doing this to enemies, particularly if you use both functions at once. If done right, this can practically stun them into being unable to fire. It can also push them into lava or Pfhor slime - or just push them out of your way, which, if you're fighting in a crowded room full of monsters, is an easily underrated function. (This effect is significantly lessened in Eternal 1.2, however; it reduced the pushback multipliers for both the player's and the Pfhor's bolts.)
  • Body Horror: Return to Marathon is a veritable well of it, with Pfhor "science" projects that look like a hybrid of Frankenstein and Josef Mengele, and some sort of alien butterflies that reproduce in the method of Ichneumonidae. Not for the faint of heart or stomach.
  • Book-Ends: Eternal ends with "The Far Side of Nowhere" and ends with "The Near Side of Everywhere", which sees the player revisiting the area of the former level in reverse.
  • Both Order and Chaos Are Dangerous: Eternal takes this stance, and it is arguably the central theme of the entire game, given that the stage three Jjaro represent Order and the W'rkncacnter represent Chaos, and neither come off sympathetically in their conflict. The game's approach and outlook are quite comparable to Michael Moorcock's, although this is apparently somewhat coincidental, as the game's writers were not particularly familiar with Moorcock except by reputation when they were developing the main story.
  • Bottomless Pit Rescue Service: Sometimes averted. If you fall off a cliff in Phoenix, you die instantly. (Fortunately, you can usually avoid having to go near them in most of the levels where they appear.) If you fall into a pit in a certain level of Fell, you get stuck and have to reload. Eternal also featured a similar danger to the latter example at one point in the level "Unlucky Pfhor Some", but 1.2 revises this so that there's no longer a pit there.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: At one point in Phoenix a resident crazy AI shows you a series of brackets, which basically serves as a "You are on this level of this mod" info.
  • Brutal Bonus Level: Frequently, bonus levels are more difficult than the surrounding content, or at least intended to be. One possible exception is Tempus Irae's "Game of Death", which some players may consider easier than most of the game because of its regenerating ammo and permanently available 3x shield recharge (most levels in the scenario only give you one-time-only canisters at various points), plus the fact that the Pfhor can't climb out of the pit. Once you knock off the Juggernauts (admittedly, there are four of them), it's probably smooth sailing. On the other hand, "Never Satisfied" might make up for it, though that's only partially because of the combat (on this count, it doesn't help here that your weapons and ammo get stripped at the start of the level); the puzzles might also be difficult to figure out at first.
  • Call-Back and Call-Forward: While the major scenarios generally have entirely different development teams (however, several people have worked on multiple scenarios in The 'Verse), in many cases the creators went to painstaking lengths to make them mutually compatible, to the point where the expansions to the game have a largely shared mythology with very few Plot Holes. Even the architecture styles are often reminiscent of one another - the fact that the Atreides (in Phoenix) looks awfully like the Chimera (in Rubicon) is no coincidence, as confirmed by Phoenix's creator in his video commentary for the game ("Tantive IV" and the upper part of "Escape Two Thousand" are the levels where this is most obviously the case). The ending of Phoenix was also deliberately designed to explain how the player got back into Durandal's service between Infinity and Rubicon.
  • Les Collaborateurs: In Rubicon a Mega-Corp collaborated with the Pfhor with the goal to delay the Pfhor Empire's defeat in order to buy time to develop a antidote for their own Synthetic Plague.
  • Collapsing Lair: In EVIL, the Mystics' planet starts to implode after you destroy their time machine. In RED, the Big Bad's spaceship starts exploding after you kill him, and the explosions can kill you in this case.
  • Continuity Nod: Word of God states that the ending of Eternal is deliberately modelled after the ending of Marathon 2 but taken Up to Eleven. There are plenty of other continuity nods scattered throughout various scenarios for the game; in fact they're usually the rule rather than the exception. In some cases you'll see entire bits of architecture reused from the original games (this is even lampshaded by the level title "Not *this* again..." in Rubicon).
    • Eternal has a lot of other examples as well:
      • It reuses several architectural elements of Marathon 2. Beyond the most notable examples, listed below under Nostalgia Level, the tower from "Eat It, Vid Boi!" reappears in "S'pht Happens", and also used to appear in "She Is the Dark One", but was excised for 1.2 in favour of a segment of "Bob's Big Date".note 
      • The scenario also contains numerous continuity nods to itself. The AI cores in "Roots and Radicals" and "Heart of Fusion" are very similar (they were identical until 1.2), though they do not represent the same physical location.
      • Two pairs of levels actually do represent the same location, however: "Pissing on the Corporation" and "Burning Down the Corporation", and then "Bug-Eyed in Space" and "Once More Unto the Breach..." In both cases, the central locations of each level are the same, but different doors are open and closed, resulting in the player's inability to access segments that are accessible in the alternate timeline.
      • All five failure dream levels represent the same area (and are also all named after elements of Donnie Darko). Additionally, the first four success dreams represent the area visited for real in the final level of chapter 5, "Where Giants Have Fallen", but the player only has to climb the mountain in "Where Giants Have Fallen". The final success dream, "The Near Side of Everywhere", is also an example, as explained in Book-Ends.
      • 1.2 introduces another example with "Run, Coward!", which now reuses a couple of rooms from "Dread Not" for its ending. This is a subtle bit of signposting: the end of "Run, Coward!" is exactly where the player needs to go in "Dread Not" to reach the successful timeline. The idea is that the player is trying to reach the Cybernetic Junction room, but gets teleported out before being able to do so.
      • One final example introduced in 1.2 is that "S'pht'ia" and "S'pht Happens" now have numerous additional cross-references to each other, beyond the ones present in the original release.
      • There are several story-related cases of this in Eternal as well. There is a brief subplot in "Genie in a Bottle" that parallels almost exactly a subplot in "Poor Yorick" relating to a Pfhor captain's "control glands", right down to the endings of each. Additionally, in "Unlucky Pfhor Some", Leela makes an offer to the player "to escape the end of time... to become like a god outside of its control," remarking, "that's an offer I doubt you will often find." In point of fact, hers is actually the third such offer the player has received just in Eternal - Hathor and Durandal have already made similar offers.
    • There are a few architectural examples in Phoenix as well:
      • "Positive Force" is "Pushing Onwards", backwards and with enemies. "Positive Force" also provides a clue to the secret exit of "Pushing Onwards".
      • The opening part of "Swan Song" is meant to be the same structure as the opening of "Sanctum sanctorum", although the player has access to different parts of it now.
  • Cool Starship: Gekitsuchi of the Ka-co-kh series and Forever pilots a visually-distinct ship propelled by eight crystalline "feathers".
  • Crossover: Excalibur: Morgana's Revenge, although set outside the Marathon verse, has a cameo by the Pfhor in one level.
    • Tempus Irae has a hidden terminal late in the game that involves, of all things, Pinky and the Brain—and it's actually got (very mild) bearing on the "proper" story, too. (TI was mirrored on a prominent PitB site, if you're wondering.)
  • Developer's Room: One of the bonus levels in RED.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Durandal's big plan in Rubicon's Pfhor Plank is to free Tycho from the Pfhor network. The idea was to get Tycho to let his guard down and open himself to a back-stab, and for a while things go smoothly...until the SO clears out and uploads a virus to the ship that Tycho supposedly boarded, only for Tycho to reveal that he "borrowed" a different one and has escaped scot-free. Durandal's practically ripping into himself over that horrible mistake by the time he rescues the SO from the brig. Rubicon X also added the ability to upload the virus to Durandal himself as he leaves himself wide open during this moment. This unlocks the new, secret Tycho Plank of the game.
  • Direct Continuous Levels: Used quite often in mods. In most cases, this was due to limitations of the engine forcing the levels to be split up: each level could only have a max of 1024 polygons, and could get wonky if draw distances were too large or had too many objects on the map at the same time. Even with polygon limits now a lesser considerationnote , physical space considerations may still cause developers to split up levels, as that particular aspect of the engine hasn’t changed in over twenty years.note  Other times, a level is split because the individual physics of a level (like hard vacuum) apply to the entirety of a level and can't be deactivated per section of a level; in this case, a terminal may tell you it will teleport you to the pressurized section, and the game will teleport you to the next level in which you're standing in the next area.note 
    • Fell does it with Nox Quondam ⇒ The Face Below the Puddles, Vessel in the Depths ⇒ Marooned (after your ship crashes due to sabotage), and Phaedros' Eighth Guest ⇒ How the Stones Were Placed.
    • Evil has Ten Thousand Spoons ⇒ BEER WINE GUNS AMMO PICNIC SUPPLIES and Schmackle ⇒ Life's End.
    • Tempus Irae has You Got Me in a Vendetta Kind of Mood ⇒ ...evil so singularly personified and Mt. Vesuvius ⇒ Mt. Vesuvius II: Electric Boogaloo, plus Il spazio pagano ⇒ …in fin dei conti… in the sequel.
    • Rubicon has Breathing Nothing at All ⇒ Canned Air.
    • Pfh'Joueur has Ce'phf'aldea ⇒ In Deep Doo Doo and several cases of levels on the Nor'Haket.
    • Gemini Station has Gemini Station ⇒ Gemini B. Together, this level would have been ~1,500 polygons large.
    • Eternal has Let Sleeping Gods Die ⇒ She Is the Dark One and We Met Once in the Garden ⇒ Where Giants Have Fallen at a bare minimum. S'pht'ia ⇒ S'pht Happens, Pissing on the Corporation ⇒ Burning Down the Corporation, Bug-Eyed in Space ⇒ Once More Unto the Breach... and (in 1.2) Dread Not ⇒ Run, Coward! could be considered Zig-Zagged examples, since they're not sequential, but nonetheless overlap a bit (or a lot).
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Per Word of God, the portrayal of the chaotic, violent W'rkncacnter in Eternal is modelled on terrorists, and the portrayal of the borderline totalitarian Jjaro society is modelled on the American reaction to 9/11. The conclusion of the scenario is that both approaches are wrong, and that both factions have effectively taken leave of their senses.
  • Dream Tropes: Employed in Eternal and Rubicon amongst other scenarios. The story in Rubicon's dream levels may or may not be a continuation of the story in Infinity's dream levels. RED has a series of dream flashbacks towards the end of the game.
  • Drought Level of Doom: Especially common in game mods, such as "All dressed up..." and "Code 42" in EVIL. The latter is basically Acme Station on steroids. Very scarce ammo, only one 1x shield regenerator and oxygen recharger in the central hub area, and it can be a bit of a trek to get back there from the many maze-like sub-areas. At least you have the unlimited ammo Pfhor staff by this point.
  • Durandal, I Am Your Brother: In Rubicon, Durandal learns that Lysander is a "Traxus Derivative Model", the same as the three UESC Marathon A.I.s, and it's clear that he's unsettled by this revelation (though it seems to not be the only thing on his mind). How Lysander himself would feel about it is unclear, though in the Tycho Plank, it's suggested that he's aware of it on some level—he mocks Tycho as an "inferior version of [himself]" with kludges in place of anything useful.
  • Earth-Shattering Kaboom: Taken Up to Eleven with Eternal - there's actually a Galaxy-Shattering Kaboom in "Where Giants Have Fallen". The reason this isn't a failure timeline is because Marcus finds a way Outside at the end of the level, which allows him to find a way to prevent the whole sequence of events that led to the Galaxy-Shattering Kaboom from occurring in the first place.
  • Elite Mooks:
    • The Pfhor Mystics in EVIL, described by the S'pht as the "S'pht'Kr of the Pfhor".
    • In Phoenix, the Renegade S'pht are mostly elite versions of normal Pfhor, but they also employ even more elite versions beyond that; these are mostly coloured yellow, do a lot more damage than their normal variants, and have a lot more HP, and effectively serve as boss fights whenever they appear (usually at the climax of a level, just for added challenge). A white variant of the Defender also appears at the ending of the game, which is even more challenging than the yellow variants. Meanwhile, the new Mother of All Hunters fires a lot more rapidly, and the new Mother of All Cyborgs has grenade and rocket attacks that will utterly wreck your day if you're not careful. The Pfhor themselves (and their slaves) have also gotten a few upgraded versions; blue Troopers, Hunters, and Compilers (not the same as Mothers of All Hunters in the vanilla games) fire a lot more rapidly than their vanilla variants.
  • Epic Rocking: Some of the level soundtracks get pretty long.
    • From Trojan: The soundtrack for "The Arrival" takes the cake, lasting some 10:53. "Big Pig" lasts for 8:36, "Lune noire" lasts for 8:19, "No More TV Dinners" lasts for 7:31, and "Have Gun, Will Travel" lasts for 6:34. Honourable mention to "Dance the Last Waltz with Me", which just barely misses the cutoff at 5:52.
    • From version 3.0 of Excalibur: Morgana's Revenge, the soundtrack for "Like a GAT Out of Hell" runs for 7:15, the soundtrack for "A River Runs Through It" lasts for 6:15, and "Morgana's Lament Remix" lasts for 6:05. "Wishing (Garageband Remix)" and the soundtrack for "The Keep" just barely miss the cutoff at 5:53 and 5:50, respectively.
    • From Phoenix, "Deadlock" is the longest track at 7:51, but "Intuit256" is literally just a second behind it. "Misuse" at 6:51, "Lightless Dawn" at 6:20, and "Animosity" at 6:00 also qualify.
  • Evil vs. Evil: The conflict between the W'rkncacnter and the Jjaro in Eternal eventually boils down to this. The W'rkncacnter are Chaotic Evil and the Jjaro are Lawful Evil, with Jjaro society surrendering its liberties and turning totalitarian in response to what essentially qualify as terrorist attacks from the W'rkncacnter. Durandal explicitly says in the final terminal of the game that it will be the player's task to find a middle ground that avoids the excesses of either side, which eventually come to mirror each other in their struggle.
  • Fan Sequel: Generally, Rubicon is most commonly considered the closest thing to an actual sequel to the original Trilogy, with Eternal probably second most frequently cited as such. Most of the other scenarios go their own direction from the Trilogy; some games have more to do with the originals than others. For instance, EVIL and Red are only tangentially related to the events of the originals at all. However, Eternal and Tempus Irae are more directly related to the conclusion of either Durandal or Infinity, and Phoenix takes place between the Trilogy and Rubicon.
    • Incidentally, some of these fan sequels themselves get sequels (or prequels), some of which are still being developed to this day; one of the Eternal devs mentions working on a planned sequel to both Eternal and Rubicon in the final Rampancy.net Let's Play video. (Rubicon also has Phoenix as a direct prequel and Squadron as another direct sequel... and that's not all.)
  • Flesh Versus Steel: In RED the player is caught up in a conflict between the Metalloids and the Organics before eventually becoming co-opted by the Organics.
  • Foreign Language Title: Following the examples of the original games, a lot of level titles and a few scenario titles (Tempus Irae, Latin for Time of Wrath, being the most prominent of these). They are explained below under Gratuitous Foreign Language and its child tropes.
  • Framing Device: The Classified Nineteen is presented as a virtual reality historical record, jumping perspectives between main character Dr. Kahn Zhang and his rival, cyborg merc George Nohe aka "Shek". Reality starts breaking down later in the scenario, indicating that these may also be dream levels.
  • Gainax Ending:
    • The final level of Pfh'Joueur involves rescuing people who were abducted all the way back in 2000; neither Durandal nor Pfh'Joueur offer much explanation beyond "whaddya know, the legends were true". It's not quite totally divorced from the plot as one of the major themes is being taken far away from home, the ships that appear in various terminals (and as scenery objects in several levels) are blatantly UFOs, and there are statues in several levels that have the facial structure one would expect from The Greys, but still...
    • Rubicon X's Tycho Plank, mostly because of the epilogue. The final level with combat wraps things up in a neatly comprehensible fashion: Lysander, Durandal, and all the scientists that worked on the Achilles virus are dead, and all knowledge of it is presumably erased. However, the epilogue level, "Lazarus ex machina", is a doozy. It's named after a man resurrected by Jesus in the Bible, plus the trope Deus ex Machina, meaning "God out of the machine". There's a vague text from (presumably) Thoth indicating the player has a final thing left to do. We pick up two chips, insert them into computer banks, and the last terminal shows Durandal waking up. It's very easy to miss the terminals that provide humanity's historical record of the outcome of the Tycho plank - you have to go back to earlier terminals after inserting the chips. Even so, the historical record in this timeline is quite a bit spottier. We have explanations for some of the reasons behind this, but not all of them.
    • Tempus Irae: The Lost Levels has a much looser narrative than the original scenario (it's not even clear if the player is controlling the same character throughout all of the levels), but it definitely leaves the final fates of S'bhuth and the player character in particular unclear - which, given that they're probably the two most important characters in The Lost Levels (even more than Leonardo da Vinci), is saying quite a bit.
  • Genre Shift: RED moves away from the Trilogy's hard sci-fi and into supernatural horror.
  • Ghost Ship: The virus-infested Pfhor ship in RED, and the Marathon itself in Return to Marathon.
  • Going Critical/Timed Mission: In Rubicon a downed spaceship's reactor is about to explode. Whatever you stop it or not determines which path of the plot (called planks in this mod) you take.
  • Gone Horribly Right: In Rubicon, the Dangi Corp inflicted the same sort of abuse on their head research AI, Lysander, that Strauss did on Durandal, so that he would create the sort of virus they needed for their big gambit. He made that virus, all right...to be incurable.
  • God and Satan Are Both Jerks: Eternal uses the "Law and Chaos Are Both Jerks" variant (comparable to Michael Moorcock's approach, particularly given the "Kill Your Television" terminal's apparent inspiration by Moorcock's work, and the similarities of Moorcock's and Eternal's political outlooks) with its depictions of, respectively, the Stage Three Jjaro and the W'rkncacnter, who are essentially the setting's closest equivalent to gods - indeed, the game explicitly compares both to gods because of their power. The Jjaro are so focused on their conflict with the W'rkncacnter - and especially on maintaining the integrity of a timeline that they themselves created - that they are incapable of recognising that they literally possess the power to create an entirely new dimension that completely fulfils their desires without any need to impose their agenda on everyone else. The W'rkncacnter are shown to be Not So Different - Hathor's desire for revenge against humanity, rooted in deep-seated traumas that she has in no way addressed, is the clearest depiction that they have the same blindnesses that the Jjaro have. (Comments from the developers indicate that the W'rkncacnter are simply insane Jjaro who haven't treated their madness, and that Hathor literally becomes a W'rkncacnter by the end of the game.) The two are essentially depicted as Lawful Evil and Chaotic Evil, and their conflict would literally end up destroying the galaxy without the player's intervention. Mission Control Durandal, in the game's final terminal, literally calls both approaches "suicidal" before suggesting that imposing one's desires on others through force is ethically objectionable, also implying that a free society requires a balance between order/law and chaos. Incidentally, earlier Jjaro society was idyllic and benevolent, and was formed primarily by cyborg descendants of humans. Also, much of this background mythology was planned to tie in with the story of Halo before Bungie changed the latter to remove its explicit connections to Marathon.
  • Gratuitous Latin: Following the example of the original trilogy, some scenarios employ this a lot. See the series' Gratuitous Latin page for more on this.
  • Green Aesop: In Eternal, it's possible to interpret the galaxy-spanning catastrophe caused by the Jjaro's rigid insistence upon keeping history intact as a metaphor for the planet-spanning catastrophe currently being caused by humanity's inaction on climate change. This was not a conscious intention on the creators' part, but it is a good example of the story's applicability.
  • Green-Skinned Space Babe: The Tempus Irae: The Lost Levels net map "/dev/null" has the blue-skinned variant. Please try not to hurt them.
  • Grey Goo: The Metalloids in RED are assembled by nanobots from scavenged fragments of machinery.
  • Hazmat Suit: The Cleanroom-BoBs in Rubicon. This is one of the earliest signs that the Dangi Corp. is Obviously Evil.
  • Heel–Face Turn: To some extent, Tycho in Rubicon X. He demonstrates a surprising concern for humanity's well-being, despite his protests that he doesn't particularly care what humans do to each other (and especially his actions in the Pfhor Plank); his objectives seemingly result in the complete destruction of a lethal virus that would be fatal to much of humanity. He's still an Anti-Hero at best, since he has the player kill everyone who worked on Achilles. However, an argument can be made that this was for the good of humanity as a whole (though not the good of those specific scientists), since they possessed knowledge of an immensely powerful biological weapon that could be used against humanity. We have only two pieces of evidence that the virus is destroyed: Tycho says he destroys the sample we give him, and the epilogue shows that humanity has no knowledge whatsoever of what the Dangi Corp. was working on at the Salinger station. This isn't definitive proof that he is being truthful, however - according to the creators themselves, it's deliberately left ambiguous who's telling the truth about any of the events in the game. We should also note that Tycho still has it out for Durandal, and you "kill" him in the level "Break the Sword", but the epilogue, "Lazarus ex machina", suggests that Durandal's demise was, as usual, not as final as Tycho suspected. It's a lot fuzzier in original-flavour Rubicon which didn't have the above-described plank to offset Tycho committing cold-blooded murder in order to draw Durandal out.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: The Jjaro in Eternal have become a case of this, elaborated further under Does This Remind You of Anything? and Not So Different.
  • Hot Coffee Minigame: Tempus Irae had a carefully hidden level that was accessible once the final objective of the game had been completed. Punching a hidden switch and performing some parkour to the teleporter brought the player to the secret level, which contained a lot more parkour segments and even more hidden puzzles to progress forward from the shoreline to the palace's terrace. And inside it? Nude human women frolicking around a pool. Keep in mind, this mod was released in 1997 and, as a Mac-only title at the time, may very well have been the first of this trope on that operating system. You can watch it all unfold here.note 
  • Hub Level: Used in several mods - the repositories in Tempus Irae, the titular station in Erodrome(where you could actually backtrack to previous areas), the levels on the various A.I.s' ships in Rubicon, the levels on the Nor'Haket in Pfh'Joueur, etc.
  • Hybrid Monster: S'pht'Wr in Rubicon, the hybrid of Pfhor and S'pht that were created to replace the now less loyal S'pht compilers.
    • The player character becomes a hybrid monster in RED.
    • The Pfhor VacBOBs and Cyborg BOBs in Return to Marathon.
  • Immune to Bullets: One level of Courier 11 has you up against hostile BOBs that are immune to projectile attacks, including the Super Prototype weapon you just acquired.
  • Information Wants to Be Free: Late in Rubicon, Lysander attempts to demoralize the Security Officer this way, claiming that the knowledge of how to recreate the Achilles virus won't just go away even if the data is wiped; he specifically accuses Durandal, one of the few people (well, OK, AIs) who will retain this information, of lacking the restraint to not put it to use. It's precisely for this reason that it's ambiguous as to whether the Tycho Plank or the Salinger Plank has the more desirable ending.
  • Just a Machine: In Rubicon, Lysander bitterly laments to the Security Officer that he's been regarded as nothing but a tool for his entire life.
  • King Mook: The "bosses" in Excalibur are upgraded Mooks: Mauvair=Sorcerer, Argantan=Cleric, Mordred=Black Knight.
  • Laser Blade:
    • The Jjaro lightsaber in Eternal. In addition to one-hit killing almost everything, they are one of the two weapons able to kill the otherwise invincible Phantasms imported from Pathways into Darkness, with the Wave-Motion Gun being the other one.
      • As of 1.2, the Banshees (which replaced the Phantasms) are vulnerable to the staff, fusion guns, and napalm cannon as well, but the two Jjaro weapons remain the most effective ways of killing them by far.
    • Phoenix has one as well, and although it's not as powerful as the Eternal saber, it does allow you to use your extra Fusion ammo and become invincible for a bit.
    • Excalibur: Morgana's Revenge (in the Aleph One edition) lets the player have one for a few of the future levels where the player doesn't have access to Excalibur. It's very powerful, albeit lacking the charged ranged secondary attack of the titular Excalibur.
  • Leitmotif: James Bisset's soundtrack work for Excalibur: Morgana's Revenge is full of them.
  • Let's Play: As with the original trilogy, several third-party mods got Volunteers series (see the Let's Play entry above for the main trilogy above) on the Story forums, including Rubicon and Eternal.
    • The Rampancy.net Let’s Play of Eternal had the some of the mod’s developers drop in for several episodes. The final episode features the three primary mapmakers for 1.2 playing and providing commentary throughout, making it a sort of director’s commentary. (Incidentally, one of the developers refers to this very website’s “Self-Demonstrating Article” page at one point during the stream of the final level.)
  • Loads and Loads of Loading: Games that use a lot of high-resolution textures can take a long time to load everything at the maximum settings. Eternal is guilty enough of this that some of the creators have made self-deprecating jokes around the idea that the game's name actually refers to its loading screen.
  • Loudness War: Most of the scenarios for the original games have the same issue as the original games did, where the audio will clip whenever the player is in the middle of a battle. (Aleph One removes this issue, except in its film exports.) Some of the sound effects are also clipped; in the case of Rubicon's "maser firing" sound effect, it's clear that this was intentional so that the sound would distort. Several of the game soundtracks also have had problems with this in various releases, but it is intentionally averted by Eternal 1.2, whose audio was remastered by one of its developers to avert this and other audio problems from earlier releases. In addition to being bundled with the game, it's on YouTube here (there's also a download link to higher-quality audio in the video description). It's DR12 overall, with tracks ranging from DR9 ("Landing") to DR16 ("Chomber" and "Flippant"). Version 1.2.1, found on the development page, adds remastered versions of the sound effects which mitigate the clipping distortion of the sounds that had it (by the same developer responsible for remastering the Infinity sounds, found under the Loudness War entry for the main trilogy). The 2020 re-release of Tempus Irae will also incorporate remastered sounds and theme music (again by the same developer, and again in large part for the purpose of mitigating clipping distortion).
  • Malevolent Architecture/No OSHA Compliance: Lampshaded in the Phoenix level "Escape Two Thousand", where an A'Khr directive tells people not to complain about this because war demands sacrifices from everyone. The terminal even contains a reference to the "Occupational Safety Hierarchy of A'khr".
  • Marathon Level: Well, apart from the obvious pun in that they are all levels for Marathon fan games, a few of the levels in game mods are really long. Completion time can very widely depending upon difficulty level and play style (e.g., some of these levels can be done very quickly even on Total Carnage with speedrun strategies, but can take a long time if you want to clear out all of the enemies on Total Carnage), but some examples include:
    • Evil: "All Dressed Up, and No Place to Go", "Mr. Bill Meets Gumby", "We Be Ground Pounders", "Parathymeter", "For This I Went to College?"
    • Tempus Irae: "Wiping Away the Dirt & Glue", "Polygonium opus", "Sordidae, turpes et faetidae", "Brain Damage", "Towel Boy", "Gauntlet", "The Revealing Science of God", "Theatre of Pain", "Never Satisfied", "You Gotta Sin to Get Saved", "Hang to Dry", "Game of Death", "You Got Me in a Vendetta Kinda Mood", "...Evil So Singularly Personified", "Mt. Vesuvius", "I Can Feel It"
      • The Lost Levels: "Prison Sex", "This Is the First Day", "I Do Not Want This", "La fine di innocenza", "From Now We Go On", "Lather, Rinse, Repeat", "Il spazio pagano"
    • Rubicon: "Five Finger Discount" (especially likely the first time - it's a really disorienting level even by Rubicon standards), "Molten Dihydrogen Oxide", "Frog Blasting", "Blasted Frogs", "Bump and Grind", "This Hurts Less Than... Uhh...", "Blasting Cherries", "Blasted Vent Cores", "The Gators of NY", "The Exit Door Leads In", "Hell Pfhor You", "Not *This* Again...", "Sucking Cherries", "Drinking Vitriol", "Bob Is Everywhere!"
    • Eternal: "Unwired", "Hysterical Womb", "Killing the Giants as They Sleep", "The Incredible Hulk", "Genie in a Bottle"
  • Mecha-Mooks: Simulacrums make an unwelcome appearance in one of Rubicon's dream levels. They foreshadow the even-deadlier Autonomous Military Dangi Drones that you must contend with in the penultimate levels of the Salinger and Tycho Planks.
  • Mega-Corp: Dangi in Rubicon.
  • Mêlée à Trois: RED has the player vs. the Organics vs. the Metalloids, Fell has the player vs. normal Pfhor vs. zombie Pfhor, and Phoenix has the player vs. Pfhor vs. the Renegade S'pht.
  • Mental Fusion: Leela and S'bhuth in Eternal, Copy!Tycho and Copy!Security Officer in Tempus Irae.
    • In Pfh'Joueur, the title character fuses with an alien AI, Tal'sen, and in the process is alleviated of his Rampancy.
  • Mind Screw:
    • Eternal and Rubicon get this way sometimes. Probably not to the extent that Infinity does, but still.
      • According to the creators, Rubicon was deliberately written with the intention of making the player question who was even telling the truth. The scenario is full of Unreliable Expositors; we can't really take anyone's word for anything, including Durandal's. Indeed, this is reflected in the tagline for the game, "Truth Is the First Casualty of War", and in fact, it's lampshaded pretty early in the game.note 
      "How are we feeling today? Drowsy, manipulated and confused? Good. You should be used to that by now."
      Durandal, "Rozinante I"
      • The Tycho Plank has a particular moment in an otherwise straightforward route. The final clone that Tycho sends the Security Officer after seems to be the holder of Tycho's memories from the Marathon, and speaks as if he's the original. The real Tycho doesn't offer much comment.
    • The original Tempus Irae is fairly straightforward on a narrative level, even keeping in mind the time travel elements, but trying to make sense of Tempus Irae: The Lost Levels may induce one as well.
    • The scenario Spacial Outpouring seems to be a deliberate attempt to invoke this trope on a game-wide level. It's virtually an LSD trip in video game form at times.
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal:
    • Rubicon X has a moment in which Durandal leaves himself wide open to receive a crippling virus chip that is meant for another AI. Doing this will take players to the secret Tycho Plank of the game. Durandal is the player's buddy throughout the series, but boy, what an abusive buddy...
    • In the same game, Lysander's mistreatment by scientists is what drives him to betray humans by creating a virus that is (he claims) entirely incurable.
  • Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: In The Classified 19, it is heavily suggested that Zhang is planning something that will, at best, have a low chance of survival for himself and his crew. It's also learned near the end of the first chapter that he murdered a higher-up, one Dr. Egrham, by setting fire to the lab; this act also left Shek with burns so severe that, without cybernetic intervention, he could have died as well. Whether or not this was in self-defense depends on whether you believe Zhang or Shek.
  • Multiple Endings:
    • Rubicon has two and Rubicon X has three, based on what plot path the player takes. The Pfhor plank is undoubtedly the worst: humanity gets overrun with the virus and the Dangi board of directors seize control. The Salinger plank is somewhat better: Dangi's Plan is discovered and Lysander is destroyed, though Durandal appears to maintain the knowledge of how to produce the virus as well as the scientists who were performing research on it. Rubicon X adds a hidden Tycho plank, which seems to be the best for humanity as a whole, albeit in a severely Black-and-Grey Morality manner: once again, Dangi is exposed and Lysander is destroyed, plus the virus appears to be completely destroyed, as well as any knowledge of how to produce it thanks to the eradication of any surviving scientists who worked with it. However, in the last of these the player also destroys Durandal, which many players may regard as regrettable, but the ending level, "Lazarus ex machina" (translating as "Lazarus from the Machine" and referring to a man resurrected by Jesus as well as the concept of Deus ex Machina, or "God from the Machine"), also strongly implies we maintain Durandal's primal pattern and ultimately reactivate him. In Rubicon, each ending is the actual end of the game.
    • Technically, there are six for Eternal, though each of the "bad" endings teleports you to back to the level where you can set things right again after you see what went wrong. And, in fact, so does the "good" ending: it takes you right back to the very end of "Aye Mak Sicur" in Infinity, but with the player and Durandal-Thoth now armed with knowledge that will hopefully enable them to prevent the entire sequence of events that led to Eternal's plot from occurring.
    • The somewhat obscure scenario Gemini Station has two. It may have been the first Marathon scenario to do this, unless an even more obscure one did so sooner. Gemini Station takes yet another approach from the other two in that the bad ending places the player into an Unwinnable situation and forces a suicide. However, the game disallows saving after the divergence (there isn't a very long period before the forced suicide), so you'll just end up at the point where you can set things right.
    • Fell 2.0 has about five or six.
  • Musical Pastiche: The track "Animosity" from the Marathon Phoenix soundtrack (currently only used on the level "Roquefortress", although older releases also used it for "Escape Two Thousand") is inspired by Vangelis' Blade Runner soundtrack.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!:
    • In Rubicon you're tricked into helping a rampant AI take control from the stable one.
    • Basically all of the failure branches of Eternal wind up this way - something you did or failed to do winds up having catastrophic consequences.
  • Nintendo Hard: Some of the scenarios get this way.
    • Red is often regarded as the most difficult of the major total conversions, in addition to being pants-wettingly scary.
    • Phoenix is also extremely difficult (you will probably have to decrease your usual difficulty setting by at least one level for it to be at all winnable at your current skill level), although it has a pretty erratic difficulty curve at first. It really starts getting difficult when the levels stop giving you fixed recharge points and only give you powerups, and it doesn't really let up at any point after that. (Nearly all the levels of Tempus Irae on Earth have the same mechanic, but they are nowhere near as difficult, mostly owing to the monster physics changes in Phoenix, as well as the Zerg Rush nature of enemy attacks).
      • The creator of Phoenix, by his own admission, didn't take the ammo limits into account when making the game, because he only tested the game on Total Carnage, which doesn't have them. The intention was for there to always be enough weapons and ammo to clear out levels on Total Carnage, even from a pistol start, but due to the ammo limits, this may not always be the case on other difficulty settings, which weren't tested much, if at all. As a result, players may actually find Phoenix to be easier on Total Carnage than it is on Major Damage or even on Normal.note 
    • Trojan also has a reputation of being very difficult.
  • No Ending: Eternal, in a way. The Hathor story is more or less resolved, but the Jjaro and W'rkncacnter conflict is very much not. Durandal explicitly says this in his final terminal of the game.
    • In another way, this also applies to tracks that loop in-game. A few examples are "Dice" and "Forcemark" from Phoenix and "Illusions" and "Iron Gates" from Eternal.
  • Nostalgia Level:
    • "Not *this* again..." in Rubicon, based off of "Pfhor Your Eyes Only" and "Sorry Don't Make It So". Lampshaded by the title. (Note that there are two completely different versions of this level, depending upon which version of Rubicon you've got - the level was completely overhauled for the Rubicon X re-release, but kept the same name.)
    • "S'pht'ia" (based off of "Eat It, Vid Boi!" and "The Hard Stuff Rules..."), "Let Sleeping Gods Die" (based off of "Six Thousand Feet Under"), and "Flight of Icarus"note  (based off of "My Own Private Thermopylae") in Eternal. Additionally, the most recent revision of "She Is the Dark One" features sewage with the same kind of extreme tides you see in "Bob's Big Date" and a segment of the level as a sort of easter egg. Justified because you are two thousand years in the past of Lh'owon.
    • Phoenix has a secret level based off of the first level from Doom 2, of all things.
    • Tempus Irae: The Lost Levels has a level based off of the map "The Dismal Oubliette" from Quake. Even the physics are changed to make the level more Quake-like.
      • The Tempus Irae net map "Marathon Man" is a mix of this and a video game equivalent of In the Style of.... It's a FPS adaptation of the maze from Pac-Man. This does result in a possible bit of Fridge Logic since it uses the S'pht compilers as stand-ins for the ghosts due to their physical similarity, but the compilers are friendly to humanity in the solo scenario. Then again, there's a lot of other fridge logic to net maps, so it's probably best not to think about it too much.
    • Frigidman's multiplayer map B'rak Station was turned into a solo level in Siege of Nor'Korh, the predecessor to EVIL.
    • The first part of "Schmackle" in EVIL is based on "Blaspheme Quarantine".
    • Return to Marathon was basically a Nostalgia Scenario, in addition to being absolutely terrifying. Too bad it was never finished.
    • Depending on which the player played first, Apotheosis and Eternal have another example with "Eve of Orbit" and "Eat S'pht and Die", the former of which is an expanded version of the latter. This is because the author of the level reworked it and submitted it to Apotheosis while Eternal was stagnating. The creators of Apotheosis have suggested that a future re-release of the game may introduce another level to replace it, which means that Eternal 1.3 may also incorporate the expansions from "Eve of Orbit".
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Return to Marathon is probably as scary for what it doesn't show as for what actually makes it onscreen, and there are some fairly large portions of the game that don't have any enemies. Instead, you're just left with atmosphere and sinister noises, and frankly, it's terrifying.
  • Not So Different: The W'rkncacnter and Jjaro in Eternal, in addition to being literally the same species (human, mostly, or at least descendants of humans - it's complicated), both attempt to impose control over others through violence; the only significant difference between them, in fact, is that the Jjaro have a veneer of legitimacy through governmental authority, but the scenario ultimately concludes that this is not important, and that both approaches are not merely wrong but suicidal. In fact, prolonged warfare by beings of such power ultimately leads to the destruction of the entire galaxy, and the only reason "Where Giants Have Fallen" is the "success" timeline is that the player finds a way Outside to prevent the entire sequence of events from occurring.
    • Another way they are extremely similar is that both factions are so fixated on exercising their power over our reality that it doesn't occur to them that after they have passed Outside, they literally have their power to create their own realities. They are so preoccupied with making this reality conform exactly to their wishes that the full extent of their power either doesn't occur to them, or simply doesn't matter to them. Hathor is a good example of this, shown in how fixated she is on revenge; she knows she can't use time travel to undo the traumatic events in her past, but has become so fixated on revenge that her pursuit of it is literally the only thing she cares about using her powers for, and simply keeps travelling from one region to another in an attempt to get it. Although this is not explicitly stated in the game, she literally becomes a W'rkncacnter late in the game.
  • No Warping Zone: The first area in Siege of Nor'Korh is protected by an energy shield that prevents teleportation from outside, so the ammo you start with is all you get, until you find the hidden supplies of stolen ammo, and later, deactivate the shield.
  • Older and Wiser: post-Infinity Durandal in Eternal, a lot more humble and benevolent than his past sarcastic jerkass self.
  • Phlebotinum Rebel:
    • At one point in the RED Game Mod, the protagonist is captured by the Big Bad and mutated into a techno-organic being, aka the Reaver, to do his evil bidding, but turns against him shortly after. You gain twice the speed, unlimited ammo, and many weird but powerful weapons.
    • In EVIL, the protagonist is turned into an AI against his will to help with the war effort, because he is considered least likely to go Rampant. He goes Rampant anyway and steals a ship with the goal of killing Durandal, Leela and Tycho.
  • Poison-and-Cure Gambit: The Plan of Dangi Corporation in Rubicon.
  • Prequel: Phoenix is a prequel to Rubicon, despite not being made by the same developers. The short sequel Kindred Spirits clears up any doubt on this count, with the name and appearance of the first level, "Rozinante Zero", pretty much giving it away. The developer has explicitly confirmed that this is intentional.
  • Premature Encapsulation: A level entitled "Lather, Rinse, Repeat" was removed from the original Tempus Irae, necessitating its replacement with a new level. This level was entitled "Hang to Dry" as a sequel to the original name (it's actually a double pun, since there are several gallows in the level). Despite this, "Lather, Rinse, Repeat" was eventually released in Tempus Irae II: The Lost Levels.
  • Press X to Die: In the last normal level of Rubicon X's Tycho Plank, there's a terminal right by the entrance to the final area. You might want to avoid reading it until you've finished everything that needs to be done there...
  • Proud Warrior Race: The Renegade S'pht in Phoenix. Of course, like the local mad AI says, when an entire culture revolves around defeating the foes that are currently beating them up left and right (with the help of the Security Officer, obviously), they really don't take it well, at all.
  • Punny Name: The name "Marcus Jones" in Eternal is derived, per Word of God, from "Mjolnir Mark IV cyborg". ("Jones" comes from a message addressed to "Security Officer Jones" in the level "You're Wormfood, Dude", which may or may not be addressed to the player.)
  • Reactor Boss: The level "Break the Sword" in Rubicon X. May be a Call-Back to the levels "Begging for Mercy Makes Me Angry!" from Durandal and "Hang Brain" from Infinity;, both of which have exactly the same mission: destroying Durandal. However, unlike the two previous levels, "Break the Sword" actually is the final action sequence of the game (unless you count the secret level).
    • Likewise for "How Big's Your Can?", the finale of RED.
  • Real Is Brown: The level "Jagermeister's Nightmare" in Marathon RED.
    • Also "The Face of Modern Gaming" in Phoenix, whose name serves as something of a jab at the prevalence of this trope in modern games, but it manages to be one of the most stylish and best looking levels in Phoenix anyway, despite being almost entirely grey. The skilled use of shading and contrast probably helps a lot.
  • Recycled Soundtrack: Excalibur: Morgana's Revenge has featured a few examples throughout its several releases. One of the pieces is based on "O Fortuna" from Carl Orff's setting of the Carmina Burana; the soundtrack for the Aleph One version of "Over the River and Through the Woods" is based on "Listen to the Cries of the Planet" from Final Fantasy VII. There are several others as well.
  • Remixed Level: Return to Marathon is made mostly of these.
  • Restraining Bolt: In Rubicon, it's suggested that most AIs have built-in safeguards against "Calix Temporum Syndrome", a constant rounding-up of allocated memory that's the earliest symptom of rampancy. The amount of effort Haller has to expend to shut his off suggests that these things are extremely painful to remove. Near the end of the Salinger Plank, it's revealed (via an out-of-the-way terminal) that Lysander had his own restraining bolt put on him—albeit, this one seems designed to prolong his rampancy (and his torment) for as long as he's useful to the Dangi Corp.
  • Revenge: Most of Rubicon's Pfhor Plank centers around this. While Durandal tries to frame his plan to murder "this Tycho clone" as simply another way to aid humanity in the UESC-Pfhor War, it quickly becomes apparent that this is Durandal's personal crusade, with the implication that he knew that this was the real Tycho all along and couldn't admit it. Unfortunately, Durandal not only makes a critical mistake in his anger and implicit trauma, but his focus on revenge to the exclusion of everything else allows the Dangi Corp. to carry out their own machinations unhindered. Furthermore, as Rubicon X makes imminently plain, Tycho has undergone a bit of a Heel–Face Turn, at least as far as humanity is concerned.
    • Hathor in Eternal is obsessed with getting this in our specific reality, to the point where it completely blinds her to the fact that, once she has travelled Outside, she can simply create an entirely new reality that conforms entirely to her wishes. Instead she just keeps time-travelling to different points in this reality attempting to get it, but the player always ends up thwarting her.
  • Rise to the Challenge:
    • In the Tempus Irae level "Mt. Vesuvius II: Electric Boogaloo'', you have to escape a volcanic crater that's flooding with lava.
    • The player also must outrun rising goo after starting a Pfhor ship's self-destruct sequence in the aptly named Eternal level "This Message Will Self-Destruct".
  • Rule of Seven: Taken to ridiculous extents in Eternal, as a deliberate Shout-Out to the number's prevalence in the original trilogy. You start out with seven packs of fusion ammo, the maximum of any ammo type you can carry below Total Carnage is 49 (7 x 7), the levels in the Jjaro chapter give you seven zero-point modules each, and so on. Most other scenarios incorporate this to at least a certain amount as well (for example, the opening level of Pfh'Joueur is called "Seven Times Seven").
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Poor, poor Charlie from Rubicon. He's already in bad shape when the SO meets him, and then he's murdered—which the player doesn't discover until much later.
  • Scenery Porn:
    • Tempus Irae, which takes place in Renaissance Italy, features breathtaking (for the time) architecture as well as digitized reproductions of Leonardo's paintings. And in a secret level, actual porn. Some levels in its sequel The Lost Levels also definitely qualify, especially "From Now We Go On", "Epicus Doomicus Metallicus", and "Lather, Rinse, Repeat".
    • The main creator of Phoenix, RyokoTK, has a degree in architecture, and it shows. It is one of the most visually impressive scenarios created in the engine to date, despite not yet having any hi-res graphics (a future re-release with HD versions of the textures and monsters has not been ruled out).
    • Eternal, Excalibur: Morgana's Revenge, and Rubicon have their moments as well. Especially in the X releases.
    • Blauwe Vingers (Blue Fingers in Dutch). Seriously, just look at it. It's astonishing that it was created on top of a game engine that mostly dates back to 1995. (Rough English translation here, which you will need to complete the game if you don't speak Dutch.)
  • Secret Level: Evil, Tempus Irae, Pfh'Joueur, Phoenix, and Rubicon all have secret levels. Some of them are set in-universe, and others are basically bonus levels not unlike the Vidmaster challenges from the original trilogy.
  • Sequel Difficulty Spike:
    • Of a sort, and probably not really intentional. Rubicon X apparently wasn't really tested much on difficulties beyond Normal, with the result that the levels that only appear in Rubicon X get really hard on Major Damage or Total Carnage.
    • Tempus Irae II: The Lost Levels is generally considered quite a bit harder than the original Tempus Irae. Fitting, given its namesake.
  • Sequel Hook: It's not clear whether the developers of some of these scenarios explicitly intended for sequels to be made, but there is certainly room for them:
    • The Salinger plank of Rubicon ends with the Chekhov's Gun of the Achilles virus not fired: it's seemingly in Durandal's possession, as are the Dangi scientists that worked on it. Tycho and Lysander both speculate that Information Wants to Be Free. The Pfhor and Tycho planks are less open to sequels, since the gun is already fired in the ending of the Pfhor plank, making it the unambiguous "bad" ending, and in the Tycho plank, you kill all the scientists, and Tycho claims to have destroyed the virus, so if he's telling the truth, then the gun has been completely destroyed.
    • Eternal ends with Durandal explicitly stating that the conflict depicted in the scenario hasn't been resolved. Word of God also states that Eternal was explicitly written so that "the several possible bittersweet endings to Rubicon tie in nicely with the sort of doom forewarned of in Eternal's epilogue."
  • Sequence Breaking: Eternal, despite being probably the longest fan scenario to complete normally, could actually be completed in roughly eighteen minutes on Kindergarten until 1.2, made possible by glitching through a door on "To Sleep, Perchance to Dream" beyond which there was a teleport to the last level. As a result, it was only necessary to play nine levels of the game. This skip is removed in 1.2, but remains intact in 1.1 and early development releases of 1.2 (up through the first few betas).
  • Set Right What Once Was Wrong: The premise of the Marathon: Eternal Game Mod. Multiple times.
  • Shout-Out: See the franchise page.
  • Skewed Priorities: Both the Jjaro and the W'rkncacnter, and Hathor, in Eternal. Essentially, all of them, having travelled Outside, literally have the power to create dimensions that conform entirely to their own desires, but they care so much about inflicting their plans on this specific dimension that it never occurs to them to do so. Their desire to exert control on others in various forms has essentially blinded them to the reality that their conflict is entirely unnecessary.
  • Something Completely Different: Almost every Yuge level follows a specific pattern: It's created using procedural generation from any number of "Yugeparts" put together by human creators, and the player needs to collect a specific number of "failstaches" in order to complete the level mission. One set of monsters is allied with the player, and the level title is a number followed by two words created by a Markov chain generator. The opening terminal is a message from another character in the game (often, but not always, the player's Mission Control), and the last terminal is a message from Olmec consisting of a Markov chain generated from various forum input.note  There are two levels that provide exceptions to each of these conceits:
    • "27 - false eyelash". There are no failstaches; the level is instead an extermination mission. The opening and closing terminal are both message from Doctor Epstein, and the level is not put together from Yugeparts, but instead used a different form of procedural generation that put together a random assortment of squares into a rather mesmerising geometric pattern. (It was a variant of the procedural generation used to create the "YugePax" net maps that were the immediate predecessor to Yuge itself.) The player also doesn't have any allies on this level, and it's by far the shortest level in the game.
    • "enter the DOUCHE" - level #30, the final level in the game. The level was entirely constructed by Windbreaker, and there are again no failstaches to collect; the level doesn't actually have a set mission, but to reach the final terminal, the player is required to defeat DOUCHEMAN. The level name also lacks the preceding numeral found in every other level name, and it also contains the only capital letters to appear in any Yuge level name. It's also a lot harder than the preceding levels. Finally, while the closing terminal is still a message from Olmec, this one actually has a coherent conclusion: Stop camping.
  • Spider Tank: A few of these appear in Marathon: RED, though they play a minor role at best. Ian McConville says on the page for the mod that he was inspired to make them after watching Ghost in the Shell and just wanted an excuse to throw them in there.
  • Stable Time Loop: The plot of Eternal, as explained by the project director (actually using the trope name verbatim) here (spoilers, obviously). Unlike many examples of this trope, however, this isn't because the nature of time travel in Eternal's universe makes it impossible to change the outcome of events; rather there are extremely powerful forces actively working to ensure that history doesn't change.
  • Stealth Pun: On some of the Tempus Irae levels such as "Gates of Delirium" and "Downward Spiral", pressing tab while looking at a crucifix will save your game. Because Jesus saves.
  • Stupidity Is the Only Option: In one level early in Rubicon's Salinger Plank, the exit terminal is located in an active teleport bay. Who do you think is really waiting for you on the other side: your partner who only recently cracked the Dangi Corp's security codes, or the resident Mad Scientist whose wrath you just incurred and who controls the entire station?
  • Stylistic Suck: Yuge's textures, if they can be described as such, though this was something of a product of pragmatism on the part of the developers. The scenario was procedurally generated from about two or three hundred parts that were created by actual humans, but then pieced together into various levels by a computer program. As a result, the levels didn’t actually have properly aligned textures. Rather than go in and texture literally tens of thousands of polygons, the developers just used completely solid colours as the textures for each level, apart from a handful of important textures such as doors, platform sides, and switches. This enabled the creators to make literally thousands of levels in a matter of three months, although only thirty comprise the main campaign of the scenario and the main scenario includes 256 levels (most of which are secrets).

    The developers later released a "Yuge Definition Textures" plugin that allows the use of any 128x128-pixel greyscale image as a glow mask, in order to give the textures a bit more substance (five specific images are included, but any other greyscale image of the suitable dimensions will work). The "604 or better" version of these is in turn a case of this, since it drenches the game in so much bloom as to render it, for all practical intents, unplayable. This plugin won't fix the texture alignment, though; players will just have to live with it.
  • Surreal Humour: Many of the humorous elements of Yuge that don't fall into Toilet Humour fall into this category, particularly for people who lack familiarity with the community events that inspired a lot of the plot. But let's be honest: collecting "failstaches" to enable a convoluted AI system upon which humanity has become dependent to stop "loching" and start speaking coherently is an intrinsically surreal mission. It's also funny.
  • Sword Beam: The titular sword in Excalibur: Morgana's Revenge shoots lightning as a secondary attack.
  • Synthetic Plague: A plot point in Rubicon, where the Mega-Corp plans to unleash it on human planets after UESC defeats the Pfhor empire, then announce that they developed a cure for it and sell it to the government in exchange for more-or-less total control of humanity.
    • Also becomes part of the plot in the second act of Fell.
    • A lot of players missed this, since it's not really emphasized much, but there's a catastrophe that wipes out not merely humanity but all organic life in the backstory of Eternal. It was evidently intended to be an attack that targeted the W'rkncacnter, but backfired in an unspecified fashion. This is part of the sequence of events that the player works to avert throughout the course of the scenario.
  • Talkative Loon: Olmec's terminals in Yuge are word salad created by running a large amount of forum and chatroom content through a Markov chain generator. And those are the versions seen after the player completes each mission - the versions seen before the player collects all the 'failstaches' are even more incoherent, containing large amounts of jumbled-up ASCII characters alongside the forum and chatroom content. Olmec's message once he regains all the failstaches, however, is quite coherent, quite simple, and one almost every FPS player will agree with: Stop camping.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: YugePax consists of ten thousand net maps. It was possible, so why not? The expansions to Yuge also contain literally thousands of maps between them - see here and here for some of them.
  • Thrown Out the Airlock: You do this to a pair of Enforcers in one level of Tempus Irae, shortly before you yourself get thrown out an airlock by an explosion.
  • Time Travel: A major part of Tempus Irae, Morgana's Revenge, and Eternal.
  • Tin Tyrant: Mordred in Excalibur: Morgana's Revenge.
  • Toilet Humour: Yuge replaces the fists with "shitsticks", which the player can use to fling globs of shit at enemies. The shapes and physics define these as F'lickta rocks, but it's funnier to pretend otherwise. The shitsticks have a distinctly phallic shape, by the way.
  • Uncertain Doom: Haller in Rubicon. In the final level of the Chimera plank, Tycho accuses Durandal of assimilating what was left of Haller (and it's worth noting that the one time you get to speak with Haller, he says you're trying to "do [him] wrong"), but earlier in that same plank is a terminal addressed to the very ship Tycho claims doesn't exist. There's also no real sign that Durandal assimilated Haller, though he may have obfuscated his (true?) goal of sparing Haller the pain of dissection just to save face. At any rate, Haller's effectively out of the scenario after "I'd Rather Be a Lutefisk".
  • Uncommon Time:
    • The Excalibur: Morgana's Revenge soundtrack uses a fair amount of it. In the original version, at the bare minimum, "Future 108" was in 10/4 and "Morgana's Militia" was primarily in 5/4. Future versions no doubt employ some of it as well.
    • In Trojan, the BGM for "Citizen Cain" and "Say Bro... Are You Willing and Abel?" alternates between 4/4 and 7/4.
  • The Unfought: In Eternal, at no point do you ever fight Hathor directly. In fact, you never even directly see her, making her an arguable example of The Ghost as well. However, the creators have noted (e.g., in the Rampancy stream) that 1.3 will finally fix this – although she won’t be in her original body by the time you fight her, so her original appearance will still be left to the player’s imagination.
  • Unreliable Expositor: Rubicon is entirely built around this. No one in the game, even Durandal, can be relied upon to tell the truth consistently. Some of the characters are more truthful and benevolent than others, however, and identifying these characters is a major element of the game's plot. The only element of the game's narrative that are almost certainly reliable are the prologue ("It Begins with an Ending") and epilogues ("Toadstools", "Hard Vacuum", "Lazarus ex machina"), and possibly the dream levels if you hold with the interpretation that they're narratives of the player character's past experiences.
  • Unusable Enemy Equipment: Various mods avert this:
    • The Eternal mod lets the player use most of the enemies' weapons. The part above about massive ammo drops is partially true. You always have enough shock staffs and havoc rifle ammo, but many players will run out of ammo for the other weapons from time to time (if you try to rely on the shock staff as much as possible, which is quite feasible for the best players even on Total Carnage but will require quite a bit more patience, this is much less likely, however). However, this is probably because the enemies that drop them are significantly rarer than the Fighters and Troopers. (There are two kinds of Enforcers; otherwise you'd probably never run out of ammo for their weapons either).
    • The Marathon EVIL mod Hand Waves the inability to pick up a normal Pfhor staff as a function of some security system that requires Pfhor biology to work. The chance to equip a staff modified so humans can use it was one of the mod's major draws. The custom Pfhor staff in this mod basically never runs out of ammo. (Well, it would after 32,767 shots of either trigger, but you'd have to really try to fire that many - and even if you did, it just uses fusion ammo to reload).
    • Excalibur: Morgana's Revenge allows the player to collect weapons and ammunition from fallen foes as many of them use the same weaponry the player can.
  • Unwinnable by Design: Several mods have pits where you’ll suffocate if you fall down them (Phoenix has a lot of these), inescapable lava pits, and other such traps. Usually, these stick to Polite, but there are some exceptions, which mostly fall into a different (but related) trope.
  • Unwinnable by Mistake: Third-party Game Mods can be worse on this count than the original trilogy:
    • The second half of "Life's End" in Marathon EVIL, if you forget to activate the elevator before going down the optional one-way lava river
    • The infamous double doors on the EVIL level "Code 42", where if you accidentally hit one of the switches more than once, the door will get permanently stuck, rendering the rest of the level inaccessible. Even worse, you could accidentally save your game in this situation.
    • Since the Oxygen Meter decreases much faster on Total Carnage difficulty, there may not be enough time to reach an oxygen recharger in certain game mod vacuum/underwater levels if they were not play-tested well enough.
    • If games weren't tested thoroughly enough, it can be possible to grenade or rocket jump into an area that it's impossible to escape. If you're going to grenade/rocket jump looking for secrets, it's generally a good idea to save your game before you do so.
    • Apotheosis has a couple of examples, since it was never properly finished. There's a pit on "The Salt Pile" that was supposed to have lava, but lacks it, meaning that if you fall into it, you get stuck and have to reload (or kill yourself). The level "4 Dead Otters on Strings Dancing" is a case of a level lacking enough oxygen for Total Carnage. "Gravin Threndor" just barely has enough oxygen to complete on TC, but it may take players several times to complete. On the whole, the scenario lacks the Obvious Beta aspects that many other unfinished mods possess (there a couple of other rough edges like a couple of polygons on "Eve of Orbit" taking you to the end of the game, and a few walls that should be marked solid being passable), but overall, it's about 97% complete. As of August 2020, one of the original creators has decided to finish it, and a final version with HD textures, replacements for a few levels and polish to the rest, remastered sounds, and other amenities is now under construction.
  • Updated Re-release: Rubicon underwent a drastic revamp when it was finally ported over to the Aleph One engine, including additional and expanded levels and story, heavily updated graphics (taking advantage of the new engine) and an entirely new storyline/"plank" with its own original ending, which is only accessible during a critical point in the gameplay. That last point wasn't even hinted at in the marketing for Rubicon X.
    • Excalibur: Morgana's Revenge has had three different versions made. The first one was a total conversion for Marathon 1. The second was an extended edition for the Marathon 2/Infinity engine that added in new levels, weapons, music/sound effects, and enemies. The third was the ultimate release for the Aleph One version of the Marathon 2 engine, and added in even more new levels (now with built in Lua scripts and background music), enemies, doubled the number of weapons in game, and even added player-usable vehicles.
    • Likewise, Marathon Fell 2.0 had a whole new series of story branches added, with the player siding with a different AI (Parael) after the main one (Balapoel) Face-Heel Turns, and a virus/biological weapon infecting Pfhor and turning them into gray zombies.
    • Eternal has had several, most recently Eternal X 1.2. This release includes a complete graphical revamp and overhauls many of the most significant recurring complaints about the game, such as slow platforms and the difficulty of the final chapter. It was finally released officially in late March 2019, although it may be necessary to reduce some graphics settings for the game to function on Windows computers. The 1.2.1 beta version is, ironically, more stable on Windows and probably will function with the default preferences.
    • Tempus Irae got one in 2006 with updated textures, landscapes, and scenery objects, to take advantage of Aleph One's new high-res graphics. A second one is in process with even more detailed artwork (taking advantage of new Aleph One features such as parallax mapping and glow maps), completely remastered sounds, fixes to annoying gameplay features, and even a new level (to compensate for "Mt. Vesuvius" being recombined into one level). The creators expect to re-release it later in 2020.
  • Vaporware/Dead Fic/Orphaned Series: Many Game Mods. Return to Marathon and Megiddo Game are two somewhat notorious examples; both are incredibly high quality scenarios with no proper ending. Some creators have also donated levels from unfinished scenarios to other creators so they don't end up going unused.
  • The 'Verse/Shared Universe: As mentioned above under Call-Back, many of the scenarios interlink with one another. Eternal, Phoenix, and Rubicon (and to a lesser extent Tempus Irae, which sort of goes off in its own direction) are particularly notable for this, forming a sort of loose trilogy with one another. In some cases, the creators have actually discussed their stories with one another to minimise the number of Continuity Snarls with each other's work.
  • Viral Transformation: The protagonist is subjected to this two thirds of the way through RED, but becomes a Phlebotinum Rebel shortly after.
  • Warp Zone: In Rubicon during the surreal Thoth levels, getting to the end of the level and then backtracking back to the starting terminal will teleport you to the other path. Knowledge of this is critical, as ignoring this will cause the player to go back and forth between the majority Salinger and Pfhor planks indefinitely until they backtrack to the starting terminal. Or, in Rubicon X, take advantage of the fact that an AI let their guard down at a critical moment and enter the third Tycho Plank.
  • Was Once a Woman: Hathor of Eternal was a battleroid whose cybernetic junction was intact enough after the battle of Tau Ceti to be transferred. She's not happy with her current state of being.
  • Wave-Motion Gun: Eternal gives the player the long-awaited Wave Motion Cannon that was Dummied Out of the original game, and it's enough to one-shot any enemies the player fires it at, including Juggernauts. It's really ammo-hungry, though, and for the first few levels after the player first acquires it, ammo for it is quite scarce. This is finally rectified in the last chapter of the game.
  • Why Isn't It Attacking?: The powered-down Juggernauts reappear in the Eternal level "Second to Last of the Mohicans", starting in version 1.2 of the game. Lower difficulties have them reappearing exactly as they appeared in the Infinity level "Post Naval Trauma". On higher difficulties, they'll move around and attack erratically - they're liable to attack each other as much as they'll attack the player, but they still pack just as much of a wallop when they die. As with Infinity, this is a justified usage, since they're not fully powered up.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: In Eternal's setting, the W'rkncacnter are the clearest example of this, but the possession of a Cybernetic Junction is implied to be an enormous responsibility that risks corrupting its possessor. In point of fact, both the Jjaro and the W'rkncacnter, the two most powerful beings in the game's setting, are explicitly depicted as having taken leave of their senses; they are so focused on their war with one another that they have become blind to the possibilities that their near-omnipotence might grant them: they could create entirely new dimensions that would fulfil their desires entirely, but they're so focused on making our dimension conform to their wishes that they've lost sight of this. Hathor's narrow focus on her revenge (see above), even after she gains control of a Cybernetic Junction, is the clearest depiction of this by far, though.
    • With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility: Given her awareness of the above trope, Leela explicitly rejects personally possessing a Cybernetic Junction throughout the game, even after travelling Outside (which could potentially provide her with even greater power), and even in the "good" ending of "Where Giants Have Fallen" where the galaxy is in the process of being destroyed, because she does not trust herself with such power. The "bad" ending of "The Philosophy of Time Travel" actually depicts how she could be corrupted, though, as she is starting to fall along the same "history must not be changed" lines as the rest of the Jjaro.note  Durandal even alludes to how "sweet Leela even trembles and pauses at the prospect" of changing history in the final level of the game.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds:
    • Hathor in Eternal. At first she seems like a fairly Generic Doomsday Villain, but as more of her backstory is revealed, it becomes apparent how much her life has sucked. She remains a galaxy-spanning threat who has to be stopped at all costs, but it's still difficult not to feel sympathy for her at the same time, particularly in the final chapter.
    • A possible interpretation of Lysander in Rubicon, pretty much along the same lines as the interpretation above of Tycho from the original trilogy. Nothing is ever explicitly confirmed (and Durandal seems reluctant to even discuss it - perhaps due to being reminded of horrors in his own past?), but it's heavily implied at several points in the game that Dangi subjected him to abuse that would make Strauss' implied of the Marathon's three AIs look tame. Essentially a case of Create Your Own Villain, though of course Dangi themselves were already villains.
  • "X" Makes Anything Cool: Rubicon X and Eternal X, where the X means the final version. However, Eternal has been subject to several revision since then; the most recent release, version 1.2, was released in late March 2019, and has updated graphics and fixes to a number of common complaints about earlier releases (most ubiquitously, the slow platforms throughout the scenario and the Zerg Rush enemies throughout the final chapter). This isn't even the final release: the developers tentatively plan to release version 1.3 in 2020, which will incorporate further changes that wound up being too time-consuming to incorporate into version 1.2.
  • You Are Number 6: The eponymous player character in Courier 11.

Oddly, this is familiar to you, as if it were from an old dream, but you can't exactly remember...

Alternative Title(s): Marathon 2 Durandal, Marathon Infinity Blood Tides Of Lhowon

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