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Video Game / Surviving Mars

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From the people who brought you Tropico 3, 4 and 5, and Cities: Skylines: Mars is waiting for you.

Surviving Mars is a Science Fiction settlement-building Simulation Game developed by Haemimont Games (who were responsible for Tropico 3, 4 and 5) and published by Paradox Interactive (who also published Colossal Order's critically acclaimed Cities: Skylines). It is available on PC, Playstation 4, and Xbox One.

The game is somewhat akin to a city builder, albeit in a Martian colony. To ensure its success, you come into play as an overseer for the project. You must choose a mission sponsor, build a retro-futuristic colony, and ensure the survival of your colonists, each of whom has individual wants, needs, skills, and problems.

Several content packs and two major expansions have been released thus far. The first, Space Race, adds rival colonies, trade, and sponsor-unique buildings and vehicles to the game, while the second, Green Planet, adds a full-fledged Terraforming mechanic, allowing you to transform the surface of Mars into an Earthlike landscape.


At PAXcon 2019, it was revealed that Paradox had teamed up with a new developer, Iceflake Studios, to produce a Post Apocalyptic succcessor, Surviving the Aftermath.

Paradox announced in March 2021 that it was resuming development of the game with Abstraction Games, starting by integrating community-made content through free updates. In September 2021, Abstraction released the third major expansion, Below and Beyond, which adds underground cities and asteroid mining.


The games provide examples of:

  • Absent Aliens: Unless the mystery features aliens in some way, the whole game goes from start to finish with no aliens whatsoever. Just humanity, Mars, Earth, and whatever can be built on the planet.
  • A Commander Is You: The Sponsors:
    • International Mission: Game-Breaker. Zeus rockets can carry more, colonists never become Earthsick, food carried in passenger rockets is greatly increased, and rockets slowly synthesize fuel on Mars. The Easy Mode sponsor recommended for first-time players, but experienced city builder types might find this too much of a breeze.
    • USA: Economist. Their colonies use Zeus rockets that can carry more cargo and they get additional funding periodically for nothing, to represent America's economic clout. Their unique building is the Megamall. USA is as middle of the road as Sponsors come, as any playstyle could always use more money.
    • Blue Sun Corporation: Economist. Blue Sun is a Mega-Corp that has more economic power than many nations in the 21st Century. Their colonies start with more funding, but they can also purchase applicants with their funding and buy cheaper rockets. They are also masters of rare metal mining. Their unique building is the Corporate Office. Something of a late bloomer, with fantastic potential for long-term profit later down the line.
    • China: Spammer. China's booming population is reflected in passenger rockets that hold twenty-two colonists instead of twelve, and a huge applicant list allowing Chinese colonies to flourish early on by getting everything up and running out of the gate. Their unique building is the Tai Chi Garden, which helps with keeping all those colonies healthy and fit.
    • India: Industrial. India's master engineers mean all buildings are 20% cheaper to produce, and they start with the Low-G technology already unlocked. Their unique building is the Metals Refinery, giving India more metals to work with and supplementing their rapid-growth playstyle. The meagre research output of India can always be offset by outsourcing anyway.
    • Europe: Research. Europe is an emergent leader in several pioneering technologies. They start with more potential research options in the tech tree, and gaining additional funding for every technology unlocked (double for breakthrough techs) is just the icing on the cake. Their unique building is the Low-G Lab, giving them even more of a advantage over other colonies. If you like the idea of leaving the competition banging rocks together, Europe is the Sponsor for you.
    • SpaceY: Gimmick. An Expy of Elon Musk's SpaceX company that has an unusual playstyle. Advanced resources are cheaper and they have more drones to play with when a hub is built. Their Dragon rockets carry less, but need much less fuel to launch and you get five of them. With SpaceY, it's so easy to just ship needed resources rather than get industry going; a good Sponsor for players who want to grow steadily and take things easy.
    • Church of the New Ark: Loyalist. A religious colony funded by a future Saintly Church. Not much in the way of money or technology, but all their colonists have doubled chance of having children, will not kill themselves if they are depressed, and work harder. Their unique building is the Temple Spire, which lets colonists recover sanity. Overall, the Church represents a challenge, but not quite as much as...
    • Russia: Gimmick/Industrial. Russia is all about using the Fuel resource. They get the Fueled Extractors tech for free (and the upgrade is free to apply to your buildings) and the Fuel Refinery prefab is cheaper. However their small rocket pool and extended travel time set them back a bit. Their unique Concrete Plant building nets them a lot of the resource for cheap.
    • Paradox Interactive: Pariah. A game development company with not much in the way of money or technology or manpower or rocketry expertise, but for some bizarre reason a knack for uncovering weird things on Mars. Bonus chance to uncover breakthrough anomalies and finding breakthroughs allows extra applicants. Their unique building is the Game Developer Office, which grants extra funding. Bit of an oddball faction to say the least.
    • Brazil: Economist/Spammer. Brazilian colonists grant funding when they reach Mars, and improved Passage buildings (and colonists who have no penalties for working or visiting connected domes) really help with colony planning. They also get larger Supply Pods, and get five of these pods for free from the start. Their unique building is the Rare Metals Refinery, which extract valuable minerals from waste rock.
    • Japan: Elitist/Gimmick. Japan is a world leader for robotics and AI technology. They get the unique Wasp Drone, a faster drone that hovers over buildings and terrain, lowered weight allotments for Rovers, and Japanese specialist colonists enjoy better performance than their peers. However their low population means a small applicant list to draw from.
    • Terraforming Initiative: Gimmick, maybe Pariah. All Terraforming techs are much cheaper to research, Forestation Plants that do not need power, bonus terraforming techs, and importable RC Dozers from the start. This is a challenging Sponsor to use given how Difficult, but Awesome terraforming is and how they have no advantages anywhere else.
  • Adam and Eve Plot: One of the starting game options, "Last Ark", means that you will only be able to send one passenger ship on that playthrough. If you don't build any Biorobot colonists then every colonist (of which there might be over a thousand) will be descended from twelve individuals (unless you kidnap people from other colonies to increase your population).
  • Aerith and Bob: Colonists from Earth tend to have normal names, while those born on Mars have more space-sounding names such as Gamma Star.
  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: During "The Inner Light", while dreaming of life during the twilight days of ancient Martian civilization, the narration notes that you realize on some level that the people around you couldn't possibly have looked like humans, the environment like Earth or the buildings like the human cities you know from Earth, and theorizes that your mind is just translating the alien concepts into something more relatable to you.
  • The Ageless: Upon researching the Breakthrough tech "Forever Young", colonists will no longer die of old age and can still have children as seniors, but can still be killed due to lack of resources or commit suicide. Biorobots also never die of old age.
  • The Alcoholic: A colonist with the "Alcoholic" trait will have their work performance lowered slightly, and gains bonus comfort from bars.
  • Alien Sky
    • One of the signs that terraforming is proceeding well is when Mars develops a blue sky, just like that of Earth.
    • The trailer for "Below and Beyond" has a Martian looking at the Mars sky, as asteroids pass by.
  • Ancient Astronauts: Multiple Mysteries have to do with the PC making contact with, or finding the works of, alien life forms.
  • Ambiguous Gender: While most colonists are male or female, some have their gender listed as "other". Those can not procreate.
  • After the End: Failing The Last War Mystery causes a nuclear war to occur on Earth. After fifty days contact is reestablished with the survivors, and you will be able to bring in more settlers from Earth, but things are so bad back home that nobody is buying Rare Metals and they can't afford to send you goods.
  • Archaeological Arms Race: Research can be amplified by studying anomalies, yielding research boosts or new entries on the Tech Tree. Planetary anomalies require sending a ship to another part of Mars with the right crew and equipment, but with the Space Race DLC, rival colonies will try to get there first.
  • Artificial Stupidity:
    • Your drones are really that single-tracked and has no sense of priority. If you issue an order to build something, they'd ignore all maintenance and repair tasks and try to complete your order instead of repairing the oh-so-important MOXIE that has failed and requires maintenance.
    • Job assignment becomes a nightmare if there are several domes (unless you meticulously adjust the number of workplaces and housings in each domes), because the AI has severe issues with the task of assigning colonists to work in a dome they don't live in, which results in your colony suffering from both unemployment and manpower shortage at the same time. The shuttles are supposed to allow colonists to do exactly that, but they fail to do this in practicenote .
    • In the later stages of the game, when overpopulation and unemployment become serious problems unless one decides to take truly draconian measures to prevent all colonist births, it's possible to find homeless colonists moving into any new dome constructed to eventually contain them... the instant it's built, sometimes before you could even physically click the button to disable it and prevent this. Before you had the chance to actually fill it with anything. And, subsequently, becoming very upset (sometimes suicidally) that there are no homes or services anywhere to be found. Try to resist the urge to teach the interplanetary squatters a lesson by shutting down power.
  • The Ark: Your colony might inadvertently become one. Failing The Wildfire Mystery ends the human race on Earth, and failing The Last War Mystery ends human civilization on Earth.
  • A Winner Is You: The reward for completing every milestone, including the complete terraformation of Mars and having at least 40% of the population in Workshops is... a small text window thanking you for your dedication and telling you that because of your leadership skills, mankind's dream of a bright future on Mars has been truly realized. Heartwarming, but possibly underwhelming in light of the titanic effort required to achieve it.
  • Belief Makes You Stupid: Zig-zagged. Your colonists can be religious, which is a strictly beneficial trait (+10 base morale and will never commit suicide) and one of the sponsors sending colonists to live in a high tech colony and work with complex equipment is the Church of The New Ark, but it is also the only sponsor that does not provide any research of its own. Notably, it's possible to have religious engineers or scientists.
  • Benevolent Precursors: The Black Cubes turn out to be AI observers from a civilization that evolved on and departed from Mars long ago. The only time they act in a potentially hostile manner is if the humans attack first, and even then they acknowledge it was an understandable response.
  • Big Eater: Colonists with the 'Glutton' trait eat twice as much food as other colonists do.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: The Philosopher's Stone Mystery has the map littered with strange crystalline entities that seem to be alive. If you supply them with power, they exude a lucrative, consistent supply of Rare Metals; power them all, and they assemble into one creature, which departs the planet, leaving behind a gift of materials and access to a tech breakthrough that makes the fusion reactor far more effective.
  • Body Backup Drive: Implied to be what Project Phoenix is, since it gives dead colonists a chance to come back young when they die and the icon depicts a baby sleeping in a vat.
  • Boring, but Practical: While many breakthroughs alter gameplay entirely by introducing wild changes such as building biorobots or discovering alien technology, many others are more understated but highly useful. The prime examples of this are Superior Pipes and Cables. These breakthroughs allow instant, free construction of vital infrastructure and also render them immune to leaks which can sap your colony's supplies during disasters.
  • Bottomless Pits: Subverted in the trailer for "Below & Beyond". A guy from Mars throws something in what seems to be a bottomless pit... and then someone else protested because of that. Played straight in gameplay where one of the underground wonders is indeed a bottomless pit.
  • Brain Uploading: In one random event, a colonist tries to imprint their own mind onto biorobots, dying in the process. It doesn't seem to have worked, but the effort produces 10 biorobots to work in the colony.
  • Breeding Cult: Colonies established by The Church of The New Ark a birthrate that's twice as high as colonies by other sponsors, and it's Evaluation Goal is to produce eighty Marsborn colonists.
  • Call to Agriculture: With a research upgrade, Farms will increase the comfort level of a dome, because seeing growing green plants on the lifeless planet is soothing to colonists.
  • Captain Ersatz: Two of the sponsors, SpaceY and Church of the New Ark, are based on SpaceX and Mormonism respectively. Both of them were depicted in their original names in the Gamescom demo.
  • The Casino: You can build casinos in your colony. Colonists with the Gambler trait have a chance of losing 20 sanity there.
  • Cloning Blues: Colonists with the Clone trait have half the lifespan of naturally born humans.
  • Continuous Decompression: Domes are designed to be structurally robust enough to withstand the small asteroid impacts common on Mars, but that doesn't make them invulnerable and a direct impact will cause the dome to crack and begin rapidly leaking oxygen. While this is certainly an emergency for those in the dome, it's not necessarily a fatal one so long as the dome gets repaired quickly and there are sufficient oxygen reserves to keep the dome continuously filled back up as it leaks. But woe betides any colony that hasn't taken precautions for this eventuality...
  • Cool But Inefficent: Stirling Generators as starting prefabs. Yes, they net a lot of energy. Yes, you need energy to run your first buildings. But they are totally not cost-effective, and piling them up as prefabs in your starting payload will only utterly drain your funding and limit your space. Many games failed just because inexperienced players fell into what is almost a Schmuck Bait (the game suggests them) and bought these power generators, thinking they would make a great start for the colony. They don't. You can bring the materials required to build them in site and it will be way cheaper. But before you research the tech required to build Stirlings, you can put online your outpost with some solar panels and batteries with good placements in many small electric grids. And it will wonderfully work, without spending all the money needed to bring in Stirlings and their manteinance.
  • Corporate Conspiracy: EsoCorp is secretly testing weapons on Mars behind the colonists' backs. If the colony discovers this they can report back to Earth, but EsoCorp will retaliate with armed rovers.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: EsoCorp and the corporations in Beyond Earth. EsoCorp tests weapons on Martian soil behind your back and even attempts to destroy the colony when you decide to blow the whistle. The Beyond Earth Corps will ruin Rene Goddenbury's legacy by exploiting the ventures after his death with a somber note stating how the idealistic future died with Rene and now the corps exploit the projects for pure profit
  • Creator Cameo: Paradox Interactive is one of the available mission sponsors. They are also one of the hardest sponsors, being tied for lowest funding with the Church of the New Ark, only having one starting rocket, a low number of applicants, require more fuel to launch rockets, and fairly low research per Sol, though they find Breakthrough Anomalies more often, and gain applicants when they research Breakthrough Techs.
  • Crosshair Aware: The impact points of meteors and Dredger drones are prominently shown on the ground before they hit. Preparing for the latter is easy due to the very long delay between warning and impact (several Sols can pass before something happens), but if you don't have defense lasers in place when a meteor is about to hit something immobile, you won't have nearly enough time to do something about it.
  • Cult Colony: Any colony built by The Church of The New Ark. A random event can happen to anyone regardless of sponsor where someone asks you to declare a particular dome a "Holy Dome" but it's up to you to accept.
  • Cursed with Awesome: Skewed towards cursed, but selecting the score modifer that ramps up Metor Showers to extreme not only boosts your score but can give you a steady supply of metals, polymers, and research points.
  • Cute Machines: The drones and shuttles. The rockets are also pretty cute with their shark paint job.
  • Defective Detective: Any officers with the "Alcoholic" trait are this.
  • Difficult, but Awesome: The terraforming in "Green Planet" requires an immense investment of time and resources, but those resources are returned in full with double interest by the end game, as you eliminate all of Hostile Weather on Mars, increase the output of water and oxygen producers (until everyone can simply breathe the air), double the output of wind generators, and have bountiful automated open-air farms that can easily produce ten times the bounty of any normal farm your botanists crew.
  • Dirty Coward: Colonists with the "Coward" trait will lose sanity quicker than other colonists during a disaster.
  • Domed Hometown: The only residence for Mars colonists. All Marsborn have one. Though with the Green Planet DLC and a lot of effort you can change this.
  • Driven to Suicide: Colonists who have run out of sanity and who lack the religious trait are likely to take their own lives.
  • Drop Ship: The rockets used to carry supplies and people from earth, but can also ship rare metals off of Mars for extra money. Updates eventually added the Supply Pods, which are less expensive than a full rocket, but have smaller cargo capacities and are one-way only. However, the Pod itself can be broken down when it arrives to get some resources (generally metal).
  • End of an Age: An event pops up to tell you when your last founder dies, and to eulogize his life.
  • Founder Of The Colony: Your first twelve refugees have the Founder Trait.
  • Free-Love Future: Implied. Colonists will have sex and children with each other, but they do not appear to get married, the children do not live with their parents, and colonists may go on to have children with multiple partners. This is most extreme in the case of Tourists, who pay up-front to go to Mars, and then return to Earth after 5 Sols, leaving behind any children they might have had during that time.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: The Inventor background. Judging by the dialogue options in events, an Inventor can fix, upgrade or figure out nearly any device.
  • Good Shepherd: Colonists with the Saint trait raise the morale of other colonists with the Religious trait. This effect stacks.
  • Game-Breaking Bug: There are reports of the newer updates of the game didn't work on Linux.
  • Guilt-Based Gaming: See shout-out below. To wit, it copies the quit message verbatim from Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri
    Please don't go. The drones need you. They look up to you.
  • Hospital Hottie: Any medics with the "Sexy" perk count as this.
  • Hostile Terraforming: It's implied the Spheres are a form of terraforming device which generated an extreme Cold Wave as part of their programming.
  • Hostile Weather: Mars being Mars, the weather is quite hostile, though these hazards can be mitigated and eventually removed entirely by terraforming. Each location has four hazards, ranging from level 1 (extremely rare/never occurs) to 4 or 5 (extremely frequent). There are also optional game rules which set the frequency of a disaster to maximum on all maps and unlocks an even more intense variant. The four weather types are;
    • Cold Snap: Irregular but problematic considering how cold Mars can get. Cold snaps increase the energy consumption of all buildings and freeze water towers, preventing the towers from distributing their stored water. They can be (somewhat) offset by building special heater structures, though.
    • Deadly Dust Storm: Accounts for two of the four, either in map-wide dust storms or localized dust devils. Map-wide storms increase your wind power output but shut down several other structures (including your oxygen generators!) and coats everything in dust, making maintenance a more frequent complication. Dust Devils are very small Tornadoes that swirl around and generally degrade your structures with Dust and destroy your pipes/cables.
    • Flaming Meteor: Single meteor strikes happen almost everywhere, but certain regions can experience prolonged meteor showers, which can inflict serious damage. Fortunately, you can research and build turrets that use Frickin' Laser Beams to shoot the meteors down.
  • Hot Scientist: Colonists with the Scientist specialization and the "Sexy" perk.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: The Soylent Green breakthrough technology allows you to turn dead colonists into food, and states that everyone in your colony knows this and is OK with it. Oddly enough, openly practicing cannibalism does not result in any negative PR with Earth or other colonies. The tech quote even says "Yes, we know Soylent Green is people. We are okay with that."
  • Instant-Win Condition: Of a sort, specifically for the Founder stage. The Founder stage requires that your initial group of colonists survive for 10 Sols without outside help (you can order more supplies on rockets, but that's it), and is intended to prove that the facilities on Mars are livable before mass immigration. However, if any of your Founders gives birth, you immediately skip the Founder stage and can get more colonists to immigrate. While this isn't necessarily easynote , it's not too difficult to game it and get it within 1-2 Solsnote . Skipping the Founder stage allows you to fully staff your facilities that much faster, but in exchange, you have to build child services that much sooner.
  • Job-Stealing Robot:
    • The Service Bots Breakthrough allows service buildings such as diners and bars to automate their workforce, eliminating the need to staff them with colonists who can instead be employed in more critical roles. This also allows the player to maintain services in specialized domes such as nursery and retirement domes where there are no workers available.
    • The Positronic Brain Breakthrough allows the construction of Biorobots, who can fill any job a colonist would. Thanks to their immortality and inability to reproduce, many players view them as superior to human colonists who in the late game tend to out-reproduce the ability of players to house, employ, and feed them.
  • Line-of-Sight Name: Martianborn tend to be named after things that are prevalent to their environment, such as Oxygen, Rocket, or Planet.
  • Loners Are Freaks: Colonists with the Loner trait lose Comfort every day while living in a Dome with a population over 30. Since most domes will eventually have that many people in them, Loners tend to be very uncomfortable unless you micro-manage them to a small dome.
  • Martial Pacifist: In the Marsgate mystery, if you report EsoCorp to the UN then your Colony Commander gives a speech at the trial about how you hope humanity never goes to war again. However EsoCorp retaliates by sending its weaponized rovers to destroy your colony, and the only way to survive is to build missile defense turrets to destroy said rovers. You can even repair said rovers and use them to fight against EsoCorp's.
  • Mundane Solution: So how do your scientists first research the supposed Bottomless pit you can discover? They start by tossing rocks and waiting to hear if it hits the bottom. Then they start throwing in heavier and larger things before resorting to tossing in drones and rovers as they have sensors to report back. It's only when they run out of things to chuck in do they build something to properly measure it.
  • Nerd: Colonists with this trait gain morale every time the player researches a new technology.
  • Nerds Are Sexy: Not all of them, but nothing precludes a colonist from having both the Nerd and the Sexy trait.
  • Nintendo Hard: All buildings need resources for maintenance periodically, you have to practically make sure you have enough farms to produce food at the start, and you have multiple natural disasters that may cost a lot of resources to recover from. Adding to that is that resources are finite (at least, until you unlock the Mohole Mine wonder at the endgame), forcing you to move and build new domes on a regular basis. Throw in renegades and sabotage from competitors, and the game becomes somewhat frustrating to those who just want to build a civilization in peace.
  • No-Paper Future: There is money, but only for Mars-Earth operations. If you achieve a fully self-sufficient colony, there's no use for money at all.
    • This may well be a case of Gameplay and Story Segregation, however - while the game doesn't track any individual colonist's personal finances, several event and descriptive texts to seem to suggest that the colonists are getting paid and are spending money (e.g. the USA's MegaMall building mentions people come to it to spend money, and one event has you spending funding to outbid a rival who's trying to lure away your untrained colonists with promises of higher salaries).
  • Non-Entity General: The Colony Commander has no residence or workplace in the colony and indeed will be commanding the colony effort before there's any life support on the planet. It might be possible that they're commanding things remotely from Earth but the Mysteries that involve something terrible happening on Earth don't affect them.
    • Several events specifically reference them being on Mars though, so the logical assumption is that they command the initial robots remotely and then hitch a ride on the rocket bringing in the founding colonists. Of course, they still qualify for the trope since they don't have a residence and are apparently immortal.
  • Nuke 'em: Toward the end of the tech tree, you can unlock a special project to massively increase the water availability by melting either of the polar ice caps. How? By sending a spaceship overloaded with fuel to crash into it and explode. While this usually works and massively boosts the water rating of the planet, it also runs a high risk of outputting a huge dust storm that will shut down all your moisture vaporators and oxygen generators.
  • Once-Green Mars: The Power of Three and Inner Light mysteries reveal that Mars was once inhabitable, and populated by intelligent beings. With Green Planet, you can bring the planet back to life.
  • One Nation Under Copyright: Presumably any colony sponsored by Blue Sun Corporation, SpaceY, or Paradox Interactive. Fittingly, one of the advantages of Blue Sun is that they can use the funding to hire more applicants.
  • Otaku: Kim Te Hi the Red Frontier radio host is a Chinese (with a Korean name) Baseball fanatic and beer connoisseur. Likely justified by future culture-blending.
  • Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions: Averted. Despite being a science fiction setting and a Free-Love Future, it is still common for colonists to have the religious trait. Moreover, religious colonists fare better than their secular counterparts in that they have higher base morale and never commit suicide. This can also be defied, as you can instruct schools to instill religious faith in marsborn children. Note that the game never actually says what Religious colonists worship; it could be a mythical deity or something more pragmatic and modern. In either case the "sense of higher purpose" inspires them to work harder.
  • The Paragon: Colonists with the Empath trait raise the Morale of all Colonists in the Dome.
  • The Plague: The Wildfire Mystery involves this. A plague ravages the Earth, and if you don't find and send back a cure then it kills every human on Earth. Or so it seems, as eventually, the shelters reveal there were survivors of the plague and they are seeking the cure if possible, proving Hope Springs Eternal.
  • Planet Looters: The Dredgers mystery revolves around a fleet of alien mining vessels periodically dropping from the sky near resource deposits. If you fail to neutralize them in time, they instantly drain the entire deposit, potentially devastating your economy beyond recovery if you let that happen too often. It is theorized that since these things appear to be entirely automated that they are a form of Von Neumann Probe, and whether they work for living aliens or not is not known.
  • The Power of the Sun: The Artificial Sun wonder is a massive fusion reactor which, as its name suggests, looks like a miniature sun when powered up. It consumes a monstrous amount of water to fully charge every time you turn it on, but with the right layout of solar panels placed around it, your colony won't have to worry about power for a long time.
  • Really Gets Around: Colonists with the "sexy" perk, which greatly increases their birth rate.
  • Resurrective Immortality: If you discover and research the Project Phoenix breakthrough, half your colonists will be resurrected (and young again) after death.
  • Ridiculously Human Robots: Biorobots can be researched with breakthrough technology, and then produced in Drone Assemblers. Aside from neither dying of age nor reproducing, they function as humans. They need to eat, sleep and relax, and have individual personalities including Perks and Flaws. They also count as Martianborn which means they never leave and can gain the ability to be immune to sanity drain from working outdoors.
  • Russian Guy Suffers Most: The "No Pain, No Gain" achievement requires reaching five hundred colonists with at least 500% challenge rating while playing as Russia. Unless you are really, really good at this game, getting this achievement will hurt you.
  • Saintly Church: Colonists with the Religious trait have higher base sanity and never commit suicide.
  • Satan: One possible random event has him drop by to try and make a deal with you.
  • Schrödinger's Gun: The safe box random event presents you with a choice of four codes, and all four of the codes work, each unlocking a different breakthrough.
  • Settling the Frontier: The entire point of the game is to create colonies on Mars and try to make them self-sufficient as possible.
  • The Simple Life is Simple: Played with. While any colonists can work on a farm, they need to be botanists to get the most out of them. Of course, the entire farming process seems to be at least partially automated, so possibly entirely averted.
  • Shout-Out: Has its own page here
  • Shown Their Work: Radio stations like Quantum Sonics regularly provide interesting and scientifically accurate tidbits of background info on Mars as part of their entertainment program.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: The game generally falls toward the idealism side, but where exactly depends on the Mystery you get, with the Last War being the grimmest. Every game has mentions of basic human foibles, but balanced by a sense of camaraderie, as the colony can only be successful if everyone works together.
  • Sole Survivor: If you fail to find a cure to the Wildfire Plague, then every human on Earth becomes extinct. This means your colony will become the last remnant of the human race. Thankfully eventually you will learn there were survivors of the Wildfire Plague
  • Space Elevator: A wonder becomes available in the late game which can replace or supplement the rockets as the colony's means of trade with Earth.
  • The Space Race: "Space Race" is the game's first expansion, which adds rival colonies during gameplay to compete with for milestones (first to settle colonists, first to find water, etc.) and/or initiate trade routes with.
  • Space Western: The Red Frontier radio station's music has a distinct Firefly vibe.
  • Straw Vegetarian: Some colonists have the vegan trait, the description of which reads "Don't worry. They'll tell you." The achievement "Dream of a Green Mars" requires the player to have 200 such colonists in a colony at once.
  • Stupid Scientist: Any colonist with the "Idiot" trait who's a scientist, biologist or geologist.
  • Take That!:
    • One in-game event involves a dense Martian forming a “Flat Mars Society” whose members are convinced that the planet is, well, flat. If you choose to leave the followers to their own devices, they will eventually build an alleged space shuttle to try to prove that the planet is flat... Which will crash shortly after takeoff, killing everyone onboard.
    • The Green Planet DLC adds one to chemtrail conspiracy theorists.
  • Tech Tree: There are five main tech "lines" in the base game (Biotech, Engineering, Robotics, Physics, Social) plus one special "Breakthrough" line, and one more regular line (Terraforming) added in Green Mars. All techs only appear in categories by-line, but their exact order is slightly randomized each new game, with some weighted to be more likely to appear earlier while others are weighted to appear laternote . Any tech that is known about can be researched regardless of how far down the line it is, but most techs are hidden by default, only being revealed as techs are researched in that line or anomalies are analyzed. The breakthrough techs are particularly powerful, but can only be revealed by anomaly research and are much more expensive.
  • Terraforming: The Green Planet DLC allows you to try, and it's not easy. You have to raise atmosphere, temperature, water, and flora to 100% for terraformation to be successful, but you can't do all of that at once. Atmosphere is the starting point, requiring that you produce greenhouse gases to increase heat. Once heat is high enough, you can build lakes to increase water presencenote . Enough heat and water presence will allow you to create atmosphere, and when you have enough atmosphere, you can start planting vegetation. While various methods exist to increase your terraforming progress, they're not sustainable: eventually, your progress with a given method will plummetnote , forcing you to come up with new methods of progress. The process is also very slow, rarely increasing by more than 0.2% per Sol unless you invest heavily, which requires an industrial base that can sustain that investment. And in case that wasn't enough, as terraforming progress increases, you will encounter entirely new disasters that you may be ill-equipped to deal with.
  • The Theocracy: Presumably any colony sponsored by the Church of the New Ark, as all of their applicants are members of the church.
  • Tube Travel: Special corridors can be built to allow colonists to travel between domes without a space suit.
  • Veganopia: The achievement "Dream of a Green Mars" requires the player to have 200 Vegan colonists in a colony at once.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential
    • Seniors don't contribute anything to the colony, with rare exceptionsnote , regardless of their comfort level. This results in a popular strategy where upon reaching retirement age colonists get moved to a "retirement house" dome, which has only cramped apartments and no amenities at all, and eat raw meat or potatoes for the rest of their life, and the only reason they're fed at all is the fact that deaths from starvation result in a sanity loss for the whole colony.
    • The mod that allows for the eradication of renegades also allows you to execute innocent civilians. So if you don't like a colonist whose morale has fallen, you can just mark him for removal and have him offed by being jettisoned into space.
    • The expansion "Below and Beyond" allows to build and mine in asteroids (some colonists are required), but they must return before the asteroid goes too far away. So of course, some people will "forget" to make them return in time.
  • Video Game Time: Time is based on Sols (the Martian day) but different aspects of the game treat 1 Sol as a different lengths of time. Colonists and drones work as if it actually is one Sol in length, but other aspects such as rocket travel and colonist lifespans work as if 1 Sol is closer in length to an Earth Year. This ends up being acceptable, as the alternative (waiting almost 400 Sols for rocket deliverynote ) would be ridiculous.
  • War Is Hell:
    • In The Last War mystery, the entire point of it is to prevent a world war from breaking out on Earth by using your colony to relieve some of the pressures leading to it. Failing this mystery leaves the world so war-torn that Earth will no longer send supplies or purchase rare metals, and all the colonists are traumatized War Refugees.
    • In the Marsgate mystery, EsoCorp is considered by the international community to have crossed the Moral Event Horizon by secretly using Mars to test weapons. If you chose to reveal what they did, then when you testify as to the key witness at the International Trial, you give a speech condemning war and expressing the hope that humanity will never wage war again. You end being attacked by EsoCorp in an act of revenge, and to save your colony you must build missile turrets.
  • War Refugees: If you fail The Last War mystery, then your colony will only be able to call in settlers because Earth is ravaged by nuclear war and can't afford to buy your Rare Metals or to send you resources. All of the settlers have the Refugee trait which means they have -40 productivity in all jobs, they never get Earthsick, and they have a higher chance of becoming renegades. Fortunately Refugees will eventually adapt to life on mars and lose their Refugee status if you can keep them around long enough.
    • You can also get a random event offering you refugees from Earth if you're not playing the Last War mystery. The difference being that you're given four options: Take 10 of them (and get a small funding boost as a gesture of thanks from Earth), take them all (again, all colonists have a refugee trait for both options) and suffer a small morale hit, or deny the refugees and suffer a huge morale hit. The last option is only open to those with the Politician trait- post a cryptic tweet to distract the journalists.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: The Dredgers are immune to most weapons, but it turns out that a combination of atmospheric chemical interactions will cause them to self-destruct, which is why they never (successfully) invaded Earth. Your drones can make them explode by simply exposing them to Earth gasses from that point on.
  • We Will Use Manual Labor in the Future: Averting this is the ultimate late-game goal besides terraformation: "Workshops" are very expensive to build, expensive to maintain buildings where colonists with literally nothing else more important to do go in order to indulge in creative, self-fulfilling pursuits like art, experimenting with robotics or interacting with virtual realities. They don't really contribute anything to the colony besides providing very high levels of comfort and sanity to their "workers" (more like "full-time participants", really), with a Milestone for having 40% or more of your colonists "employed" in them. This would represent, essentially, that you've created a society so automized, prosperous and luxurious that almost half the population can afford to do nothing at all besides spend every day fulfilling the peak of their hierarchy of needs.
  • Wind Turbine Power: Wind Turbines are one of the three early game power systems in the game(the other two being Solar Panels and Stirling Generators). In general, they fall midway between the other two, having the advantage of being always on (unlike solar panels) and being a lot cheaper than Stirlings but have the downside of requiring machine parts for maintenance which can be a limitation early game.
  • Whole Plot Reference: While all Mysteries refer to classical science fiction stories to some degree, "The Inner Light" drops all pretenses and essentially just plays out the exact plot of the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode of the same name. A line from the episode is even used as the Mystery's teaser, so it's not like they were being coy about it.
  • Zeerust: Many of the buildings have a deliberately retro-futuristic design.
  • Zerg Rush: During the Dredgers mystery, the antagonistic forces normally show up one at a time and thus don't pose a threat. However, the penultimate stage consists of several dozens of them appearing all over the map almost simultaneously, sending you into a scramble to stop them before they abscond with a huge chunk of whatever resources are still available on the map by this point.