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A series of space-based Flight Sim and combat games from Origin Systems, Inc., dating back to 1990 with spinoffs including one movie, animated series, novels, even a few action figures.

In the 27th century, the depths of space are host to brutal wars being waged by brave men and women (and cats, and bugs). Mighty warships face off against one another... when they're not being blown to dustbunnies by much smaller space fighters, as is often the case.

The player is a fighter pilot serving, in most games, in the Terran Confederation Space Force. The game setting is influenced by the interest of Chris Roberts (creator of the series) in Top Gun (the player character's callsign, established in later Canon, is Maverick, for example), as well as Star Wars (see the final mission of Wing Commander III, to say nothing of who plays Maverick in the cutscenes).

The series features seven main games:

  • Wing Commander, in which your sort of Heroic Mime becomes a hotshot pilot aboard the TCS Tiger's Claw, a famed carrier in the Terran Confederation serving in the Vega sector of space. It made use of a fully-orchestrated (if MIDI) Variable Mix, helping to make Sound Blaster a household name in computers.
  • Wing Commander II: Vengeance of the Kilrathi, which starts out with the Claw being destroyed by Kilrathi Stealth Fighters (which can turn invisible) while trying to attack a major enemy command post. Your character finds himself unfairly blamed, and vows to clear his name, getting his chance ten years later. Its use of digitized voices finished cementing Sound Blaster's fame.
  • Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger, in which the series moves to rendered 3D graphics and Live Action Cutscenes, involving several big-name stars; it was marketed as "The First Interactive Movie." Blair helps take the war to the Kilrathi one more time, but not without cost.
  • Wing Commander IV: The Price of Freedom takes place two years after the end of the war, after Blair has retired and... become a farmer on a desert planet. Instead of buying some droids, he's re-activated to investigate unrest out on the frontier, where the difference between friend and foe isn't quite as clear-cut as it used to be.
  • Wing Commander Prophecy starts a new chapter in the series. You no longer play Christopher "Maverick" Blair, but a hot-shot new pilot, son of famed Tiger's Claw veteran Michael "Iceman" Casey. From the depths of space comes a new foe, one even the Kilrathi fear, and it's up to your experimental carrier to stop them. Prophecy is one of the first space sim games to utilize 3D accelerator hardware, in particular the 3DFx line.
  • Wing Commander Secret Ops was originally released online as a free Episodic Game, and may be the Ur-Example of that trope. It moves six Midway pilots to a new ship for another campaign against the "Nephilim" invaders as they strike at the heart of the Confederation. Secret Ops, running on a modified version of Prophecy's VISION Game Engine, is something of a favorite in the Game Mod community for its relative ease of modification.
  • Wing Commander Arena follows, with a Time Skip, after Secret Ops, but doesn't really have a storyline as such other than some descriptions of the Great Offscreen War with the Nephilim in the manual, as its primary focus is multiplayer combat. It is an Xbox Live Arcade exclusive game.

This is in addition to the spin offs:

  • Academy (not to be confused with the cartoon of the same name): A simple simulator that allows the player to design their own missions using the 'Wing Commander II'' engine.
  • Privateer: Grayson Burrows is a Han Solo Expy just trying to make a living in a Crapsack World of space pirates, slavers, drug-dealers, and worse (some of which he can participate in). The final Wing Commander game using scaling bitmaps rather than polygonal graphics.
  • Armada: Acting as backstory for Wing Commander III (and a proof of concept for the graphics engine running III and IV), Armada represents the first opportunity to play from the perspective of the Kilrathi, and the first look at the new Kilrathi aesthetic (including the revised Dralthi model seen in every Wing Commander game since)
  • Privateer 2: The Darkening: A Dolled-Up Installment. It begins with the player character awakening from cryogenic slumber and discovering people are out to kill him.
  • Strike Commander: Sort of. It takes place in the Time Marches On Near-Future of 2011 with conventional fighter planes duking it out for supremacy in a very plot-driven series of missions.

In addition to this, there are numerous Expansion Packs, tie-in novels, a couple spin-offs, a Spiritual Successor in the form of Starlancer and Freelancer, a Saturday morning cartoon, and a movie.

Origin Systems was eventually bought by Electronic Arts and then later dissolved, which marked an end to ongoing development of this franchise, but there are some very promising fan projects keeping it alive.

Tropes employed by the Wing Commander video games:

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     For the Entire Series 
  • 21-Gun Salute: In some games you get a twenty-one laser-rifle salute at your funeral after your death.
  • Ace Pilot: Besides the Player Character (a given, within the genre), most of the named pilots throughout the series qualify. It's common for ace pilots to have racked up thousands of kills.
  • All There in the Manual:
    • To the extent that if one only plays the games, the player will miss an incredible amount of story content, including how the saga begins and ends. As an example, the planned Prophecy trilogy was left unfinished. The Nephilim had been defeated twice at the end of Secret Ops, but the threat was never resolved. However, the in-universe magazine Star*Soldier from Arena provides the last canon look at the furthest point in the Wing Commander timeline. The Confederation successfully defended against further Nephilim invasions, including striking back at their home dimension. However, as a result Confed was forced to abandon their outer territories to consolidate their defenses, resulting in a lawless fringe in the Antares Quadrant where Kilrathi warbands, pirates, mercs, and colonial militias frequently clash. This level of detail extends all the way back to the first Wing Commander game, which detailed origins of the Kilrathi war along with dozens of prior military operations and biographies of other famous aces.
    • Approximately 95% of Secret Ops' plot was explained on the (also episodically updated) website, with literally none of this included in any subsequent re-releases, in part thanks to copyright concerns from EA Germany. Have fun with Alt-tab.
    • The manuals and supplementary materials for the Wing Commander games (and other games published by Origin) serve to tie the various games together, even games that don't seem to take place in the same universe (for example, System Shock is a movie in the Wing Commander universe, and the Crusader games are a particularly dark chapter in the Wing Commander universe's timeline).
    • In general, the manuals for many of these games are legendary; the Feelies that came with the first game in particular are beloved by many gamers of the early 90s and contained tons of background information not directly mentioned in the game (in fact the game assumes you read the manual and know the history... just like your character would). WC III and Prophecy had somewhat similar detailed manuals, as did Armada and both Privateer games, and the lack of this is generally one of the strikes held against II and IV.
  • Almost Lethal Weapons: Starting with the third "main story" game in the series, the player's fighter gets extra damage absorption ability, compared to the same fighter flown by AI pilots, either friend or foe. In an extreme abuse of this property, if the player and the enemy are flying the same ship, as in the final flight mission of Wing Commander IV, the player can contrive a situation where the enemy runs into them at full speed, killing the enemy while leaving their ship significantly damaged but surviving for auto-repair to kick in.
  • Always Someone Better: Blair is this to Maniac. Maniac's refusal to acknowledge that Blair is better than him is presented in-universe as a component of his failure to progress beyond the rank of Major.
  • Animal Theme Naming: Most military fighters and bombers are named either according to this (e.g. Hornet, Ferret, Raptor), or...
  • Arms and Armor Theme Naming: ...after medieval-ish weapons. (e.g. Scimitar, Longbow, Morningstar)
  • Antimatter:
    • Traditional capship power source, also used on the Excalibur and its descendant, the Dragon.
    • Several capital warships also mount antimatter guns.
    • The torpedoes from the Kilrathi war use Matter/Antimatter warheads.
  • Anyone Can Die:
    • In the very first game, you could lose any one of your wingmen. Solemn funeral scene ensued. Next installments featured more comprehensive plot, so NPC pilots learned to use their ejection buttons. Since then, all deaths were plot-driven (but included some major characters).
    • Once a pilot has fulfilled their plot obligation, they once again become potential victims of this trope. Which could lead to some oddness if they died in a previous installment during the player's campaign, and were then needed for a plot driven event in the sequel. For example, Vagabond could die in Wing Commander III but make a comeback in Wing Commander IV. When spending a day or 2 on a Kilrathi Saga marathon with friends, can lead to MST3K style "Hey, he's dead!" moments.
  • Artificial Insolence: Certain pilots such as Maniac, Flash and Seether apply this trope if you choose them as your wingman; they will follow orders to "Break and attack" at the start of combat, but otherwise ignore any instructions you try to give them.
  • Artificial Stupidity:
    • Anyone who's had a wingman try to shoot through them to hit the ship they're targeting has gotten a demonstration of this trope. See also friendly NPCs trying to engage Triton transports in Prophecy without first taking out the turret guarding the engines. Also, your carrier in Secret Ops, the Cerberus, tended to use its BFG indiscriminately against any enemy craft nearby. This can result in various allied ships being accidentally destroyed because they wandered into the cannon's fire patterns, such as a) your wingmen, b) the subject of today's Escort Mission, or c) you.
    • Just imagine the frustration if you carefully aim and fire a slowly moving torpedo at an enemy capship in Prophecy, and then, while the missile is on its way, seeing a friendly NPC fighter flying directly into its flight path. Of course, this means all friendly ship would attack you for treason.
    • In the first game, it's also entirely possible to come back from a mission (and it's inevitably the really hard ones where this will happen) only to have your wingman crash into the Tiger's Claw and die because they take formation flying a little too seriously. Very annoying if you're trying to keep everyone alive. You could usually avoid it if you told your wingman to return to base. It was really bad when your wingman sank the Claw more than the Kilrathi did- something the SNES version of the first game was particularly prone to.
  • Asteroid Thicket:
    • Crashing into an asteroid can (and often does) mean instant death. In some of the games they can also be shot with your cannons to sort of clear a path for you. There are also Mine Thickets in some sectors, and you do not want to shoot those.
    • These got much easier once the series made the jump to true 3D, with a few large asteroids instead of a lot of small ones relatively close together.
    • Made particularly annoying by the Kilrathi asteroid fighters in the third game, which still mean instant death if they hit you, with the added challenge that they are now also chasing and shooting at you, and have quite painful mines they're ready to drop in your face if you get on their tail.
    • The Rostov system in the original Wing Commander deserves special mention; it's basically one giant Asteroid Thicket.
  • Battle Theme Music: Wing Commander's use of situational music was part of what made Sound Blaster a home name in computer gaming.
  • The Battlestar: The series, at times, seems in love with the concept:
    • The TCS Concordia in Wing Commander II, armed with a full fighter wing, a Phase Transit Cannon, and antimatter guns.
    • The Vesuvius class supercarriers in Wing Commander IV are equipped with anti-capship weapons as well as fighters.
    • Pretty much every ship in capable of carrying fighters counts as The Battlestar, in particular cruisers and larger.
    • Wing Commander III gives us, on the Kilrathi side, the Dreadnought, a huge (22 km long) warship equipped with a full fighter wing and numerous weapons including anti-ship missiles.
    • The TCS Midway from Prophecy technically qualifies after it acquires a plasma cannon that can wipe out entire fleets in one shot.
  • Big "NO!":
    • Kilrathi pilots in Wing Commander II and Wing Commander III sometimes do this when they get shot down.
    • So do some of the hostile human pilots in Wing Commander IV.
      See you in hell! AAAAAAAA—
  • Black Dude Dies First: Cobra in Wing Commander III, who is the first of your usual wingmen to be Killed Off for Real when Hobbes betrays the Confederation.
    • Averted with Doomsday; clearly intentional as the man has practically embraced the likelihood of his death in each of his appearances; thirty years after the war's end, and he's one of the few still flying!
  • Blamed for Being Railroaded: In one of the games, you shoot down a traitor pilot who ejects. You get a cutscene where you could shoot him in his survival pod, but you don't shoot him before your squadron leader swoops in and takes him into custody. The traitor later escapes and a fellow pilot berates you for not shooting him when you had the chance. Except, of course, you didn't - there's no way to affect the way the cutscene and the subsequent plot plays out.
  • Body-Count Competition: Several of the Wing Commander games had a scoreboard on the ship, showing the kills of all the pilots onboard. The wingmen would gain kills even if they weren't selected as a wingman for a particular mission (since the player isn't the only pilot flying sorties), and some were much better at killing than others.
  • Burial in Space: Almost any pilots (including the player) that die gets one of these, complete with 21 gun salute as the funeral crew sends the coffin flying into space. In the first game, if it's a wingman that dies Blair vows to avenge the dead pilot... even if he is the reason they died, in an Unfriendly Fire situation.
  • Calling Your Attacks: AI pilots launching torpedoes will announce the launch on the comms, mirroring Real Life Western-style air forces having their pilots call fighter missile launches so a wingman doesn't accidentally get hit. Not that it seems, in the fictional version, to stop your wingmen from themselves stepping in front of a fired torpedo.
  • Charged Attack: The fission cannons on the Dragon. They're so powerful, they will push you backwards if you're at zero throttle when you fire.
  • Colonel Badass: Colonel Blair, obviously.
  • Cool Plane: Besides running on Rule of Cool "plane," each game has a "super fighter" that is a reward for good gameplay toward the end. Wing Commander I (and its expansions) has the F-44A Rapier, Wing Commander II has the Sabre, Morningstar, and (arguably) Crossbow, Wing Commander III has the Excalibur, Wing Commander IV the Bearcat and Dragon, Prophecy has the Vampire. Wing Commander Secret Ops has "Black" special operations versions of every fighter from Wing Commander Prophecy (even the Tigershark, though the Black Tigershark can only be accessed through third-party mission editors), taking the characteristics of each ship up to 11.
    • The spinoffs get into the act, too, with Armada having the Terran Wraith and Kilrathi Jrathek (a proper successor to the unplayable Hhriss in Wing Commander: Secret Missions II), and Privateer having a whole gaggle of Cool Planes (but especially the Centurion, gushed about in-character by many secondary characters and actually worth the hype).
  • Cool Starship: it's a space flight sim. These games run on the Rule of Cool Ship.
  • Creator Cameo:
    • Chris Roberts provides the in-flight voice for the TCS Ajax in Wing Commander III, as well as being an extra in some of the funeral cutscenes.
    • Roberts also appears as the Black Lance officer saying "and I couldn't go on!", in the winning game end cinematics for Wing Commander IV.
  • Critical Annoyance: The Eject alarm, which goes off when your fighter is likely to be killed by the next hit. Fortunately, Deflector Shield regeneration turned it off.
  • Critical Existence Failure: Averted throughout the entire series, actually, as your fighter would lose certain capabilities (shielding, radio, guns) as those systems were damaged or destroyed. (Well, averted with your ship; this kind of damage only infrequently affects enemy fighters.) Starting with Wing Commander III, capships started to have components, or at least weak gun turrets, which could be destroyed separately from the ship itself.
  • Cutscene: The series as a whole made extensive use of cutscenes, originally with animated art and then later with live action cutscenes, to tell the story between the missions and provide the general atmosphere for the setting.
  • Darker and Edgier: Happened little by little over the main series, with the situation growing ever more desperate and moral ambiguity creeping in. The first game depicts humans and Kilrathi being evenly matched in the war, with humans standing a good chance of winning. The second game introduced a faction of human traitors, and the Kilrathi ready with plans to recoup their losses in the end. The third game makes it clear that humans are slowly but surely losing the war, and the only hope of victory is a sneak attack on the Kilrathi homeworld with an experimental Weapon of Mass Destruction. With the Kilrathi pacified, the fourth game deals with a civil war between humans, with more WMDs and an Evilutionary Biologist cabal orchestrating the events. Prophecy made a deliberate return to straightforward righteous battle against evil aliens. On the other hand, its storys makes it very clear that the Nephilim pose an even greater threat than the Kilrathi and what the player faces is more or less a 'scouting party' and the much creepier mission music makes the game feel a lot scarier.
  • Death Cry Echo:
    • The Wing Commander games would have both friendly and enemy pilots scream over the radio at you if they were destroyed.
    • Before they coded in the actual dialogue for the speech pack for Wing Commander II, they had placeholder sound files, such as "forming on your wing" or "attacking" in a complete deadpan. Hilarity ensued the first time the player lost a wingman, who calmly stated, "I'm dead."
  • Death Course: Particularly in the earlier games, Asteroid Thickets and Space Minefields were placed in and around navigation waypoints, forcing the player to either have to fly carefully or travel off the straight-line path to the next point to steer around it.
  • Death of a Thousand Cuts: The preferred method for capital craft destruction in the Wing Commander games when you don't absolutely need a torpedo to kill a capship. Guns are renewable resourcesnote  and found on every ship, unlike torpedoes.
  • Deflector Shields: used throughout the series. The more pertinent question is how strong the capship's "Phase Shielding" is: in games 1 and 3, you can shoot a carrier to death with your fighter's guns, but in 2, 4, Prophecy, & Secret Ops torpedoes are the only viable method of downing a capship (unless you're flying a Devastator bomber, in Prophecy or Secret Ops).
  • Difficulty Levels:
    • From Wing Commander III onwards, you could select a difficulty level from the options screen. AI in the higher levels use decoys to distract your missiles more frequently, and will use their own missiles more freely - and effectively. Given the deadly nature of missiles in all but the easiest difficulties, this becomes a nasty case of realistic consequences.
    • When Secret Ops first came out, you were required to fill out an online registration before you could download the game. One of the questions the registration asked was your experience with the Wing Commander series. If you said that you had beaten a Wing Commander game in the past, then the game would automatically be set to the "Nightmare" difficulty level without telling the player.
    • To access the difficultly settings, you must press Alt-O while in-flight (Ctrl-O in Prophecy and Secret Ops) to bring up the gameplay options screen. If you haven't read the manuals closely, it's easy to never discover this and you could complete the whole game without discovering how challenging it can really be.
  • Due to the Dead: When a named character (even the player character, if the player screws up) dies, more often than not there's a funeral cutscene, with a 21 gun salute as the character's coffin drifts off into space.
  • Dynamic Difficulty: There was supposed to be an adjustment of AI skills, in the games before Difficulty Levels, but for many there's often little to no notice of much of a difference in any of the games where this trope was in effect.
  • Eject... Eject... Eject...:
  • Ejection Seat:
    • Ejecting means that you just failed every remaining objective (because your wingman Can't Go On Without You), but it can occasionally be a wise move, especially if you don't like Save Scumming.
    • Ejection in many missions, however, was still a loss. And one Kilrathi ace in particular was known for shooting up ejected pilots.
  • Elite Mooks: In the Wing Commander series, most of the games had the elite, named opponents with personalities.
  • Escort Mission: Many, as often as not escorting a civilian transport as a military vessel. Some are more tolerable than others, particularly warships that have defenses stronger than tissue paper and can shoot back at enemies attacking them.
  • Event Flag: Some engagements during a mission are triggered at random when passing a certain point in space other than the designated navigational waypoints.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": In addition to most pilots usually being referred to by their callsign only, the first game had a bartender named "Shotglass" (his callsign from his pilot days) and the second and fourth games had mechanics named "Sparks" and "Pliers" respectively. (The latter two did have spoken-on-screen names - Janet McCullough and Robert Sykes - but nobody ever used them.)
  • Expanded Universe: Wing Commander's EU includes ten novels (both adaptations of other material and original stories), multiple game guides, a Western Animation series, a Collectible Card Game, and a movie, all of which count fully towards continuity.
  • Fantastic Ship Prefix: The military ships of the Terran Confederation use TCS for Terran Confederation Ship, and KIS for Kilrathi warships.
  • Fashionable Asymmetry: The Kilrathi are noted for their disinterest in symmetry and aesthetics in general. This is carried over subtly with their ship design, especially after Armada was released.note 
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: via "jump points", which are formed by specific gravitic conditions. In the games, a Swirly Energy Thingy opens and the ship goes through.
  • Faux First Person 3D: Until Armada, the games used a series of sprites drawn at different angles, the exact sprite displayed depending on the orientation of objects in relation to the player's view.
  • The Federation: Terran Confederation is, in general, a benign association of planets built up by humanity, and for the most part the heroes of the series.
  • Fighter-Launching Sequence: From the first game on the player's ship is shown launching from their base du jour, some times with a Red Alert going on.
  • Foreshadowing: Despite committing numerous atrocities with his Black Lance henchmen in order to prove that humanity was behind in intergalactic warfare, Tolwyn's admonition to Blair during the endgame of The Price of Freedom of an unknown race that will try to dominate mankind wasn't far off when in Prophecy, that particular race would indeed show up and attempt to do so, having already established their superiority over the remnants of the Kilrathi.
  • Friend or Foe?: In the main games, for the most part your opponents will be flying ships entirely different from your own side's, so it's easier to tell who's who. This doesn't, however, help too much if your wingman flies right into the path of the torpedo you just launched, resulting in an insta-kill of said idiot and everyone else declaring you a traitor, in all but the very first game.
  • Fun with Acronyms: The manuals measure both the damage output of a weapon and the protection armor and shields provide in units of "ESK". This stands for Earth-Shattering Kaboom.
  • Game Level: The series includes a level lattice based on the success or failure of the campaign in each star system, each system composed of several missions.
  • Game Mod:
    • Hackers & programmers using Prophecy's VISION Engine have managed to produce their own campaigns. Others have employed the FreeSpace 2 engine, Vega Strike, or even built their own.
    • Multiplayer functionality was originally planned for Prophecy but never finished, and the incomplete code was commented out due to time constraints (though not before an ad touting that functionality was published). Many fans were disappointed by the lack, but one was bothered enough to polish off the code and make it a viable option.
  • Good Is Not Soft: Spirit, Angel, Maverick, Hobbes, and several others are genuinely nice, friendly, caring people. They are also ace fighter pilots who can and do get downright vicious.
  • Guy in Back:
    • Technically, the option exists for any craft in the series with a rear turret to have a gunner, but for the most part they go unnamed. The games allow you to switch to that turret and operate it, but while doing so you can't control the rest of the ship.
    • Any time you pilot a Broadsword in Wing Commander 2, however, you're explicitly stated to have a full gunnery crew, one for each turret. In fact, in one mission, Angel herself straps into the lead gunner's seat to help you out (and won't take no for an answer, either). The gunnery crew occasionally serves as background characters, to boot.
    • In Wing Commander IV, Pliers notes that Blair will have to use an inferior auto-gunner in his craft's rear turret, as the Intrepid doesn't have personnel to spare for the duty.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Although normally calm and collected, it is never a good idea to cross Colonel Blair. Many other pilots also qualify; most notably Cobra, Stingray, and Hawk, just to name a few.
  • Hello, [Insert Name Here]: Prior to the option of available speech, the name and callsign you chose at the start of the game was worked into the speech text. Starting with the Live Action Cutscenes of Wing Commander III, you could only choose your callsign, but it was never mentioned in conversation.
  • High-Altitude Battle: Inverted in Wing Commander III and Wing Commander IV, in that they are space combat games that require the player, in some missions to descend into the sky (i.e. atmosphere) of multiple planets to accomplish plot-critical objectives. Needless to say, these special levels as a rule tend to be tougher than the conventional space battles seen elsewhere in the series, if for no other reason than crashing into the ground by mistake.
  • High-Speed Missile Dodge: Generally one of the ways to survive in the Wing Commander series, given the limited amount of decoys you generally get (at least prior to Prophecy), particularly when they get significantly more fatal in Wing Commander IV. Confusingly, the slow-ass, stock clunker of a Tarsus that you first fly in Privateer, can simply afterburn away from missiles that are supposedly twice as fast as the ship they're targeting, even without much ECM help.
  • Hitbox Dissonance: Ships in the first two games simulate 3D objects flying freely through space by using a series of sprites drawn at various angles, with the appropriate sprite angle displayed in relation to the player's ship. However, the hitboxes are rectangular, no matter what the actual sprite looks like. This is especially noticeable when you are firing at a flat-shaped enemy fighter that is aligned diagonally, and you can hit it at the "empty" corners of the hitbox.
  • Hold the Line: Several missions throughout the series are escort missions of your home carrier, buying time for it to make it to the next jump point.
  • Humans Are White:
    • Averted in the first game. Although a majority of your crewmates on the Tiger's Claw are white, it's not by a large margin. Among the main characters, besides the white ones, are a black man, a Japanese woman, and a Taiwanese man. And Maniac.
    • When the games made the jump to Live Action, the ratio of ethnicities tilted towards Caucasians, but there was still a fairly significant non-token minority presence, including the first carrier captain seen in the series who wasn't white, Captain Eisen.
    • A fairly significant plot point in Wing Commander IV: Other than Blair and longtime friend/annoyance Maniac, the "good guy" core fighter pilots on the Lexington are Catscratch (played by Mark Dacascos) and Vagabond (François Chau), with Captain Eisen (Jason Bernard). As The Conspiracy steadily takes over the ship, the black and brown faces become depleted, replaced by generically handsome yet subtly sinister white guys.
  • I'd Tell You, but Then I'd Have to Kill You: Blair, in Wing Commander IV when he comes aboard the TCS Lexington, uses this line to poke fun at Maniac, taunting him with made-up classified comments from Admiral Tolwyn.
  • Inertial Dampening: One of many components in your fighter that can fail as you take damage, though the games don't model any actual effects of its loss other than any collision being fatal.
  • Informal Eulogy: Your commanding officer will have a special eulogy on your behalf when you kick the bucket. Your wingmen get these, too, if they die in combat.
  • Informed Ability: The wingmen you fly with are all supposed to be truly badass veteran pilots, but with a relative few exceptions... well, they aren't.
  • In Harm's Way: Despite claiming to be happy retiring to a quiet farm, Blair seems quite pleased to be recalled to active duty in Wing Commander IV. In fact, the player has the chance to come to someone's aid when a nasty fellow with a knife is threatening him in the same scene.
  • In Space, Everyone Can See Your Face: The series averts this trope, for the most part. At most one only saw the area immediately around the eyes of the pilots wearing the helmets, and it wasn't illuminated other than by the light in the cockpit (which just shifted the problem out of the helmet, but that's not this trope).
  • Instant-Win Condition: In some missions not only is it not required to destroy all targets, you get chewed out for doing so.
  • Ironic Nickname: Colonel Christopher "Maverick" Blair is, for the most part, not actually a Military Maverick. He in fact had quite the reputation as a By-the-Book Cop for much of his career, although there have been times where he disregarded orders.
  • It's a Wonderful Failure: Every Wing Commander game has an ending scene depicting the results of losing the campaign.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: Happens quite regularly in games in the series that have speech, with taunts being cut off by the speaker's ship becoming a rapidly expanding ball of plasma, courtesy of your guns.
  • Law of Inverse Recoil: Cannons have no recoil whether they are energy or projectile based, with one exception: the fission cannons on the Dragon have enough recoil to send your ship backwards if it's at zero throttle.
  • Live-Action Cutscene: Wing Commander is noted for being one the few early examples of live-action cutscenes that actually did them well, using quality movie actors and solid writing, with Wing Commander IV being a particular standout (unlike III, it was shot on film with actual sets, and had a stronger script than Prophecy).
  • Macross Missile Massacre:
    • To a lesser degree than a full MMM, using the salvo function, one can dump all of one's missiles in a short time. This is a cheap way to kill "Flash" in the sim contest in Wing Commander III, if you don't want to take forever to kick the little twerp's ass. This method also works on potting Thrakhath after the Behemoth is destroyed in the Loki system.note  Of course, being The Dragon, Thrakhath returns at the end anyway, even if you do kill him and get to land.
    • In Prophecy and it's sequel Secret Ops, the player on occasion has access to the Wasp interceptor. One of it's weapons is the Swarmer, a launcher that with each shot fires eight missiles that track your locked target—as long as you keep your target within your front view (otherwise the Swarmers will lose lock and fly off aimlessly. If you possess the piloting skills to keep your target in your view (often not possible without jettisoning the Wasp's booster), it's a one-shot kill. See also the Tracker, mentioned in Cluster Missile.
    • In general, Confed ships later in the timeline carry up to triple the missile compliment of their Kilrathi war equivalents. The standard issue Vampire, not counting Spec Ops variants, carry twelve missiles which fire from four MIRV warheads, and those are not the only missiles in its payload.
  • The Magic Poker Equation: In Wing Commander II and Wing Commander IV, two NPC pilots get a certain hand with plot significance: The Dead Man's Hand (aces and eights), in particular, signaling the impending demise of Mariko "Spirit" Tanaka in Wing Commander II, and Winston "Vagabond" Chang in Wing Commander IV.
  • Mildly Military: The Terran Confederation armed forces' discipline wavers between "relaxed" and "a complete disgrace", throughout the games, behaving in ways that would have even the most laid-back commander seeking firing squads for the offending parties.
  • Military Maverick:
    • Maniac. One of the game manuals suggests that Maniac is best utilized like a hand grenade. Throw him into the midst of the enemy, and then go in after him to clean up. In Prophecy, his behavior did not translate well when he was chosen to become a squadron leader, as it cost him a few lives of his wingmen, and he later voluntarily stepped down as leader.
    • While Blair's callsign of "Maverick" is often an Ironic Nickname, he will disobey orders if he thinks the stakes are high enough.
    • The Border Worlds Militia ups the ante on this trope by being a straight-up Rag Tag Bunch Of Misfits.
  • Military Mashup Machine: both subverted and played straight, depending on the game.
  • Mis Guided Missile: In the first game Angel refers to a missile that Maniac fired that missed its intended target and took out a friendly ship. Later, in Wing Commander IV, Maniac suggests deliberately missing his first few missiles to Catscratch. (As per Maniac's usual track record, this fails miserably when Catscratch tries it, leading to a failed mission, a destroyed fighter, and - depending on the player's choices - Catscratch's death.)
  • Mission Briefing: A staple of the series, which isn't really surprising given that Wing Commander's setting is a military one (mostly). Also where one can find one of the early swipes at Maniac:
    Halcyon: ... and if Maniac gives you any static, you have my permission to shoot him to pieces.
    Maverick: Should I use missiles, sir, or ship's guns?
    Halcyon: Guns, Maverick. Save your missiles for important targets.
    Maniac: What?!
    Halcyon: Squadron dismissed.
  • Mission Control: Most missions don't have any information more than what you get at the Mission Briefing before launching, but on occasion (particularly in the later games) the player receives information from their home base, directing them to another task while still in flight or informing them of any changes in the situation.
  • Multiple Endings: Particularly in the games with live action cutscenes, the ending you get is determined either by gameplay performance or Relationship Values.
  • Mythology Gag: Quite a few in the manuals and supplementary materials for the Wing Commander games, as well as for those of other games Origin published.
    • The Ultima games, for instance, have had various hints that Brittania was located on a planet in the Wing Commander universe. This included a ship-wrecked Kilrathi pilot in Ultima VII.
    • In the manual for Arena, among other examples there's an advertisement for Maniac's autobiography, and an advertisement for a No Remorse movie.
  • Nintendo Hard: Try setting the difficulty level to Nightmare. Suddenly it becomes a LOT harder to down just one light or medium fighter, their AI increases dramatically and they become pretty good at using their afterburners.
  • No Fair Cheating: In the compilation Kilrathi Saga (1-3), the launcher program gives you the option of making yourself invincible, in the first two games, akin to the old "origin -k" command line switch, but changes your callsign to "CHEATER".
  • Nom de Guerre: The callsigns for pilots, most of which sound really cool: Maniac, Angel, Bossman, Knight, Spirit, Doomsday, Jazz, Paladin, Shotglass, Shadow, Crossbones, Hobbes, etc. In Wing Commander III, they even gave the main character of the series the callsign Maverick (most famous from its use in the movie Top Gun, one of Chris Roberts' inspirations to make Wing Commander).
  • Non-Linear Sequel: Wing Commander II was set ten years after the end of the second addon, the Xbox Live game Arena was set 20 years after the events of Prophecy, and Privateer 2: The Darkening was... well, its own little world, for the most part, with subtle hints of a connection to the "main" games dropped throughout the game.
  • Numbered Sequels: Until Prophecy the sequel games all were numbered.
  • Old-School Dogfight: the whole reason for the existence of the series.
  • One-Man Army: With the average NPC wingmen, this is often your role in a mission, taking out numerous waves of enemies.
  • Oral Fixation:
    • Captain Ian "Hunter" St. John is always seen with a partly burned cigar in his mouth.
    • Robert "Pliers" Sykes' regular use of chewing tobacco, spitting out the juice wherever he wishes while in the hangar areas aboard the Intrepid.
  • Palette Swap: Due to cartridge space limitations, the SNES ports of Wing Commander and Wing Commander: The Secret Missions use the Salthi model in a different color for the Jalthi heavy fighter, though it did have the correct (and painful, for their target) gun loadout and performance.
  • Permadeath: Depends on the game. Some characters receive plot-related deaths, but usually whether or not a shot down wingman survives depends on the specific circumstances.
  • Photoprotoneutron Torpedo: Many. Neutron guns, ion cannons, tachyon cannons, proton torpedoes...
  • Planar Shockwave:
    • When Kilrah is destroyed at the end of Wing Commander III, it explodes into a relatively flat shockwave that catches Blair's fighter as he tries to escape following his attack.
    • The Vision engine used in Prophecy generates these randomly when a fighter-class craft explodes.
  • Planet Terra: The Terran Confederation.
  • Point Defenseless: Alternately played straight and averted in the series:
    • Averted in Armada, where quite accurate flak cannons will rip the hell out of even heavy fighters in a few hits.
    • Anti-matter guns in Wing Commander III will result in a horde of dead pilots, both human and Kilrathi, if not taken seriously. Cruisers like the Ajax can shred anything up to a heavy fighter or bomb wing by themselves.
    • In Prophecy, the rear gun turret on the Triton transports isn't necessarily fatal to the player's fighter, but it is quite good at shooting down torpedoes launched at the engine, required to kill them. The positioning also makes the turret difficult to destroy so that it won't interfere with an attack.
    • In Secret Ops, the Cerberus and Plunkett class cruiser have heavy guns which can be as dangerous to you as to the enemy if you don't pay attention to their firing arcs.
  • Portal Network: the jump-point system, at least in the games.
  • Practical Taunt: The series has a special keyboard command for taunting enemies, which can make the target of the taunt redirect their attack to you from whatever they were previously shooting at. This is particularly useful when the enemy is targeting the subject of your escort mission, which usually has the defensive strength of wet tissue paper.
  • Press Start to Game Over: The first game starts with your ship blowing up and a Game Over screen. Fortunately, it's Fission Mailed — you've been playing the Unwinnable Training Simulation. The game uses the following high score screen as a way for you to input the callsign of your choice.
  • Punctuation Shaker: Many Kilrathi names make use apostrophes, although just as many do not.
  • Radio Silence: You can give this order to your wingman, but whether they obey depends on the individual. If it's Maniac? Forget it, outside of the final mission series in Wing Commander III, where he obeys all orders.
  • Ramming Always Works:
    • The "bad" ending from Wing Commander III, in the Sol System mission series.
    Captain Eisen: (leans over his helmsman's shoulder and takes the controls) They are not taking my ship!
    Rollins: (the displaced helmsman) You’re heading right into their fleet!
    Eisen: (with eerie calm) We're going to take as many of them with us as we can. Make your peace, Mister Rollins--
    TCS Victory hits a Kilrathi supercarrier that's at least ten times her size and both vanish in an immense fireball.
    • Heaven's Gate is a heavily armored space station that Confed thinks will stand up even to bombers. Spirit has a rather unorthodox tearjerker - but effective - solution... given the National Stereotypes, you can probably guess what it is.
    • One of the strategies recommended by players to beat Kurasawa 2 is to ram enemy fighters targeting the Ralari. Not only is there the obvious damage, but doing so causes their ship to briefly lose control, and throw off their aim.
  • Ramscoop: In the main series of games, some fighters — notably the Excalibur and Dragon — use experimental antimatter drives that refuel via "Bussard intakes"; the same type of power system utilized by capital ships.
  • Random Encounters: Privateer and its add-on Righteous Fire, and from Wing Commander III onwards in the "main line" games.
  • Relationship Values: in Wing Commander III and Wing Commander IV. Affected by your choices on missions and by your dialogue choices with different characters. Amusingly, if you take the chance to punch a General who happens to be a long-time friend withholding information from you, then the morale of the entire ship's crew goes up by one point.
  • Respawning Enemies: Used in various places:
    • In Wing Commander III, in the final Behemoth defense mission, Kilrathi fighters respawn infinitely until the Behemoth is destroyed.
    • In the final mission of the same game, the Strakha ace "Stalker" will respawn just before going to the planet until your final wingman is no longer present, to ensure you fly the final leg of the run alone.
    • In Wing Commander IV, an infinite number of Border Worlds bombers will spawn if you refuse the second opportunity to defect from Confed until the Lexington is destroyed.
    • One mid-game mission in Prophecy feature infinitely respawning Nephilim fighters. The goal not to kill them all, but to keep your fighter and the Midway alive until the carrier is ready to jump out.
  • Restricted Expanded Universe: Novels that are built around canon characters from the game, particularly Jason "Bear" Bondarevski (first introduced in the Wing Commander 2 Expansion Pack Special Ops 1), are heavily restricted in terms of not altering the main continuity. For instance, the Landreich, a vague analogy of the early United States (IN SPACE!), is created specifically so William R. Forstchen has someplace to play that won't break anything in the "core" universe of the games.
  • Retirony: In Wing Commander II, Elizabeth "Shadow" Norwood talks of soon retiring from active service, just before being killed in a Kilrathi ambush.
  • Revenge of the Sequel: Wing Commander II: Vengeance of the Kilrathi
  • Rotoscoping: The kiss scene between Blair and Angel in Wing Commander II was rotoscoped, with series creator Chris Roberts providing the basis for Blair's body.note 
  • Rubber-Band A.I.: Wing Commander had a "dynamic difficulty" system that scaled the enemy's abilities based on how well the player was doing. It did not, however, change the wingman's performance or take it into account. So if for some reason the wingman was doing poorly (making the mission hard to start with), and the player pulled off a miraculous save, things got a whole lot worse for the player. And wingman.
  • Save-Game Limits: Not so much in the later games, but there were only a limited number of save slots. In Prophecy, however, there were two-stage missions, and you weren't allowed to save between the stages, resulting in an annoyingly long stretch of gameplay if you were pressed for time.
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale:
    • The series as a whole was never all that clear on what units of distance to use, depending on the game, but pretty much all of them were ludicrously wrong.
    • There's also the shenanigans it plays with measuring speed, by using a variable "klicks" (which, unlike in Real Life, isn't slang for kilometers) for the distance portion of stated speeds, for gameplay reasons.
  • See You in Hell:
    • In Wing Commander IV, some of the Space Pirates literally say it, and in dramatic fashion, when you kill them.
      Space Pirate: See you in HELLLLLLLLLLL-(Static)
    • And the Midway's communications officer, should the player drop the ball in defending the ship.
      Midway Comms Officer: SEE YOU IN HELL, YOU BASTARDS!
  • Shout-Out:
    • The first game references the Ultima RPG series. The TrainSim high scores include the pilots Knight and Paladin, Sutek, and Seggallion. Seggallion is also a star in the Vega system.
    • You have Luke Skywalker dropping a bomb in a trench run to save the good guys, not to mention said pilot name is Maverick. And if you lose in Wing Commander III, you get a nice apocalyptic scene where a furry cat foot crushes a human skull during a nuclear holocaust.
    • The map that came with some versions of Prophecy contain a whole bunch of references, from famous space travelers, to scientists and engineers, to Science Fiction writers, and even to some of the fans that have worked with Origin/EA in various ways, over the years.
    • Several in Wing Commander III to Mystery Science Theater 3000, including the Torgo star system. The sound card check audio clip is Joel and the Bots chorusing "Mitchell!" ( -mitchell is also the DOS command to open the game in debug mode).
    • The manual for Arena is loaded references to various fans and fan projects, some of the latter becoming sources of official ship designations and class names.
    • In a nod to Batman: The Movie, the fighter startup screen shown while loading data from the CD, in Wing Commander III, is lifted in part from the startup checklist for the Batmobile.
    • The TCS Concordia, the carrier our heroes fly off of in Wing Commander II, is named for Concordia University Texas, which happens to share a hometown with the studio that produced the games.
    • The Secret Ops and Arena manuals mention the WEC, the Corporatocracy of the Crusader series, implying Crusader takes place in the past of the Wing Commander universe. The developers have stated this is a Shout-Out more than an explicit Canon Welding, one reason being the teleporter technology in Crusader is unlikely to be part of the Wing Commander setting.
  • Simulation Game: Well, duh!
  • Slow Laser:
    • Played straight with most of the guns, none of which have bolts that travel at lightspeed.
    • The Tachyon cannon is a special case. According to tachyon theorynote , they're not capable of traveling slower than light, but the manuals mention that their greater damage potential is in part due to the gun mechanism bringing the particles down to sublight speeds.
  • Something We Forgot: In the Expansion Pack Special Operations II for Wing Commander II, at the very end of the closing cinematics, after Blair has defeated Jazz and returns for praise from everyone, there's a scene of Maniac's fighter, stranded by a broken jump drive that kept him from assisting in the final fight, drifting in the void while calling for help.
  • Space Cadet Academy: The Terran Confederation Academy. The animation Wing Commander Academy in particular features Academy cadets as the main characters.
  • Space Fighter/Space Plane: Many of the fighters that are a staple of the genre are said to not be atmospheric capable, or at least not fighting in an atmosphere, while others are explicitly stated to be capable of flying and fighting in an atmosphere. In a pre-flight briefing for a mission in one of the Secret Missions expansion packs, Colonel Halcyon even warns pilots against trying to fight in the atmosphere of a nearby planetnote .
  • Space Is Air: The Wing Commander series plays this trope mostly straight for the sake of the Old School Dogfights, but in the later games some fighters have the option of "autoslide", which will make your fighter operate in a purely Newtonian manner for as long as autoslide is toggled. To actually change your vector requires turning it off and going back to playing the trope straight, however, then turning it back on when you're on the desired heading and have accelerated back up to the desired velocity.
  • Space Is Noisy: Justified; the Wing Commander II manual explains that your fighter's computer provides audio cues to improve your situational awareness... which is actually quite rational.
  • Space Marine: Space Marines get little mention in the Wing Commander game series as a whole, given the focus of the genre, but they are seen in several of them, playing a relatively minor but still important part in the plot.
    • In the add-on "Operation Thor's Hammer", for the original Wing Commander, they provide the force that assassinates the Kilrathi priestess conducting the Sivar Eshrad ceremony on Firekka.
    • In Wing Commander IV, Space Marines of both the Terran Confederation and the Union of Border Worlds play a part in the plot, mostly in regards to boarding ships and stations to (re)capture them for their respective governments.
    • Likewise, in Prophecy, Terran Confederation marines recapture several stations taken over by the Nephilim, and shut down most of the wormhole gate in the final mission, leaving the player to finish the job due to stiff resistance from the bugs preventing further marine penetration of the facility.
  • Space Mines: Porcupine Space Mines (proximity, limited homing); turret mines (miniature laser platforms), high explosive contact mines and viral mines (broadcast virus-infested transmissions to infect and shut down ship computer systems).
  • Space Navy: Wing Commander has not only a Space Navy, but an Air Force analog (Terran Confederation Space Force), as well. There's no real rhyme or reason as to when a carrier is host to a Navy wing or a Space Force one, and there's apparently some switching of personnel between the services (Commodore [a navy rank] Blair in Prophecy was, prior to 2681, in Space Force, which uses a modified Army rank structure). The ships themselves, however, are pure navy, and manned by navy crews.
  • Space Pirates: In Wing Commander IV the first mission set is dedicated to taking out a pirate group that's causing trouble in the area. They are, per the novelization, specifically there to cause trouble as part of Tolwyn's plan.
  • Space Sector: Both the Terran Confederation and the Kilrathi Empire are divided into sectors, at least some of which are further subdivided into quadrants.
  • Spiteful Spit: In Wing Commander III, during taunting/questioning by Prince Thrakhath, "Angel" Devereaux spits in his face.
  • Splash Damage:
    • Wing Commander II and Wing Commander IV have the Mace, a tactical nuclear missile that can be used to take out groups of sufficiently close targets, detonated either by shooting the missile (WC2) or on command (WC4).
    • Wing Commander IV also has the Starburst and Coneburst missiles, which effectively act like player controlled grenades. As the names suggest, the Starburst's shrapnel field is omnidirectional, while the Coneburst's damage is aimed forward in a conical pattern. Unlike with the Mace, though, the damage is constant within the damage area.
  • Stalking Mission: Hellespont system in Wing Commander IV, when tracking down the pirate frigate.
  • Standard Sci-Fi Fleet: While Old School Dogfighting is the focus of the series, pretty much all of the standard ship classes are seen at one point or another in the series, save for the battleships depicted in the novels.
  • Standard Starship Scuffle: Although most of the combat in the series are Old School Dogfights, there are a few exceptions:
    • In Wing Commander II a mission has you escorting the TCS William Tell to destroy Kilrathi capital ships. Occasionally you also accompany the Concordia in direct combat against other ships.
    • In one mission in Wing Commander III, you're escorting a pair of human destroyers that will engage Kilrathi destroyers in the area if given the opportunity.
    • One cutscene in the successful mission tree of Secret Ops shows an engagement between a Plunkett heavy cruiser and a Hydra cruiser. The losing mission branch version of the scene shows the Plunkett being swarmed by Nephilim fighters, however.
  • Stealth in Space: Cloaking devices, as noted above
  • The Stinger:
    • After the ending credits of Special Operations II, there's a scene of Maniac's fighter, stranded by a broken jump drive that kept him from assisting in the final fight, drifting in the void while calling for help.
    • Watch the WCIII credits all the way to the end. Maniac has a fun little bit.
  • Stopped Numbering Sequels: The fifth "main" game, Wing Commander: Prophecy, dropped the numbering of sequels from earlier games, the series stepping back from the extensive live action cutsceneS of the previous two installations to more of a focus on gameplay, after creator Chris Roberts left Origin.
  • Story Branching: In the first game, the success or failure of your missions determines the next system you go to. Downplayed in its expansion packs, as a "failure" in any system after the first has you play through your Wonderful Failure. The second mainline game has a set sequence of systems, but the even-numbered systems have different missions depending on whether you are on the "winning" or "losing" path.
  • Story-Driven Invulnerability:
    • Starting with Wing Commander II, downed friendly NPCs could eject, to become available in the next mission... until the plot called for them to die.
    • Zigzagged starting with Wing Commander IV by supplying death-able pilots in addition to the plot-critical always-ejecting supporting characters. (Even better, the redshirts sometimes eject.)
  • Story to Gameplay Ratio: The prevalence of plot and cutscenes increased from the original game, which didn't have much at all, on to Wing Commander IV, which shipped on 6 CD-ROMs. (For context, Half-Life 2 takes 5.) Thereafter it receded sharply.
  • Streaming Stars: Always a feature.
  • Subsystem Damage:
    • Available for the Player Character ship since the very first game, where you could lose subsystems that hamper your performance but don't kill you outright; some of the damage can be repaired by auto-repair systems if given sufficient time... unless that, too, was destroyed, in which case you were hosed. Losing a gun, though, wasn't fixed until after you returned to base.
    • Starting with Wing Commander III, capships were given individually targetable turrets, and in Wing Commander IV one of the Speradon missions involves destroying the engine exhaust ports on a carrier in drydock as part of an effort to keep it from escaping.
    • In Prophecy and Secret Ops, destroying certain critical subsystems (including, on the largest vessels, shield generators) was the only way to damage Nephilim capships. 90% of their hull was invulnerable for all intents and purposes.
  • Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: The series apparently loves these:
    • Wing Commander II - the Tiger's Claw is destroyed in the intro sequence, killing many of the characters from the first game (eg. Halcyon, Shotglass).
    • Wing Commander III - Angel is executed by the Kilrathi as part of the opening sequence, though the full scene isn't shown until later. The first scene with Blair also shows him investigating the wreckage of the TCS Concordia.
    • Wing Commander IV - Vagabond is killed a short way into the game. Averted, however, by the TCS Victory, which is said by Maniac to have been converted into a museum ship after the conclusion of the Kilrathi War.
    • Prophecy - Christopher Blair is missing in action/presumed dead by the end of the first act, but then recovered, only to be missing in action/presumed dead again by the end of the game. Also, Hawk is killed a little after halfway through.
  • Tank Goodness: In Wing Commander IV, one of the missions in the Circe mission series puts you in the position of halting an offensive by laser-armed hovertanks.
  • Taps: The theme that accompanies funeral scenes ends with a full playing of Taps.
  • Tim Taylor Technology: In later games in the series, you could divert power from one subsystem to another. In Wing Commander III and Wing Commander IV, this allowed you to get to maximum speed/shields/capacitor/repairs faster, but didn't otherwise improve your stats. In Prophecy, however, the repair system was removed, but putting more power into engines allowed you to exceed the normal top speed of your ship.
  • Title Drop: several times in the games.
    • Used in Wing Commander III both as the nickname given by the Kilrathi to Blair and as The Mole's Trigger Phrase.
    • Done most gracefully in Wing Commander IV, where the title drop is part of a quote that forms the game's Arc Words: "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance." Tolwyn says this once near the beginning of the game, and then again at the very end; what happens in between places those two utterances into very different contexts.
  • Too Awesome to Use: Played straight and subverted with the Flashpak. The player can either use it on the Ella Starbase (killing thousands of civies) or save it (and deal with waves of enemy fighters). If the player opts the latter, they have the option of using it on the Vesuvius. Either way, they only get one use with it.
  • Tractor Beam:
    • In Wing Commander II, one mission has the player flying a Broadsword, using its tractor beam to retrieve a data pod.
    • Blair's crippled fighter is retrieved by a Kilrathi Dreadnought that uses a tractor beam to draw it in.
  • Translation Convention: Even when discussing amongst themselves when only others of their race are around, the Kilrathi use English, for the sake of the audience's understanding.
  • Unfriendly Fire: Blair threatens Maniac with this, in Wing Commander III, after the latter makes one of his usual snide remarks, when Blair is still dealing with Angel being disemboweled. This does turn into a much more friendly running gag, though, as the series goes on, with everyone predicting that friendly fire is the only way Maniac will ever really meet his end.
  • Units Not to Scale:
    • Prior to Armada the animated sprites had no particular scaling in mind. An external view of your fighter beside your home carrier would leave one scratching their head at how a hundred or more fighters could fit in such a rinky-dink ship. In Armada, Wing Commander III, and Wing Commander IV, they used three separate scales ("fighter", "capship" and "starbase"), which were accurate within their own domain but not so outside of it. With the introduction of Prophecy, everything was brought into scale with everything else.
    • However, even with the release of Prophecy, the speed units tended to vary, so a "klick" wasn't the same thing as a kilometer, the variation being a gameplay issue.
  • Unwinnable by Design: Losing paths of any games, where even if you succeeded in surviving and meeting the mission requirements you still lost the game, but in particular from Wing Commander III onwards, if you screwed up sufficiently, you got routed to a no-win scenario, where you continued until either dying or quitting in disgust and/or boredom.
  • Used Future: In particular the Tiger's Claw, to try and get that World War II feel. Later games were somewhat more spit-and-polish, though the Victory and Intrepid were still pretty duct-tape-and-prayers kinds of ships.
  • Videogame Caring Potential: Many of your wingmen receive considerable Character Development, giving you extra motivation to look out for them in combat, and causing some of their scripted deaths (beginning with Wing Commander II) to deliver quite the Player Punch.
  • Video Game Cruelty Punishment: The first game allowed you to kill your wingman without retribution. note  Later games made the wingmen start fighting back if it was obvious you were trying to nail them, and from Wing Commander III onward, you get court-martialed if you return to base after shooting down your wingman... unless you eject afterwards, in which case the game forgets that you did the killing.
  • Visible Invisibility
    • In Wing Commander III, in the "fly-by" cutscenes the player's cloaked Excalibur shows up as wireframe outlines.
    • In Wing Commander IV, thanks to special optics for the Dragon fighter you can visually track cloaked ships, which use the wireframe outline mentioned above to display them.
  • War Is Hell: A staple of the entire franchise. Tends to come out even more in the books than in the games, though the games sure don't slouch on this in places.
  • Wave-Motion Gun:
    • The Behemoth, a planet-exploding gun with a ship wrapped around it. In an interesting subversion of the actor, Blair has to protect it ( he fails, because a) it wasn't finished before being trotted out, and b) Hobbes found out about that).
    • The Phase Transit Cannon mounted on the TCS Concordia in Wing Commander II (which may have been a direct shoutout to the original WMG).
    • The "fleet killer" alien plasma weapon acquired for the TCS Midway in the latter half of Prophecy, originally mounted on Krakens.
  • Weak Turret Gun: Pretty much any game from Wing Commander III onwards.
    • Except for the rear turret on the aforementioned Triton transport. However, this isn't because the turret itself is powerful, but rather it's invulnerable from most angles due to weird nuances in the transport's shields, and its annoying tendency to shoot down torpedoes aimed at the engine with more success than any other point defense system in the entire franchise.
  • Weapon of Mass Destruction: In addition to the Behemoth (and its predecessor the Sivar) and the Temblor Bomb, there's the bioweapon used against Locanda IV, in Wing Commander III, which renders the planet uninhabitable for centuries, and the GenSelect device used in Wing Commander IV, which in the novelization is estimated to have a fatality rate of roughly 90%.
  • What the Hell, Player?:
    • In the Wing Commander series, you get called on accidentally shooting your wingmen. However, in the first game you don't get punished for it in any way, even if you shoot them down. Colonel Halcyon wasn't kidding when he said you could shoot Maniac down if you want. Later games, however, would take more than a few hits on a wingman's fighter as a sign of turning against your friends, and will act in self-defense.
    • From Wing Commander III onwards, you'd get court-martialed when landing after shooting down a wingman. You get a free pass on it if you eject instead of landing afterward, though.
  • Wing Man: Given the genre, this should go without saying. Given the media, it should also go without saying that they're occasionally useless, especially in the older games.
  • Wrench Wench: Sparks in Wing Commander II and Rachel Coriolis in Wing Commander III/Wing Commander Prophecy.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: Your fate, in timed missions, if you don't return to your carrier before it jumps out, or as noted above if your carrier gets destroyed.
  • You Nuke 'Em: In the add-on Secret Operations 2, for Wing Commander II, Maniac makes a big deal about the Mace missile mounted by the Morningstar fighter, a tactical nuclear missile that can one-shot smaller capships, or be used to take out a cluster of fighters via splash damage. Oddly, no such deal is made of regular torpedoes, which utilize matter/antimatter warheads that are even more powerful during the war with the Kilrathi.note 
  • Zerg Rush: Despite Confed's general superiority with individual pilots and ships, the Kilrathi and later the Nephilim were very nearly able to win using sheer numbers.

    Wing Commander: Prophecy and Secret Ops 
  • All There in the Manual: The in-universe briefing materials bundled with game include a decent a lot of cultural background on the Knathrak prophecy, and an explanation of why they decided to refer to the race as Nephilim in-universe. Amusingly enough the player character clearly never read it, leading to people treating him like an idiot before giving a brief summary.
  • Blatant Lies: Hawk tries to manipulate you into attacking the Kilrathi after you save them from a Nephilim attack by telling a story about how him and Blair discovered your player-character's father, Michael "Iceman" Casey from Wing Commander 1 in an escape pod sliced apart "into itty bitty cat chunks". If the person played the prior Wing Commander games, he would know that Hawk wasn't aboard the Tiger's Claw with Maverick and Iceman, and Hawk was only introduced in Wing Commander 4 as a notable fighter pilot who flew in a different sector who Blair only knew by reputation.
  • Bug War: The Nephilim from Prophecy and Secret Ops are an insect-looking race coming to sterilize the galaxy. Most missions have you flying against swarms of fighters and some involve you destroying entire fleets in a single sortie.
  • Ceiling Cling: In Prophecy, the boss alien of the invading Nephilim uses this to ambush Commodore Blair, when the latter has boarded the alien wormhole gate to try to shut it down before humans get swarmed over by the Nephilim.
  • Charged Attack: The Charging Mass Driver from Prophecy and Secret Ops is a modified Mass Driver rigged with a special capacitor that deals more damage than the standard variant based on how much energy the gun has built up by holding the trigger button. When fully charged, depending on the enemy fighter, a direct hit can either take out its shields entirely or destroy it outright by chance. This gun is exclusively mounted on the Tigershark medium fighter and the Shrike bomber.
  • Cluster Missile: Prophecy and its sequel Secret Ops has the Tracker missile on higher-end fighters, which consists of four Friend or Foe missiles mounted to a common frame, that break off after running a certain distance to allow the individual missiles to track on whatever target meets their targeting parameters.
  • Compilation Rerelease: On a slightly lesser scale, Prophecy and Secret Ops were combined into Wing Commander Prophecy Gold, with a new manual that combined material from the manuals of the individual games into one book, and added some details not seen previously... but did not include the online material that provided the meat of the plot for Secret Ops after it was taken offline from EA's website.
  • Converging-Stream Weapon: Prophecy was supposed to have the Tiamat dreadnought equipped with a version of the "fleet killer" plasma gun mounted in the Kraken, with the green glowing tips of the Tiamat's arms forming the beam, but technical difficulties prevented it from being implemented.
  • Couldn't Find a Pen: In Prophecy, it's not shown, but in a discussion between Zero, Dallas, and Hawk in the pilot's lounge, it's mentioned that the Kilrathi aboard the kat fleet that got wasted earlier in the game used their blood to write "Knathrak" (roughly equivalent of Ragnarok for them) on the deck.
  • Cutscene Power to the Max: Mostly averted in Wing Commander Secret Ops, which used the game engine for rendering cutscenes, albeit tweaked in some instances (ex: the Plunkett successfully engaging a Hydra, as the game engine can't target components in the manner required of the player's bomber seeking to kill a capship).
  • Cyanide Pill: In the "bad" ending of Secret Ops (fail to destroy the command ship before it opens the gate to Nephilim space), the captain of the Cerberus tells pilots there's a pill beneath their seat that will kill them, so they don't have to experience the horror of endless waves of aliens overrunning the universe.
  • Dramatic Space Drifting: During the credits of Special Operations 2, Jazz's helmet is seen drifting through space by itself, implying that its wearer didn't eject fast enough after losing the dogfight in the final mission.
  • *Drool* Hello: In Prophecy, the first hint Commodore Blair gets of an alien waiting to pounce on him, while he's trying to shut down the alien wormhole gate before getting swarmed by the Nephilim, is its drool landing on the rifle he was carrying.
  • Earth-Shattering Kaboom: The Sivar's main gun in Special Ops was sufficient to destroy a whole colony from orbit.
  • Elite Mooks: And finally, the "Ace" pilots from Prophecy, who, though they flew an excellent fighter (by raw statistics, the best ship in the game), had no personality whatsoever.
  • Fixed Forward-Facing Weapon: Roughly half way through Prophecy, the Nephilim fleet-killer plasma gun is mounted to the TCS Midway, positioned between the two halves of the forward part of the ship.note 
  • Gameplay Ally Immortality: For some reason the very last mission of Prophecy plays this completely straight: none of your wingmen can get shot down or need to eject, even if they're Redshirts with no plot significance.
  • Generation Xerox: the four main characters of Prophecy are clearly meant to take the torch up from characters in the first four games. Casey is Blair, Maestro is Maniac, Stiletto is Angel and Zero is... hmm, who woulda thought Doomsday was important? Must've been his major role in the novels.
  • Holding Back the Phlebotinum: The alien fleet killer plasma cannon mounted on the Midway, in Prophecy, was salvaged from a spaceship that comes from another dimension, and given the jury-rigged nature can only safely be fired once.note 
    Captain Wilford: "...a fire-and-forget weapon: we fired it once, and now we can forget about firing it again."
  • If You Die, I Call Your Stuff: In Prophecy, one of the in-flight "flavor" communications:
    Zero: Hey Maestro. If you die, can I have your stereo?
    Maestro: You can burn in hell.
  • Imported Alien Phlebotinum: The TCS Midway in Prophecy gets this later in the game, in the form of a fleet-killer plasma cannon. See also the human cloaking devices, which are derived in part from captured Kilrathi devices.
  • It's a Wonderful Failure: In Prophecy, the aliens end up destroying you, your carrier, and, presumably, the last hope of staving off the invasion.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: Averted 99% of the time in Prophecy/Secret Ops, where a "dead" ship would just keep spinning out of control until its pilot could give its last words. Depending on how much comm chatter was in the queue, it could hang out for as much as 30 seconds.
  • Legally Dead: Christopher Blair is declared missing and presumed dead in the online content for Secret Ops.
  • More Dakka: Secret Ops introduced a number of new guns, most of which fired a lot faster than anything in Prophecy.
  • No One Could Survive That!: Christopher Blair gets left behind on the last tower of the wormhole generator in the last mission of Prophecy. Due to the tower itself being pulled into the wormhole, of course, they Never Found the Body. He is declared Legally Dead in Secret Ops.
    • However this is later averted in the novel Pilgrim Truth which does show he did in fact survive.
  • Not What I Signed on For: Dallas in Prophecy signed up for a tour in the military, but it had been over a decade since the last war with no new enemies in sight, and he was only there because having military service his resume would help his future career prospects. Dallas is later killed in action in a mission where his fighter gets disabled and crashes into a Nephilim Corvette which destroys both ships. Oddly, despite hearing his last words loudly on the radio and your fighter probably facing towards where Dallas' fighter is at before the crash, your player character doesn't realize he's dead until you get back aboard the Midway and are told about his fate by your friends!
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: The 'Nephilim' are called that because the Kilrathi mythology around them is broadly similar to the Nephilim in Jewish folklore, and the Kilrathi word is hard for humans to pronounce. Their actual name is unknown.
  • Previous Player-Character Cameo: In the first four games, your Player Character is Christopher Blair. Then comes Prophecy, where Blair is an NPC, and you take on the role of a rookie pilot.
  • The Remnant: The Kilrathi are this in Prophecy. Subverted in that they aren't the antagonists and actually are willing to help their former enemies, the Terrans. Maniac and Hawk aren't thrilled by this, especially the latter; in one later mission, he secretly disables the flight recorders of both his and Casey's ships and eggs on Casey to destroy the Kilrathi patrol group they were supposedly sent to escort from a Nephilim ambush. The reason Hawk implored on Casey to do this is to avenge the latter's father's death at the hands of the Kilrathi back a couple decades ago who had their "fun" with him when he was under their captivity by ripping him to pieces, putting his remains on his escape pod, and sent him back to a Confed patrol group looking for his pod.
  • Spit Take: Maniac delivers a exceedingly hilarious one after the first regular mission in the H'hrass system:
    Maniac: You know, I don't get it. I'm a great guy, you know? I'm the best pilot in Confed. People look up to me. So tell me this. Why is it I can never get the girl? I mean, do some guys have all the luck? Or is it just me?
    Maestro: It's you.
    Maniac (spit take)
  • Starfish Language: In Prophecy, the invading Insectoid Race initially communicates with unintelligible buzzing sounds until around the third mission when we find out that they've already deciphered our language and can now at least broadcast in it... for the explicit purpose of taunting and creeping us out. Quoth Maestro: "I think I liked it better when I couldn't understand them!"
  • Title Confusion: Prophecy is sometimes referred to by fans as "Wing Commander 5", as the fifth "main line" Wing Commander game, even though it's never been used outside the fandom using it as a working title, when almost nothing of the game was yet known to anyone not involved with production of the game.
  • Wave-Motion Gun: The Nephilim has the Kraken, whose plasma cannon can destroy an entire fleet in one shot. Later it was equipped on the TCS Midway, after being reverse engineered from a captured example, though the human version needed extra help to kill an entire fleet.
  • You Are in Command Now: Major Todd 'Maniac' Marshall is made commander of the 'Black Widow Squadron' aboard the Midway after several battles where he was previously established as a member of the squadron; though no previous commanding officer of Black Widow was shown. It is not established if this was a Field Promotion due to the prior CO being Killed Offscreen or if Maniac was the highest ranked and most experienced fighter jock available to take command of the squadron due to the ship supposed to be on it's shakedown cruise and didn't yet have an official CO for the squadron on the ship's maiden voyage. Maniac later voluntarily relinquishes command due to his 'curse' of being the guy to always survive each mission while rookies under his command are blown to bits in space in situations he's survived time and time again. He feels more comfortable as a Wing Commander out on the mission rather than a commanding officer who is responsible for the actions, discipline and results of all of his squadron members.

    Wing Commander Arena 
  • Attack Drone: Arena has this as a Power-Up, giving the player a copy of their ship that flies in formation with them until it's destroyed.
  • Great Offscreen War: The war with and eventually over the Nephilim following the events of Secret Ops is only referred to in the manual for the game, primarily as an Excuse Plot for the setting.
  • Pass Through the Rings: In Arena, there's a Power-Up in the Bearpit game that presents a game where you have to fly through a series of rings, in order and within a certain amount of time. Finishing the 3 levels of the ring game in a single game session is worth an X-Box Live achievement.
  • Significant Anagram: In Star*Soldier, the manual for Arena, one of the entries in the timeline lists a "Rein Etorbs" as an author of a book series The Darkening. Erin Roberts (brother of Chris) was in charge of what eventually became Privateer 2: The Darkening (originally titled "The Darkening").

Alternative Title(s): Wing Commander Prophecy, Wing Commander Secret Ops, Wing Commander Arena