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This page is for the Portal series as a whole. If you're looking for the first video game in the series with the same name, please click here.
Aperture Science. We do what we must, because we can.

Portal is a First Person Puzzle Platformer video game series created by Valve that takes place in the same universe as the Half-Life series. As the name implies, the core gameplay element of the Portal games deals with using a "portal gun" to create doorway-type portals in order to solve physics based puzzles. The game features the protagonist Chell, a human who woke up as an unwilling test subject in the Aperture Science Enrichment Center, a research facility which has become completely abandoned, save for the personality of the insane central A.I. GLaDOS.

Main Series:

  • Portal (2007): The relatively short game that started it all, chronicling Chell's journey as GLaDOS guides her through a series of test chambers in the Enrichment Center.
  • Portal 2 (2011): The sequel that takes place an unspecified amount of time after the original. Portal 2 is 2-3 times longer in terms of gameplay time than the original, and introduces a few major characters and explores in greater depth the history and workings of Aperture Science, as well as the origins and character of GLaDOS herself.
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  • Portal Companion Collection (2022): a Compilation Rerelease of the first two Portal games released on the Nintendo Switch.


  • The Lab (2016): A Tech Demo Game for virtual reality, taking place in an Aperture Science pocket universe.
  • Aperture Hand Lab (2019): Another VR tech demo, showcasing the Valve Index Controller's finger tracking by having you interact with several hands-possessing personality cores.
  • Aperture Desk Job (2022): A short game made to show off the features and controls of the Steam Deck.

Other Media and Crossovers:

  • Lab Rat (2011), a short comic taking place before the original game centering on the schizophrenic Aperture scientist Doug Rattman (the guy who wrote all those messages saying The Cake Is a Lie) around the time that GLaDOS was activated.
  • The Final Hours of Portal 2 (2011), an interactive digital book about Portal 2's development.
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  • Poker Night 2 (2013): GLaDOS is the dealer in this Texas Hold-em game and will occasionally converse with the participants (Brock Samson, Claptrap, Ash Williams, and Sam). In addition, using Portal-themed chips, cards, and table will cause the entire Inventory to resemble the Aperture Enrichment Center.
  • Portal: The Uncooperative Cake Acquisition Game (2015): A Tabletop Game from Cryptozoic Entertainment.
  • LEGO Dimensions (2015): A Crisis Crossover where Batman, Wyldstyle & Gandalf explore various dimensions to find a way to defeat Lord Vortech. One location they visit is Aperture Science, and GLaDOS plays a supporting role as an antagonist throughout the level and later in the game, and even gets into an argument with HAL 9000 at one point. There is also a level pack that is more-or-less a continuation of the Portal series story featuring Chell (as the playable character), GLaDOS and Wheatley. The ending song for the game, like the previous Portal games, was written by Jonathan Coulton and sung by Ellen McLain from GLaDOS's perspective.
  • Portal Pinball (2015): A Pinball Spin-Off available for Zen Pinball (Pinball FX for Microsoft platforms). It takes most of its cues from Portal 2, though there are some nods to the first game as well.
  • Bridge Constructor Portal (2017): A fusion of the Bridge Constructor and Portal series, with the former's gameplay in the latter's environment. Released for PC, mobile devices, Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, and Xbox One.
  • Super Bomberman R (2017): A port for Steam has P-body as an exclusive character.

The official website of the Portal series can be found at

Do not confuse this with the similarly-named but wildly different-in-tone Postal game series.

This page applies for the series as a whole. Please add any examples from an individual game to their dedicated pages.

The Portal series contains examples of:

  • Action Girl: Chell, the Player Character.
  • Abandoned Laboratory: In the first game, there ain't no one in the Aperture Science labs except you and GLaDOS and Doug Rattmann.
  • Adorable Evil Minions: The gun turrets.
  • Affably Evil: The modus operandi of Aperture Science in a nutshell, and of course that of GLaDOS. They are absolutely willing to risk your life, yet they're so sincere about it...
  • A.I. Getting High: The Aperture Science testing chambers give the AI controlling them a burst of pleasure whenever a subject completes a test chamber. It's apparently highly addictive.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: A pleasant, amusing, physics game is turned into a brilliant story demonstrating the power of the medium merely by the judicious application of an Insane Killer Disk-Operating System. And cake.
  • All There in the Manual: The Aperture Science website revealed much of the backstory, this was removed in December 2010. Then GameInformer's Portal 2 hub listed an updated version of the history as stated in the Aperture website. The Combine OverWiki can also help. The names of GLaDOS and Chell are never stated in-game, except in the optional developer commentary. However, Chell is listed in the credits, and GLaDOS has her name on her side.
  • Alternate Reality Game: On March 1, 2010, the game received a surprise patch, featuring a new achievement and a load of seemingly innocuous sound files full of static. Until someone savvy enough to know old-school technology (SSTV) found images hidden within them and oh bloody hell.
  • Ambiguously Brown: Chell.
  • Antepiece: The early test chambers are designed to ease beginners into the game, and gradually introduce them to the different elements and aspects of the game, like the concept of portals itself, the cubes and buttons (and how these two aren't necessarily always linked together), entering portals of both colors as opposed to mistaking blue portals for entrances and orange portals for exits... A few test chambers were redesigned in development for that same reason; they introduced too many gameplay elements at once, and confused playtesters.
  • ASCII Art: Used in the credits to Portal as well as in the Portal 2 ARG.
  • Autosave: The games autosave in certain places or intervals. If you want to to back before an autosave, you can always load the previous save file.
  • Auto-Tune: Ellen McLain's voice is processed through a harmonizer to make GLaDOS's voice sound computer-generated.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: The Handheld Portal Device. A marvel of engineering with the power to create a link between any two points in space - but it only works on concrete, tiles, and anything coated in or made of lunar soil.
  • Badass Normal:
    • Chell, of course.
    • Doug Rattman, a schizophrenic Deadpan Snarker scientist who was indirectly responsible for almost all the events of both games, and escaped GLaDOS to do so.
  • Bad Liar: GLaDOS
  • Bag of Spilling: The Emancipation Grill (also called "the fizzler") is a forcefield which is harmless to Chell (mostly, probably, unless sometimes it's not?) and her Portal Gun, but prevents her from taking foreign objects like cubes through it, and there's one at the end of each level, which prevents you from cheating or breaking the game. Additionally, you can't shoot portals through one, and passing through erases all current portals. Many puzzles force you to circumvent Emancipation Grills creatively.
  • Black Comedy: Aperture Science's approach to anything is steeped in this. So is GLaDOS's sense of humor.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Like in Half-Life, there is a cheat (one that doesn't invoke No Fair Cheating) that disables blood. Specifically, the cheat is violence_hblood 0.
  • The Cake Is a Lie: The Trope Namer. Let's just say that the cake GLaDOS promises turns out to be a bit different than expected.
  • Canon Immigrant: GLaDOS stars in the Defense Grid: The Awakening DLC Defense Grid: You Monster!.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Aperture Science CEO Cave Johnson, according to the company's Backstory. His many questionable acts include founding a shower curtain manufacturing company named Aperture Science, believing time was flowing backwards as he laid on his death bed, and deciding that developing a Heimlich Counter-Maneuver and creating a Take-A-Wish Foundation were two important plans for Aperture Science's future (or past, as he saw it). Even the portal project was originally developed because, in Johnson's own words:
    Cave Johnson:...well, it’d be like, I don't know, something that would help with the shower curtains I guess. I haven’t worked this idea out as much as the wish-taking one.
  • Collision Damage: Averted, with a Hand Wave thanks to Chell's heel springs. Played straight with the toxic floors and energy orbs. GLaDOS even lampshades it:
    GLaDOS: While safety is one of many Enrichment Center goals, the Aperture Science High-Energy Pellet, seen to the left of the chamber, can and has caused permanent disabilities, such as vaporization. Please be careful.
  • Cool Gate: Portals.
  • Cores-and-Turrets Boss: GLaDOS, who has cores attached and uses a rocket turret on Chell.
  • Creepy Monotone: GLaDOS again, or at least very passive-aggressive.
  • Creative Closing Credits: The ending song plays over a text screen that displays the lyrics in the form of a computerized personnel file report, accompanied by some rather hilarious ASCII art.
  • Critical Staffing Shortage: The Aperture Science Enrichment Center. Never mind staff, the only actual living person in the entire game is Chell. There used to be a lot more people working there, but GlaDOS killed them all.
  • Crossover: With Defense Grid: The Awakening, complete with levels that look like the Enrichment Center.
  • Cute Machines: The turrets, as well as GLaDOS' curiosity core.
  • Cyber Cyclops: If Aperture made it, it has only one eye. Even with no depth perception, the turrets are annoyingly good at aiming for you if given the chance and a few seconds of your now-ended life.
  • Deadly Environment Prison: There are multiple indications throughout the series that the world outside the Aperture Science complex poses more danger to Chell than the tests endlessly invented by the murderous AI GLaDOS inside.
  • Dead Man's Trigger Finger: The turrets will spray bullets for a few seconds after you knock them over.
  • Deadly Gas: Neurotoxin to be specific. GLaDOS has tons of the stuff, which she used to kill most of the people in the Center prior to the start of the first game. She attempts to use it again at the end of the first game and in the second.
  • Distinctive Appearances: The white tile surfaces you can attach portals to are significantly different in color and texture than surfaces you can't use the portals on. This is so you can view things from a distance and know what your options are.
  • Elaborate Underground Base: The Enrichment Center. The sequel shows how astoundingly elaborate it really is, and even then we don't directly see all of it. Aperture is huge.
  • Eldritch Location: The Enrichment Center seems at first like a fairly normal, if deserted, underground testing laboratory. However, as stated above, the place is massive to the point where most of it seems structurally and financially impossible. It also seems to violate the laws of physics. Not only are GLaDOS and Wheatley able to create new testing chambers out of thin air, but the ending to Portal 2 shows that you're able to see the moon and sky from Wheatley's chamber, only to be lifted from an elevator multiple floors up in the scene afterwards. Granted, it's shown that whatever AI runs the place is able to control and rearrange the facility, but that still raises the question on how they're able to make such drastic changes to a building that's fixed underneath the ground.
  • Eternal Engine: The facilities behind-the-scenes. Taken to further extremes in the sequel.
  • Everything Is an iPod in the Future: Or more accurately, about the time the iPod came out. The similarity between Aperture's aesthetic and Apple's has been noted and was even exploited for one of Valve's teaser pictures when they were about to release Steam for the Mac.
  • Evolving Title Screen:
    • After completing the game, the player is returned to a title screen that shows the famous cake sitting in a dark room, instead of the detention chamber where they start the game.
    • Bridge Constructor Portal has the stick figure at their desk. With each group of 10 levels completed, they receive power to their computer, a security camera, a turret, a radio, a companion cube, and a portal device.
  • Faux Affably Evil: When Wheatley is in control of Aperture, he attempts to mimic GLaDOS' mannerisms, but fails miserably.
  • Foe Romance Subtext: Portal drops several hints that GLaDOS's fixation on Chell goes beyond the usual Kill All Humans motivation, with lines such as "Despite your violent behavior, the only thing you've managed to break so far... is my heart." It could be unintentional... but then Portal 2 ramps it up further, giving GLaDOS every Psycho Lesbian trope in the book, and she frequently tries to guilt trip Chell using language common to abusive partners. This culminates in "Want You Gone", a Break-Up Song in everything but name. The Final Hours of Portal 2 reveals that a cut plotline had GLaDOS growing increasingly jealous as the player collected personality cores, culminating in them entering a room to be greeted with the sight of a cold roast dinner, at which point GLaDOS would berate them for missing dinner because they were busy cheating on her with a personality core. In "You Wouldn't Know", the credits song of LEGO Dimensions, GLaDOS tries to make Chell jealous, shows resentment over her keeping away, and reminisces over "how much we had".
  • For Science!: Aperture Science doesn't seem to be too good at considering the future implications of the gadgets they make. As the theme tune says, "We do what we must / Because we can."
  • Gaiden Game: To the Half-Life series. Of course, given that it involves completely original characters and the sequel has been confirmed to have nothing to do with Episode Three or Half-Life 3 after all, you could also consider it a Backdoor Pilot.
  • Genius Loci: The Enrichment Center is alive, and reshapes itself according to the whims of the AI in charge. This becomes much more apparent in the sequel.
  • Genre Blindness: Aperture, you guys gave the sentient supercomputer the ability to release neurotoxin through the air vents, in your own facility. How did you think that would turn out?
  • Genre-Busting: A first-person puzzle-platformer game series.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: Only a few things in the game with glowing eyes won't try to kill you.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: The only thing Aperture Science has made that hasn't (yet) had terrible repercussions or just been a flat-out terrible idea? The Portal Gun, and that's only until the singularity inside it destabilizes.
  • Graffiti of the Resistance: The graffiti is of this nature.
  • Grow Beyond Their Programming: GLaDOS.
  • Heroic Mime: Lampshaded by GLaDOS, naturally. Chell's lack of response to her monologues leads her to say "Are you even listening to me?" Word of God is that Chell won't offer her the satisfaction of speaking; she's just that stubborn.
  • High-Voltage Death: Used to justify Chell's Super Drowning Skills; falling into water causes the portal gun to short out and (presumably) give her a fatal dose of electricity.
  • Incompetence, Inc.: Aperture was not a well-run research centre.
    • They were great at inventing innovative things and making profound scientific breakthroughs, but also seemed almost willfully ignorant of the uses to which said discoveries could be put and tried to shoehorn them into products for which they were completely unsuitable. See Inventional Wisdom below.
    • As admitted by Cave Johnson, Aperture started from scratch with every bit of science they did, paying no attention to the lessons learned from previous generations of scientists. This lead to situations like the experiment with the Aerial Faith Plate, where they tried to see how well test subjects could solve problems when catapulted into space. They couldn't. This mindset no doubt lead to the deaths of countless test subjects, to the point where multiple Senate Hearings on missing astronauts were held in 1968, with Aperture as a "vital participant."
    • Not only are the tests themselves dangerous, but just about everything else around Aperture seems to be dangerous as well. In the beginning, they gave test subjects coffee laced with fluorescent calcium to track the neural activity in their test subject's brains, which had a slight chance of hardening and vitrifying their frontal lobes, especially if they visualized it happening while under stress. One control group had postcard-sized "microchips" implanted into their skulls that had a chance of suddenly spiking in temperature. They also apparently had radioactive folding chairs at one point. And after the Portal Gun was invented, it apparently took several test subjects falling to their deaths before devices like the Long Fall Boots were invented.
    • In Aperture, if it's not dangerous, it's horribly inefficient. Case in point, the enormous system of pneumatic pipes designed to carry objects around the facility. Developer commentary describes it as being a ridiculously complex and expensive solution to a simple problem, with apparently no way to control where things go. But since Aperture has so many random objects, they simply don't care where everything ends up.
    • Ends up somewhat deconstructed in Portal 2. All of this wasteful spending and death lead to Aperture's bankruptcy in the 1970's, where they took to hiring homeless people as test subjects before eventually making testing mandatory for all employees. They also couldn't afford to buy $7 worth of moon rocks, but still went ahead with buying $70 million worth and made them into a portal-conducting gel. A move that poisoned Cave Johnson and left him a bitter, dying old man who blamed Black Mesa for all his failures.
  • Industrialized Evil: The whole maze is one giant example, with however many test subjects came before.
  • Insistent Terminology: "Deadly neurotoxin" throughout both games.
  • Inventional Wisdom: The actual functions of Aperture Science's inventions are almost entirely tangential, if not antithetical, to their ostensible purpose. GLaDOS and the portal gun started as a fuel system de-icer and a shower curtain, respectively... at least until the retcon established in the sequel.
  • Kill All Humans: Apparently, GLaDOS spearheaded a Human Annihilation Studies program.
  • Law of Inverse Recoil: The android turrets are easily knocked over and picked up as if they are quite light, however their guns don't seem to have much recoil - they don't tip back when they fire.
  • Level Goal: In each of the test chambers, the elevator to the next test chamber.
  • Lighter and Softer: Compared to Half-Life.
  • Mad Science: One kind of gets the sensation Aperture was run a little like this even before GLaDOS took over; the test rooms don't really seem to be built with "safety" or "sanity" in mind. The sequel plays this for all it's worth.
    CAUTION: This Sign is Radioactive.
  • Mascot Villain: GLaDOS, though her #1 mascot status is edged out by the Companion Cube. The evil comes in the fact that she forces Chell to run around an deadly obstacle course with the promise of cake, and that when she gets to the end, tries to kill Chell.
  • Minimalist Cast: A Heroic Mime and a disembodied voice. That's it, besides an absent nutcase who wrote messages on the walls, an inanimate box and some automatic turrets with cute voices. The web comic "Lab Rat" establishes that Rattman, the "nutcase", was actually still there. He apparently died at the end of the comic when he saved Chell from the Party Escort Bot, but a particularly creepy easter egg in the second game implies that he's still alive: the sixth and final Rattman Den you can find is just like the others. When you leave, any and all portals you made inside the den mysteriously vanish and the wall closes so you can't get back in...
  • Misapplied Phlebotinum: The Portal Gun originated as an "improved" shower curtain. GLaDOS originated as an "improved" fuel system de-icer. Aperture developed wormhole teleportation and artificial intelligence, yet used them for nothing more than to run hapless subjects through mazes like lab rats.
  • No Medication for Me: Inverted in the Lab Rat comic. Doug Rattman has been saving the last of his anti-psychotic medicine so that he'll have a clear head when Chell destroys GLaDOS and he can escape, even if the Companion Cube tells him he doesn't need it.
  • No Product Safety Standards: Shower curtains, the emancipation grill, and probably not the Portal Gun.
  • Ominous Multiple Screens: The cluster of monitors surrounding GLaDOS' mainframe at the endgame, each showing a sped-up slideshow of random images, many of them being cake photos, and some of these monitors change to a timer when she starts pumping in the neurotoxin. For extra humor, her dialogue makes certain frames pause based on what she says.
    GLaDOS: Was it worth it? Because despite your violent (shot of a knife held over a violin) behavior, the only thing you've managed to break so far, is my heart.
  • Once Done, Never Forgotten:
  • Opening Monologue: GLaDOS shortly after waking up Chell, warning her about potential injuries that may occur.
  • Orange/Blue Contrast: Orange and blue are common complementary colors in the game; the portals are blue and orange, Excursion Funnels are blue or orange depending on their direction, the two primary gels in Portal 2 are blue and orange, GLaDOS has an orange eye while Wheatley has a blue one, and more.
  • Overdrawn at the Blood Bank: Chell can take tons of turret shots, and leaves large blood smears on walls when hit. 5 seconds, and you're okay again, ready to lose another three pints.
  • Peace & Love, Incorporated
  • People Jars: Implied in the Relaxation Vaults.
  • Point of No Return: Within some levels, there are doors that close once the player goes through. (The divisions between each Game Level are also points of no return, of course, as they prevent players from putting portals across levels.)
  • Portal Cut:
    • Averted: The developers wanted players to feel safe, so if the player tries to put a portal elsewhere when the player or an object is in the middle of a portal, the player or object gets pushed out. Most of the time.
    • Inverted: Opening a portal pops off security cameras.
  • Portal Slam: Gets averted, at considerable programmer effort.
  • Powered by a Black Hole: Aperture Investment Opportunity #4: "Boots" implies this for the Portal Gun, because it can stop working if the Miniature Black Hole inside fails.
  • Pressure Plate: The 1,500-Megawatt Aperture Science Heavy Duty Super-Colliding Super-Button.
  • Puzzle Game: One of the only genres in which Portal readily fits.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: The turrets.
  • Reed Richards Is Useless: The portal gun could revolutionize the world: Perpetual Motion Machines, Casual Interstellar Travel, resolve all supply and transportation problems, but there's no suggestion that it was ever used for anything other than testing.
    • Aperture has a massive automated complex in the abandoned mines under Cleveland. Just the logistics of building the place boggle the mind, much less operation, and would require considerable expertise. They used it for testing.
    • They have Repulsion and Propulsion Gel, which were intended as diet aids, and could be used as, say, engine lubrication or shock padding. Third verse, same as the first.
  • Required Secondary Powers: Chell wears a pair of ankle-springs in order to ensure her legs aren't shattered when she comes flying out of a portal. The commentary bubbles indicate early on that the reason was that playtesters complained that Chell could survive falls that would kill Gordon Freeman. Despite the fact that the springs are patently insufficient to realistically protect her, they stopped the complaints, so mission accomplished (then again this is game in which dimensional rifts are created by harnessing the power of a singularity and the moon so spring loaded heel devices make sense).
  • Research, Inc.: Aperture Science, we do what we must because we can.
  • Restraining Bolt: GLaDOS' Morality Core was installed in an attempt to curb her psychopathic tendencies. Similarly, Wheatley was added to her in an attempt to limit her dangerously excessive intelligence.
  • Room Full of Crazy: Several backstage areas show insane scrawlings and disturbing drawings, done by Doug Rattmann.
  • Safely Secluded Science Center: The Aperture Science Enrichment Center is a massive, underground series of laboratories and testing facilities all hidden under fields in Michigan. Portal 2 reveals that isolating the Center was one of the few good decisions Aperture CEO Cave Johnson made: past experiments included such things as armies of mantis men, dangerously toxic fluids, ridiculously hostile artificial intelligences, and potentially apocalyptic attempts at time travel.
  • Science Is Bad: Exaggerated and Played for Laughs. GLaDOS and Aperture Science in general regard science with a three-way combination of Comedic Sociopathy, Crazy Is Cool and For the Evulz.
  • Shout-Out: Has its own page.
  • Slept Through the Apocalypse: "I have an infinite capacity for knowledge, and even I'm not sure what's going on outside."
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: "Still Alive", and the radio version that plays in the Relaxation Vault and in Test Chambers.
  • Spiritual Successor: To Narbacular Drop.
  • Stuck on Band-Aid Brand: GLaDOS is apparently programmed to use the full name of all Aperture Science products every time she refers to one. Thus, you don't have a "Portal Gun", you have an "Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device". Even something that she doesn't know the name of (supposedly) gets called the "Aperture Science Thing We Don't Know What It Does".
    • Averted on one occasion: "I hope you brought something stronger than a portal gun this time."
  • Success Through Insanity: Schizophrenic Doug Rattman was completely right in suspecting the operating system was out to kill everyone and so was the only survivor of the lab incident.
  • Super-Powered Robot Meter Maids:
    • GLaDOS was originally designed to be a "fuel-injection system de-icer". Someone went just a tad overboard.
    • The turrets don't really need to have independent thought and the ability to feel pain. Or an empathy chip, or a chip to cancel out the effect of the empathy chip.
  • Tactical Suicide Boss: The final bosses of both games must be defeated this way.
  • Teleport Gun: The Portal Gun.
  • Teleport Interdiction: Portals can only be created on certain types of surfaces (e.g. white tile, yes; bare metal, no). Navigating through areas with few or no portal surfaces becomes an increasingly common puzzle element in the later stages.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Referred to in the credits song.
  • Unbroken First-Person Perspective: Used in both games.
  • Vague Hit Points: Chell's exact Hit Points are only known through console commands that enables that bit of Heads-Up Display information. Otherwise, Chell dies after an unclear amount of turret shots and heals up when not being shot.
  • Visual Pun: During her monologue prior to the final battle, GLaDOS displays several images on the monitors in her chamber in rapid succession. On certain words of her speech, the images freeze on something related to what she just said.
    • Violent behavior; A violin being sawed in half.
    • The only thing you've managed to break so far, is my heart; An actual heart.
    • Surprise; various skull and crossbones.
    • That has got to be the dumbest thing; Black Mesa
    • Good news; A screw.
    • Deadly neurotoxin; more skulls.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Darkly subverted in the sense that GLaDOS somewhat treats Chell in this manner, as one-sided as it is.
  • When All You Have is a Hammer…: The portal gun is the only weapon Chell uses throughout the entire series (although it is upgraded once) using it to do pretty much everything.

Video Example(s):


GLaDOS Wants HAL 9000 to Leave

GLaDOS is really not feeling the vibe from HAL.

How well does it match the trope?

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