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In science fiction settings with a myriad of alien races, there is usually one race that possesses technology more advanced than the other species. They have been in space for thousands of years longer than the other races, and show it. They likely have had a history much more violent than ours, and have now "matured" out of it, unless they are a Proud Warrior Race, in which case they are definitely someone with whom you do not wish to mess. Even if they are not, the fact that they have technology far in advance of everyone else causes the rest of galactic society to treat them with kid gloves.
They also tend to be much more homogenous than humanity. Often, they are seen as Older and Wiser (or at least, they see themselves as Older and Wiser) as a people, though usually there are still many lessons they can learn from the "younger races". They aren't Sufficiently Advanced Aliens (though they might use Sufficiently Advanced Bamboo Technology, depending on their sense of aesthetics). Despite being thousands of years ahead of us, these guys are merely "much more advanced", but have not reached the godlike levels implied by that trope.
Occasionally, such a race is on the decline; having once ruled a mighty empire, they are now only found on a handful of worlds and it is increasingly rare to even meet one. Alternately, the race could be extinct, but conveniently left evidence of its presence everywhere, and humanity cannot go from one planet to the other without tripping over relics and ruins left behind by the Higher-Tech Species. It's not uncommon for another set of aliens (or even humanity) to collect these relics and use them without fully understanding them.
A Justified Trope, in that probability says (given the age of the universe as compared to the age of the human race) that some alien races we might eventually encounter would likely be much older and thus much more technologically advanced than we are. Obviously justified if the aliens are coming to Earth, (well, most of the time) as they have the technology to cross the galaxy to meet us, and it wasn't the other way round.
Anime and Manga
- The manga version of Chrono Crusade has a borderline example: the Demons are actually aliens whose starship crashed into the ocean and sank. They're not all-powerful, but they're powerful enough that some humans believe they must be supernatural beings.
- In the Marvel Universe, both the Kree and the Skrulls count as this, but the most glaring example is probably the Shi'ar, who stand head and shoulders above pretty much all of the known alien races technologically.
- In the DC Universe, there are the Daxamites (and their colonial forefathers, the Kryptonians), the Dominators, the Psions, and the Manhunters. The extreme example is the Coluans (who come very close to being Sufficiently Advanced Aliens), the race to which Legion of Super-Heroes member Braniac 5 belongs.
- The titular Predators have more advanced technology than any of the humans they encounter. In Alien vs. Predator it is even revealed that they were Ancient Astronauts worshipped by Aztecs and the Khmer. It should be noted, however, that their technology doesn't seem to have advanced much in 10,000 years.
- Perhaps they either they became really complacent with the state of their technology (if everyone is off hunting then who does the R&D?) or they long ago hit physical limits that cannot be surpassed.
- One of the Expanded Universe books says that they got their technology from failed alien invaders and don't understand it well enough to do more than replicate it.
- On the other hand, we only see hunters of their civilization. The equipment of a modern hunter hasn't changed all that much in a hundred years, as is even less likely to change significantly in the future.
- The alien invaders of Battle: Los Angeles are advanced enough to reach Earth and field fleets of unmanned attack drones in the air while their infantry have access to man-portable Macross Missile Massacres but they're not so advanced that they don't need infantry to conquer Earth. Infantry who communicate with Hand Signals and are no less squishy than humans, for that matter; the human Marines only have trouble taking down enemy soldiers because their vital organs aren't spread out through the upper body like with a human target, not because of superior armor.
- The Prawns in District 9 have fantastic and powerful technology, but that doesn't make them any less susceptible to being thrown into a slum by humans, since most of them are less intelligent than humans. All of their leaders are dead for some reason.
- The Raiel in Peter F. Hamilton's Commonwealth Saga and Void Trilogy are this. They've designated themselves as safekeepers of the Milky Way, and have the galactic center surrounded by Defense Field stations (spherical pseudomaterial devices the size of Jovian planets) to defend against Void expansions; they can generate completely impregnable forcefields, and turn entire planets and stars into energy, as well as manipulate time and a host of other things. Also, each Raiel has the brainpower to match a 24th-century supercomputer easy.
- The Kiint in his Nights Dawn Trilogy have entire galactic clusters under oversight (to the point where they can track and observe single individuals across many galactic radii), and work from a home system consisting of a necklace of inhabited planets sharing the same orbit. Compared to that, intergalactic teleportation at a moment's notice, inertial cancellation, Psychic Powers, Nanomachines, travel into other dimensions and flying cities come off as trinkets. Space travel is boring for them.
- The aliens from Contact are this. They are capable of amazing things, but admit to having definite limits on their technological capabilities. (They didn't create the interstellar conduits that took Elenore Arroway to another planet, for example... they just found them and use them.) This was carried over to the film.
- The "Dawnman Planet" in the Mack Reynolds novel of the same name.
- The Andalites from Animorphs have zero-space travel and morphing technology.
- The Yeerks have higher tech as well, though it's all stolen from other races.
- The Chee were from a higher tech species, the Pemalites.
- And the Arn, who created the Hork-Bajir
- And the Skrit Na.
- And the Helmacrons, with their shrink ray.
- The Puppeteers in Larry Niven's Known Space series had been a space-faring race for close to a hundred thousand years by the time mankind landed on Earth's moon.
- Known Space also has the Pak, who by their basic nature and superior intelligence, tend to develop and manipulate new technologies as easily as other beings breathe.
- Known Space is also home to The Outsiders, who fulfill this trope for the previously-mentioned Puppeteers. These extremely advanced aliens sell technology and information, but rarely intervene otherwise.
- Lisanne Norman's Sholan Alliance has us the Sholans and their Alliance partners who redily exemplify this trope.
- In Frederik Pohl's Heechee Saga, the Heechee (so named by the humans; their name for themselves is never revealed) explored pretty much nearly the entire Milky Way galaxy thousands of years before humans reached space, and then fled into hiding. They left behind all sorts of high-tech gizmos, including entire fleets of starships just waiting for humans to stumble across, figure out, and use themselves.
- The eponymous aliens of Stephen Baxter's Xeelee Sequence. They build things that involve ripping apart galaxies and have been known to leave construction materials that could destroy planets just laying around abandoned worlds. Their secret: they invented time travel and then founded their own civilization at the very beginning of time to get a head start on everyone else. It's implied they may even be several iterations of this process in, and hence several times the age of the universe. They would easily be Sufficiently Advanced Aliens, save only for the fact that their artifacts and tools are still identifiable as such and can be operated by any lesser species lucky enough to acquire one.
- In later stories, Humanity itself, as well as our sometimes-allies the Silver Ghosts, are this to everyone but the Xeelee. Unfortunately, we're just a titch psychotic about that silver medal.
- The Humanx Commonwealth universe, by Alan Dean Foster, is littered with the ruins of ancient civilizations, including many who reached levels of technology as great or greater than that of the titular Commonwealth itself. The two most prominent of these, the Tar-Aiym and Hur'rikku, were far more advanced than humanity, building galaxy-spanning civilizations and incredibly powerful weapons. Unfortunately, they met each other and fought a war, which escalated to the point of mutual annihilation. Five hundred thousand years later, some of their technology (and even a single, living Tar-Aiym) remains operable, providing Macguffins for numerous novels. There was an even more powerful race, the Xunca, who lived a billion years ago, but they fall into the Sufficiently Advanced Alien camp.
- In Andrey Livadniy's The History of the Galaxy novels, all alien races are this. The series takes place between the 23rd and the 39th centuries. Humanity makes tremendous discoveries and colonizes hundreds of worlds. Then they discover aliens, whose civilizations reached their peak 3 million years ago, including a vast Portal Network, tiny computers/data storage capable of holding a fully-functioning personality, gravity-bending generators capable of hiding an entire star cluster, the cure for aging, and a Dyson Sphere. They haven't made much progress since then (two of the races were enslaved by a third, who abandoned all scientific pursuits after that). Later, humanity discovers two other races who have been around for billions of years, and whose technology still baffles human scientists. On the other hand, humans have made strides in areas mostly ignored by other races, such as cybernetics, AI, and weapons, mostly for the purposes of warfare. So when the slaver race finds out about humanity, instead of getting its slaves to build better ships and weapons, they just buy them online anonymously (no, this is not a joke). Also, only one alien race besides humanity develops a hyperdrive. All others use Portal Networks, although they are quite happy to borrow the technology from humans.
- Out of the Dark features aliens with technology carefully calibrated to be just advanced enough to avert a Curb Stomp Battle--and permit humanity to show what determined and gallant warriors we are--while still ensuring the eventual outcome will not be in our favor, necessitating the Deus Ex Machina in the Twist Ending.
- A better explanation: Due to a quirk of human psychology, we're the only species that has ever reached our current tech level without world peace and thus to invent things like modern stealth fighters. They're far higher tech but are just kitted out for the wrong war and could dominate us if they weren't. They still hold the top of the gravity well and have better bioweapons and cyber-warfare tech.
- The Consu in the Old Mans War series. A species of religious radicals who attack colonies as part of their rituals and survive the enmity of every other race because they have a Force Field around their solar system. They frequently give other races some advanced technology and create entire species just to watch the fireworks.
- The incomprehensible methane breathing knnn are this to the other spacefaring species (including humanity) in the Chanur Saga, at least in regards to starship technology. Specifically, the knnn's starships can use Hyperspace Lanes which are nonnviable to any other species, can change direction while travelling through Hyperspace, can perform non-hyperspace extreme direction change maneuvers, and can synchronously enter hyperspace in groups, the last of which lets them drag unwilling starships along with them through hyperspace. Although they are technically a member of the seven species Compact, they regularly violate Compact laws, and there's nothing the other species can do about it.
Live Action TV
- In the Babylon 5 universe:
- The Minbari are this to the rest of the known races of the Galaxy. The Centauri prove to be almost a match for the Minbari technologically, but have chosen a Deadly Decadent Court over Crystal Spires and Togas, and therefore do not impress the other races nearly as much. Plus, they've been running around screwing most of the galaxy over for centuries, so most are pretty glad they're declining.
- The Shadow and Vorlons are the next level up. They both use starships and recognizable technology, so they aren't quite Sufficiently Advanced Aliens yet, but they like to act like they are.
- The Vulcans (and nearly every other alien race) on Star Trek: Enterprise qualifies. Of course, the show was set during the early days of human space colonization.
- The Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Who Watches the Watchers", inverts this by having the Enterprise crew be the High Technology Race.
- TNG found the ruins of several space-faring races and interstellar empires from tens or hundreds of thousands of years ago. Tech levels ranged from Enterprise level to so much more advanced they couldn't even understand the underlying principles. At least one race built a working Dyson sphere then just kind of wandered off.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine had two major examples. In the first half of the series, humans (and by extension, the rest of The Federation, although we didn't see so much of them) are the Higher Tech Species to the Bajorans, providing defence, materiel, and general reconstruction help after the Cardassian withdrawal. In the second half of the series, The Dominion was this to every other Alpha quadrant species. They've existed in their current form for at least two thousand years and been aggressively expansionist for most of that time.
- The Dominion aren't that much more advanced than the Federation or any other Alpha Quadrant power. Their threat comes mainly from their numbers and the fact that they are the pretty much the single dominant power in their quadrant, their initial weapons advantage which let them cut through Federation Shields like they weren't there, and the fanatical devotion of their Mooks along with the fact that the leadership is composed of a species of Voluntary Shapeshifters, leading to We Are Everywhere. Tech-wise, they might even be slightly inferior to everyone else.
- The Borg function as a dark mirror of this trope. It's not explicitly clear how long they've been around, but it's a while and they've got the tech and territory to show for it (they have probably the largest territory of any known species or civilization in the galaxy). Fortunately for most of the people in the galaxy, unless you pose some kind of direct threat or have some piece of new/unique technology or interesting biology that could be useful to them they will just ignore you and their territorial expansions are generally of the "slow and steady" variety. That being said, once one has become their target, it's generally agreed that Resistance Is Futile.
- According to the Vaadwaur, the Borg have only really been active for about 900 years. This contradicts something Guinan said about them being around for thousands of years, though the Vadwaur might have only been talking about the region they were in control of/the Borg had a major setback.
- The Battlestar Galactica Reimagined reboot implied this about the people who lived on Kobol, prior to the exodus and the founding of the Twelve Colonies. The original series stated it outright.
- There are several examples in the Stargate Verse, beginning with the Goa'uld. Later, the Replicators would prove to be this, with the Asgard having technology in advanced to pretty much everyone. This speaks well for humanity's future, since the Asgard gave Earth all of their technological know-how before the race went extinct.
- SG-1 themselves are seen as the Higher Tech Species at times, especially when they came across the really primitive planets.
- The rarely seen (except for Chiana) Nebari in Farscape seem to be this, although it's only ever hinted at
- One episode of the new Outer Limits series had humans take the role of the Higher-Tech Species. When a team of explorers looking for suitable planets to colonize/loot, they found one rich with wildlife and no apparent technology. When they discovered signs of primitive aliens with nothing more advanced than sticks and stones to fight back with, one of the more ruthless members of the team leads an attack that kills them all against the protests of the Only Sane Woman. The twist? The aliens aren't so primitive and don't even hail from that planet. They were the equivalent of a Boy Scout troop on a camping trip -- and they managed to send a message to their parents before they were killed. They were the Higher-Tech Species all along.
- Pretty much the basis of Doctor Who in that the Time Lords not only have time machines, but that they've had them for so long that their entire racial identity has changed (they weren't originally called Time Lords): at the height of their power, they managed every second of history in a "Web of Time" and managed access to alternate universes. They rather quickly became decrepit and degenerate though, and even outright evil by the end. And they did have their betters, the Eternals, but those guys rarely actually got involved in anything.
- Daleks, while not the most powerful race, are much more enduring than their Time Lord enemies. They have technology unmatched by any other species (read: they can wipe out every ounce of matter in every Universe, ever), and have come back from the edge of extinction so many times that it's a racial trait.
- All the races of Tracker.
- In the official setting for Traveller, the Droyne were this once, but have since voluntarily given up most of their advanced technology in order to live in a much more agrarian society. Every once in a while, though, some archeologist will turn up a reminder that the Droyne once ruled all of the known galaxy and beyond.
- The Eldar in Warhammer 40000 had an entire interplanetary empire like this once. Then they fell into decadence and did stuff depraved enough to spawn the Chaos God of Squick, which resulted in the heart of their empire imploding into a hundred lightyears wide Negative Space Wedgie known as the Eye Of Terror.
- The Necrons qualify too, what's with their inertialess drives, living metal and technology to tame the C'Tan.
- In the back story the Old Ones super advanced race who seed life across the galaxy and fought the Necrons and their C'tan masters.
- The fraal from Alternity and D20 Modern are this--highly advanced both technologically and psychically. An issue of Dragon transplanted them to Dungeons and Dragons, where their advanced tech stood out even more.
- In Achron both the Vecgir and Grekim are much more advanced than humanity at the start of the game. Even after stealing enemy tech, humanity cannot match the Vecgirs teleportation technology, or the Grekim capability for time travel.
- The Scrin from Command and Conquer, who can create wormholes and can instantaneously teleport and summon units anywhere on the map.
- The 11th Clan of the S'pht in Marathon are more advanced than the other clans, which have been enslaved by the Pfhor. Humanity, led by Durandal, manages to send them a message, and they are outraged and save the remaining humans and S'pht.
- The Karavan in Ryzom are Space Marines, while everyone else runs around without having even discovered metal, let alone laser fences.
- The long-vanished Protheans from Mass Effect are revered for creating the Citadel and the Mass Relays, which form the basis of nearly all common technology in the galaxy. Of course, they didn't actually create any of them, but did manage to reverse-engineer most of the technology making them definitely more advanced than any of the current species.
- Several characters remark on the fact that the Collectors of Mass Effect 2 have higher technology than any other race outside of the Reapers. This is, of course, because they are actually the Protheans, after being altered and controlled by the Reapers.
- The Reapers themselves qualify, since they nigh-indestructible Mind Hives and are literally aeons ahead of anything else in the Galaxy.
- In Spore, the creatures that you create and evolve can eventually become the Higher-Tech Species when you reach the Spacefaring Stage.
- In Halo, the Covenant is this, at least at first.
- Halo also had the Forerunners, on whose technology the Covenant based their own.
- And they don't even use it very effectively either. Whenever humans and their A Is get their hands on Forerunner technology it doesn't take long for them to show the Covenant what it's really capable of.
- And the Precursors who were more advanced than the Forerunners.
- Halo also had the Forerunners, on whose technology the Covenant based their own.
- The Protoss of Starcraft
- The Chozo of the Metroid series fit this trope quite well. They're depicted as an ancient race of benevolent birdlike aliens that had such advanced technology that at some point, they couldn't advance it any further and withdrew to simply observe the rest of the universe. What exactly became of them is unknown, though statues and artifacts from their society can be found scattered all over the place throughout the series.
- To put things into perspective, the main character Samus received her iconic Powered Armor from the Chozo, and throughout the series, she uses it to singlehandedly take on entire planets of Space Pirates, who themselves terrorized the rest of the galaxy.
- The Luminoth from the second Metroid Prime game are a similarly ancient advanced race of moth-like aliens and were good pen pals with the Chozo. They probably fit this trope, though it seems unclear how their technology compared with the Chozo. For one thing, a single woman wearing Chozo armor was apparently powerful enough to defeat a species that had the upper hand on their entire race.
- They were likely originally on the same level as the Chozo, but fell behind. Due to the war, they wouldn't have been able to devote many resources to research, as the Chozo could, and thus the Chozo would've surpassed them by the time the war ended. They likely had Power Suit equivalents, considering both how they either developed their own Screw Attack or got it from the Chozo, and how the Light Suit was compatible with the Varia Suit (and surpassed it in pretty much every way). It may simply be that the Ing originally didn't pay much attention to Samus, and her experience fighting the Space Pirates on Tallon IV and in their mothership, along with her training, allowed her to defeat them even if she was outclassed.
- If you scan the various Luminoth corpses scattered about, it shows that their warriors were unbelievably badass with technology to match. Most of them took hundreds of Ing to the grave with them, and that was only in their final stand. U-Mos, the only currently active Luminoth in the game, is also invincible to Samus's weaponry, having some sort of unbreakable energy barrier.
- The Precursors of the Star Control universe also.
- The Bentusi from Homeworld.
- The Morrigi in Sword of the Stars, who are so ancient that their old trade fleets are responsible for human and tarka myths about dragons. After losing the majority of their old Empire and population in a war with a species of Abusive Precursors/Sufficiently Advanced Aliens, however, the species went almost practically extinct: They've only recently re-emerged, and at a technology level that puts them on an even footing with most of the 'younger' species. The game states outright that Morrigi research is not so much inventing new tech as it is re-discovering, reverse-engineering and re-building infrastructure for old technology they've lost the ability to replicate.
- The Shivans from Free Space, who possess weapons far more powerful than anything the Terrans or the Vasudans have come up with, whose shields could initially block nearly all damage, and whose subspace drives are far more advanced, allowing them to use "unstable" jump nodes that the player's faction don't even mark on maps. The Terrans and Vasudans survived two wars with them mainly by stealing Shivan tech and adapting it to their own systems.
- The Remnants from Star Ruler are this at the start, but you will eventually surpass them in most aspects. Some of the things they have though, like Jump Bridges, you will never get.
- The X-Universe series has several levels of Kardashev-abusing factions, but of the factions directly relevant to gameplay, the Terrans are the standout. They've got the best ships, and they're the only faction capable of building jumpgates without assistance from the Ancients.
- The Antarans from the Master of Orion series as well as the titular Orions were/are both massively high tech species compared with the other species in game.
- The Polaris in EV Nova have ships much faster, far better shielded, and much better armed than anybody else in the setting. Unlike the sheet metal and welds construction of Federation- or Auroran-technology ships, Polaris vessels are grown around an artificial skeleton and top out at roughly the same level of intelligence as a smart dog.
- Schlock Mercenary has the Gatekeepers (F'sherl-Ganni), who as you probably guessed built the Wormgate network. They essentially controlled all galactic FTL for the last 100,000 years until the teraport was invented, have ways to perfectly replicate matter (including life and sentience), have built Dyson Spheres, were in the process of turning the Milky Way's the galactic core into a giant zero-point energy generator, and were the original inventors of the Teraport at a time when humanity (who would later re-discover it) was still living in trees. At the current point of the comic, most of their technology has been appropriated by the Fleetmind, but they're still millennia above every other physical species in the Milky Way.
- Princess Voluptua's people, the butterfly-like Nemesites, in The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob. They were already a going civilization when the dinosaurs became extinct on Earth (actually, it was kind of their fault).
- Homestuck has the Trolls, who at first simply appeared to be simple internet trolls but later turned out to be one of these. One page makes a casual reference to them conquering star systems.
- In the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, nearly every alien race began as this (aside from the occasional Sufficiently Advanced Aliens, that is) though the gap is closing. The Monks (the human name for the species; what they call themselves hasn't ever been revealed) helped to close the gap by selling humanity a lot of new technology in exchange for samples of human music and refueling rights, while the Daribi and Xorn invasions left tons of war material behind when the invaders were driven off the planet (not to mention a bunch of alien refugees).
- The Transformers. Of course being made of technology helps.
- In this regard, the creators of the Transformers, the Quintessons, definitely apply.