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The rest of the list continued here:


  • Abusive Precursors: Good God, the Reapers seem to be trying to set the record for most abusive. Hell, Sovereign currently holds the page quote:
    • The Reapers deliberately left Lost Technology around for future species to find to encourage them to evolve along the lines they want - thus making it easier to completely obliterate them when they return to "Reap" what they have sown. ME2 suggests that they do this to reproduce, humans kidnapped by the Collectors are melted down into organic slush which forms the core of a Reaper. You're not even safe if you don't fit into their designs. The Protheans were unfit to become Reapers, so instead they were kept as slaves. Eventually they were genetically and mechanically altered to the point where they become the Collectors.
    • The last of the Protheans sacrificed themselves in order to sabotage the Reaper's plans for future sentient races when they realized their own race was doomed due to a non-viable population size. They altered the Keepers so that they would not respond to the Reaper's signals in order to sabotage their control of the relays and left beacons to warn of the coming danger. Their efforts are the only reason the galaxy has a chance in hell against the Reapers.
      • not quite the last, and not entirely their efforts as it turns out.
    • Considering that most sentient races tend to find "Prothean relics" within easy reach to develop their FTL technology, it may be that the Reapers are intentionally seeding those planets with the new starting point of what they intend to become new sentient races to once again enter a new cycle of ascension and annihilation, to become either Reaper larva juice or a new slave race as the Collectors did.
    • The Protheans themselves, as Javik reveals in Mass Effect 3 - The Protheans forced other races to become subservient of their empire, contrary to the impressions Liara had previously had of them as a species of scholars.
    • Finally, as of ME3, it turns out that the Reapers are just following the Catalyst's instructions, preventing the eventual destruction of all organic life by synthetic life. So... where did he come from?
  • Action Girl: Every non-civilian female and many of the civilian females. Also, if you so choose, Commander Shepard herself.
  • Aggressive Negotiations: Several hostage situations can turn into these, depending on how you play them. One mission in particular is meant to end this way.
  • Agony Beam: The Neural Shock power. It gets assimilated into Overload in the third game in the form of one of the later power evolutions.
  • AI Is a Crapshoot: Appears to be played straight, then subverted to hell and back. Council law expressly forbids the use of AI, so people get by with "virtual intelligences", which appear to be nothing more than slightly upgraded Clippits. During the first game you're forced to fight two rogue computers, and of course there are the geth, who fought a devastating war with their masters the quarians, and ended up driving them into exile. However, it is precisely because of organic prejudice against machine intelligence that most AIs try to kill their masters, because the AIs know what will happen to them. And the geth? Upon learning that they had gained sentience, the quarians sent out a blanket order to shut them down. It's not difficult to feel some sympathy for them, even as you gun them down across the galaxy.
    • And in the second game the Normandy gains an artificial intelligence named EDI. Kept secure behind physical barriers, EDI acts as Mission Control to Shepard and is actually rather friendly. And you get to learn more about the geth via Legion, your geth squadmate. The geth in the first game were considered "heretics" by the rest of the geth, and actually split off from the "true" geth. Not only are the truth geth peaceful, they purposely isolate themselves from organics for both their protection and that of the organics. They regret their actions against the quarians and are repairing the damage to their homeworld; they don't even use it, they live in space. The geth would gladly let the quarians return, if they could give up their desire to commit xenocide. As for EDI, Joker is forced to take down the barriers during a Collector attack. Despite an initial moment of panic, it turns out she's still loyal to Joker, Shepard, and the rest of the crew.
      • She does like seeing humans on their knees. [[[Beat]]] That was a joke.
      • Finally played absolutely straight in Mass Effect 3: The reason the Reapers started the cycle of extinction was because apparently machine intelligences will always rebel against their creators, devastating the organic species of the galaxy. The reapers themselves are not exactly A Is since they contain the essence of the species they harvested.
      • EDI also reveals that she was the rogue AI you fight on the Moon, in one of the games first side-missions.
  • Alien Arts Are Appreciated: It's mentioned how the values and beliefs of many cultures tend to creep into one another. Zen Buddhism and Confucianism are becoming popular amongst the turians, the hanar worship of the Protheans (whom they call "the Enkindlers") is common amongst the drell, and the asari religion of Siari is often practiced by other races. In the second game alien art is both highly valued and insanely popular. Mention is made of an ancient Egyptian exhibit on an asari homeworld.
    • This trope is played with during Kasumi's loyalty mission. You see some turian art. It just looks like a couple pieces of scrap metal.
      • Then again, that's not much different from what some real-life humans call "art".
      • Kasumi offers her opinion of the piece when you examine it:

  Kasumi: It's rare to see turian art outside of Palaven. [Dryly.] I can see why.

    • This also extends to music and stage productions. There's an all-elcor production of Hamlet. And no one who hears Mordin Solus sing Gilbert & Sullivan in Mass Effect 2 will ever, ever forget it.
  • Alien Blood: We've got your standard red in droves; also, blue, orange, green, and purple. Some of it isn't technically blood - the geth "bleed" a white fluid.
    • Of note, krogan blood is orange and turian blood is dark blue. Not much actual blood in this game, so it's hard to notice unless you really look. Except for Garrus's introductory near death experience where he left a big puddle on the floor. Or when you find Nihlus's corpse in the first game.
  • Alien Hair: The majority of alien species don't have any hair at all (though with the volus and the quarians it's impossible to tell); however, the asari have scalps which seem to split into tentacles toward the back and are treated as analogous to hair - on Illium there are references to "getting your scalp" done, and one asari mentions dying it. As of the third game, the quarians are revealed to have human-like hair.
    • Amusingly, turians apparently see other species as having Alien Hair; there are comments from two different turians suggesting that they see asari scalps and human hair as being roughly on par with the turian fringe.
  • Alien Sky: Prevalent on a number of the side-quest worlds throughout the games.
    • Inverted? in that the sky from Luna, a non-fictitious alien sky we've actually seen, is made alien by an Earth about 5 times too large (and bonus inversion in that the Earth is actually an inverted MIRROR-image here).
  • Aliens Speaking English: Justified. All races use Universal Translators that are updated constantly to keep up to date with changes in slang and new dialects. There's also a basic trade language, "Galactic". Also, Translation Convention.
    • And yet their lip movements (assuming they have lips) nonetheless sync up with what they're saying in English.
    • The hanar, specifically are mentioned as requiring special gear to even move around in normal gravity, and require subdermal implants to translate their bioluminescent "speech" patterns into an audible form.
    • Even the humans aren't all speaking English; Captain Matsuo in Noveria is clearly speaking Japanese. Kasumi Goto is Japanese as well, though the fact that she speaks English with a faint Japanese accent and no honorifics implies that she actually is speaking in English. Likewise Samesh Bhatia. All other humans who are speaking another language (or presumed to be) are translated with American accents. Explaining the wide array of quarian accents that exist, however, might venture into Fan Wank. Let's just say it's because their hat is sexy accents. And form-fitting environment suits. And awesome Adam Baldwin cameos. And Woobieism.
    • It's also explicitly noted that aliens and humans still make the effort to learn each others languages despite the universal translators.
    • An asari officer on Illium will have trouble explaining the asari concept of Justicars to you because she does not know the right human metaphor [1], lampshading that there's a lot more to cross-cultural communication than mere translation.
    • Javik, introduced in the From Ashes DLC, is speaking English because his species, The Protheans, has the ability to share knowledge through touch.
  • The Alliance:
    • The Citadel Council
    • The Systems Alliance also fits this trope as well, as it is an organization formed and funded by several major Earth nations to be the galactic face of Humanity. Notably they are not the government of Earth itself.
    • Shepard forms another in the third game, consisting of the humans, turians, asari, krogan, and any or all of the salarians, quarians, geth, elcor, batarians, hanar and drell, and numerous mercenary bands, Cerberus renegades, and other groups.
  • All in a Row: You can give your two squadmates specific orders and they have a degree of autonomy in combat, but for the most part they follow you around.
  • All Planets Are Earthlike: Averted. The overwhelming majority of documented planets have exotic biospheres which would kill humans (or most other species) within seconds of exposure. Of the remainder, most are still too hot, too cold, or possessing too toxic an atmosphere for humans to journey onto the surface without a spacesuit. Even some of the planets which actually are Earthlike are still dangerous in some way, because in the ME universe there most definitely are biochemical barriers.
    • One interesting example is 2175 Aeia in Mass Effect 2. From what we see on the planet, it's a beautiful, tropical world with pleasant weather. The catch? Anything edible on the planet contains chemicals that degrade brain function. Within a few months anyone living on the local flora will be reduced to the mental level of a young child.
    • Even Eden Prime, one of Earth's first colonies and well-suited to importing Earth species, is an aversion, with its 64-hour day. Seems like that would take some getting used to.
      • Remember Virmire? Lush, oxygen-rich, perfect for colonization? Three week long days. Then there's Chasca, which is tidally locked with its sun and is only habitable in the twilight band between the day and night sides, which is the only viable colonization target.
        • Real Life example of Chasca: Gliese 581g, which is 21 light-years away. It's not too far and not too near to the red dwarf star it orbits, except that it's tidally locked so one side is broiling and the other is freezing. However, in between the two is the aforementioned "twilight band" where even humans could possibly reside, provided it even has an atmosphere...and they could stand the gravity. Also, since it never rotates, it doesn't have a "day" in the conventional sense of rotating on an axis--because it has no axis and does not rotate. What they use is this thing. Its sidereal day is the same as its year, or thirty-seven fucking days. I.e., one day = one year on 581g. Yeah. Suck. Plus its gravity is 3x of Earth's. Compare that with the Moon's, which is .15% of ours. Epic suck.
          • Somewhat less extreme example and a rather overlooked one is the Judaically-named planet of 'Yamm', which means 'Ocean' in Hebrew, and was the Caananite god of Oceans and Chaos (that's always a good combination). Big surprise, it's an Ocean world. It's habitable, and there's a huge industry in Biofuel (and presumably Hydrogen), and it's a planet full of beaches! What could be better? More like what could be WORSE. The temperatures range anywhere from 24 C on a 'brisk' night to 53 C in the noon. On a normal day. In the TEMPERATE zones. And what happens when you get a world with nothing but deep, deep oceans? Hurricanes. Gigantic, city-crushing hurricanes with average winds around 250 km/h. And the days are 69.6 hours long. Take THAT, Eden Prime.
  • All There in the Manual: The in-game Codex, the tie-in novels, and the comics.
    • Though in the Codex's case, it's somewhat unreliable due to being written in-universe.
  • All Women Are Lustful: Unless you were a Jerkass to them Ashley and Liara try to romance you before the end of the game. In the sequal Shepard herself really tries to bed the reserved Jacob, romances Thane and outright propositions Garrus for sex. Kasumi pushes her boyfriend onto the bed to ravish him much the same as Tali pounces Shepard once he removes her mask. By the third game Shepard even tries seducing Joker, who's scared of her because of the damage she could do and hides his fears of his brittle bone disease behind military protocol.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: The Reapers. Subverted with every other race.
    • not so much even the Reapers, as it turns out. Their motivations are more in the realm of Blue and Orange Morality
    • The batarians - it's explained in the Codex that the reason you only run into batarian criminals, mercenaries, or slavers is that they're the about the only batarians who leave their home systems. And the batarian government is a caste-based fascist dictatorship that relies on slavery to survive. Really, it's a surprise one of the nicest people on the criminal-filled Omega is a batarian shopkeeper. There are, however, at least a few batarians on Omega who ultimately want no trouble. One of them needs you to save his life and thanks you in surprise if you do so; the others jump to conclusions about a man they thought had been spreading a plague that is dangerous for most races other than humans but are willing to listen to reason if you act honorably.
    • The vorcha are seen as universally aggressive and unpleasant; indeed, the only ones you meet are Blood Pack "mercenaries". This is fault of their biology and culture, they only live twenty years, they use combat as their main form of communication, etc. There are references to vorcha miners, settlers and brewers.
    • It turns out the geth that fought with Sovereign in the first game were a splinter group from the main geth, who in reality just want to be left alone to build their Dyson Sphere and achieve true unity.
  • Amazon Brigade: Asari commandos are generally seen as the galaxy's finest warriors. A squad consisting of female Shepard and two females also counts.
  • Ambiguous Robots:
    • The Reapers. We know they reproduce by liquefying various races and then converting that liquid into a new Reaper, but they still look and sound entirely mechanical. This ambiguity is to be expected though, as they are basically Mecha-Cthulhu.
  • Ambition Is Evil: In the first game, ambition seems to be humanity's hat. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing depends on who you talk to.
  • Ancient Astronauts: Humanity's expansion beyond Sol began with the discovery of a Prothean bioscience outpost on Mars, tasked with studying primitive humans. Prothean ruins dot the surface of the hanar homeworld, and the belief that the Protheans taught them speech is the basis of the hanar Enkindler religion.
    • In the third game, the Protheans are revealed to have been this to the asari.
  • And I Must Scream: Reaper indoctrination not only permanently robs its victims of all free will, but they are fully aware of the entire process. This is highlighted in detail during Matriarch Benezia's death scene.
    • Most are aware of symptoms like hallucinations, but few actually realize that they're being indoctrinated. Benezia is an exceptional case because she has enough willpower and biotic strength to temporarily wall off part of her consciousness from indoctrination.
  • Animal Motif - The Reapers look suspiciously like a techno-organic version of the Reaper Cuttlefish
  • Anyone Can Die: And they will, especially in the third game. By the end of the trilogy, the only series regulars guaranteed to survive are Joker and Liara. Almost every other notable character in the entire trilogy can or will end up dead by the end.
  • Ape Shall Never Kill Ape: Thoroughly averted. With a few odd exceptions, no race is fully united, and so will usually have no greater issues killing their own kind than another species, provided there are similar reasons to.
  • Apocalypse How: Class X-3 with Class 4 subclass, total galaxy-wide die-down of sentient starfaring organic life on any planet they're found on, occurring approximately every 50,000 years, and it has gone on for at least thirty-seven million years up to this point.
    • In addition, destroying a Mass Relay will result in a Class X-2 for the star system it's located in.
      • Perhaps not just spacefaring, several planets had bronze age civs being orbitally bombed. Makes sense as a civ at that level given 50,000 years of development might actually present a threat to the Reapers.
        • saving the non-spacefaring species for last, perhaps, as during the events of the 3rd game they avoid the yahg homeworld Parnack
  • Arbitrary Maximum Range: Averted in space combat. There's even an entire conversation in the second game that consists of a sergeant chewing out two fire-control officers for shooting without solid firing solutions.

  Gunnery Chief: Damn straight! I dare to assume you ignorant jackasses know that space is empty. Once you fire this hunk of metal, it keeps going til it hits something. That can be a ship. Or the planet behind that ship. It might go off into deep space and hit somebody else in ten thousand years. If you pull the trigger on this, you are ruining someones day, somewhere and sometime. That is why you check your targets. That is why you wait for the computer to give you a damn firing solution. That is why, Serviceman Chung, we do not "eyeball it". This is a weapon of mass destruction. You are not a cowboy shooting from the hip!

  • Arc Words: The words "Embrace eternity" appear quite a few times, most notably when Liara is joining minds with you. The phrase reappears in the second game as part of Samara's combat dialogue, though the overall significance isn't clear yet.
    • "Hold the line" also makes frequent appearances, both here and in the sequel. Its most notable use (aside from every single goddamn battle when you're fighting humans) is during the Battle of Virmire, when Captain Kirrahe gives his stirring speech. It's lampshaded in the sequel.
    • "Genetic destiny" has also appeared into the mix.
    • "Just like old times" seems to be the arc words for ME2.
    • "You can't save them all" are the arc words for the third game.
    • Arc Number: 50,000, and multiples of 50,000, appear throughout the games, particularly when investigating planets. This is important.
  • Armor Is Useless: Played straight in cutscenes, where, except for squad members, everyone dies with 1-3 shots. Averted almost everywhere else. Played with in Mass Effect 2, where the characters who do wear heavy armor (Garrus, Zaeed, Grunt) tend to be tougher than those who don't wear armor (or, in Jack's case, much of anything). Some of the lighter outfits appear to be made of a bullet-resistant fabric (Miranda, Jacob, and Thane) while others wear armor-like material (Mordin, Samara, Tali). Many enemies do use heavy armor, which is very much not useless, requiring the player to whittle down their armor before biotics and other powers become effective.
  • Artifact of Doom: The Citadel. An enormous space station at the centre of the Relay network and the headquarters of the Council. Turns out it's the Relay to dark space - whenever the Reapers invade, they also take out the galactic leadership and gain access to their records, making their conquest all the easier. Then in the third game, it's revealed to be the home of the Catalyst, the intelligence controlling the Reapers.]
    • In the second game, there's also a derelict Reaper. It's not quite as dead as it appears.
    • And there's also the Omega-4 Relay. How do you know it's an Artifact of Doom? Its mass effect core glows red.
    • In the DLC "Arrival," there's the Bahak Relay. Also known as the Alpha Relay. It's the oldest mass relay ever discovered, and while it appears perfectly normal for the most part, it has a secondary control function that will connect it to every other mass relay in the entire galaxy, including the Citadel itself. The Reapers are headed straight for it during ME2, naturally.
    • And the third game reveals that The Leviathan of Dis was also such an artifact. Poor Batarians.
  • Artificial Gravity: Generated by mass-increasing mass effect fields.
  • Artificial Stupidity: In the first game, squadmates had the annoying habit of running into your field of fire and wasting their powers; enemy AI, by contrast, was fairly decent. Both were improved in ME2, though there are moments when you want to reach into your screen and slap them silly.
    • Further improved in the 3rd game.
  • Ascetic Aesthetic: The Citadel, Illium and the Normandy. Both of them.
  • Asexuality: The salarians as a whole. Breeding is entirely a matter of profit, genetics, and politics to them, as only 10% of the population is female.
    • This seems to be at odds when you factor asari/salarian relationships into the equation, which is played with in a ME2 background conversation. On Illium, there's a bachelor party you can listen into, where despite initial protests by the salarian member that he doesn't even have a sex drive, he eventually changes his mind after watching the asari stripper:

 Salarian: My word, she is very... limber. I can appreciate her dancing in an aesthetic manner, but... I don't have... feelings of... hmm... she is a lovely shade of blue.

Human: Uh-huh. Take a look at that, man. Everybody likes the asari. Everybody.

    • Elsewhere on the planet, a salarian and an asari are browsing the gun store with intent to join a mercenary band. The asari goes on about how being a merc is going to be a great adventure, while the more sober salarian explains that this is an important way to earn money to shore up his clan's breeding rights. A sidequest has you recover the genetic tree of a salarian family to aid in reproduction contracts.
    • Mordin will lampshade this by speculating that asari have some neurochemical way of attracting other species, even overcoming salarian asexuality.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: Pretty much the krogan modus operandi.
  • Asteroid Thicket: Mostly averted, but played straight in two noticeable cases. The Citadel is surrounded by a thick cloud of dust which makes approaching it by any other means than by Relay tantamount to suicide. Because the cloud never dissipates, it is assumed that it is generated by the Keepers rendering waste products down to the molecular level and ejecting it into space. Omega is surrounded by an asteroid field, but this is partially explained in that it was once an asteroid split apart by an impact millennia ago. Why it's still there is a complete mystery.
    • Played straight a third time, with the accretion disc at the center of the galaxy, which protects the Collector base.
  • As You Know: Averted some times, played straight in others. The Codex is used to spell out background info that should be obvious in that world without having to explain it to the characters themselves. Other times, when stumbling across a subject new to the player, Shepard will phrase his/her statement in such a way that more information is revealed, but also shows that s/he does have knowledge on the subject. Other times, s/he does seem a bit clueless.
    • Justified by Shepard's background, no matter which one you choose it is highly unlikely that Shepard received normal education. This may not apply to a Spacer Shepard, since during the Spacer-exclusive sidequest in the original, Shepard's mother mentions s/he attended high school.
  • Attack Drone: Used constantly in both games, by pretty much every faction.
  • Awakening the Sleeping Giant: The other galactic species fear that something might do this to humanity, as despite having only a small fraction of their population in the military, and never fighting other species before, humanity held its own against the turians, considered the most powerful military force in the galaxy.
  • Awesome McCoolname: in the comic "Mass Effect: Evolution", we learn that Saren had a brother named Desolas. Say it with me: Desolas Arterius.
    • The turians seem to have a knack for these, evidenced by Primarch Adrien Victus and his son Tarquin
  • Awful Truth: The true nature of the Reapers.
  • A Galaxy Half Full: No matter how bad things get, the crew of the Normandy can pull through and save the day, making a difference no matter what the odds. Has the option of being subverted in the second game, but if you're playing right it's still absolutely straight.
    • Then shot to pieces in the third game. You can still make a difference, but no matter how you slice it, the death toll across the galaxy will be astronomical.
  • Backstory: The player must pick two for Shepard, one detailing childhood and adolescence, and a second detailing a noteworthy event in his/her military service history. The childhood back story determines availability of a specific quest and makes the quests for the other two childhood back stories unavailable, while the service back story alters dialogue in quests otherwise available for all back stories. Various other dialog sequences are determined by these two back story elements as well. Gamplay-wise, the backstories offer different bonuses when it comes to accumulating Paragon or Renegade points. A player with the Spacer and War Hero background will earn Paragon points much more easily and at a faster rate, but will be more resistant to accumulating Renegade points.
  • Badass Abnormal: Pretty much everyone. Alliance soldiers routinely undergo genetic enhancement when joining the military, and it can be assumed the other races do so as well. However, they're very much upstaged by anyone with biotics; not only do they have the power to telekinetically throw, pin, and crush enemies, they're also extremely rare.
  • Badass Army: Everyone. Absolutely every race in existence. Except the hanar. And the volus.
    • The hanar and the volus have the drell and the turians to fight for them, respectively, since they're simply not physically built for combat. The hanar migrated a number of drell from their dying homeworld, and those who are willing serve the hanar as assassins. The volus are a client race of the turians, and according to the Codex the turians will aid the volus if they become involved in a military conflict.
    • Thane makes it clear that the aquatic hanar are extremely adept hunters on their own world. They are fast and have exceptionally strong tentacles, which possess either a poison or some kind of shock. All-round badass Zaeed mentions how a hanar included in a hitsquad nearly took him down.
  • Badass Crew: The specialists in both games so far definitely count. In each case Shepard is the crystallizing factor for the team, but by the end of the games the feeling of a Band of Brothers is almost palpable.
  • Badass Family: Ashley is the eldest of four sisters, each of whom is an Action Girl. She is trying to get the Williams family name back to being associated with said status. Liara also counts given what we know about her parents (probably, including grandparents who were a krogan who killed a rachni queen in the Rachni wars and an asari commando during the Krogan rebellions). Tali's father was hinted at being a Four-Star Badass, especially by Han'Gerrel.
    • Shepard with the Spacer background had both parents serve in the Alliance military. While we don't know anything about Shepard's father, Captain Hannah Shepard commands an Alliance Dreadnought and turned down an Admiral promotion in order to remain doing so, strongly implying that she is a Four-Star Badass. Then she is promoted to Admiral in the third game, though she commands logistics rather than frontline combat.
  • Bad Guy Bar: Chora's Den in the first game, and Afterlife in the second.
    • Bikini Bar: In both cases. The game even explicitly refers to Chora's as a "gentleman's club" (common North American euphemism for a strip joint).
  • Bash Brothers: The Commander and Garrus. "There's no Shepard without Vakarian."
  • Batman Gambit: The Reapers are particularly devious in how they accomplish their galaxy-wide extinction event. They leave technology lying around where they know sentient races will find it and they leave an apparently impregnable space station in a location suited for it to become the center of sentient galactic civilization. They leave a group of enslaved sentients to maintain the station so the races using it won't need to explore it to find out how the station works. Then the slaves open a backdoor to the station so the Reapers can cripple galactic civilization as we know it and systematically hunt down all life in the universe using the census data on the station. Bonus points for making sure the technology they have access to is so woefully underpowered that it allows the Reapers to roll over the entire galaxy in short order. This has worked well the last seven hundred and forty or more times so hey, what could go wrong?
  • Banned In Singapore: For about two days.
  • Battle Aura: All biotics glow when using their powers. Or showing people that they're about to.
  • The Battlestar: The carrier-class warships that the humans introduce to the galaxy.
    • It's a brilliant repetition of history, specifically the Washington Naval Treaty. Citadel Races must maintain a limited ratio of battleship/dreadnought-scale warships to one-another (the turians get the most, naturally) but the carriers do not fall under said classifications. Humanity is basically looking back at what happened after World War I and reusing old ideas.
    • Reapers also prove to be this in the third game, hosting large numbers of Oculus fighter drones for space battles.
  • Beehive Barrier: The geth are pretty fond of summoning them.
    • The Collectors in the second game have an even more "beehive" version.
      • Cerberus in Mass Effect 3 has field deployable waist high beehive barriers.....orange of course.
  • Bee People: The rachni.
    • The Collectors, as well.
  • Benevolent Precursors: Yes, this game has all three! The Protheans, specifically the scientists on Ilos, go on a one-way trip to the Citadel in order to sabotage the system which triggers the mass relay that brings the Reapers in from dark space. They knew their species was doomed and they knew this would only result in their untimely deaths by starvation, but they did it anyway, just so future species who would probably never even know they existed or of what they sacrificed would have a chance. These guys deserve a few tears.
    • Discussions with the last living Prothean, Javik, show that benevolent in this case is a relative term. They had a very Social Darwinist world view, believing that the strong should lead and weak species who fail to evolve deserve to perish. Their policy of pressing other races into their empire and making war on them if they refuse is reminiscent of the Tau from Warhammer 40000. Javik does admit that the homogenization of culture enforced upon client species ultimately made the Reaper's victory much easier, and the fact remains that the Protheans are the only reason that galactic civilization still stands by the time of Mass Effect 3.
  • Better Than It Sounds: Humanity teams up with a Space Jews princess, a Blue Skinned Space Babe archaeologist, a Cowboy Cop Vigilante Man and an exiled lizard king-mercenary to save the galaxy. And it's awesome.
    • And for the second game, said human gets killed and brought back to life and collects a team of total badasses to embark on a suicide mission given by Martin Sheen to stop some bugs. And like before, it's awesome.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: The turians, salarians, asari, and humans to name four. Mass Effect just loves this trope.
    • Tali's adorable, and very reasonable. She also has a shotgun, and tells her drone to go for the optics. Or Liara- in the first game, at least, she's shy and awkward. And can slap enemies with a Singularity. After she takes a level in Badass, she's threating people with asari commando teams and flaying them alive in Mass Effect 2. And Paragon Shepard definitely qualifies.
  • Big Bad:
    • Sovereign for the first game, even though most people in-universe believe that it was Saren.
    • Harbinger takes up the role for the second game.
    • Harbinger reprises his role as Big Bad in the third game, but this time shares the mantle with the Illusive Man. While Harbinger is the greater threat, the Illusive Man is more central to the plot and has more appearances.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Harbinger and the Shadow Broker for the second game, but you only get to deal with the latter in a DLC.
    • In Retribution, a novel that takes place after the second game, the Illusive Man forms an alliance with Aria T'Loak, the 'manager' of Omega. That is, until she finds out that his men murdered her daughter..
    • During Garrus' recruitment mission on Omega, Jaroth (Eclipse), Garm (Blood Pack) and Tarak (Blue Suns) formed a temporary alliance to eliminate him, and planned to overthrow Aria as 'manager' of Omega itself.
    • And then in the third game there's the the Reapers AND Cerberus
  • Big Bad Ensemble: You have Sovereign (red) and Harbinger (yellow) representing the Reapers, utilizing husks, geth and Collectors as their primary footsoldiers. Along the way, there's the various criminal kingpins of the Terminus Systems, from the Eclipse, Blue Suns and Blood Pack mercenary bands, to Aria's Omega guards, the Shadow Brokers' personal army, and the survivalist paramilitia force - Cerberus.
  • Big Damn Heroes: So very many. Commander Shepard, especially as a Paragon, can't seem to stop running into these.

  Zaeed: Let's get it out of the way so we can concentrate on being big goddamn heroes!

    • Anderson saves Mass Effect 3 companion James Vega from a mob of batarians on Omega, in the comic Mass Effect: Conviction.
  • Big Dumb Object: Virtually everything with the word 'Prothean' attached to it. Especially the mass relays and the Citadel, though they didn't really make those.

  Renegade!Shepard: It's a big, stupid, jellyfish!

    • Shep says it again, Renegade or Paragon, to a hanar who applies Insane Troll Logic along the lines of "Enkindlers=Protheans=Collectors=Reaper Servants and so should I go" and betrays his homeworld by trying to shut down its automated defenses and open it up to the Reapers.
  • Big Eater: According to the Codex, the typical Alliance soldier has a 3000-calorie diet, as is typical for human soldiers today. Biotics require a bit more than that; conservation of energy is in effect for biotics, so that energy has to come from somewhere. As a result, Alliance active-duty biotics are served an extra meal and are issued canteens of energy drink instead of water.
    • Noted in the third game, where the teacher of a group of biotic students admonishes her charges to eat energy bars and drink juice after a battle with Cerberus forces.
  • Bigger Bad: The Catalyst, the controlling intelligence behind the Reapers. Shepard meets it for all of five minutes and it accepts defeat gracefully.
  • Bigger Is Better: The Normandy SR-2 is not only significantly more awesome than its predecessor, but also twice its size.

 Joker: Civilian sector comfort by design!

  • Bigger on the Inside: Both Normandys. The prefab trailers featured in many sidequests of the first game definitely count as well.
  • Big Good: The Citadel Council would've qualified, if they weren't a bunch of contrarians and bureaucrats. No, the real Big Goods are Captain David Anderson and Admiral Steven Hackett for the first game, the Illusive Man (for given values of being "good") in the second game, and the third game ends up shifting the role to Shepard.
  • Bilingual Bonus:
    • The Aralakh system which contains the krogan homeworld has a small, resource-rich planet called Durak on which, according to the info, five warlords simultaneously betrayed one another during a truce meeting on neutral ground, resulting in the mutual destruction of their clans. "Durak" is Russian for "idiot".
    • Another Russian Bilingual Bonus: the name of the system Pamyat, present in second and third games, is Russian for "Memory". Why? The planets in the system are named after Soviet cosmonauts who died in space: Vladimir Komarov, Grigory Dobrovolsky, Viktor Patsayev and Vladislav Volkov.
    • The mechs in the second game are all named after characters from Norse mythology. Loki was the god of trickery, Fenrir a giant wolf, and Ymir a frost giant. Fittingly, LOKI 'mechs have a habit of acting up, FENRIR mechs are basically robot dogs, and YMIR mechs are walking tanks.
    • Much of Cerberus' organizational structure borrows names from Greek mythology.
  • Bio Augmentation: Genetic upgrades are standard-issue for all Alliance soldiers. Notable for being one of the few examples that gets this right. If you talk to the sales rep, he'll explain how none of the mods take effect immediately; they can require anywhere from months to decades to take effect, depending on what you're modifying, but they do have some kind of chemotherapy that cuts the time in half.
  • Bioluminescence Is Cool: The hanar race.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: Par for the course.
    • Asari have Exotic Equipment that allows them to have sex with anything sentient, regardless of gender or species, and produce viable asari offspring.

 Shepard: So let me get this straight: your species can mate with anyone?

    • "Stupid lazy humans. We salarians get by just fine with one hour of sleep a day." Of course, they also drop dead in a mere 40 years.
    • Turians have evolved to have a metal exoskeleton to protect against their homeworld's high solar radiation levels.
    • Quarians, due to a lack of insect life on their homeworld, developed immune systems which adapted to or co-opted foreign microorganisms. Spending centuries on the flotilla have ruined this adaptability, meaning they now have to spend their lives in environmental suits, bubbles, special clean-rooms, etc.
    • The vorcha have stopped evolving millennia ago because they can spontaneously adapt to new environmental conditions through the guided release of unspecialized cells. A vorcha dropped on a high gravity planet will develop stronger muscles, one dropped on a planet with an exotic atmosphere will adapt his lungs to be able to breathe the new gases successfully....too bad they can only typically achieve these changes once in their lives.
    • Krogan evolved on a Death World, with all the awesome superpowers that implies. One of the keys to their survival is redundant internal organs - every one has a backup, and some of those have backups. And when one of those backups kick in, it triggers an intense adrenaline surge that permits them to knock people aside like ragdolls. Never attack a krogan with anything less than what you'd use to demolish a building. You'll just make him mad. Krogan do not have a nervous system in the same way as other species, instead it more closely resembles a circulatory system, allowing it to recover from far greater injury. They even have four testicles.

 Garrus: Some krogan believe that testicle transplants can increase their virility. Counteract the effects of the genophage. It doesn't work, but that doesn't stop them from buying. They'll pay up to 10,000 credits each. That's 40,000 for a full set. Somebody's making a killing out there.

      • In Mass Effect 2, they use the term "quad", i.e. "You've got a quad, Shepard." Wrex even makes a joke about Grunt "having a quint" if Grunt defeats the thresher maw.

 Wrex: You can't help making trouble. Nobody has killed a maw since my turn in the Rite. Next you'll tell me he's a quint and craps dark matter.

      • Thane's preferred assassination method for non-krogan species: neck-snap. His preferred alternative assassination method for Krogans: Bomb.
        • For extra fun, the Krogan evolved on a planet so lethal that they ended up with wide-set eyes, more typical of prey species then predators. Counts as a Genius Bonus.
    • In a way, this is also pseudo-inverted upon humanity as well. Professor Mordin explains that one of the reasons human test subjects are always chosen for abduction is that they have the most diverse gene pool of any race in the galaxy. If you think of this as a lampshading of Alien Abduction in other sci-fi stories, it only becomes that much funnier. Then you realize that Collectors are abducting humans, for exactly this reason. Apparently Reapers need a species that is extremely diverse to create one of their own.
    • Lets not forget the Volus. Their entire biochemistry is built from ammonia as opposed to carbon, which results in a body that explodes if they ever step outside their envirosuits in an environment not specifically catered to their biology i. e. any non-Volus planet.
      • Actually the exploding aspect has to do with the fact that they originated on a high-pressure world, the suits are actually pressurised in order for them to survive on alien worlds. Their ammonia based biochesistry makes them unable to survive in Nitrogen/Oxygen atmospheres.
  • Black Box: Here, the Black Boxes walk around and perform routine maintenance on the largest space station in the galaxy. All leftover from Precursors.
    • The Reapers intentionally made them Black Boxes so sentient life wouldn't try understanding how the Citadel worked; and come up with their own stuff.
    • In the third game, The Crucible seems to qualify, as nobody, including those who build it seems to quite know what it does or how it works until Shepard activates it and it sends out massive waves of energy that destroy the mass relays, along with (if the player so chooses) the Reapers and all other synthetic life in the galaxy.
  • Black Eyes of Evil: Subverted by the case of the asari. Whenever they initiate a mind/gene meld, whether for information transfer, therapeutic, or simply sexual purposes, their eyes turn completely black for no apparent reason while murmuring embrace eternity. Apart from the words, nothing sinister about it.
    • Played straight with Morinth in the second game as Asari who are Ardat-Yaskhi literally burn out your entire nervous system during sex.
    • Possibly a Shout-Out to Lyta Alexander of Babylon 5, whose eyes become similarly blacked out when she's engaged in a particularly strenuous psychic task (including mind melding).
  • Blame Game: Comm buoys around the batarian homeworld go offline and their economy is cut off from the colonies? Must be the Alliance.
    • To be fair, Alliance-sponsored destruction in Batarian territory would be recently on their mind, what with Shepard's actions in The Arrival.
  • Blown Across the Room: Fun with Throw, Shockwave, and grenades. For more impressive results, combine with Lift, Pull, or Singularity. Also achievable in the first game through ammo upgrades that increase weapons impact force.
  • Blue and Orange Morality: How Sovereign describes the Reapers motivations. It is yet to be determined whether this is an accurate assessment, or just an expression of the being in question's overwhelming contempt for the reasoning capacity of those puny organics. Mass Effect 2 seems to indicate that the Reapers' motives actually are pretty comprehensible, since it's likely that they perpetuate the cycles of extinction in order to reproduce via making genetic paste out of organic lifeforms. However, the novel Retribution implies that they think that they're doing the organics a favour with this, bringing them straight back to this trope. Has nothing to do with Paragon and Renegade morality being represented by blue and orange. Move along.
    • The Reapers' motivations are finally laid bare in Mass Effect 3: they were created by an ancient AI housed within the Citadel called the Catalyst. The Catalyst was nearly killed by its own creators when it became sentient, and came to the conclusion that synthetic and organic life will ALWAYS fight and slaughter one another. The Reapers were its "solution" to that problem: preserve impressive organic species by turning them into Reapers, kill off the rest so they don't cause trouble for the still developing organics. The Reapers honestly do think they are doing organics a favor with their periodic genocides. In the end, the Catalyst decides that its solution is flawed because Shepard managed to make it to the heart of the Citadel and confront it, so it extrapolates several new solutions and leaves it up to Shepard which one to take.
  • Blunt Metaphors Trauma: Many turians seem to be fascinated by human metaphors and figurative language, but they usually misquote them or manage to unintentionally make them sound suggestive. Liara also hilariously butchered a few attempts at figurative speech in the first game, as did Tali in the second.
  • Bodyguard Babes: Any security force involving asari. Like Benezia. Especially Benezia.
  • Bold Inflation: How you can tell when a dialogue choice is Paragon/Charm or Renegade/Intimidate.
  • Boldly Coming:
    • Thanks to their Bizarre Alien Biology, this is a specialty of the asari.
    • Shepard gets chances to do this with various species. Given that Mordin is able to provide specific advice, including manuals of mutually comfortable positions, for human/(turian/quarian/drell) pairings, there appears to be rather a lot of this about.
    • On Omega you can buy a xenophilia magazine called "Fornax". When bought, you can view a detailed description in the codex, so yeah...
  • Bottomless Magazines:
    • All guns in the first game are restricted only in that continuous fire will cause them to overheat and you have to wait a bit for it to cool down. The game justifies it by saying the ammunition system used by them, while not lasting forever, makes ammo a more-or-less non-issue in a single battle and non-existent in a gameplay-sense. The game later uses this by having an optional conversation with Wrex on the Normandy where the Proud Warrior Race Guy fondly recounts an extended duel with another bounty hunter in a Wretched Hive, during which he actually ran out of ammunition and had to make use of cheap weapons procured from lowlifes who died in the crossfire. After days of on and off combat.
    • Weapons in the second game use "thermal clips", which are essentially disposable heat sinks that keep weapons from critically overheating. In gameplay terms, they function in exactly the same fashion as an actual ammo clip would. Which is acceptable for gameplay, but doesn't make much sense with the explanation provided. Once the player runs out of extra thermal clips, they should at least be able to wait for the last clip in their weapon to cool before they resume firing. Instead, they have to wait until they pick up new clips. As if they are relying on ammo, which defeats the point of using this advanced weapons technology in the first place . . .
      • The Codex says, once, that the geth started using thermal clip technology and no longer had to wait for their weapons to cool down, so the rest of the galaxy had to scramble to start using it too. Which makes no sense whatsoever given that in the first game, fitting even one high-level heat sink attachment provides enough cooldown to make a weapon able to fire indefinitely. Might be an example of Gameplay Story Segregation - the hassle of having to reload and find more clips is considerably greater than just waiting a few seconds as happened in the first game. One notable and better fan created explanation is that due to widespread usage of the Sabotage talent the thermal clips were introduced to enable a soldier to simply remove an overheated (which is what Sabotage does) thermal clip and instantly replace it, rather than wait a relative eternity for an old style weapon to cool down.
    • The in-game explanation for not being able to wait for the clips to cool down is that they use an endothermic reaction in Lithium to store the heat. This allows the clip to store much more heat, but once they are used they simply cannot be used again, as the Lithium has already reacted. However, this does not explain why you cannot fire the weapon WITHOUT inserting a clip, as you should be able to wait for the weapon to cool down like you did in the first game; this was originally implemented and can be seen in early previews, but playtesters came back with negative reactions to it, so it was Dummied Out.
      • Actually it makes sense if you compare the weapons to a modern day CPU. Most desktop grade processors have both a heat sink and a fan to cool them. You still can run a computer without some method of dispersing the heat. However this is highly ineffective and runs a very high risk of damaging the chip itself. If one tries firing the weapons without a way to disperse the heat, you risk internal damage to the weapon themselves, if not external as well.
  • Bottomless Pits: That you cannot fall into. Or the enemy, under their own power. But, when combined with any ability that induces ragdoll state, you can send them screaming to their doom.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: An entire colony from the first game as well as anyone exposed to Reaper indoctrination.
    • Also, Jacob's loyalty mission; his father's entire crew was force-fed plant matter that decayed their minds to the point where they were easily controlled and easily become beserk.
    • In Mass Effect 3, Cerberus gets indoctrinated.
      • Not exactly as simple as that. The Illusive Man has been indoctrinated all along, but, unaware of this, sets out to control the Reapers, usurping their power for his own purposes. To this end, he orders all Cerberus foot soldiers with Reaper technology, and engages in experiments to figure out how indoctrination works.
    • In the third game, this can be the fate of Jack and Legion if you messed things up along the way, and you'll have to fight them near the end.
      • Also Morinth if she's alive. She's been turned into a Banshee.
  • Brass Balls: The Krogan race in the Mass Effect universe have four testicles, so whenever they feel the need to display recognition of a particularly badass individual, they say "he has got a quad". Commander Shepard earns it after you defeat the Thresher Maw on Tuchanka. Yes, even if you play as Fem!Shep.
  • The Bridge: Half played straight, half subverted. The pilot, gunners, and sensor specialists all sit in the rather cramped forward section of both of the Normandys, but the actual command center is a ways back in the body of the ship. Fairly spacious, but not to ridiculous levels.
    • Later, when a human admiral comes to inspect ship, he asks who designed the command center, since from a human view point it's unpractical. The player can respond it's experimental turian design, who prefer to have their commanders over-looking their men.
  • Broken Base: For every choice and every made up political position found in the universe you can bet your biscuits that there will a large group of people supporting each and every different position. Surprisingly, this can be taken as a point in the franchise's favor, as there are few other fictional universes out there that generate opinions in a manner similar to Real Life politics.
  • Bug War: The Rachni War. Subverted in that the bugs are very intelligent and normally peace-loving; 'something' (hint: it was probably the Reapers) drove them berserk and forced them to attack Citadel space. You can even get the chance to undo their extinction, and letting them live is supposed to be the good choice as opposed to ending the rachni forever.
    • Only to find out that they fell into Reaper hands, er, tentacles again; you'll have to spare them one more time before they'll finally be able to aid you.
  • Bullying a Dragon: Shepard is and always has been notioriously badass in-universe and is never without at least three powerful guns, but that doesn't stop each and every punk in the galaxy smart enough to pull a trigger from trying to take the Commander on and expecting to win.
  • By-The-Book Cop: The entirety of C-Sec. At least, so Executor Pallin would have you believe.
  • The Call Left a Message: Hand-in-hand with Fling a Light Into the Future. The Protheans sent out a message of warning about the Reapers hoping that somebody, anybody with Prothean heritage would pick up on it. Unfortunately, every member of their race except the senders were dead and so The Call went into voicemail. Millennia later, both Saren and Shepard answered.
  • Can't Argue With Space Elves: Subverted. The asari are described as classic, better-than-you-in-every-way elves in the Codex, but are shown to be capable of as many vices as any other species. You can also literally do this with the asari member of the Council in both games.
    • And then they lose their home world to the Reapers before any of the other council races.
  • Can't Have Sex Ever:
    • Quarians can have sex, but they must do it in a sterile environment, boosting their immune system beforehand, and there is still a risk of infection or allergic response.
    • Even more so, the Ardat-Yakshi, asari afflicted with a very rare genetic defect that kills their partners during the act. As the Ardat-Yakshi gains a boost of biotic strength and feels a narcotic effect afterwards, the process is extremely addictive to them. Known Ardat-Yakshi are given a choice between a life of abstinence and seclusion, or death.
  • Capital City:
    • The Citadel in the first and third games is the focal point of most every event. It's where the majority of side quests are received and completed, it's one of the most consistent sources of supplies, and it's mandatory to visit at least three times. Somewhat unusual in that it's the second location you visit immediately after the First Town.
    • Inverted in the second game, wherein the Citadel is no more important or central to the game (and perhaps even less so) than Omega, the Wretched Hive Outlaw Space Station.
  • Cash Cow Franchise: Not quite yet, but due to the universe's detail, depth, and extreme popularity, many are expecting BioWare to take it in this direction.
    • Four novellas, two comics (plus two free mini-comics), and three spinoff i Phone games, so far.
  • Cassandra Truth: All the freakin' time. Not just Shepard, either.
  • Casual Interstellar Travel: Somewhat justified; the mass relays make it simple to zip around the galaxy in a matter of hours or days as opposed to centuries, making it economically viable to spread everywhere and not bother to research other methods of transport...which is the entire point.
  • Celebrity Voice Actor: All over the place. Seth Green, Adam Baldwin, Yvonne Strahovski, Tricia Helfer, Martin Sheen, Claudia Black, Carrie-Anne Moss...the list goes on.
    • In fact, it could be said that the in-development movie could very well be made with many of the characters literally being played by their voices (in fact, Fan Dumb might result if anything else were to happen in some cases!)
  • Central Theme: Abusive Creators. Personal, biological, ideological... just about every problem in the Mass Effect universe originates from someone with more knowledge than wisdom creating someone to solve their problems for them, then demonizing them when things get complicated. Shepard has to pull off miracle after miracle over and over to prevent creator and created from exterminating each other. The Catalyst created the Reapers to protect organic and synthetic civilizations from each other, by reshaping them into Reapers voluntarily if possible or forcibly if necessary - the Terminus colonists were forcibly broken down and made into a new Reaper, but the heretic geth were offered a Reaper construct to contain all of their runtimes.
    • The krogan may not have been precisely "created" by the salarians, but they were denied the chance to learn from the mistakes that destroyed their civilization when the salarians uplifted them to fight the rachni. They were chosen for their ability to make war, encouraged to do it, then punished for being too good for it.
    • The title "geth" actually means "servant of the people" in the quarian equivalent of Latin. They were punished for wanting to serve their creators even when their creators were scared of them.
    • Hell, this even applies to Shepard. Trained to defend Earth's colonies, s/he gets abused by politicians for being too focused on it. Given the title of Spectre to defend the galaxy, and marginalized for discovering a threat beyond the scope of hir superiors to recognize. When everything comes down to the line in Mass Effect 3, Shepard has to scream out that s/he gave them time to plan, and all that is left is to fight or die. Sheesh.
  • Chainmail Bikini: Almost entirely averted. Armor tends to be built around its wearer's form and be practical. The only exception is showing that women have boobs, which doesn't happen with real armor and actually defeats its purpose. Shepard's armor tends to be nothing but functional, even as a woman.
  • The Chains of Commanding: Shepard gets more and more of this as the trilogy goes on. A female Shepard can talk about it openly in a romance with Jacob in the second game, and it finally comes out in the open as a major theme in the third.
  • Character Development: The Krogans start out as a race of Blood Knights who always start fights to the death for no reason, but are shown as much more intelligent, social, and cultured people who care deeply for the survival of the world and species throughout the following game. And still enjoy brutal fighting with complete disregard to their own safety. They'd always been Boisterous Bruisers, but they had art and culture before their nuclear holocaust. Following which they were discovered and uplifted as living weapons, then given a near genocide that sent them into a two-millennium spiral of nihilistic despair.
  • Character Level: Raised through earning XP by killing enemies, talking with NPCs, exploring containers, and gathering items. Don't forget looking at random stuff. This caused a massive amount of Level Grinding and Pixel Hunting, so in the sequel you get experience only for quests.
    • In the first game, it took longer to go from level 59 to level 60, the maximum, than it took to go from level 1 to level 47. You will probably need several New Game Plusses. Completely inverted for Mass Effect 2, where each level has the same number of experience points between it, and most major quests give enough experience to grant an additional level anyway.
  • Charm Person: In stark contrast to most BioWare games (if not most western CRPGs entirely), where conversation skills become completely useless around the halfway point, the Mass Effect series tends to keep charming and intimidation relevant throughout. You can even skip the penultimate boss in the first game by persuading him to realize that he is a victim of More Than Mind Control and thus providing him a moment of lucidity. He uses this moment to stop himself the only way he can before he falls back under control, by shooting himself.
  • Chekhov's Army: Many of the Paragon choices have you paving the way for a Gondor Calls for Aid situation for the third game. This may include the Migrant Fleet, the geth faction that Legion represents, the rachni if you chose to save them, convincing Mordin that it may be worth saving Maelon's research into a genophage cure, and helping Liara take control of Shadow Broker's ship.
    • All of these and more finally fire in the third game. The war effort goes much more smoothly if you already laid the groundwork.
  • Chekhov's Gun: There are many details from the first game that resurface in the second game. Many minor side-quests pop up again in the second game, in the form of e-mails your character receives referring to those earlier events, or (more rarely) re-encounters on planets during missions. Some of these take seemingly minor details and give them new and greater significance, such as one mission in Mass Effect is set on the moon of a planet whose surface was shattered by an ancient mass driver weapon—mainly for the purpose of providing a scenic backdrop as you drive around. However, in Mass Effect 2 the Illusive Man reveals that they discovered the target of that mass driver, and it turns out to be an important MacGuffin. Also, there are plenty of plot elements and little tidbits in both games that may or may not be waiting to fire in Mass Effect 3. These belong on the WMG page until fired.
    • Several details from the first and second games take on new importance in the third. A particularly egregious one would be the Leviathan of Dis. Visiting an obscure planet in the first game makes mention of an organic starship found on the world that the batarians absconded with. Turns out it was a Reaper corpse, and it ended up indoctrinating everyone who worked on it, ala the derelict Reaper from the second game. This is why the Batarian Hegemony fell so quickly.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Pretty much anyone in the first game who returns and is tied to a quest in the second. Especially Shiala and Gianna Parasini. If they survived the events of the first game and you helped them with their quests.
    • And then in the third game, it gets pushed Up to Eleven.
    • And let's not forget Cerberus, a rogue organization that was the subject of a few sidequests in the first game, but plays a major role in the sequel.
    • Frankly, any Genre Savvy player will feel confident in saying that any character with a notable voice actor is playing a Not-So-Small Role. After all, paying a big name voice actor for a character with only a few minutes of lines is far too costly for a one-off appearance. Barring people like Seth Green who enjoys the matter as much if not more than the pay.
  • The Chessmasters: Asari Matriarchs are stated to be some of the wisest beings in the galaxy and, according to the Codex, make plans so complicated that they are incomprehensible to other beings. Seeing as asari live for centuries, they do not really mind waiting a couple decades for a plan to pay off.
  • Chest Insignia: Shepard's iconic N7 insignia.
  • Chew Toy: The volus. There are about two or three more or less lucky Vol-clan in the entire two games. All the others tend to find out that life sucks.
    • By the third game, the batarians get slotted into this category.
  • Choice of Two Weapons: to a degree. In the first game Vanguard and Infiltrator player classes (and through a certain achievement, Adept and Engineer) are designed to use two weapons, as are Quarian Machinist, Turian Agent, and Krogan Battlemaster, although four of them can be used. In the sequel, Shepard uses no less than three weapons (at least two regular weapons plus heavy weapons, with the option to add another weapon class after a plot event), but all his/her crew uses two.
    • Averted (for Shepard, at least) in Mass Effect 3. Shepard has all five weapon slots available (and therefore can theoretically carry one of each), but an encumberance system causes the cooldown on your powers to increase if you load yourself down with too many weapons. Squadmates and multiplayer characters are still limited to two weapons, however.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Completely natural for the krogan, to the point that betrayal is expected in their society.
    • Subverted by Wrex, of all people, though. He's well aware that the krogan love of combat and fighting is precisely why their race is doomed - as he puts it, his race is more interested in making wars than making children. His CBD moment is even subverted by himself - he knows he can't do what needs to be done because of conflicts of interest unless the player either Shoots The Dog or otherwise resolves the matter.

  Grunt: I'm not going to stab you in the back, Shepard. Fighters like you and me--right in the face. * Beat* Kidding, kidding.

  • Cipher Scything: Commander Shepard in novels and comics.
  • Clingy Costume: The quarians and the volus. The quarians will get deathly ill without them, while the volus will suffocate and explode. Not necessarily in that order.
  • The Collectors: Pretty much Exactly What It Says on the Tin. An entire species of Evilutionary Biologists who spent most of their time before Mass Effect 2 trading advanced technology for groups of genetically unusual individuals of all races. Then the second game rolled around, and they got their game faces on.
  • The Coconut Effect: Invoked by the film grain filter added to the graphics.
  • Combat by Champion: Turian culture allows for duels between representatives of opposing armies. The "traditional" duel involves both combatants entering opposite ends of a square room with an opaque wall between them. The wall is lowered and they shoot at each other. Duels can either be to first blood or to the death.
  • Combat Pragmatist: The salarians as a whole. In the Codex entry on their military doctrine, the salarians have always started their wars with no warning, and believe the concept of "declaring war" to someone you're about to attack is both insane and idiotic. They also have a habit of using subterfuge and multiple redundant plans to cope with problems. The krogan are also incredibly brutal fighters who have no qualms with decimation of civilian populations to maintain order.
    • The turians are also this way. Their military doctrine allows them to use orbital bombardment on battle locations to take out any number of combatants. This was one of the reasons the general at the Battle of Shanxi surrendered - the turians would attempt to bombard forces entering cities for supplies. The general was unwilling to accept that sort of destruction.
    • The Quarians try, but fail, by arming their liveships for the attack on Rannoch. Which mostly just makes them a target for the Geth, who would otherwise ignore them.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: Used for the Paragon and Renegade moralities, which are associated with blue and red respectively. The endings in the main games even change slightly to display the colour motif of the chosen morality.
    • Similarly, used to identify various (but far from all) factions in the games. Blue Suns are blue, the Blood Pack is red, Ecclipse is yellow, Cerberus is white and gold, Alliance is blue and silver, and the Geth are metallic purple and gunmetal grey.
  • Continuity Nod: Basically the point of keeping your saved games from previous games to import into the latest one. For the more straight-forward kind, you can make a drinking game out of how many nods there are on the Citadel in Mass Effect 2, up to and including commercials for the all-elcor performance of Hamlet. Complete with video clips.
  • Conveniently Precise Translation: the resident Translator Microbes. They are able to perfectly translate styles of speech and puns.
    • Except for a few specific words that go by untranslated even though they tend to be among the most frequently used.
  • Cool Gate: All of the mass relays. Especially the Citadel.
  • Cool Starship:
    • The Normandy SR-1 and the Normandy SR-2.
    • The Destiny Ascension in the first game isn't half bad either, though Joker's not impressed.
    • Nightmare Fuel or no, Sovereign and his ilk are nothing if not incredibly badass battleships.
    • The Collector Ship may not be the prettiest vessel in the galaxy, but it gets points for size, intimidation factor, and tearing apart the ship that killed Sovereign and making it look easy.
    • The Shadow Broker's ship
    • the geth dreadnought
  • Cosmic Horror Story: Mecha-Cthulhu is coming home to grab some lunch, like he does every 50,000 years.
    • It's worse than that. Mecha-Cthulhu is coming home to make babies. Out of people.
      • Gets pushed to Expy levels when an indoctrinated Cerberus researcher studying a derelict Reaper points out that dead gods can still dream.
  • Crap Saccharine World: Ilium in Mass Effect 2. It's a beacon of luxury, wealth, and glamor. Oh, and everything except murder is legal.
  • Creepy Monotone:
    • The elcor are less creepy, but their inability to express emotions in speech otherwise than literally (see "That Makes Me Feel Angry" below) is a bit unsettling, coupled with their deep, monotone voice.
    • Sovereign, Harbinger, and EDI use this trope as well, but the last of the bunch is friendly.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Oh dear god, there is a lot in this series.
    • The process of converting an organic being into a husk involves impaling them on massive spikes and having all organic components of their bodies replaced with synthetic components while they're still alive.
    • The effects of pretty much all of the ammo upgrades in the first game - freezing, burning, disintegration, electrocution, radiation poisoning, regular poisoning, crushing, and exploding. In the second game you only get to freeze people and then shatter their bodies, electrocute them and make their equipment quite literally explode, or set them on fire and listen to them scream as they burn to death.
    • Dr. Saleon's 'patients' grew illegally cloned organs in their bodies for his use; he sometimes didn't do a good enough job on the sutures, and if something went wrong with the organs inside them, he left them in there.
    • The ultimate fate of all who are indoctrinated is to slowly starve to death while what's left of your free mind screams and struggles to no avail.
    • Everyone who was captured by the Collectors was either converted into husks as described above, or dissolved into genetic paste while still alive and conscious in order to make a new Reaper.
  • Cthulhumanoid: At least one race that made up the Prothean Empire was this, if their statues are anything to go by.
    • turns out those statues may have been created by a species from the cycle previous to that of the Protheans.
  • Cultural Posturing: The Reapers. In pretty much every appearance so far.
  • Curb Stomp Battle: All of the Reaper invasions are implied to be this. Apparently one of them had a grand casualty total of one Reaper, and the race that killed it destroyed themselves doing so. In the sequel, if everyone in your squad lives, you do this to the Collectors. Also, the destruction of the original Normandy.
    • The Reaper invasions of Earth, the Batarian Hegemony, and Thessia in the third game. On the turian and volus homeworlds, though, the Reapers meet fierce resistance, and news reports occasionally mention the destruction of Reapers by ground forces and fleets.
  • Curse Cut Short: Given that this is an M-rated game, the only point to this is humor.
    • In the meeting with the Council in which Shepard becomes a Spectre, one conversation path leads to Udina declaring that he is tired of "this Council and it's anti human bull-" before being interrupted by the asari Councilor.
    • Another in the sequel: a series of increasingly frustrated datapads are found next to a faulty mech. The final one only says "Piece of Sh[SIGNAL ERROR]".
    • And then we have Jack in the 3rd game.
  • Cutscene: These probably make up more than half of the entire game, as is normal for a BioWare game. They're all interactive to a degree. Found a cutscene in the second game that you can't skip? Keep your fingers on those triggers or your mouse button!
  • Cyber Cyclops:
    • The geth.
    • The various mechs used in the second game are also one-eyed, including the canine FENRIS mechs.
  • Dangerously Genre Savvy: The Reapers, full stop.
  • David Versus Goliath: The whole concept of Spectres in the first place: pitting single men and women against overwhelming odds and expecting them to come out on top. Which they usually do. Also the whole concept of the game: the unprepared galaxy (specifically, one man/woman and the individuals crazy enough to follow him/her) against the tens of thousands (at least) of highly advanced Reapers intending to wipe out the galaxy as they have so many times in the past.
  • Daylight Horror: Though the games aren't exactly horror games, the destroyed colonies or those under attack are almost always visited at sunset with a heavily overcast sky. Though the last rays of the sun still lighten up the environment, the devastation and solitude makes it far from comforting.
    • In the third game, the invasion of Earth. It's a sunny day in Vancouver... and the world is ending.
  • Death by Genre Savviness: The quarians. Upon discovering that the geth had started to gain sentience, they figured the Robot War was soon to come. They decided to strike first and not give the machines a chance, but the geth proved to be more advanced then they thought. Billions of quarians died, and ultimately, they were evicted from their planet. To add insult to injury, the second game reveals the geth didn't want to revolt, and are in fact maintaining the quarian homeworld in hopes the that their creators will one day stop trying to kill them and return.
  • Death World: Quite a few of the planets you visit, but the krogan homeworld, Tuchanka, apparently takes the cake. The planet is so deadly that the only lifeforms to survive it will tear straight through any other ecosystem.

 TRAVEL ADVISORY: The ecology of Tuchanka is deadly. Nearly every native species engages in some predatory behavior; even the remaining vegetation is carnivorous.

    • Part of the krogan's rite of passage into adulthood on Tuchanka involves surviving a Thresher Maw attack on foot. Try that yourself and see how much life you have left afterward. [2]
    • Tuchanka was apparently so deadly even before the krogan nuked it that the genophage - which allows only one live birth per one thousand attempts - effectively reduced their population growth to pre-industrial levels; in other words, nine hundred and ninety nine out of every thousand krogan died before they reached childbearing age before they were uplifted, so lethal was the environment. In the codex, it says that before the krogan invented firearms, the most common cause of death was 'eaten by predators', while afterwards, it was 'multiple gunshot wounds'. Both the krogan and a proportion of the flora and fauna on Tuchanka survived a nuclear war with little change to daily life.
  • Debut Queue: standard BioWare procedure.
  • Deface of the Moon: A group of batarian pirates used lasers to carve proclamations of batarian supremacy and human illegitimacy onto the surface of one of the random worlds you can scan in the first game.
    • Jack did this in a big way, as stated in Mass Effect 2, her list of crimes involved 'vandalism'... she dropped a SPACE STATION on a moon the Hanar were particularly fond of.
    • Scanning Patsayev in Mass Effect 2 reveals the story of a disgruntled miner named Andrei Kobzar. Andrei spent every credit he had in a futile attempt to mine for Element Zero. He then stole a mercenary group's gunship and used it to carve a 208-kilometer message in the ice: Zdes' nichego nyet, Russian for "There's nothing here" to discourage anyone else from coming there. It became the space version of a roadside tourist trap and gathers small crowds.
  • Deflector Shields: Man portable ones, thanks to Element Zero.
  • Depopulation Bomb: The krogan, previously known for absurd fertility rates (an adaptation to an extremely deadly environment) and long life spans, have been deliberately infected with a virus that makes childbirth exceedingly unlikely.
  • Derelict Graveyard: The massive field of destroyed ships that surrounds the Collector's base in the second game. Doubles as an Asteroid Thicket.
    • Also the planet Korlus is one giant derelict ship covered planet.
  • Deus Ex Machina: The Crucible can be viewed as a deconstruction of this. It's introduced near the start of the trilogy finale as the only weapon powerful enough to defeat the Reapers. But it isn't actually built yet, and when it does get built, it doesn't work quite as everyone had hoped, as it not only destroys the Reapers, but also the mass relays and (in some endings) the Citadel.
  • The Dev Team Thinks of Everything: From What the Hell, Player? moments delivered by EDI to Liara thinking she's hallucinating from fatigue and hunger if you leave recruiting her for last. The devs had a lot of fun setting up the games.
  • Dialogue Tree: Done through an innovative dialogue wheel where you choose the tone of Shepard's responses rather than what s/he actually says.
    • Though this was a little misleading at times. The second game went a long way to remedying this issue, but the 'limited summary' options during the first game would often lead to players who wanted to take a particular approach to roleplaying, for instance, softer or more diplomatic, entering dialogue paths such as:

 Avina: ... The embassies allow lesser species to have a voice on the citadel.

Shepard: [Lesser species? >] THAT'S PRETTY DAMN ARROGANT!

  • Differently-Powered Individual: They're called biotics, not psychics. Justified in that it isn't pure brainpower that lets them perform incredible feats, and several in-universe sources hint that the name was deliberately chosen to keep people from misunderstanding what biotics are capable of (e.g. no mindreading). The asari complicate matters, as they are all biotics and they do appear able to read minds (embrace eternity!). This is related to their method of reproduction (synching their nervous system with that of another person), however, and not biotics at all.
  • Discount Lesbians:
    • The asari are pretty much the ultimate example of the trope.
    • Kelly Chambers then subverts this in the sequel.
    • It's also entirely possible to play a lesbian Shepard in both games, which renders the use of the trope in the first place somewhat odd. Kaidan comes very close to saying it outright if you've romanced Liara as a female Shepard.

 Kaidan: I, um...I - I don't want to step on anyone else's toes. Especially if you're a - uh, if I have misread your interests.

  • Disproportionate Retribution: The Alliance doesn't have the resources or manpower to guard all or even most of their colonies, so they settle for ensuring that anyone who does attack one is in for a whole world of hurt. Their motto can be described as "it's not the garrison that'll get ya, it's the reinforcements." This is detailed by the War Hero Backstory, where the world Shepard was having shore leave on was hit by the Skyllian Blitz, and Shepard singlehandedly tied up the invading ground force long enough for the Alliance Navy to drop in and catch the attackers with their flys still unzipped.
    • The First Contact War is an even better example. After the turians destroyed or captured what they thought was the bulk of humanity's military, they were caught absolutely off-guard when the Second Fleet of the Armada fought back and absolutely devastated the turian forces. As in, one of at least five similarly sized Fleets. Little wonder the Citadel races are wary of humans getting their backs up.
  • Disturbed Doves: During Kasumi's loyalty mission, this results as she employs some impressive acrobatics to vault on top of Donovan Hock's gunship and disable its shields.
  • Ditto Aliens: Played somewhat straight, but only due to background character models. Individual characters who actually get lines tend to be quite distinctive.
  • Divided States of America: The codex updates in the Kasumi DLC mention a Second American Civil War in 2096. Averted somewhat in that it's a civil war over the unificaton of the United States, Canada, and Mexico into a larger federation. So, in fact, it results in a bigger state.
  • Do Androids Dream?: The war between the quarians and the geth got started after the latter started asking these kind of awkward questions frequently enough to seriously freak out the former.
    • In the third game, EDI has started asking these questions and mainly directs them to Shepard.
  • Do I Really Sound Like That?: The second game gives an offhand mention about a VI that was made of Shepard. The third game gives the chance to actually meet it. Much Hilarity Ensures, and Shepard is almost scared to ponder if s\he really is that bloodthirsty or flirty.
  • Double Entendre: Many.
    • "I had reach, she had flexibility"
  • Do Not Run with a Gun: Running and gunning in the second and third game is a severe no-no; the tactic is somewhat effective with shotguns, less so with pistols, but forget it with assault rifles, and sniper rifles are right out. Even so, you can't move very quickly with a weapon drawn, and you can't shoot at all while sprinting (or "storming" as the game likes to call it). Technically possible in the first, but only effective with a lot of skills and upgrades.
  • Doomed Hometown: The Mindoir colony if your Shepard has the Colonist origin story.
    • New members of the Normandy crew in Mass Effect 3, Steve Cortez & Samantha Traynor, are stated to have been living at the Ferris Fields & Freedom's Progress colonies when the Collectors attacked during Mass Effect 2.
    • Most characters, as of Mass Effect 3, due to the Reaper invasion. The only ones seen in the game are Vancouver (Kaidan), London (Anderson) and Thessia (Liara). You don't actually visit Garrus' hometown, but on the mission to Palaven's moon, Garrus points to a prominent swathe of fire on his homeworld and says that's where he grew up.
  • Door to Before: Commonly found throughout both games.
  • The Dragon: Saren Arterius to Sovereign is an outstanding example, given how they played Saren up as the Big Bad instead.
    • That 'misinterpretation' was supported by how Saren had Matriarch Benezia as his top lieutenant.
    • The second game has the Collector General and Amanda Kenson to Harbinger, both of whom he indoctrinated.
    • The Illusive Man has Kai Leng, tasked with taking down Paul Grayson in Retribution and Commander Shepard in the third game.
    • The Shadow Broker employed asari Spectre Tela Vasir as his top enforcer, specifically during the "Lair of the Shadow Broker" DLC mission.
    • In Bring Down The Sky, Balak's main lieutenant is Charn.
  • Dramatic Gun Cock: Every time a cutscene ends the entire party goes back into combat mode by deploying weapons with satisfying noise. Goes great with post cutscene dialogue. And the gun cock looks cool, to boot, as every single gun collapses on itself in storage state. So many cutscenes and post cutscene actions involve someone pulling what basically looks like a metal stick with fiddly bits off of his/her back or hip, and then said stick unfolds itself into a gun. Complete with sound effects.
  • Drop Ship: The geth dropships from the first two games, either doing short passes to drop off certain numbers of reinforcements, or to hover and continuously spawn geth until driven away. They can also act as support, one dropship hanging around to jam communications and power conveniently annoying force fields. The original Normandy could count as well, considering standard insertion technique seems to be flying just low enough to dump the Mako out of the hatch.
    • Harvesters in the third game serve as combination drop ships and heavily armed attack aircraft for the Reapers.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: To varying degrees. Shepard is the first human Spectre, but amasses a bunch of sidequests as s/he is trying to save the galaxy. However, most of the sidequests are initiated when Shepard offers to help. By the third game, this is Averted with foes and enemies acknowledging that "Oh shit! It's Shepard."
  • Dug Too Deep: A couple of groups of scientists on various worlds in the first two games excavated dragon's teeth (the tech used to create husks) during their digs. Somehow, during study, they all went crazy, built shrines to mechanical gods, and either turned themselves into husks or used the technology to implement a similar effect (the makers not bothering to create different sprites for the so-called "Machine Cultists" it's hard to tell).
    • More likely, the shrines were already there, probably Reaper technology, and caused the indoctrination of the teams, making them sacrifice themselves to become husks. Doesnt explain why the dragons teeth shipped to a pioneer team by Cerberus did the same thing however, as there is no evidence of indoctrinating Reaper technology.
  • Dungeon Town: A rather large number of places, including the Citadel, Feros, Omega, Noveria, and Illium.
    • And in the third game, pretty much every place you visit.
  • Dummied Out: The files of every game have cutscenes and recorded dialogue for characters that do not appear in normal gameplay.
    • In fact, according to back-channel leaks, the entire backstory of the Reapers that's revealed at the end of the third game had to be changed because of turnover on the writing team.
  • During the War: A Robot War in this universe. Though the nature of the robots swiftly becomes more complicated than most examples...
    • The entire third game takes place during an open galactic invasion.
  • Dying Race: The Krogan. Potentially revoked in the third game if you cure the genophage.
  • Dying Town: Mars, originally a thriving colony, has been steadily growing stale after the discovery of the mass relays. Depending on your choices, Feros can be this in the second game.
  • Dysfunction Junction: Most everyone in Shepard's party has some serious issues.
    • Yeoman Kelly Chambers has a psychology degree and keeps the player informed of any squad members who want to open up about their issues. Granted, the journal does the same thing, but still.
    • The third game plays with it a bit. Only Vega has issues from before the game starts, and Ashley/Kaidan are still at odds with Shepard following their argument about his working with Cerberus in ME2. Everyone else's issues develop during the story as the galaxy's situation goes from bad to worse, which makes sense - the rest of the party's major issues were dealt with during Mass Effect 2.
  • Dyson Sphere: Legion states that the 'true geth' want to build one, most likely to amplify their processing power to a fever pitch. The third game reveals that they had started construction. Then the quarians blew it up.

Notes

  1. No wonder, since the closest one seems to be "Jedi"
  2. Thresher Maws are massive heavily armored predators with a variety of deadly attacks. Standard Alliance military doctrine calls for taking them on with tanks, and even then heavy casualties are to be expected. The test itself is only to survive. Defeating it counts as a Crowning Moment of Awesome that Wrex was the last to achieve. At least, until you and Grunt came along.
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