The Best Space Marines in Gaming
#1: Doomguy from Doom
You have no choice but to bow down to the greatest space marine of all time: the one featured in Doom. He was you, you know – according to John Romero. So if you don’t like him, then you don’t like yourself.
He started off in the first Doom in 1993. He was dropped in along with a squad to investigate a disturbance at some facility. Minutes later and after hearing his team die one by one over the radio, he was left all alone on Phobos – one of the moons of Mars – to take on the deadly forces of evil inside.
Venturing through level after level, through two infested bases and even a trip to hell, pitted against the demonic horde with an assortment of weaponry, he was even left at some points to use a pair of knuckle dusters or a chainsaw when he was out of ammo. Hardcore stuff there.
And not to mention Doomguy’s trademark green armour. While green being a suitable colour for a military man, let’s not forget that rather unforgiveable oversight by the people who designed that piece of armour. Doomguy went into combat with a flimsy shirt covering his vital organs. And those bare, albeit very muscular arms; it’s a wonder he didn’t catch cold.
This bold and rather dangerous fashion statement did however catch on: a bare midriff showing off his abs and scars from scratch marks. Also the torn clothing. These are still fashion trends you see to this day.
#2: USCM from Aliens vs. Predator
Here I am not referring to any one particular entry in the series, but the series as a whole.
We all know that the USCM soldier, or United States Colonial Marine, first appeared in the classic film, Aliens – which many claim is the best in the original trilogy. We all fell in love with the uniform, the armour, and the weaponry and gadgets they carried in this sci-fi classic set in the future: particularly the pulse rifle and the smart gun, I would bet.
Then it was in 1999, that we saw the first game arrive on PC, which saw the universes made popular in the films, come together, to make Aliens vs. Predator. This was heavily inspired by the series of comics which had come up with this idea.
The marine campaign had you as a Colonial Marine caught in the middle of an ongoing hunt between the Predator and the Aliens (or Xenomorphs). And it was likely the most intense campaign of the three as you were pitted mainly against the aliens, who didn’t have guns, but were very efficient at using their whip-like tails, razor sharp claws, and not to mention that mini-mouth within a mouth to tear marines to pieces. And if that wasn’t enough, they also had acid blood that can pretty much burn a hole through not just you, but the floor you’re standing on.
Anyway, we continued to see these marines in the sequel, AvP 2, developed by Monolith, AvP (2010), which was more of a proper sequel considering it was developed by Rebellion – the studio behind the first game; and the yet to be released AvP; Colonial Marines, which has been delayed for the past two or three years, and still sitting around at Gearbox Software.
#3: Bitterman from Quake II
Yet another id game, which was set in by then familiar territory: space.
In the game you take the role of Bitterman (his name is seen on the dropship when you land) - a space marine who is part of Operation Overlord: a human invasion of the Strogg home world of Stroggos. This is all payback for the time the Strogg landed on Earth and started killing the local wildlife – people.
Bitterman has an even cooler looking outfit than Doomguy, which also leaves the marine just as vulnerable if not more so. Unprotected knee caps, bare arms (again…). Even his ass is hanging out! It’s clear this armour was designed for comfort and not safety.
You don’t really get to see Bitterman in game, but you can witness the player models from the main menu under multiplayer. This is the “Grunt” default model. You’ll witness loads of these scattered around Stroggos. Their heavy weaponry was for naught, seeing as their rather poorly protected bodies were left open to attack. It’s no wonder they were either all cut down or taken prisoner... or sent to the factories to be made into stroganoff.
The cool thing about the space marines from Quake II is that in addition to finding a lot of them strewn around the different levels, lying in various positions – they’re not all dead. You’ll come across a lot of them in the jail unit, where they’ve been imprisoned or tortured – driven mad and muttering to themselves, laughing manically, and begging to be put out of their misery. There are also other places where you’ll find them, such as in the factories, and the laboratories further on where they are being experimented on in horrible fashions.
You might not be able to team up with them and fight, but it is kind of fun to watch them walk and crawl about while listening to them suffer.
The release of Quake III Arena marked the beginning of the multiplayer-only revolution in games. There was a singleplayer, but it merely placed you in the same maps with bots to hone your skills for the main event – the multiplayer. Since these days, a lot of games focus on the multiplayer, to the detriment of the singleplayer. Q3A then was blessing… and a curse, as we found out years later, when singleplayer started dying a slow death, alongside PC gaming.
Anyway, despite this, there were some cool characters in the game. Most were just generic or were clones of other skins with a few changes. But there were a few space marines in the bunch, and their short biographies offered some insight in to their previous combat experience that eventually got them entered against their will in to the Arena Eternal.
Q3A’s characters consisted of some well-known id all stars, as well as some glaring omissions too. You had the ones we’d all seen before, like Doomguy from Doom, and Bitterman from Quake 2, and Grunt – who was essentially just the standard marine skin from Quake 2.
Some new faces included Major – a high ranking officer who fought in the war against the Strogg. She was infamous for her facial scar and her habit of shouting profanities at other players when fragged. Don’t believe me? Play it again and listen…
There was also Ben Keel who was basically a Strogg. He had a mechanical body and a human head. There were quite a few Strogg in Q3, like those hilarious visor-heads, like Gorre and Visor.
But the coolest soldier out of the bunch had to be Sarge. He was practically the poster child for the game. His silver hair and numerous scars made this battle weary veteran just one of the grandest the game had to offer. And I’ll always remember the intro cutscene which showed Sarge battling against several foes who resembled the Strogg. After running out of “fuel” for his minigun, he ends up running out from behind his cover and dives straight onto one of the monstrosities. It’s at this point he’s teleported into the Arena.
Nobody out of the bunch exhibited such fearlessness and courage. And they had the cheek to put Sarge in Tier One. Well, at least he was the boss of the tourney level.
#4: Tychus Findlay from StarCraft II
Tychus Findlay had a long, troublesome military career, serving in several different units in the marines, and getting into a lot of trouble while doing so.
Tychus apparently served at least two separate prison sentences in his life – one related to his military conduct, and the other due to his actions outside the military.
Tychus and Jim Raynor, another of StarCraft’s main protagonists, go way back. They were together in the 321st Colonial Rangers Battalion, nicknamed Heaven’s Devils. After several, twisted betrayals by the Confederacy, they seemingly both left the military and became outlaws and committed several heists. Tychus was eventually caught, allowing Jim to escape.
The first time we ever saw Tychus though was in that now famous trailer for StarCraft II, where he was released from Cryonic (not cryogenic) imprisonment, and fitted inside typical Terran marine armour. This was after his second known prison sentence. He was originally sentenced to death, but that sentence was commuted to indentured service in the military.
Tychus is a huge man – he stands at 6’7, and weighs 165 kg. And that’s without the armour on. He’s not particularly well built but isn’t fat. I would describe him as stout, but not short, by any means.
And that armour! Impressive to say the least. It makes an all ready mountain of a man look colossal. It’s basically an exoskeleton as well, and allows you to pick up heavy objects you wouldn’t be able to with your own strength – not that Tychus struggles a lot in that regard. These pieces of armour often have drawings and badges on them, much like those belonging to the USCM from AvP.
I would argue that Jim Raynor’s armour is probably better seeing as he has a skull on his helmet’s visor. Insane.
#5: Soldier G65434-2 from System Shock 2
Hang on… there were space marines in System Shock 2, you ask? Yes. Let me explain.
At the beginning of this classic title, you start off on earth, in a tram station, and make your way to the surface where you enter the UNN Recruitment Centre. You go through with your training and afterwards, you get to select which branch of the UNN you will go in to. You have the Navy, the Marines, and the OSA. The Navy specialises in hacking, repairing, and engineering; the OSA is your black ops group with the focus on psionic powers with the use of a psi-amp; and the Marines focus on all out warfare, guns, and so on.
Nine times out of ten I chose the Marines on a play through. After the basic training, you are are sent into orbit where you have to have three years of gruelling advanced training – where you will begin to give your character his first stats.
Later on you wake up aboard the Von Braun – a faster than light starship – in the cryo recovery sector. Turns out you’ve had some nifty cyber implants put in, which are also illegal, after the incident on Citadel Station many years ago.
Throughout your terrifying trip on two ships – the Von Braun, and the UNN Rickenbacker – you’ll come across many (actually The Many) hybrids. These are essentially crew members who have been infected and now have a parasitic worm in their brains which has devolved them to little more than malignant monsters whose sole aim is to beat you and and any surviving crew to death.
It’s obvious that aboard both ships there are crew who belong to each of the three branches of the UNN mentioned above – although most you find will either be dead, or transformed into these grotesque mutants.
You have to admit though that the player character, albeit a little weird looking, is likely one of the most awesome you’ll ever control in any game. In the concept art he seems to be wearing some sort of suit that makes him look like an armadillo, with some advertising and badges on it that kind of makes it look like he’s a formula one race driver. He also has these goggles on that make him look like a fly. Still, what makes this guy cool is the ability to upgrade himself. No matter what class you choose, you can upgrade your character in practically any matter you see fit.
You have two ways off obliterating foes you encounter: with your standard issue firearms and heavy weaponry, or with the psi-amp, where you can inflict mentally-charged damage on your enemies.
#6: Ranger from Quake
Ranger isn’t what you’d call a typical space marine. I’d say he feels more like a scout or recon.
Ranger is a Slipgate Explorer who is sent into four different realms. Each of these realms has a military base which has been overrun. In them you’ll find two main enemies – mutants – plus a few dogs as well. After the first levels, you exit via a slipgate and enter another dimension, with the ultimate aim of collecting magic runes which will open up a doorway to Shrub-Niggurath. The game is heavily inspired by H.P. Lovecraft, by the way
#7: EDF from Duke Nukem 3D
Yeah, there were space marines in Duke Nukem 3D. They went by the name of Earth Defence Forces, or EDF. Although you didn’t witness any live ones during the course of the game, there are signs of their existence. For one, during your journey through Episode 2, Lunar Apocalypse (the most atmospheric of all the episodes in the game), you set foot on different stations and installations – many of which bear the EDF logo on the walls. These bases were overrun by the aliens however and no survivors exist besides a few scantily clad cocoon girls.
Duke does run in to a few space suits on the stations though, indicating that perhaps these space marines weren’t really in to cumbersome armour.
The EDF aren’t the only space marines featured in DN3D though. There was a famous cameo appearance by id’s Doomguy from the Doom series in one of the early levels: “Death Row”, or E1L3.
The EDF also makes an appearance in Duke Nukem Forever, as seen in trailers of the game – particularly the E3 2001 bit of awesome. Media leaks including trailers and screenshots of DNF from last year also support the fact that the EDF will be in this game, and play a larger, more active role this time. Although we’ve only really seen concept art, screenshots, and trailers of battles taking place on Earth, there is a possibility that the space missions we so love will crop up again in DNF, as was said by Randy Pitchford himself. I friggin’ hope so.
#8: Ashley Williams from Mass Effect
Mass Effect, released in 2007, was hailed as the Star Wars (or Star Trek) of the new generation. It certainly had its fair share of great characters. While I wouldn’t really say that Ashley Williams was one of them, there’s no doubt that she was likely one of the chief eye candies of the game. It was either her or tentacle head, Liara T’soni…
Gunnery Chief Ashley Williams is considered nothing more than a dumb, xenophobic hick by some, due to her unwillingness to cooperate with the alien crew aboard the Normandy.
If you engage her in conversation you’ll learn a lot about her though.
She came from a military family, and was genetically engineered in-utero (much like Mass Effect 2’s Miranda Lawson). She joined the Alliance Marines straight after high school, and quickly rose up the ranks. She showed good leadership qualities as well as being proficient in combat, particularly with the assault rifle. Despite this she never advanced beyond a certain point. There was this glass ceiling that existed mainly because of her family’s history within the military. Her grandfather, a general, was apparently responsible for the fall of Shanxi to the Turians – those not so friendly members of the council races – many years ago. Because of this there is a black mark on the family name.
Ashley is quite easy on the eyes, and her looks reminded me a lot of Candice Michelle, that WWE diva and Playboy model that was around years ago. She was also noted for her shapely space butt in her figure hugging armour (but she has nothing on Miranda this time though).
It’s a shame then that out of all the possible romantic interests aboard the ship, I never got involved with Ashley in any of my playthroughs, ironically. By mistake I ended up mind-melding with squid brains, and as a female Shepard I even befriended that psychotic biotic, whatshisname.
So to make up for this travesty, I’ve put her on this list. She might not hold a candle to ME2’s piece of ass, but she’s a fine soldier.
#9: Starship Troopers (various games)
You have to put these guys on the list somewhere. The author Robert A. Heinlein practically coined the term "space marines” in his books which date as far back as 1939. But it was Starship Troopers where the space marines really took off.
The Starship Trooper is the forefather to the space marine as we know him today in popular culture. Actors who played the parts of the Colonial Marines in Aliens were required to read the book. There was even a rather successful movie adaptation which came out during the 90’s. This was followed by two utterly rubbish sequels (especially the 2nd one), but still…
There have been several games with the Starship Troopers name attached to them. Granted, not all of those were great. You’ve had lots of mods for different games based on the books or the movie, including one for Half-Life 2, which had you battling Ant Lions.
#10: Global Defense Initiative from Command & Conquer
Way back in 1995, a game came out that took the real-time strategy genre by storm. That game was Command & Conquer. It detailed an ongoing war between the villainous NOD order, and the GDI, of Global Defence Initiative.
Over the next 15 years, we’ve seen plenty of C&C games and expansions come out, some of which are even now available for free to download. There was also the spin-off series in Red Alert, which has also had numerous addons and sequels. It’s interesting to see how Kane, the chief bad guy of the NOD faction seems to crossover from one series to the other on occasion (such as in Red Alert).
I’d say that Tiberian Sun was probably my favourite in the series. The reason for this is that because during the second Tiberium War the GDI had some awesome toys. Who remembers the Mech or Walker unit, as well as the Mammoth Tanks that popped up occasionally as a rare pickup?
#11: Master Chief from Halo
You know, admittedly I have only ever played the first game in the Halo series. I have the 2nd one as well for PC, but haven’t even gotten around to playing it. In fact my brother bought it and I borrowed it (I know…). But I know enough about the series from constantly being reminded of it from seeing ads in magazines, to reviews, to commercials, videos and every other person on the planet, even somewhat more casual games, talking about it.
The latest three, Halo 3, ODST, and Halo: Reach, haven’t even appeared on the PC.
Still, I guess one can’t exclude the main protagonist from this list. Master Chief may not have been around as long as Doomguy or several of the others here (some even say that his design is a rip-off of Doomguy), but he has definitely provided his own contributions to the FPS genre and space marines as whole. In fact, he was likely the main reason behind a certain somebody in the industry’s claims that “games are all about gay space marines nowadays”.
Master Chief is a Spartan – basically humanoid in form, but never showing his face. Spartans aren’t human and are bigger than the average soldier. His rank would likely be an NCO, seeing as Master Chief is the highest grade of the Sergeant rank one can get in the military.
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