Animated Armor

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
So the armor itself can save maidens too?[1]

A character is attacked by a heavily armored knight.

Upon defeat, however, it is revealed that there is nothing inside. The empty armor may fall to the ground with a great clatter. Was it a ghost? Animation by something unseen? A case of No Body Left Behind? You may never know.

This trope frequently involves rigid armor, such as a suit of platemail.

In Science Fiction settings, a similar effect may be achieved by using Powered Armor in unmanned mode (programmed or remote).

See also Tin Tyrant, Dancing Pants. Compare Adaptive Armor, Robotic Reveal.

Examples of Animated Armor include:

Anime and Manga

  • Al from Fullmetal Alchemist. Different in that he's a main character, and a good guy. Also, the fact that he has the voice of an eleven-year-old takes a lot of the intimidation factor right out.
    • Both Al and Ed fight empty suits of armor at one point. They're not quite as nice; both suits are controlled by serial killers. Then again one turns out to be Affably Evil as well as being two people. (The other turns out to be Barry the Chopper.)
      • Barry turns out to be fairly good-hearted, though still loving to kill, in the manga/Brotherhood, until he is irrevocably killed.
    • There are also the mass-produced suits of armor Hohenheim created for the Thule Society in The Movie. Though they have people inside them, they've been killed by the intense cosmic forces inside the portal that connects the FMA-verse to the real world & the armors are animated by the forces that dwell within the gate.
      • Taken to a slightly creepy level when Al takes control of one (which just happens to look like his old self) and uses it to help him fight the others, then after they get recalled, temporarily mind-rides back to our world with it
  • In Ranma ½, one of the characters buys an ancient suit of armor that grants incredible fighting powers, supposedly "unlocking your true potential", and Ranma wants to use it. Three problems, one, it's a woman's suit; two, it's sentient, a vindictive jerk and a Panty Thief; and three, it's sized for a girl with... er, a more normal schoolgirl type figure. Ranma is too short, thin and big-breasted to fit in his female form.
  • In the Ronin Warriors OVA Gaiden the Armor of Halo is seen running around the streets of New York without its owner. Turns out it is being controlled by Shikaisen the Big Bad of the story. The Armor of Torrent is seen walking on its own in the last episode of the OVA Legend of the Inferno Armor in order to join the other Ronin armors that were captured by Mukala. It has been confirmed by the main characters that the armors can be used for good or evil. But the more fights the armors are used in, especially without the human spirit, the more corrupt the armors become. That is why by the end of the second OVA the armors are destroyed for good.
  • In Saint Seiya, both Gold Saints of Gemini have used their armour to defend their temple without actually having to be there or wearing it. Shiryu overcomes the first instance of this quite effectively.
    • Also, in Saga's epic hallucination/dream/vision/omen of doom sequence during the Sanctuary Arc, all of the 12 Gold Cloths and the five Bronze Cloths currently making plot are seen to be what would pass as empty but moving-if it weren't for the eyes. Whatever happens, they turn on Saga.
  • In Slayers Evolution-R the cast meets one of these when they begin their search for the Hellmaster's Jar. This armor is in fact possessed by the soul of Naga the Serpent, who had a run-in with another cursed jar. In the process Naga lost her memories and began referring to herself as Nama.
    • In The same story arc they help a squad of animated armors recover the Helmet of one of their members.
    • In the OVA Jeoffory's Knighthood, the Big Bad uses a legion of these guys as his Mooks.
  • Seen in an episode of Space Adventure Cobra: while on a desert planet, Cobra and Lady are confronted to what appears to be animated empty suits of armor. They are in fact a species of telekinetic or haunted swords controlling the humanoid armors to move around.
  • In Berserk, there's one of at least lich level. Formerly a king with too much a fancy armor.
  • In Pokémon Best Wishes, an episode had a Yamask haunting a museum, going as far as having a suit of armor attack the gang. Similarly, another episode has a group of Litwick scare the gang by using Psychic and making a bunch of objects form a makeshift golem, such as a statue bust for a head, an umbrella for a sword, etc.

Comic Books

  • The Destroyer from The Mighty Thor has been described as such, but is quite a deconstruction of the idea: The Destroyer armor is physically empty and only moves when animated by the Life Energy of a person using it, willingly or not.
    • The same goes for the Destroyer in the film, with the added coolness of being able to reverse its entire body. And energy blasts.
  • Iron Man's armors are sometimes remote-controlled. And sometimes, like in Hypervelocity or the Tony's Abusive Boyfriend arc, it has its own AI, which can impersonate him and speak.
  • Conan the Barbarian once fought one of these guys, realising he was screwed as even though he could chop the arm and the head of the armor off, the thing could still attack. Thankfully the Wench of the Week shone some light into the priest controlling it, following which it collapsed like a sack of potatoes.
  • One of the pre-Season 8 Buffy comics featured Angelus assembling a very Bishamon like armour.

Fan Works

  • In A New Applicant, a City of Heroes fan story, a Power Armor-wearing heroine asking to join a group of such heroines who share a common origin with her, turns out to be slightly different from the others.


  • In Disney's film adaptation of Bedknobs and Broomsticks Ms. Price casts a spell -- "Substitutiary Locomotion" -- that animates old suits of armour and old war uniforms to fight off German invaders.
  • Used in a heavily symbolic way in a dream sequence in Excalibur. The bare armor represents Lancelot fighting himself.
  • In The Adventures of Mark Twain, the Mysterious Stranger is depicted as an empty suit of red plate armor holding an animate masquerade-style mask on a stick where its head should be.
  • The Destroyer in Thor. Its arrival to Earth includes this lovely Shout-Out.

SHIELD Agent: Is that one of Stark's?
Agent Coulson: I don't know. Guy never tells me anything.

  • The Witch-King in Lord of the Rings is a spirit that is incorporeal when not clad in something, like the rest of the Nazgul, but when he rides into battle in Return of the King, he becomes something between this trope and Tin Tyrant. Cue the clattering armor falling on the ground when Eowyn and Merry kill him.
  • In Disney's Made for TV Movie Descendants 3, Princess Audrey, upon realizing she will never be queen due to Villain Protagonist turned Anti-Hero Mal and Prince Ben falling in love and becoming engaged, falls to the dark side. Using Maleficent's Magic Staff (which was put into storage after Maleficent's defeat in the first film) that she had stolen (along with the the Queen's Crown) from the Museum of Cultural History attempts to kill her and her friends by animating a number of the Castle's suits of armor. Near the end of a short battle, Mal defeats them by casting a spell to make the suits of armor dance uncontrollably, thereby rendering them unable to fight.


  • In Poul Anderson's Three Hearts and Three Lions, The Fair Folk send a knight to challenge Holger. When he falls, Holger finds the suit empty.
  • In Kristen Britain's novel First Riders Call, out of control magic causes every suit of armor inside the palace to come to life and attack the inhabitants for a period of about an hour.
  • Agiluf, the title character of Italo Calvino's The Nonexistent Knight, who is sustained by "willpower and faith in our holy cause".
  • In David Eddings' Elenium, the heroes find themselves up against a number of armored baddies. Until they realize that it is just armor with dusty remains that have been programmed to defend the stone they stand on, which turns out to be a mistake. The armour was enchanted by Otha, who had frightening amounts of power, but also a frightening lack of common sense.
  • Referenced by Puddleglum in CS Lewis's The Silver Chair. When the protagonists first encounter the Lady of the Green Kirtle, she is accompanied by a knight in Black Armor. Puddleglum posits that while the armor is certainly man-shaped, the wearer might not be a man. Among the possibilities he lists are "A skeleton" and "Nothing at all." Jill and Eustace are understandably spooked.
  • In William King's Warhammer 40,000 novel Space Wolf, after Ragnar defeats Madox, the power armor is empty.
    • Almost every Marine of the Thousand Son are like this, having their bodies turned to dust.
  • In Voyage of the Shadowmoon by Sean McMullen, Silverdeath is a chainmail vest that, once put on a "host", transforms around them into a full suit of armor capable of scouring entire continents of life; this is essentially animate armor since the host has no control over what Silverdeath does.
  • McGonagall and Flitwick enchant the armour of the castle to fight in the Final Battle of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. This was hinted at in various places in the earlier books, if you paid attention.
  • Gaunt's Ghosts books have the wirewolves, daemons inhabiting suits of armour. The fething things are definite Lightning Bruisers.
  • Lancelot fights against an animated suit of armor in the Roger Zelazny short story "The Last Defender of Camelot".
  • Sort of subverted and played straight at the same time in the Culture novel Matter. Some characters lack the training and reflexes to use the Culture's combat suits in a fight, so their targeting and evasion systems are slaved to the onboard computers.
  • In the Warhammer Fantasy Battle novel series following Konrad, the eponymous hero encounters a knight clad in bronze plate, and upon defeating him finds the armour empty. Being too Genre Blind to realise that this is the Wahammer Old World, he takes it for his own, and finds that it is magically aiding him in battle. And then it takes control of his movements. And starts eating him.

Live-Action TV

  • Kolchak the Night Stalker episode "The Knightly Murders". The ghost of an evil knight animates his old suit of armor to kill everyone responsible for the desecration of his burial site.
  • Failed pilot Lost in Oz had these, enchanted by the Good Witch of the South.


  • The Celtic Dullahan was an evil Faerie or undead creature that was either depicted as a headless horseman or a animated suit of armor.

Tabletop Games

  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • The Forgotten Realms setting had Animated Armor constructs created by magic called Helmed Horrors and Battle Horrors. Typically used as guardians, especially in isolated places. Also, a rare wizard spell "Iron Maiden" creates short-living, but fully powered and undispellable Battle Horror.
    • Subverted several times in module I6 Ravenloft. In a spooky Gothic setting, the Player Characters repeatedly come across empty suits of armor that they may expect to attack them. Most of the armor suits do nothing: one is rigged to spring forward and flail around, scaring the PCs but not seriously harming them.
    • Module S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth. One room has three sets of empty, magically animated suits of armor. In order to escape a PC must defeat a set of armor and put on its helmet.
  • The Rubric Marines of the Thousand Sons in Warhammer 40,000.
    • And the Eldar Phoenix Lords who are no longer alive and have become amalgamations of souls controlling ancient battle-suits.
    • Also the Green Knight in Warhammer Fantasy is hinted to be this
    • The Necrons are essentially an entire race of this (their souls are bound to the armour, meaning they can regenerate it, but after thousands of years this has driven them all mad or left them as unthinking automatons).

Video Games

  • Hakumen from BlazBlue counts. His soul is confined to the Susanooh unit, the armour that covers his body.
  • Magically animated suits of armor are called doomguards in Avernum. They live up to their name.
  • The Armor enemies from the Breath of Fire games.
  • A common enemy in the Castlevania series. Though they come in many shapes and sizes, a mainstay since the first NES title has been one that hurls heavy axes as if they were boomerangs.
  • City of Villains has the very rare Living Armor boss.
  • The Eldar in Dawn of War 2 have the Wraith Guards, piles of metal inhabited by the erm... ghosts of fallen Eldar.
  • Devil May Cry 4 has possessed suits of order-of-the-sword as mooks.
    • Devil May Cry 3 has Dullahans, Animated Armor sets with chain-shields.
  • A common enemy in the Dragon Quest series.
    • In Dragon Quest V, Restless Armours are one of the recruitable Mons, and can be found as an equippable (and cursed) armor.
  • Gotcha Force has the Ghost and Elemental Knights. However, it's quite obvious that they're empty, as they have no helmets and the latter's armor even falls to pieces when it throws its sword (which contains its lifeforce).
  • The Guard Armor/Opposite Armor, the second boss of Kingdom Hearts. Hard to say whether it's exactly empty, but it certainly doesn't have a person in it. The same creature shows up again in 358/2 Days; from the looks of it, it seems more like it actually is the armour, rather than something controlling it. Considering that it has Raymanian Limbs, and the ability to fire energy shots when it turns into the Opposite Armor, that should have been a no-brainer.
    • Another, possibly straighter example in the later games is the Lingering Sentiment/Lingering Will in Kingdom Hearts 2 FM+ and Birth By Sleep. In BBS you get to briefly play as the armor after its original owner gets possessed by the Big Bad.
    • Any Keyblade wielder with a strong enough will can apparently leave their armor behind as a sentiment, BBS Final Mix has the Armor of the Master and No Name, the sentiments of Eraqus and Xehanort, respectively.
  • Guild Wars has a few enemies like this. The Forgotten and Mursaat use animated armor for their melee units.
  • An empty suit of armor is an enemy in one of Kingdom of Loathing's power-leveling spots. Bits of it (though not the breastplate) can be kept as loot, and are some stiff bits of armour and weaponry. With stiff initiative penalties. And the chance of just getting smashed to bits.
  • In the first Legacy of Kain, Malek of the Sarafan. Also his minions in his castle.
  • Special mention has to go to The Legend of Zelda Spirit Tracks, where an animated suit of armour controlled by the ghost of Princess Zelda, whose soul is separated from here body in the first hour of the game, can be used to help out in dungeons.
    • Iron Knuckles, an uncommon Boss in Mook Clothing, are usually walking suits of armor (sometimes with people inside them, sometimes not).
  • In Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, Ike and Soren discuss this trope and rumours concerning it. Soren mentions that there's a rumor that the Black Knight isn't actually a man inside the famous suit of armor, but that it's possessed by a demon or similar. Though they quickly dismiss the possibility, it does turn out there's something not right about the man.
  • Some enemies in the first level of Medi Evil 2 are emerald-colored suits of armor.
  • Vhailor from Planescape: Torment is a ghost inhabiting a suit of armour.
  • Some suits of armor in Resident Evil 4 will strike at the player when they come into range, and fall into pieces after the attack. Apparently these suits are infested with Las Plagas. Leon also has to fight more mobile and resilient Armadura, blowing off their helmet and destroying the parasite inside before they go down. As with all Las Plagas, the parasite dissolves to nothing after death.
    • The armor may be a remnant of an earlier incarnation of RE 4, which had a more supernatural flair. In it, Leon is investigating Umbrella's European HQ mansion. Haunted dolls, spectral fires, animated armor... it's very much the haunted house. Supposedly, it was dropped as being TOO paranormal, and thus, too far away from the RE mold.
  • In RuneScape there is a Warriors guild when one can bring a set of normal armour to animate it and fight against it as training.
  • Nightmare from the Soul Series (see Image Links) spent some time this way, at least from the third game on.
  • Vagrant Story's Dullahan, Last Crusader, Nightstalker, and Dark Crusader are all suits of armor that Le?onde has infused with the power of the Dark. Some are sent to bar Ashley's way by Sydney himself; others are reanimated by the Knights of the Cross.
  • The character Grey in Valkyrie Profile had his soul bound to an empty suit of armor, as well as Barbarossa and his Palette Swaps.
  • The Durahan from the Monster Rancher series.
  • Bishamon from Darkstalkers is a suit of samurai armor possessed by an evil spirit.
  • The Demigod Oak is an empty suit of armor inhabited by its former wearer.
  • A notable subversion in Fable II in Terry Cotter's. Befitting the name you find an army of suits of armor. Many would tell you this is where they start destroying the armors in case they attack. They don't.
  • Warcraft III has the War Golems, which are golems made from a giant suit of armor.
  • Disgaea: Hour of Darkness has the ominous-looking Dark Knight, complete with fire coming out of where its helmet should be. It was sadly removed in the following Disgaea games, however.
  • Final Fantasy X and X-2 have an entire class of enemies devoted to this. The only problem is the fact that these suits are at least 15 feet tall. And thus outclass you when you first come across them. Completely outclass you.
  • Dragon Age had a quest where, if you went in a certain room that was filled with suits of armor, their heads would follow you, and if you got to a certain point, they would attack you.
  • Doku from the Xbox reboot of Ninja Gaiden.
  • Desktop Dungeons has Animated Armor in the Factory special dungeon. They only have one hit point, but they all have a number of Protections From Death (the ability to survive one fatal blow) equal to their level. This makes them really useful for level-springboarding, since they don't regenerate the "hits" if you run off to heal. Find one you can survive one hit from, attack it, retreat until you heal and repeat until it dies.
  • Mother 3 features these as enemies confronted by Duster during his "infiltration" of Osohe Castle.
  • The Battle Horrors and their weaker cousins the Helmed Horrors in the first Baldur's Gate.
  • One of the new families introduced in Pokémon Black and White, Golett and Golurk (particularly the latter), are golems resembling armor suits inhabited by spirits, giving them an unusual Ground/Ghost typing.
    • If one considers an arthropod's exoskeleton to be armor then Shedinja also counts. It's the empty exoskeleton left from Nincada evolving into Ninjask and is a Ghost/Bug type with 1HP but an ability that makes it immune to any attack which is not super effective.
  • The Castle Realm in Gauntlet (1985 video game): Dark Legacy has animated suits of armor as enemies in the later levels.
  • Lost Kingdoms has the Ghost Armor and the Chaos Armor (which is an upgrade of the former). They are dullahans, they carry their heads (which are on fire), and they are fairly impractical to use. Both of them are upgraded from the Dragon Knight, though it's unclear if that creature counts as this trope or not.
  • The Black Knights in Dark Souls are Animated Armors that are all that remains of the knights that accompanied Lord Gwyn when he linked the First Flame. The kindled Flame reduced the knights' bodies to ash but breathed life into their armor.

Web Comics

Western Animation

  • In Justice League, Batman and Jason Blood fight off a bunch of animated suits of armor. Batman's being awesome, but getting overwhelmed, so Jason turns into Etrigan and starts tearing them in half and melting them. It is awesome.
    • There's also the Annihilator, a living suit of armor made by Greek gods that is fueled by rage.
  • The villain in the Scooby Doo episode What a Night for a Knight seems to be this at first, but it turns out to be a man in disguise, as was almost always the case in that series.
  • In Code Lyoko episode "The Girl of the Dreams", XANA's specter takes control of a Samurai armor owned by Yumi's family, which she brought to school for a presentation about Japan.
  • The Fright Knight from Danny Phantom is an arguable example; he's a ghost, so he doesn't really have a physical body of any kind, but his appearance is that of a suit of Black Knight armor with glowing eyes, and when he's defeated in his debut episode, it's shown crumbling away to reveal nothing inside.
  • In the Codename: Kids Next Door episode "Operation: L.I.C.E.", the Delightful Children from Down the Lane had a bodyguard called "Sir Toasty", which was a suit of armor that was on fire. Likely a robot, given their knack for such things. They would later use a whole regiment of robot-armors (not on fire) in "Operation: G.R.A.D.U.A.T.E.S." and a giant version in "Operation: C.A.K.E.D..-T.H.R.E.E."
  • Beauty and The Beast, while Cogsworth is showing Belle around the enchanted castle.
  • In the Gargoyles episode Avalon, a pair of Animated Armor guard the Sleeping King in the Hollow Hill.