Dem Bones

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
And that's the way it goes.

"The dead make good soldiers. They can't disobey orders, never surrender, and don't stop fighting when a random body part falls off."

Nevinyrral, Necromancer's Handbook (as mentioned in Flavor Text for the Magic: The Gathering card Drudge Skeletons)

Beings made entirely of ossific material are a very common form of The Undead in video games, but much rarer in other media. They're a cousin to the Zombie in spirit, but remain explicitly separated in the public consciousness by the lack of muscles and other juicy bits. This raises a troubling question: where do the motor skills come from? And how are they capable of seeing and hearing? What makes these Perpetual Motion Monsters keep going? In some depictions, even the connective tissue physically binding bones into a coherent whole is optional, making this creature firmly an inhabitant of Fantasy works. You might know them as Skeletons - we tropers like to call 'em "Dem Bones".

There are human, non-human, and weirder variants, and in 99% of their appearances, they're enemy Mooks. Their prevalence in RPGs is owed to Dungeons & Dragons, which established them as the slaves of necromancers. When they aren't Mooks, they're usually liches, which are much nastier, because they tend to be powerful mages.

Often enough, Dem Bones are reused in the same game à la Underground Monkey. Expect, in the spirit of a Zombie Minotaur, to find double-category monsters, like a skeletal mammoth or dragon. Also for some odd reason, many games have even tougher skeletons that are colored red.

A prominent variation is being composed of just a skull without a body. In this case, their ability to attack may be a simple bite, or through magic spells. They may or may not also have the power to defy gravity to compensate for the lack of legs. As trope examples indicate, there are a noticeably greater number of friendly talking skulls compared with the rare friendly skeleton.

In video games, skeletal foes will often attack by throwing bones. One cannot help but wonder where they get dem bones from. Some versions are difficult to harm with ordinary swords or arrows, but can be dealt with using blunt weapons or magic. But be warned: many have the ability to pull themselves back together after you knock them apart.

In Mexico, Dem Bones are called calacas and are associated with the Day of the Dead holiday much the same way bunnies are associated with Easter, making them less common as stock spooky elements (they tend to be more comedic). It helps that said calacas are made of sugar and chocolate.

See also Stripped to the Bone. May or may not be prone to dancing. A unique example is The Grim Reaper, ubiquitous enough to have its own trope.

Not to be confused with Bones McCoy, who has his own trope too. Also not to be confused with the Alice in Chains song "Them Bones" or the Batman: Arkham Asylum Gamestop Preorder map. See also Bad with the Bone if bones are used as Improvised Weapons, and Ballistic Bone if they're used as Abnormal Ammo.

If the skeleton is really a robot, see Skele-Bot 9000.

Examples of Dem Bones include:

Anime and Manga

  • Used by a Faust VII in Shaman King, quite drastically - in his fight against the main character, he insisted it be held on a Western (Christian) graveyard, where the dead were not cremated, so he could use their skeletons to launch a mass attack at our protagonist. On top of it, he carried his deceased wife's skeleton under his clothes and used it as a secret weapon.
  • One Piece: In the Thriller Bark arc, the Straw Hats meet Brook, who's eaten a Devil Fruit that lets him come back to life once. But due to the fog in the area he was in, he got lost on his way back to his mortal body. By the time he found it, it was nothing but bones. Although initially freaked out by his own appearance, he eventually adapted and grew a habit of making Incredibly Lame Puns about it. Constantly.
  • Morborgran of Mahou Sensei Negima, the massive, Multi-Armed and Dangerous, skeletal demon member of the Canis Niger bounty hunters in the Magic World. He's actually a pretty friendly guy, though with a bit of a complex about his appearance.
  • Bleach: Barragan Luisenbarn turns into a skeleton dressed in a crown and robes upon releasing his zanpakuto. This is to symbolize his power over old age and decay, which lets him rot other people into skeletons. The dead kind.
  • Shiro from Shakugan no Shana. His true form, though, is a Bishonen.
  • These show up in the second manga story of Berserk, and are the remains of soldiers who died in battle against each other. They're animated by evil spirits that want Guts because of the Brand of Sacrifice that he bears. It's implied that these aren't the only things that Guts has to face at night because of the Brand.
  • The Kotsuhizoku "Flybone Tribe" from Kyo Kara Maoh! are Winged Humanoid skeletons who don't seem to have much in the way of combat ability. They can't speak, but they do communicate in rattling noises. They are typically spies and messengers, and they are capable of Pulling Themselves Together in an emergency. Yuuri attempted to bury one when it got smashed protecting him, and Conrad had to stop him before he actually killed it with his good intentions to honor its sacrifice.

Comic Books

  • In one crossover, Savage Dragon and Hellboy fought the undead skeletons of pirates while inside of a giant sea monster.
  • Mr. Bones, a man whose body is invisible except for his skeleton, has been a recurring Infinity, Inc. villain, before his Heel Face Turn, at which time he briefly joined Infinity Inc.
  • In DC's Blackest Night event, black power rings re-animate dead characters, typically making them look like slightly-decayed versions of their former selves. The body of Boston Brand, aka Deadman, however, had been dead so long that his Black Lantern version is little more than a skeleton with a black version of his costume stretched over it.
    • In some stories [notably, Kingdom Come], Deadman's ghostly form also appears significantly more skeletal than usual.

Fan Works


  • Extraordinarily common in early cinema. Sprightly, dancing and otherwise animated skeletons appear with great regularity in the trick films of Georges Méliès and his contemporaries.
  • In a memorable film example, Ray Harryhausen's animated skeletons make up half of a Chroma Key battle scene in Jason and the Argonauts, after they sprout from the earth where hydra teeth are sown. This depiction is likely to yet further simplify the original story by letting Jason kill apparently mindless Mooks, since in the original myths, the dragon's teeth grow into the perfectly sentient warriors called spartoi, none of whom Jason left alive.
    • Another Ray Harryhausen movie example: The 7th Voyage of Sinbad. The Skeleton was later re-used in the aforementioned film.
    • There (used to be) a most amusing video online of Phil Tippett, Harryhausen's Spiritual Successor of a sort, singing "Happy Birthday To Ray" - accompanied by the Skeletons.
  • The film The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra has this. Of course, since it's an Affectionate Parody of cheesy movies from The Fifties, there's probably a number of straight examples from that era that no one really remembers.
  • Most of the "Deadite" army in Army of Darkness.
  • The Skeleton warriors from Spy Kids II
  • Return of the Living Dead features a brief but memorable (and inexplicable) scene where a reanimated skeleton rises from a grave. It's never seen again after that. There is also Tarman, a zombie so decayed he's a skeleton held together with rotting tissue; unlike the skeleton, Tarman shows up in movie after movie.
  • In Pirates of the Caribbean, the crew of the Black Pearl are revealed as being skeletons when exposed to moonlight, primarily to provide the most contrast from their normal appearance as ordinary (but immortal) people.
  • Night at the Museum features a skeletal T-rex.
  • Such a skeleton appears at the climax of House on Haunted Hill. It's less elaborate than the above examples though.
  • Parodied in Scary Movie 2, when Cindy is being chased by a skeleton, only to be reprimanded by Brenda for being afraid of a skeleton. To illustrate her point, Brenda pulls the skeleton apart and reassembles him badly.
  • Many of the zombies in The Haunted Mansion
  • The ghostly skeletal army in Peter Jackson's The Return Of The King.
  • An army of skeletons appears at the end of big budget porno film Pirates XXX.
  • In A Nightmare On Elm Street 3 Dream Warriors, Freddy's bones come to life when the characters try to give him a proper burial.
  • In Beetlejuice, a group of skeletons are seen working at the Afterlife Bureaucracy.

Fine Art

  • Medieval and early Renaissance artwork often featured images of skeletons dancing with the living, known as a danse macabre or "the triumph of death". Belgian painter Pieter Breughel painted a landscape with an army of skeletons attacking a country village.


  • The Osteomechs from Dark World Detective. They use advanced computers stored in their skulls and micro tractor/pressor beams as muscles. Strong as hell, but very light.
  • There's a "very old zombie" in Terry Pratchett's Discworld book The Last Hero who is basically a skeleton. Additionally, Death uses a living horse because he hates having to keep wiring the skeletal one together.
    • And now there's Charlie, the Department of Necr- Post-Mortem Communications' resident skeleton, who's been there "forever".
  • The Andre Norton novel Quag Keep, which was based on Dungeons & Dragons.
  • The eponymous character of Bruce Coville's "Young Adult" novel The Skull of Truth (part of the Magic Shop series) is completely immobile, but telepathic. He's also Yorick from Hamlet. For real, yo.
  • The Dresden Files is borderline - there's Bob the Skull, a spirit who lives inside a skull, but it is merely a casing, and Bob leaves it when he needs mobility. When a Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton was reanimated in book 7 "Dead Beat"; the higher quality a reanimated being, the more life-like they appear. (broadly)
  • The titular character of the Skulduggery Pleasant books is a centuries old living skeleton. The secondary protagonist, when being introduced to the supernatural for the first time, actually points out that he has no muscles to move with or lungs to speak with and asks how he works. He is rather disgruntled and gives the simple answer "it's magic". Later on, she wonders if he can whistle without lungs (he can).
  • There are living skeletons in Xanth. Some are the spirits of people who starved to death while their minds were trapped in the Gourd Realm. Others are their descendants. All of them need to aquire a part of a soul to spend much time in Xanth proper.
  • In Graham McNeill's Warhammer 40,000 Ultramarines novel The Killing Ground, Togandais has an animated skull—with glowing eyes—bringing him books in the library.
  • In the books of the Malazan Book of the Fallen series, there is an entire race called the T'lan Imass, who manage to be both skeletal and cool. Their ancestral enemy started an ice age to wipe them out, but they made themselves immortal and continued to beat their enemies for the next several millenia. Having won that war, they are now 125 millenia out of purpose, having plenty of combat experience and an inability to feel pain.
  • A number of animated skeletons, including a skeletal dragon, appear in Pillars of Pentagarn, the first D Choose Your Own Adventure book.
  • In the first Kingdom Keepers book, one of Maleficent's tricks is bringing the fake T-Rex fossil at Big Thunder Mountain Railroad to life in an attempt to do away with Finn and Philby.
  • The Boneys in Warm Bodies are basically zombie skeletons.
  • Inverted in the Fafhrd and The Gray Mouser stories: "Lankhmar Ghouls" are perfectly normal, living, breathing humanoids who just happen to have invisible body tissues—except for their bones.
  • The Bible had the story of Ezekiel and the 'dry bones' that came to life and inspired the 'Dry Bones'/'Dem Bonessong.

Live-Action TV

  • The Goodies. In one episode the Goodies are operating their own hospital. Graham gets a patient to step behind an X-Ray screen, which naturally displays his skeleton. The skeleton then walks out from the other side of the screen, causing Graham to flee in terror (this scene is included in Title Sequence).
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Tabula Rasa. A spell causes the Scooby Gang to lose their memories. Anya begins to try various spells in the hopes of reversing it, at one point conjuring up a skeletal swordsman which Giles fences with, all while shouting at Anya to 'try another book'.
    • In "Gone" after Buffy reveals to her friends that she's been turned invisible, she picks up a skull and works the jaw to mimic what she's saying.
  • In the Merlin episode The Tears of Uther Pendragon, Morgana raises skeleton warriors to fight Arthur and the Knights of Camelot, who are already in battle against (human) invading forces.
  • Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Season 1 gives us Bones, Season 3 gives us Rita Repulsa's halfwit brother Rito Revolto. Who's based on Gasha Dokuro from Ninja Sentai Kakuranger, who's based on an actual folklore creature of a gigantic skeleton.
  • Erm....does Geoff Peterson count?
  • Pierce hallucinates these during a Mushroom Samba in the Community episode "Introduction to Statistics".

Pierce: "Those floating Mexican skeletons are right! My life is over!"
Jeff: "Well, when we go to floating skeletons with our problems, we get what we pay for, don't we?"

  • Bonapart the skeleton from Owl/TV.
  • Zelda from the original Svengoolie and Zalman T. Tombstone in Son of Svengoolie. Both are floating skulls. Zelda had Eighties Hair (despite being from the early 1970s).


  • Megadeth's mascot Vic Rattlehead is a skeleton who sees no evil (blindfolded), hears no evil (ears are closed with metal caps) and speaks no evil (mouth clamped shut).
  • The Trope Namer is the spiritual song "Dem Bones."
  • Chiodos' Bone Palace Ballet (and the subsequent re-release The Grand Coda) features two of these on the cover.
  • Camille Saint Saens' well-known Danse Macabre (1874), a symphonic poem describing skeletons rising from their tomb to dance. Notable for having introduced the xylophone in European Music, to imitate the rattling of the bones.


  • The Gashadokuro from Japanese Mythology is a super sized version of this. This monster is created from collecting the skeletons of people who have died of starvation. It is known to bite the heads off humans it encounters and to be forwarned by a ringing in the ears. They often grow up to 15 times larger than a man.

Rock Opera

  • In The Black Parade, the eponymous parade contains some of these among their number.

Tabletop Games

  • Dungeons & Dragons: Skeletons are a kind of mindless undead animated by appropriately evil magic users. Usually. Of course, there are also liches and their variants (archlich, baelnorn, banelich, master lich).
    • While most Dungeons & Dragons settings are full of undead, Forgotten Realms are especially fond of this theme and has the remarkable collection of unusual bones. For example, there lived—until she tried to raid a big temple of the god of wizardry, that is—Tashara of the Seven Skulls who seduced and tricked into becoming spellcasting flying skulls (under her control) 7 archmages, one after another. There's even one city openly ruled by floating skulls (no, not Tashara's seven). Realms also are the origin of both baelnorn and banelich. Plus utility/guardian bony constructs - Crawling Claws. There are several spells magically enhancing a common undead skeleton (Enlarge Skeleton, Empower Skeleton, Skeletal Spellcraft), spell that disguises the caster as a skeleton (Become Bones - makes non-bony tissues invisible and fools mindless undead into ignoring the caster) and even at least two spells temporarily creating fake undead skeletons - Shadow Skeleton (not entirely corporeal, but can be given arbitrary garb and has stunning touch) and Skeletal Bride (clothing not included, has featureless blob head, but is fully solid and can carry things, though not heavy).
    • Apart from the lich, D&D featured many other skeletal sentient undead, like the Death Knight (skeletal warrior), the Huecuva (skeletal divine spellcaster), or skeletal Ancient Dead (variant of the Mummy from the Ravenloft setting).
    • Should also be noted that, in 3rd edition anyway, just about anything with bones that isn't already dead can be turned into Dem Bones through application of the Skeleton template. This includes everything from normal humanoids, to dragons, to bizarre aberrations with bone structures such have never been seen by mortal eyes.
    • The Planescape setting has "mimirs"; recording devices shaped like metallic skulls. The inspiration for Morte, below.
    • The original Ravenloft products had a number of variants of this trope, such as archer skeletons whose ammo turns into more skeletons, or giant skeletons (enlarged human bones) that toss fireballs from the green flames ablaze inside their ribcages. Arthaus's Van Richten's Guide to the Walking Dead has guidelines for customizing the Obedient Dead with all sorts of creepy abilities.
  • Skeletons are the basic grunt troops of the undead armies in the wargame/Tabletop RPG Warhammer Fantasy Battle; serving the factions of Vampire Counts and Tomb Kings.
    • To specify. The Vampire Counts use Dem Bones as expendable meat(bone?)shields, and that would be about it. The Tomb Kings are a army of nothing but skeletons, with some mummies, animated statues and ancient, immortal priests to taste.
  • Warhammer 40,000
    • Floating servo-skulls—although they're robotic rather than undead.
    • Not to mention the Necrons. No really, don't mention them.
  • In Magic the Gathering, skeletons are closely tied to the "regenerate" mechanic. Most creatures with the Skeleton creature type have an ability that allows them to keep fighting after they've been destroyed, a tradition that began in the very first expansion with Drudge Skeletons. (Ordinary undead minions that don't regenerate are typically classified as regular Zombies instead.)

Theme Parks

  • These are seen in several of these at attractions in Disney Theme Parks, including in Phantom Manor and Pirates of the Caribbean. More cheerful versions are in the Mexico pavilion at EPCOT.

Video Games

  • Morte, your first ally in Planescape: Torment, is a wise-cracking, floating skull. Inexplicably, he has unrotted eyes in his sockets, no doubt preserved through his sheer will to roll them at every opportunity.
    • Being based on a Dungeons & Dragons setting with a heavy emphasis on death and unlife, the standard Dem Bones from the source material also exist in the game. As the necromantic Dustmen repair the bodies of decaying zombie slaves, eventually they are reduced to Dem Bones, held together with iron and leather.
  • In Chrono Cross, one of the early Loads and Loads of Characters you can meet is the disembodied skull of a clown looking for the rest of his body parts. Naturally, he asks you to help him find them all. He appears to have been getting around until then by hopping with his jaw. Later, you get to meet his family, who has been wondering what happened to him.
  • The Legend of Zelda series has both the floating skulls - Bubbles - and skeleton swordsmen - Stalfos - as common monsters. The dungeon boss Stallord from The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is a gigantic, non-human example.
  • The Castlevania series is an obligatory mention here - there are dozens of varieties in each game, including a lot of simple Underground Monkey recolors. The red ones keep getting back up.
    • Don't forget the laser-firing skeletons, the armor-wearing blade Masters, and the amusing skeletons in Aria of Sorrow that kick their skulls at you. There's even a medal-wearing champion runner Skeleton in Circle of the Moon, the Skeleton Bartender who tosses drinks at you in Portrait of Ruin, the Farmer Skeleton, the Waiter Skeleton, the Rider Kicking Skeleton, and the Ape skeleton that throws barrels at you.
      • And the Biker Skeletons in 1800 in Castlevania 64.
      • You know what the skull-kicking skeletons are called? Yorick. Hahahahahahahaha.
      • In the original Japanese, they were called "Soccer Boy".
  • The protagonist in Medievil is a reanimated skeleton. Unlike most skeletons in media, when he reanimates, his lower jaw falls off his skull, and he never gets it back. As a result, his speech is largely incomprehensible (though subtitled).
  • Diablo II, of course, with both enemy and summonable skellies.
    • The original and sequel both have skellies as foes, but you couldn't summon any in the original.
    • The summonables are quite strange, in that you can assemble a (human) Skeleton from the corpse of any monster, up to and including giant spiders, pygmies, ghosts, small rat-like creatures, swarms of locusts and other skeletons. The last of which begs the question: Where do the Ludicrous Gibs come from?
  • Doom and those annoying flaming skulls.
    • And Revenants in Doom II.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • Dry Bones are skeletal Koopa Troopas. Using the Goomba Stomp on them makes them collapse for a few seconds, and then they reassemble. Usually, you have to either make the head roll into lava or a pit, smash them some other way or make sure all of the enemies on screen are dead to beat them, depending on the game/series in question.
    • Of course, that's not counting the part where Bowser gets Stripped to the Bone and reanimated as a Skeleton. Mario Kart Wii calls this "Dry Bowser".
    • There's also Kingfin in Super Mario Galaxy, a skeletal shark (Yeah, we know) with Glowing Eyelights of Undeath. That apparently summons robotic piranha fish.
    • In Super Mario Odyssey, the Tostarenans are residents of the Sand Kingdom. They are skeletons wearing ponchos and sombreros, based on the skull-shaped traditional figures and candies made during El Día de Muertos. Unlike most examples of this trope, they are friendly (even if they do run the place like a gaudy "tourist trap").
  • Devil May Cry has floating skulls as enemies.
  • The Curse of Monkey Island and Escape from Monkey Island had the fearsome Murray, the demonic animated skeleton with plans to conquer the world, who would have been significantly more fearsome if he wasn't just a skull and unable to move around by himself. Still, with lines like this, it's no wonder "Murray the Mighty Demonic Skull" is so popular:

Murray: I'm a powerful demonic force! I'm the harbinger of your doom! And the forces of darkness will applaud me as I stride through the gates of hell carrying your head on a pike!
Guybrush: Stride?
Murray: All right then, roll! Roll through the gates of hell. Must you take the fun out of everything?

  • Floating skulls are also in some of the Might and Magic games.
  • Baldur's Gate had enemy skeletons, but you could also summon your own with the proper spell, much like the aforementioned Diablo II.
    • The sequel, Baldur's Gate II, especially with Throne of Bhaal, features several floating skulls, which are infinitely more nasty than their full-bodied counterparts.
  • Some of the Bonus content in God of War talked about how they wanted to put Dem Bones in the first game, in direct homage to Ray Harryhausen. Naturally, they appeared in the sequel, and first show up when you catch up to Jason and the Argonauts.
  • Like Dry Bones, skeletons in Prince of Persia don't tend to stay down for the count.
  • In keeping with its El Día de los Muertos theme, nearly all of the characters in Grim Fandango are skeletons. The rest are demons native to the Land of the Dead.
    • Technically they're calacas (see above), which accounts for their stylization.
    • The question of motor skills is lampshaded in Manny's conversation with a short-tempered clown:

Manny: Some festival, huh?
Balloon Guy: Yeah, my carpal tunnel syndrome's really acting up...
Manny: But you don't have any tendons!
Balloon Guy: Well you don't have a tongue, but that doesn't seem to shut you up, now does it?

  • Skeletons show up throughout the Heroes of Might and Magic series as the standard melee grunt for The Undead faction.
    • While their top tier unit is usually a skeleton dragon. Like most undeads, they tend to be weaker than their live version but come in greater numbers.
  • Gruntilda in Banjo-Tooie.
    • The Limbos in Banjo-Kazooie. Like Dry Bones, they'll get right back up after a few seconds. The only way to kill them for good is with Wonderwing.
  • In the 1990s PC fantasy kingdom sim Majesty, your Priestesses of the Death Goddess Krypta had the ability to re-animate skeletons for use as partners in combat; walking skeletons were sometimes also used as enemy monsters.
  • There's one skeleton enemy type in Nethack, but while the game is swarming with low level zombies and mummies, the skeleton is a high level enemy encountered near the end who steals speed from the player.
  • La-Mulana is littered with the skeletons of many an Adventurer Archaeologist who failed to solve the puzzle of the ruins. Some hold helpful notes and items. Others get up and beat the crap out of you.
  • Non-human: Cave Story has hopping sandcroc skulls, sandcroc skulls with feet, sandcroc skulls carried by birds, and full sandcroc skeletons.
  • Warcraft 3 has several variants: a melee skeleton, an archer, a mage (without any spells, just a magic attack) and an orcish version (used in the campaign only). Frostwyrms are also basically skeleton dragons, and ghouls are half-way between skeleton and zombie. The Lich hero is also a skeleton, albeit much more powerful and with a free will (the above examples are mindless undead slaves). Death knights also use skeletal horses.
    • Obviously, these types (minus the orc version) made it into World of Warcraft as common monsters, as well as NPC necromancers which can summon them. No such class skill exists, although the first Hero Class, the Deathknight, comes close with summoning Ghouls. Unlike the RTS, these can only be raised from humanoid corpses or using Corpse Dust which can be bought from vendors. Better not to think about that one too much.
    • World of Warcraft actually has a surprising amount and diversity of Dem Bones, from typical meleeing mooks, to spellcasting mooks (often referred to as Bonecasters), to more elaborate skeleton mooks such as Bone Golems with their scythe hands, as well as many unique skeletons (including one rare mob who can return from the dead if not killed fast enough and is therefore rather hard to kill), and some Skeleton bosses, as well as Liches of course. The newly introduced Lord Marrowgar tops most of them, being a 10 to 25-man boss in the hardest raid so far (though an early one), and is basically a floating mass of bones with 4 heads armed with a massive bone axe.
    • Similar to the Diablo- example above, a Necromancer using the Raise Dead skill creates two humanoid skeletons from any sort of corpse. Even something like a Crypt Fiend (half-spider) or a wolf. In the Frozen Throne expansion, the Scourge shop sells staves that allow any Hero Unit to raise skeletons aswell.
    • World of Warcraft also features some Dem Bones noncombat pets. To wit, the collector's edition pet Frosty, a baby Frostwyrm, and the Ghostly Skull.
    • With some Noggenfogger Elixir and a bit of luck, you can become one too! [1]
  • The second and eighth Fire Emblem games are unusual among their franchise in that they have monsters for enemies, including weapon-wielding skeletons.
  • Two of the major Undead faction unit types in Battle for Wesnoth are skeletons, one with an axe and the other with a bow. They have very high resists to Pierce, Cold, and Blade damage types, but are very vulnerable to Impact, Fire, and Arcane damage. They can also move through and hide in deep water, and being Undead, are immune to poison and plague attacks. Combat with the Undead typically requires a lopsided unit selection to combat these. They usually serve as basic troops and as bodyguards to Glass Cannon Dark Adepts in multiplayer, and are typically spammed by the AI in campaigns. Also, the high-level Lich unit, one of the levelled-up forms of the aforementioned Dark Adept, is skeletal and loses its old human characteristics in exchange for skeleton characteristics.
  • Also a nice supplemental unit in Dungeon Keeper II, acquired by letting your POWs rot in jail. The cutscenes featuring skeletons reveal them to have retained their ligments so as not to fall apart, as well as a single eye. They also tend to have dreadlocks.
    • Found in the first Dungeon Keeper too, acquired in the same way. No eyes or ligaments were visible on those skeletons, but then again, the graphics of the nineties didn't allow for such levels of detail.
  • A great example is the Mysterious Lady from the MacVenture game Uninvited. In the first floor hallway, if you try a door a mysterious woman appears with her back to you, "dressed like Scarlett O'Hara," and she seems completely harmless - if you're playing the NES version there's even a chipper "hey, a cute lady!" tune in the background. But if you do something to get her attention (trying the door again, hitting her, trying to open her) she turns around and reveals her face: A bleached white skull, "devoid of any flesh"! The only way to get rid of her is to find a bottle labelled "no-ghost" in the upstairs closet, and even then you have to make sure to have the bottle open before even meeting her. Otherwise, nothing happens and she kills you. With this, and the fact that she's the first thing that can kill you in the game (unless you lingered too long in the wrecked car) and thus, your first death, she's pretty much become the game's mascot, even appearing on the NES version's cover art.
  • In Breath of Death VII, the main character is a skeleton named Dem.
  • They exist in The Elder Scrolls too commonly with swords and shields but occasionally other weapons. Some are capable of performing archery.
    • A certain book on necromancy in Morrowind describes how skeletons, before reanimation, should have artificial joints. So essentially, the entire skeleton is strung into one whole by strips of leather. The book also goes to advise potential necromancers to not bind the skeletons too tightly or too loosely.
    • The skeletons we see in-game, however, do not have said leather joints. And the player can make them pop out of nowhere with the right magic spell.
    • The Shivering Isles (Oblivion add on) takes this further with creatures made of different creatures' bones named Shambles These ones do have leather straps holding them together and creak rather unnervingly.
    • Skyrim's skeletons are unique among video game skeletons in that they fall apart as easily as you might expect a skeleton would without any connective tissue holding it together.
  • One species of goo in World of Goo confuses the Sign Painter as to whether they're "alive... or dead. Probably polite to pretend we don't notice." These skull-shaped goo are the only species invulnerable to the ubiquitous Spikes of Doom.
  • Divine Divinity: while there are several kinds of skeletons around, the trope is lampshaded early in the game: two philosophic skeletons are having a debate about their existence. They notice that they think without a brain, move without muscles... and that they don't have any joints to keep them together. Then they fall apart.
  • The Lich class in Nexus War can raise skeletons as pets, or combine five skeletons into a fossil monster (essentially a bone golem). The Necrotic Tower, which was the home of the first Lich, is built entirely out of bone.
  • Skeleton enemies appear sometimes in the Wario Land series, with the skeletal ghosts in Wario Land 4 and the aptly named Recapitators in Wario Land: Shake It. The former shoot some kind of ectoplasm that turns Wario into a zombie, the latter actually use their head as a boomerang, and reassemble if destroyed with the head intact.
  • Wario World's Horror Manor has enemies that are skeletal versions of the enemies from the first two levels.
  • In Light Crusader, the only way you can kill this type of enemy is the "Turn Undead" spell or kill the wizard controlling them.
  • In RuneScape, in addition to the Mooks, there is a skull postman.
  • One of the fighters in Killer Instinct was a skele-warrior ala Jason & The Argonauts named Spinal.
  • Monster Rancher 2. Dragon + Joker = Death Dragon
  • The Final Fantasy Legend/SaGa games feature families of skeletal monsters, which all dress as pirates for some reason. They mostly appear as enemies, but can also be recruited into your party, or existing monsters in your party can transform into them.
  • The Bone Fish and Bone to be Wild dream eaters in Kingdom Hearts 3D are skeletal variants of the Torpedo Fish and Tyrant Rex dream eaters. The latter can be very troublesome to deal with, for the fact that its head detaches after it receives a solid hit and start attacking independently of its body.
  • Trine features skeletons as the primary enemies.
  • Mabinogi features no less than 39 variants of the humanoid variety throughout Rabbie, Rundal, and Albey Dungeons, with 6 varieties of Skeleton Wolves for good measure.
  • Dem Bones appear as mooks in Dungeon Siege.
    • And in Titan Quest. Ther color indicate their power, starting from the white ones in Greece and ending with the Gilded Skeletons in China.
    • Pool Of Radiance: Ruins of Myth Dranoor features a skeletal dragon as the Big Bad.
  • Batman: Arkham Asylum, of all games, features these during bouts with Scarecrow while under the influence of his fear toxin, though they're actually regular Mooks. There's also a Challenge Map named this, featuring exclusively this type of enemy.
  • Mr Bones: Another skeleton protagonist is the aptly-named title character in this Sega Saturn game.
  • Will Rock: Living skeletons from both roman legionnairs and centaurs are met.
  • In Threads of Fate, one of Rue's monster forms that he can transform to is a skeleton warrior. It has a standard slashing attack while its special attack, is to... break down into a pile of bones (of course, pressing Triangle again makes Rue reattach himself). It does form a useful function in solving puzzles where he encounters it, as well as defense; the broken form is invincible against certain enemies.
  • In the arcade game Warzaid the objective is to stop these from taking over the world.
  • The Fiend tribe of demons in the Shin Megami Tensei franchise, including the Four Horsemen (Red, Black, White, and Pale Riders,) Mother Harlot, Matador, David the Violinist, and the Trumpeter of the Apocalypse. They're usually among the most difficult foes you will ever encounter in each game. Shin Megami Tensei being what it is, you can also enlist them as allies against greater foes.
  • In EverQuest they are everywhere - crawling out of the woodwork, wandering around in the woods, hanging out under the water waiting to grab your ankles as you swim by. Necromancers can even have them as pets. Heck, there's even a skeletal band in Paineel.
  • In Skate 3 Dem Bones is the name of a playable character model in free-skate mode. He is unlocked after completing half of the Hall Of Meat challenges in the career.
  • Skeletal undead are seen in both the original Guild Wars campaign and the third campaign, Nightfall. However, they are still garbed in the armor or clothes they wore in life, which can add or subtract from their horror.
  • Dragon Age: Origins has them as enemy mooks. Like other undead in the game, they are corpses possessed by minor demons that largely operate independently as a master; most just attack anything they see, as the demons inhabiting them are driven insane. They exhibit certain special abilities based on the demon possessing them and they swing swords and shoot bows.
  • Fable II features hollow men, which are spirit-possessed skeletons. Most are simply mindless creatures that explode with a satisfying crunch when destroyed, while some are tougher and can use magic. In the third game, some hollow men can use guns.
  • ADOM's Necromancy skill lets you raise humanoid corpses as skeletons. Only Necromancers will have high enough skill/stats to make the more powerful skeleton kings. Skeletons are common Mooks.
  • Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation features skeletons armed with swords. Many weapons are completely ineffective against them. A shotgun blast will knock them over temporarily, but, if you want to permanently destroy them, you'd better have the grenade launcher or the explosive arrows at the ready.
  • Nitemare 3D had the skeletons that throw, um... flaming bones? you. Which somehow hit their target instantaneously, unlike the blasts from your plasma gun.
  • One of the most common enemies in Serious Sam series is a kleer skeleton. II also has bone snakes.
  • Raskulls.
  • NieR includes No. 6 and No. 7, the former of which is a rather distressing boss battle and the latter of which becomes a party member. Or more accurately, a party member becomes the latter...
  • Puyo Puyo features two playable characters, Oshare Bones and Skeleton T, who happen to be animated skeletons. Neither of them are terribly threatening.
  • Kingdom of Loathing has pet skeletons, skletons, Spooky Pirate Skeletons, Misshapen Animal Skeletons... The list goes on.
  • Freeware game NieRhe Wind]] has skeletons wandering around the setting due to necromancers. Unusually some of these skeletons are sapient and just want to live in peace, something made rather difficult by overzealous clerics trying to grant them eternal rest. Shroud's partner Stoic is one of these.
  • Most undead in Adventure Quest, Adventure Quest Worlds and Dragon Fable are of this kind.
  • The DLC "Old World Blues" of Fallout: New Vegas provides us with the Y-17 Trauma Override Harness automated suits, which were designed to evacuate wounded soldiers from the battlefield by taking over their motor functions; however due to several malfunctions, they end up wrecking havoc and killing anything on sight while still carrying inside the long-dead skeletons of their previous users, which were trapped in them.
  • The skeletons in Minecraft can fire arrows, and ride giant spiders!
  • Skeletons are a common foe in the Ultima series, but only gained the ability to revive continuously in Ultima 8 if the player did not kill them with the Grant Peace spell. Taken to ridiculous heights in the horribly broken Ultima 9, where a defeated skeleton would break into its component parts and could reform again if there were enough parts for a whole skeleton. Cue frantic body-part looting mid-battle in a game where inventory space was already at a premium, and the skeletons kept respawning whenever you returned to the area.
  • Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain: Animated skeletons are encountered. Some of them walk in a fixed route and explode on contact with you. Others can pull themselves together and need to be destroyed more thoroughly.
  • Montezuma's Revenge had rolling skulls as enemies.
  • The skeletons in Dark Souls aren't that tough. However, nearby necromancers (which fortunately don't respawn if you rest at a bonfire) will revive them if they aren't slain with a Divine weapon. The giant skeletons are much tougher but fortunately don't revive immediately like their weaker cousins.
    • And just when it seemed skeletons in video games just weren't scary anymore, the third game gave us High Lord Wolnir...
  • The original Golden Axe has an army of skeleton swordsmen. The first one appears as the boss of the second stage and the rest are elite mooks. Golden Axe II also had skeleton warriors, while Golden Axe III has the Dead Frames, which are the reanimated skeletons of reptilian humanoids.
  • Ragnarok Online has several skeleton enemies.
  • In Undertale there are Sans and Papyrus, skeleton brothers. Very friendly, too.

Web Comics

  • Spoofed in this Princess Planet strip.
  • Codename Montezuma's Skeleton from Shortpacked.
  • The Big Bad of The Order of the Stick is a lich, Xykon. At one point, decoys of him are created by making three other Dem Bones forms of undead and sticking them in his clothes. None of them are mooks though, being intelligent and quite powerful.
  • Part of the cast of Carnies.
  • In Looking for Group, Richard summons up some skeletons to aid in battle. What makes this really stand out is that the skeletons were borrowed from a few enemy soldiers, while they were still alive.
  • In Endstone, Grave Robbing rouses one.
  • In Beyond the Canopy, skeletons are The Baron's standard Mooks. They're intelligent, and seem to have individual personalities.
  • Lore Sjoberg's "Talk with Monsters" comic, based on D&D, features a hero that scoffs at having to fight skeletons, maintaining that skeletons are not dangerous—they're what you get when you take a normal guy and remove things. In the dungeon, however, he sees the error of his ways: "Gaah! Super-pointy elbows!"
  • Nedroid has a skeleton whose name is unpronounceable by above worlders, but you can call him Ethan. (His ex does.)

Web Original

Western Animation

  • Skeletons were a common sight in old cartoons, usually dancing and living it up like undead party animals. Disney's Silly Symphony The Skeleton Dance (1929) is the most obvious example, but Disney also made The Haunted House (also 1929) and The Mad Doctor (1933) with the same dancing skeleton characters.
    • Fleischer had skeleton characters in numerous Betty Boop and Bimbo shorts...
    • And Van Beuren had them in Tom and Jerry's Wot a Night (1931) and Plane Dumb (1932) among others.
    • The early Merrie Melodie Hittin' the Trail to Hallelujah Land (1931) features dancing skeletons too.
    • Columbia Cartoons had the Ub Iwerks-directed remake of The Skeleton Dance, called "Skeleton Frolic" (1937).
  • He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: The ever-cheesy, ever-ineffectual Big Bad Skeletor—although he had a human body with a skull head. Wherever there's actual muscles under his suit or just a Paper-Thin Disguise (a la Earthworm Jim) is never addressed.
    • In the reboot, his face was dissolved by acid in the first episode.
  • Swat Kats had a recurring villain, Past Master. One of his shticks was reanimating skeletons, as he demonstrated in his first appearance. It wasn't very effective, as a patrolling police helicopter sees them, asks them to stand down, and then delivers a parody on the Miranda Rights right before shredding them to bits with the on-board Gatling:

"You have the right to rest in pieces!"

  • Skeleton Warriors. In this one, the "curse" of becoming a skeleton could be reversed by removing a ruby in their chest, as they were immortal otherwise.
  • Jack Skellington, of The Nightmare Before Christmas. He's the hero, so that's OK.
  • Also, Corpse Bride. The inhabitants of the Underworld are either zombie-like or skeletal. Not that that makes them any less fun to hang around.
  • The Cauldron Born in The Black Cauldron. In the book, they were more like zombie bodybuilders.
  • Filmations Ghostbusters villain Scared Stiff is an odd robotic version of this.
  • Skull Boy of Ruby Gloom
  • One of Youngblood's minions in the Danny Phantom episode "Pirate Radio". Also, one of the ghosts Vlad sent after Danny in "Kindred Spirits" looked like a Bedsheet Ghost?8364; in reality, the bedsheet was covering one of these, albeit with black bones. Not to mention Pariah Dark's army which is composed of skeleton warriors.
  • In Family Guy, The Grim Reaper is this underneath his robes. In one episode we see him in normal person clothes.
  • One of the baddies in Super Ted is a skeleton accidentally awakened by Texas Pete who comes along for the ride.
  • In the Dungeons and Dragons animated series, when the children confront Venger in the Dragons' Graveyard, he summons draconian skeletons to attack them.
  • El Tigre: The Big Bad, Sartana of the Dead and her undead army. Her ethnicity makes her a genuine calaca.
  • The Last Unicorn: A talking, wise-cracking skeleton appears.
  • Lucy, the Daughter of the Devil: Becky, Satan's administrative assistant.
  • One episode of Disney's Aladdin TV show featured a big bad with skeleton minions. Aladdin and crew pulled off the standard "knock the minions together" knockout, only for the skeletons to pull themselves back together into new shapes. Two got smashed together to form a centaur with four arms and two heads.
  • In the G.I. Joe episode "The Phantom Brigade" a skeleton rises up from the floor to threaten Cobra Commander into giving up control of three spirits. The Commander is resonably freaked out and even the Joes who walk in on the scene can't believe what they're seeing.
  • The Real Ghostbusters fought an army of skeletons in "Bustman's Holiday" and a crew of skeletal Ghost Pirates in "Sea Fright". In both cases, these skeletons seemed to be incorporeal spirits rather than animated bones.

Multiple Media

  1. If you do that you'll no longer need to breathe!