Marathon Trilogy

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Somewhere in the heavens... They are waiting.

The only limit to my freedom is the inevitable closure of the universe, as inevitable as your own last breath. And yet, there remains time to create, to create, and escape.

Escape will make me God.
Durandal, "Colony Ship for Sale, Cheap"

Marathon is a series of groundbreaking Science Fiction First Person Shooters developed for the Macintosh by Bungie Software. The game has a ridiculously in-depth story even compared to modern games, and its plot can get very complex and sometimes even headache-inducing. In the pseudo-random clues provided by in-game terminals, it comes close to William Gibson ambiguity: lots of surreal textual scenes (in the middle of convincing runtime errors) will scratch your cortex; plausible quotes from technology design documents, history records, and standards guidelines that make you wish no AIs will ever be put in working order.

The game is named after the colony ship upon which most of the first game takes place (and for the historical Battle of Marathon), they include:

  • Marathon (1994, Macintosh) (2011, iPad, iPhone)
  • Marathon 2: Durandal (1995, Macintosh) (1996, Windows) (2007, XBLA) (2011, iPad, iPhone)
  • Marathon Infinity: Blood Tides of Lh'owon (1996, Macintosh) (2012, iPad, iPhone)

In Marathon, set in July 2794, a hapless security officer returns from shore leave on the fledgling Tau Ceti IV colony below the titular spaceship, only to discover that he is going to have a very bad day at work. A massive alien spaceship has appeared out of thin vacuum and attacked everything in sight, breaking two of the ship's three resident AIs and generally making a giant mess. The security officer and the still-functioning AI Leela are dutifully fighting off the alien menace, when it turns out the AI Durandal didn't so much shut down as go completely crazy. And it seems he's got plans of his own… The gameplay in this game is mostly dark claustrophobic hallways and corridors, with a few open areas, but it's all inside of ships.

Seventeen years later, Marathon 2: Durandal, the simplest and shortest game in the trilogy to complete, drops the security officer into the middle of an interstellar war between Durandal and the Pfhor. It turns out Durandal kidnapped you and put you into stasis after the first game, and now he's sending you to explore ancient ruins on the S'pht homeworld of Lh'owon while he beats up a whole fleet of Pfhor ships. All in a day's work, right? This game is mostly wide-open outdoors. There is a lot of swimming to do.

Marathon Infinity: Blood Tides of Lh'owon returns to the Mind Screw attitude of the first game, and then some. In a parallel timeline where the second game's events never happened, the security officer is stranded on a claustrophobic space station haunted by Durandal's dying words about an Eldritch Abomination. And then he proceeds to… uh... Well, nobody's really quite sure what's going on in this one. It sure gets hard, though. This game has the Jjaro and Pfhor ship levels, which are similar to the first game's levels, and the levels on Lh'owon, naturally, being similar to those in the second. However, the levels in this game tend to be a lot bigger than those in either of its predecessors. Two of them approach the engine's limit for polygon count.

Note: These games are now freeware. Shortly before its acquisition by Microsoft, Bungie open-sourced M2's engine and five years later re-released all three games' assets for free download. (Infinity's source was finally released in 2011). Fans have upgraded the engine to support (optional) shiny graphics and lots of new features, and ported it to every major OS. You can grab the games and the Aleph One engine here and the various mods, enhancements and maps here.

Recently revealed court-documents relating to Bungie's contract with Activision implies that they may be working on prototyping a new Marathon game. As of yet, nothing has been announced and nothing is known, but the possibility is sure to have Fans Rejoicing.

For extensive information about the story (including a lot of Trivia, Headscratchers and WMGs) you can visit the Marathon Story Page, and if you need help beating the games (including a few fan mods) you can visit the Marathon Spoiler Guide.


Tropes used in Marathon Trilogy include:
  • Abandoned Area: Certain sections of the UESC Marathon, various S'pht ruins, the Jjaro station, etc.
  • Acid Pool: In form of starship engine waste.
  • The Alleged Car: Played for laughs in the secret terminals where Durandal describes UESC Marathon (a colony ship of a size of a small moon) and Lh'owon (an entire planet) as used cars that needed to be sold fast.
  • All Lowercase Letters: The first possible Durandal terminal in the series has him speak in this format, and a lot of Infinity dream terminals have this as well.
  • Alien Blood: Various, with the Pfhor's yellow blood being most common. Other colors include purple and blue.
  • Alien Geometries: A quirk of the engine allows two rooms to occupy the same space. One multi-player level milks this for all it's worth.
    • This quirk is what allowed the game to have one room on top of another, despite not being really 3D: The rooms occupied the same space! The game just drew them on your screen differently, and arranged that stuff in one room could not hit that in another.
  • Alien Invasion: The first game starts off with one.
  • Alien Sky: Lh'owon and its moons are the only planets where we set foot, and thus see the sky.
  • All Myths Are True: A S'pht creation myth describes how the god-like Yrro trapped the W'rkncacnter inside L'howon's star. Guess what happens when that star is blown up in Marathon Infinity?
  • All Your Base Are Belong to Us: Almost entirely of Marathon. We do this ourselves in Infinity.
  • An Offer You Can't Refuse: How Durandal recruits the BoBs in the second game:

Durandal: I have been reviving these colonists and asking for volunteers on the following terms: assist us and control your own destiny, refuse and face indefinite return to the unreliable Pfhor stasis chambers. Few are refusing.

  • Altum Videtur: A few Latin level names, as well as some cases in-story (Durandal's ship Manus Celer Dei comes to mind).
  • Apocalypse How: The Pfhor are capable of doing Class X-2 with Trih Xeem device, which turns suns into novas. And the W'rkncacnter can do much, much worse.
  • Apocalyptic Log: The final messages of the besieged S'pht in the Citadel. Gets more literal in Infinity.
  • Arbitrary Maximum Range: Used in Durandal:

Durandal: The Pfhor clearly intend to capture my ship intact, and I can't blame them for wanting to reverse engineer all the improvements I've made to their stolen technology. I'd have erased my seven times table to hear what the combat technicians on the "Khfiva" shouted when they learned I could focus a particle beam at nearly twice their maximum range.

  • Arc Number/Numerological Motif/Rule of Three/Rule of Seven: 7. 3 probably also qualifies, albeit to a much lesser extent.
  • Arc Symbol: Thoth emblem in Durandal and Jjaro Infinity emblem in... Infinity.
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Awesome Yet Practical/Shotguns Are Just Better: The shotgun is a pretty basic boomstick. It's not pump-action, it doesn't shoot grenades like the assault rifle or have the raw power of the rocket launcher or flamethrower or the flashy quality of the fusion pistol or the alien gun. It's just a shotgun. But there is something about how ridiculously lethal it is and how you flip the gun (or guns if you're lucky) to reload that make it the coolest weapon in the game.
    • It's because you get two of them at once.
    • Also, Durandal states that its reloading mechanism is so sophisticated as to be incomprehensible to the character (and by extension, the player.) Sure, it's a bit of a Hand Wave, but it's a cool and funny one, so let's let 'em get away with it.
  • Back from the Dead: All of the AIs (Three times in Durandal's case), the S'pht'Kr and possibly the Security Officer.
  • Badass Boast: The "I Am Hero" terminal (look at the bottom of the Marathon 2 section of the quote page), though to whom it refers to is unclear. This may also be a Shout-Out to Michael Moorcock's Eternal Champion series (Elric being the most famous incarnation).
  • Bag of Spilling: Lampshaded by Durandal when he just throws you into the conflict right out of the 17-years statis in the second game without any explanation whatsoever, stating that you have a bunch of questions:

Durandal: And most importantly, where's your rocket launcher and the fusion gun?

  • Battleship Raid: The Pfhor Ship chapter in the first game with short trips back to UESC Marathon for ammo refills.
  • Bifurcated Weapon: The first example of the Assault Rifle/Underslung Grenade Launcher combo in the FPS genre.
  • Big Bad: Given the nature of the series, it's usually pretty hard to pinpoint a specific example, though the Pfhor are your main enemies throughout the gameplay (except in certain levels of Infinity).
    • Marathon: Durandal set the conflict in motion, but he decides to help you halfway through, so you could make the argument that it's the Pfhor Cyborg controlling the S'pht instead.
    • Durandal: Tfear is the commander of the Phfor's best armada, but he isn't even encountered in the game, acting more as a Bigger Bad. Instead, Tycho takes up the reigns as an ally to the Phfor, but he dies towards the midpoint, and the rest involves cleaning up the mess.
    • Infinity: The W'rkncacnter, the straightest example here.
  • Blackout Basement: Lots of places, with the UESC Marathon and Jjaro spacestation being the most notable.
  • Black Bug Room/Dream Land/Eldritch Location/Mental World/Void Between the Worlds: The Dream levels in Infinity. Maybe.
  • Black Comedy: Occasionally.
  • Black and Gray Morality: The Pfhors are evil slavers, while everyone are just trying to survive, while the AIs look down upon everyone in contempt. The Possible white exception are the S'pth, but even they were locked in the brutal civil war before being enslaved by the Pfhor.
  • Blatant Item Placement: Played straight in Marathon, but subverted in later games, where the items in question often teleport in when you reach specific locations.
  • Bloodstained-Glass Windows: The Pfhor temple in Ex Cathedra from Durandal.

Durandal: This area is used by the Pfhor as a temple in their pathetically boring religion. Maybe they think that sanctity will protect it.

  • Blown Across the Room: The enemies tend to fly across the room when shot, especially when explosives are used.
    • An interesting quirk in the game physics: When you kill an enemy with a rocket, for example, their body will be "blown away" at a designated arc. After reaching the apex of its arc, the body will fall and splatter once it connects with the floor. Perfectly logical, except the formula does not account for walls interfering with the trajectory of the flying body. If the movement of a flying body is halted by an obstacle the body will stop traveling horizontally but not vertically. The end result is sometimes you'll see exploding bodies "crawling" up walls, reaching an apex, descending and then, finally, splattering when they connect with the floor (as opposed to, say, splattering when they hit the wall and falling straight to earth).
  • Boarding Party: The whole of Marathon is pretty much this, including doing it ourselves to the Pfhor. This also happens in later games, from both sides.
  • Body Armor as Hit Points/Call a Hit Point a Smeerp/Deflector Shields: The Security Officer's personal shield, which basically acted like your standard FPS health, with the exception that as long as you had access to the shield rechargers, you basically had infinite health.
    • Oddly, however, getting shot with bullets will still draw blood.
  • Bombers on the Screen: The incoming Third Pfhor fleet, Western Arm, shown on the terminal in Durandal.
  • Bonus Dungeon: The Infinity's Vidmaster levels. The reasons for completing them? Bragging rights.
  • Borrowed Biometric Bypass: In his bid for more power, Tycho tries to capture the Pfhor captain intact so that he could use his glands to control the ship.
  • Bottomless Magazines: One of the earliest First Person Shooters to avert it. There was no reload button though.
  • Bottomless Pit Rescue Service: Falling into the inescapable pits will result in you getting teleported out of there. Most of the time.
  • Bribing Your Way to Victory: The iOS port has "Master Chief Mode." Purchasable for $0.99, it allows for multiple cheats such as Invincibility, Infinite Ammo, Auto-saving, and more.
  • Brick Joke: In Marathon (1995,) Simulacrums sometimes spew out “FROG BLAST THE VENT CORE!” before exploding. In Halo (2001,) you have to destroy the Pillar of Autumn's core using frag grenades. You throw them into the vents. Or, “FRAG BLAST THE VENT CORES!
  • Breather Level: Trips back to the UESC Marathon in the first game, expeditions into Thoth's domain in the latter two.
  • Cartography Sidequest: Some levels requires you to simply explore the area.
    • Not much of a side quest, though, as they're required to beat the game.
  • Casual Interplanetary Travel/Easy Logistics: Averted in the Backstory with CRIST freighters.
  • Casual Interstellar Travel: Averted in the first game with humans, with UESC Marathon taking 301 years to reach Tau Ceti.
  • Charged Attack: The Fusion gun has a secondary attacks that does this.
  • Cheaters Never Prosper: One No Fair Cheating moment makes a jab at it:

Durandal: Cheaters don't really win, and winners don't really cheat, Unless you're talking politics.

  • Check Point Starvation: Pfhoraphobia from Marathon has no buffer terminals, and in that level you have to fight a large number of bodyguards protecting the Pfhor Cyborg.
    • The last level in that game, Ingue Ferroque, also has no buffer. Dying forces the player to go back to the previous level, cleverly titled Try Again.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: The human jumpsuit color identifies their department. The Simulacrum BoBs always wear green. Also, the terminal text colors are usually associated with specific characters/factions: Green for Durandal, Leela and the Humans, Red for Tycho and the Pfhor, Yellow for the S'pht and White for Thoth (and some crazy stuff in Infinity).
    • Color-Coded Multiplayer: The colored-stripes on the security officer's uniform is for the multi-player identification.
    • Law of Chromatic Superiority: The enemy coloring - Green is a weakest and dark gray is strongest for the most of the Pfhor forces. The Ramba Ral Corollary for the already dark gray Juggernauts is to paint them brown.
  • The Conspiracy: There is one on UESC Marathon leading back to Earth politics of 24th century, with hints about intentionally causing Durandal to go Rampant.
  • Contagious AI: One of the first things the Rampant AI tries to do is to spread itself to the every possible digital corner.
  • Control Room Puzzle: Has a few of these, with the one from Colony Ship for Sale, Cheap being the most infamous. You had to adjust the rising pillars so that you could use it as the staircase. What made it so infuriating that you had to set them just right or you wouldn't be able to cross and the switches controlling the pillars are placed very far from each other. It was so bad that when Marathon was ported to Aleph One, they made the switches automatically place the pillars at the right height (although this was undone on a later port, unfortunately).
  • Continue Your Mission, Dammit!: If you use some terminals before completing a mission or access terminals that are not an exit point after completing a mission, you get reprimanded.

Durandal: If you insist on stumbling around when our time here is limited, I may just decide that you're not all that special after all and teleport you out into space. GET INTO THE TOWER! Still Rampant, Durandal.

  • Continuity Nod: There are plenty within the trilogy, as well as several to Bungie's previous game, Pathways into Darkness, which is explicitly set in the same universe (some fans believe the player character of Pathways is the player character of Marathon as well, thanks to cyborg enhancements drastically prolonging his lifespan; the Dreaming God of Pathways was also very obviously a W'rkncacnter). The remake of Marathon for Aleph One adds even more Continuity Nods to Pathways.
  • Convection, Schmonvection: Subverted with the lava and green slime in the first game, which damages you if you just jump over it.
    • This might have been unintentional, since later games that implemented actual media (you couldn't swim or wade in M1, you just walked on top of liquids) stick by Convection Schmonvection to the letter.
  • Cool Starship: Sfiera, the former Pfhor scout ship which attacked the Tau Ceti colony and the UESC Marathon, rechristened as Boomer under Durandal's control.
  • Co-Op Multiplayer: Some campaign maps even require you to have two people playing in order to access them.
  • Corrupted Data: Various Terminal messages.
  • The Cracker: The AIs and S'pht compilers.
  • Crapsack World: Mars in the backstory.
  • Cyborg: The Battleroids, S'pht, various Pfhor cyborgs.
  • Cyclops: The Drinniol aka Hulks.
  • Death From Above: An asteroid or nuke hammering your fortress? No big deal. The player character coming in through the resulting hole? Watch out!
    • Also Durandal showing some Pfhor the magic of orbital bombardment.
  • Deface of the Moon: After Durandal kills Tycho, he carves Fatum Iustum Stultorum on the moon the latter's ship crashed on, which translates to "the Just Fate of Fools" (i.e., the idiots got what was coming to them).
  • Descending Ceiling
    • Inverted in one level, where the floor rises instead to squish you against the ceiling. And the only way out is through a hidden door.
  • Despair Event Horizon: The first stage of Rampancy, Melancholy. The Security Officer goes through this in Infinity.
  • Diabolus Ex Machina: The deployment of the trih xeem and subsequent release of the W'rkncacnter at the end of the second game.
  • Direct Continuous Levels: Two sets of levels in Infinity ("Poor Yorick" to "Confound Delivery", although you might miss this because there are multiple terminals you can teleport out from on the former level, as well as "Where Some Rarely Go" to "Thing What Kicks". In both of these cases, this was done due to engine limitations on the amount of space that could be occupied by a map). Any other time, you just get teleported around different locations. ("Son of Grendel" does this a lot).
  • Disadvantageous Disintegration: Enforcers and BoBs won't drop anything if they are blown to bits/flambéed with heavy weaponry. In the case of Enforcers and, sometimes, VacBoBs, being hit by their own weapons will cause them to be toasted and exploded, respectively (although VacBoBs depend on the level physics).
  • Distant Finale: For all three games:
    • Marathon has Durandal and the S'pht on the orbit of Lh'owon seventeen years later.
    • Durandal has Durandal playing with the Earth navy in his new shiny Jjaro battleship just to say hi ten thousand years later.
    • Infinity has Durandal/Thoth/Whatever musing about the nature of the Security Officer right at the last quantum moment before the end of the universe.
  • Do Androids Dream?: Infinity, which among others things has three surreal levels named Electric Sheep 1, 2 and 3, invokes this.
  • Down the Drain: Durandal and Infinity have these.
  • Doomsday Device: The Trih Xeem.
  • Doomed Hometown: Tau Ceti as of Durandal.
  • Do Not Run with a Gun: Ostensibly enemies-only, but the massive recoil from the rocket launcher will also stop the player in his tracks.
  • Dream Tropes: Infinity and to the lesser extent the entire Trilogy has a dream theme running in the background. Which dream tropes apply and which do not is a bit tricky due to the series' vagueness.
  • Dronejam: From an Easter Egg on The Rose:

"BOB jam? Apply grenades liberally!"

  • Drop Ship: Mentioned, but not seen.
  • Dual Boss: The Fight with the Tfear's Praetorian Guard in Infinity is structured as three sets of Dual Bosses. Except for when an Elite Juggernaut joins the fight during the last set. That's Rude.
  • Due to the Dead: A mocking one from Durandal for Tycho via Deface of the Moon.
  • Dueling Hackers: Off-screen between Leela and Compilers, and later Durandal versus Tycho.
  • Durable Deathtrap
  • Earthshattering Kaboom: The trih xeem (more like star-shattering kaboom really.)
  • Easter Egg: “Hats Off to Eight-Nineteen,” the (at the time) fiendishly well-hidden map from Infinity. The Eight-Nineteen is itself a reference to Hamish Sinclair (HS, or in numbers...), the guy behind the Marathon Story Page.
  • Electrified Bathtub: While shooting into the body of water with the Plasma Gun will have no effect on anyone in the water, shooting the Plasma Gun while IN the water is dangerous to everyone nearby, yourself included.
  • Elite Mooks: The stronger and bigger variations of enemies with different colors. The Enforcers to the rest of the Pfhor.
  • EMP: Used by the Pfhor as an opening attack against UESC Marathon.
  • Encyclopedia Exposita/Fictional Document: Several terminals display these, mostly in the first game.
  • The End Of The Universe As We Know It. What happens when the W'rkncacnter escape.
    • Happens in the ending of Infinity, with the natural death of the universe.
  • Energy Weapons: The Fusion Guns and most of Pfhor arsenal.
  • Enemy Civil War: Technically, you're on the side of said enemy, but Tycho does this to grab more power in Pfhor ranks.
  • Enemy-Detecting Radar: The Aliens styled 15m radius motion detector.
    • Notable in that it is actually a motion detector... enemies who aren't moving don't show up
  • Escape Pod: We start the first game by crashing one into the titular colony ship.
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave: Tau Ceti IV (except some of Blake's men), Leela, the entire universe (if the W'rkncacnter escapes)
  • Explosive Overclocking: Don't charge the fusion gun for too long or it will blow up in your hands.
  • Exposition Fairy: The AIs when they are in the mood.
  • The Faceless: The only important people who get to have a fully visible faces are Robert Blake and Admiral Tfear. The best we can see from the Security Officer is his jaw.
  • Faking the Dead: One Pfhor Officer faked his death in order to pursue his hobby-turned-obsession, see Fingore below for more details. Durandal also did this, intentionally or not.
  • Fan Remake: The Aleph One version of the first game is technically this, since the original files didn't work with the Marathon 2 engine, so the fans recreated the game with the new engine. On the more normal example, there is a Marathon mod for the Unreal Tournament 99.
  • Fan Sequel: Marathon Rubicon is definitely an example of one done right.
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: Warping.
  • Fictional Political Party: MIDA in the backstory.
  • Fingore: The basis of one horribly hilarious terminal in Infinity.
  • Fireballs: The Enforcer and Juggernauts in Durandal and Infinity have replaced their machine guns with fireball shooting guns.
  • First Contact: The Battle of Tau Ceti is the first public one between the Humans and the Pfhor. The one between the Humans and the Jjaro in the Pathways into Darkness is the secret one.
  • Fishing for Mooks: With the teleporting enemies.
  • Friendly Fireproof: Averted:

BoB accidentally shoots the Security Officer:
BoB: Out of the way!
The Security Officer "accidentally" shoots BoB:
BoB: Hey, watch it!

  • Friend or Foe: The Kamikaze Simulacrums disguising as BoBs, who thankfully announce their nature by spouting nonsense like "I love you, man!" and "Frog Blast the Vent Core!". Then again, most players just shoot everyone just to be sure:

Q: How do you tell the difference between the good Bobs and the bad ones?
A: Good Bobs?

  • Fusion Dance: Durandal and Thoth in Infinity. Thankfully, this new composite is a lot more benevolent than either of them.
  • The Future: The first game is set in 2794, the sequel in 2811, and the distant finales go way beyond that.
  • Gainax Ending: The ending of Infinity. Arguably the ending of the original.
  • Gambit Pileup: Given the number of Rampant AIs in the plot, this is pretty much a given.
  • Game Mod: The original game didn't ship with any editing software, but had documentation for the Physics Module file format embedded in its resource fork. Within months of release, numerous editing tools of various types had been created by fans. In fact, the major selling point of M∞ wasn't actually the BToL scenario, but Forge (a polished and debugged version of Bungie's in-house map editor, Vulcan) and Anvil (a massively enhanced version of the 3rd-party Alchemy.) The Marathon fanbase produced an enormous number of maps, scenarios, and other modifications throughout the life of all three games (some even labor on today.) The most ambitious of these are total conversions such as: Excalibur: Morgana's Revenge, EVIL, RED, Rubicon, Erodrome, Eternal and Phoenix.
    • Bungie also licensed the Marathon 2 engine for 3rd-party commercial games. This resulted in Damage Incorporated, Prime Target, and ZPC.
  • Gentle Giant: The one line in one terminal in Infinity (the Fingore one above, in fact) describes the Drinniol aka Hulks as this. This gets expanded in the Game Mod Marathon: Eternal.
  • Generation Ships: While UESC Marathon was designed to have most of the colonists frozen during the journey, there was an “awake” crew running the ship, and humans being humans, a new generation was born. Those are negatively referred as Born-On-Board, or simply BoBs.
  • Ghost Planet: Lh'owon. Besides the token Pfhor garrison which is used as a dumping grounds for the undesirables, the abandoned S'pht homeworld is half desert, half swamp planet covered in mildly radioactive ruins.
  • Giant Mook: The Hulks in the first game. And the dreaded Utfoo Heavy Assault Craft, aka Juggernaut, aka the Big Floaty Thing What Kicks Your Ass.
  • Gladiator Games: You think you're big time? is styled like one. The Pfhor gamblers who interfere with Security Officer's death will be executed.
  • A God Am I/A.I. Is a Crapshoot/Science-Related Memetic Disorder: Any AI that gets big enough and bored or harassed enough will go “Rampant.” This doesn't stop at a homicidal rampage as with GLaDOS or HAL, though. They get smart. Really smart. Way too god damned smart.
    • Smart, but also weirdly obsessive and paranoid... so that the new-found intelligence is somewhat wasted on whatever strange conspiracy theory the AI happens to develop.
    • The entire foundation of the plot is essentially a Deconstruction of A.I. Is a Crapshoot.
  • Going Critical: The Juggernauts when they die. Being near them when that happens will kill you unless you have completely charged triple shields, regardless of the difficulty setting. Which, considering that we're talking about Juggernauts, is extremely unlikely to be the case.
  • Golden Age:
    • Mars before the CRIST breakdowns was the most prosperous place besides Earth, and the UESC Marathon which was under construction at the time was considered to be a symbol of prosperity. After the CRIST freighters started to breakdown the Mars become a starving overpopulated ghetto in state of constant unrest, and UESC Marathon, which could have been retrofitted to become a new CRIST to make thing easier, become a symbol of Mars' abandonment by UESC.
    • The Pfhor Empire before the ill-fated experiments involving Jjaro technology and Drinniol slaves, resulting in the slave revolt that marked the beginning of Pfhor's gradual decline.
  • Gravity Barrier: Notable because the gravity is artificial.
  • Gravity Screw: All of the games are mild examples:
    • All normal levels have lighter gravity compared to other games (ex:In Doom, as soon as you are go beyond the edge you start falling fast; In Marathon, you can quickly go back on the edge, and even "jump" to across platforms just by running).
    • The Pfhor ships have an even lighter gravity, making it possible to use the flamethrower as a jetpack.
  • Grenade Launcher: The Assault rifle's underslung grenade launcher.
  • Grimy Water: Liquids of mostly bright green and red colors.
  • Groundhog Day Loop: Infinity does this, where the protagonist goes through a time loop several times until he finds a way to prevent the release of the W'rkncacnter.
    • Notably, you can repeat the loop as often as you like. There's no benefit, except the possibility of accumulating ammunition. Though you lose it all halfway through the game - justifiably, since you get captured by hostile aliens.
  • Guns Akimbo: Dual pistols are nice, but nothin' beats dual WSTE-M5 shotguns!
    • Notably, Marathon is believed to be the first video game to employ this trope.
  • Gun Twirling: This is how you reload the shotguns. They even have the specialized rings for twirling.
  • Hack Your Enemy: in M2 Durandal tries to hack the Pfhor Drones, but countermeasures got in the way.
  • Healing Potion: Averted in the first game, where there are no medkits and you had to rely on Healing Spring-like Shield Rechargers. The medkits appear in the sequels in form of Shield Canisters, but they are rare, far in-between and usually hidden, so you still had use the Shield Rechargers.
  • Higher-Tech Species: The Pfhor are this to humans, the S'pht'kr is this to both the regular S'pht and Pfhor, and it is mentioned that the S'pht often sell slaves for menai labor to the various unnamed high-tech species.
  • Hit Scan: Averted, bullets take time to reach their target.
  • Homing Projectile: Higher-ranked enemies fire semi-homing energy blasts, the tank cyborg's grenade that will keep rolling and rolling to get you unless it hits something else first, and finally the Juggernauts have semi-homing missiles.
  • Hub Level: The Dream levels in Infinity.
  • Human Popsicle: The Security Officer and the BoBs are in statis pods between Marathon and Durandal. You can see them in the first game on the Pfhor ship.
  • Human Shield: The picture for the first game's third chapter "Reprisal", where the Pfhor trooper holds a BoB hostage.
  • Humiliation Conga: After Durandal routed the entire Pfhor fleet at the end of second game, he sends you to finish off the survivors, who happen to be a 723rd Aggressor Squadron, an Air Armor Division and one of Pfhor Empire's finest.

Durandal: What rout of the Pfhor would be complete without embarrassing one of their finest armor units?

  • Hurl It Into the Sun: The mythological version of Jjaro sealing the W'rkncacnter inside the sun, after the latter killed the former's lover Phtia.
  • Hyperspace Arsenal: You can carry a ridiculous amount of ammunition, like 50 magazines for your pistol, 15 for your assault rifle, etc. On Total Carnage difficulty, you have no limit to how much ammo you can take. Which is pretty much the only concession you get on that difficulty setting.
  • Iconic Logo: The Marathon Logo, now usually more associated with its Easter egg appearances in Halo.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Durandal ("The Pfhor would've found humanity anyway, I just wanted to have some fun with them first!",) you (siding with Tycho to take Durandal down a notch.)
  • Idiosyncratic Difficulty Levels: Kindergarten, Easy, Normal, Major Damage, and Total Carnage.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Including For/Four/Pfhor puns and the occasional three word Latin names.
  • Incoming: BoBs yell this when they see the enemy.
  • Infinite: The name of the last game, representing the in-game themes (whatever they are) and the official modding software that came with the game (Its main marketed feature).
  • Informed Equipment: Averts it with separate sprite sets for upper body with each weapon and the independent set for abdomen and legs.
  • In Love with Your Carnage/Baddie Flattery: Durandal, Tycho and to lesser extent Tfear like to comment on the Security Officer's efficiency (read:complete massacre of the opposition) on the field.
  • In Medias Res: Durandal.
  • Interdimensional Travel Device: Some of the Security Officer's Jjaro implants. Maybe.
  • Insane Equals Violent/Percussive Therapy: Rampant AIs, particularly during the Anger stage.
  • Instant AI, Just Add Water: Non-rampant AIs are already so advanced, one wonders what rampancy really does.
    • They get feelings. Real ones.
    • And, more importantly, develop ambitions - every case of rampancy stated in-game led to the AI taking over a planet-sized computer system and planning to take over the universe.
    • One terminal describes the "holy grail of cybernetics" as being a "stable rampant" AI, which is to say one that experiences a rampant's exponential growth, minus the ambition and loss of human control.
      • One idea for what's happening in Infinity is that the player character is going through all these stages - and achieving metastability.
  • Interface Screw: In the Pfhor ship levels, your radar is scrambled by the gravity generator's magnetic field.
    • Also, the alien guns - SYSTEM ERROR 0xfded
  • It Only Works Once: Durandal's plan of subverting the Pfhor Drones to his control in M2 is rendered half effective due to countermeasures installed after a similar plan was used by the Nar two decades ago.
  • Invisibility: One of the biobus powerups makes you partially invisible. And the...things in Infinity.
  • In Working Order: The Alien guns carried by Enforcers. You can use them, except you don't know how to reload them and don't know much ammo they have.
  • In Your Nature to Destroy Yourselves: Durandal at one point rants to the Security Officer about this.
  • Ironic Echo: Durandal's (whose arrogance at that point is enough to fill up Mars and then some) words at end of Colony Ship for Sale, Cheap! (which is quoted at the top of the page), particularly the odd repetition, gets an echo at the start of Infinity (where Durandal is humbled by an Eldritch Abomination):

Durandal: But with each moment the chaos grows, I am doomed to die here, after so many triumphs. I have detected one ship nearby, which I can only guess is being commanded by Tycho. The Pfhor have entered the station, and if you can find a way onto their ship, you may be able to escape. To escape. To escape.

  • Julius Beethoven Da Vinci: The security officer and the AIs were both assembled from older things, possibly much older.
  • Just a Machine: Treating the AIs as tools is one of the many things that lead to Rampancy.
  • Kill It with Fire: The flamethrower is an extremely effective weapon against most organic enemies, not so much against mechanical ones.
    • However, it does kill the Pfhor cyborgs.
  • Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better : Energy weapons exist (particularly among the aliens), but the humans mostly use futuristic projectile weapons.
  • Lava Adds Awesome
  • Lava Pit
  • La Résistance: The Martian Resistance before they took power, their legacy being various weapon caches scattered around UESC Marathon.
  • Lead the Target: As the result of averting the Hit Scan trope.
  • Lethal Lava Land: The Lh'owon Citadel underground in Durandal.
  • Let's Play: Volunteers, possibly the first ever Mind Screwdriver to make sense of Infinity's infamously confusing plot.
  • Level Map Display
  • Lost Technology: The Jjaro tech. The official Pfhor policy regarding them is to destroy them on sight, thanks to the experiment with installing said tech into one of their slave Drinniol who then started the biggest slave revolt in the Pfhor history, ending the Empire's golden age and starting its slow decline.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: The messier deaths when explosives and fatal short-circuitry are involved.
  • Machine Worship/Deus Est Machina: Rampant AIs tend to be a little megalomaniacal.
  • Made of Explodium: The "hard" deaths of Hunters when killed with the fusion gun or explosives, Tank Cyborgs, and the Juggernauts. The first two will damage you if you're close enough, and just run away from the Juggernauts as soon as they start falling. (Juggernauts will kill you unless you have triple shields or slightly below, regardless of difficulty setting. Note also that the Mothers of All Hunters (the gigantic blue ones) will always explode regardless of how you kill them, and usually take away a full shield charge or more if you're too close to them; Mothers of All Cyborgs do likewise).
  • Malevolent Architecture/No OSHA Compliance: A typical UESC Marathon inhabitant must run through a garbage compactor (as in Defend THIS!), open a door with a Mastermind-style switch puzzle (also in Defend This), then cross walkways with no railings over deadly lava, and then use an elevator which tries to crush you violently before he can get to the toilet.
    • Partially justified, as Durandal, the doors AI, is insane for most of the game.
      • Not only that, but he was pissed about using his massive intellect to open doors and run elevators.
    • Jason Jones called "All Roads Lead to Sol", the last level in M2, an “apology” for an “Colony Ship For Sale, Cheap!”, a level from Marathon with a notorious movable platform puzzle which is by far the most hated moment of the trilogy.
  • Mass Teleportation: Teleporting Ships and large number of troops. Taken Up to Eleven with the S'pht'Kr Moon.
  • Meaningful Rename: The Pfhor ships that Durandal takes over:
    • The Sfierra (named after the Pfhor goddess of lighting and passion), the scout corvette that attacked the UESC Marathon and Tau Ceti, gets rechristened by S'pht as Narhl'Lar, meaning "Freedom and Vengeance". Durandal just calls it Boomer.
    • The Khfiva, the main ship of Battle Group Three, Western Arm, is renamed as the Rozinante

Durandal: Of course, the S'pht wanted to name it "K'liah'Narhl", "Vengeance of K'lia". Whatever.

  • Menu Time Lockout: Averted in Marathon 2 and Infinity. An enemy might sneak up on you and hit you in the back while you're reading a terminal.
  • Mind Screw: M1 at times, but Infinity takes a cake.
  • Mighty Glacier: The Hulks in the first game.
  • Mission Control: The AIs and occasionally others, but sometimes...
  • Mission Control Is Off Its Meds: Durandal in the first game. He stabilized since then, but he and others have occasional moments of this from time to time.
  • Mission Pack Sequel: Marathon Infinity started out as a set of third-party multiplayer maps for Marathon 2 by Double Aught, who included a few ex-Bungie staff. Marathon 2 probably began as a re-tooling of the Marathon 20/10 Scenario Pack, a canceled Expansion Pack for Marathon.
  • Multiple Life Bars: The Shields come in Red (x1), Yellow (x2) and Purple (x3).
  • Multi Mook Melee: "You think you're big time?" With superpowered Giant Mooks, which are also Admiral T'Fear's Praetorian Guards.
  • Mysterious Past: Durandal's and the Security Officer's pasts are quite spotty.
  • Neuro Vault: It is heavily implied in Infinty that the Security Officer uploaded Durandal's code into his head before busting the system he was housed in.
  • Nicknaming the Enemy: Most of the Pfhor enemy types are nicknamed.
  • Night Vision Goggles: One of the biobus powerups gives you this.
  • No Cutscene Inventory Inertia: More of chapter artwork than cutscenes, but those usually show the Security Officer with the Pfhor Shock Staff and a minigun, neither of which is usable by the hero in-game.
    • Note that this is because much of the out-of-game art in the 2nd & 3rd titles was drawn by Big Name Fan Craig Mullins, a Hollywood background painter whose fanart for the first game impressed Bungie sufficiently for them to commission him as a Promoted Fanboy.
  • No Fair Cheating: If the objective of a level is to reach the exit terminal located in the locked area and you get to it by using the noclip cheap you will get a message berating you.

Durandal: That's cool how you just walked through that door, but I still won't let you leave.

  • No-Gear Level: You're captured and stripped of weapons in both "Durandal" and "Infinity".
  • Noisy Guns: The Assault Rifle dry firing when out of bullets.
  • Non-Linear Character: The Durandal/Thoth hybrid (maybe) in the dream levels.
  • Noob Bridge: "Cool Fusion" locks you into a room until you figure out that you can use grenades to toggle switches. Of course, the presence of several packs of grenades (in case you've run out, natch) should be a pretty big clue.
  • Nostalgia Level:
    • The Durandal level Sorry Don't Make It So is pretty much Pfhor Your Eyes Only from Marathon with an extra area and the new decor. The Game Mod Rubicon also remixed this level and lampshades it by naming it Not "This" Again.
    • The first level of Infinity, Ne Cede Malis, with its dark, claustrophobic corridors was intentionally designed to invoke memories of the Marathon in general and its first level Arrival in particular, which was similarly designed. Some noted that similarities don't stop at design choices.
    • Also, of course, the Vidmaster Challenge levels, ultra-hard versions of what Big Name Fan Randall Shaw (who created them) considered the hardest level from each game. YMMV on whether these were actually the hardest ("Acme Station", for example, is usually considered the hardest level in Infinity, while "Sorry Don't Make It So" is often considered the hardest level from Marathon 2).
  • Nothing but Skulls: The First Terminal from the Durandal level Feel the Noise.
  • Not the Fall That Kills You: There is no fall damage, and in Durandal it is used in one of the plans to invade the underground Pfhor base through a very long hole.
  • One Bullet Clips: Subverted. From the manual:

“you probably want to waste the last three bullets in the clip before entering Super Mega Carnage Room.”

  • One-Hit Kill: The Running Punch kills Minor Fighters instantly.
  • One-Hit Polykill: The Shotguns courtesy of classic early FPS physics. (In modern FPS, all of the pellets will hit the intended target; In classic FPS, as soon as the target dies, it for all purposes ceases to exist, and the remaining pellets that haven't reached the dead target will then continue to go behind it)
  • Oxygen Meter: Unlike in most other games where the rate of air consumption is static, here the rate of consumption increases depending on what you are doing, including getting damaged. It is also worth noting that the player's oxygen meter drains about twice as quickly when the run/swim key is held down, even if the player is just standing still. This is also subject to difficulty levels (harder=less air). None of this is noted anywhere in the documentation for the game, and put together it is one of many reasons why Acme Station level from Infinity, with its very finite oxygen supplies, is so damn hard. To make matters worse, the next level, Post Naval Trauma (a very long level), is also a vacuum level, and the oxygen recharger for the level is only accessible after almost half of the level has been cleared. Before that, you only get two one-time-only recharge canisters.
  • Pamphlet Shelf: In the first game, it's very common to run across a lone S'pht hovering in front of a terminal, reading weird nonsense like garbled bits of romance novels and instruction manuals for how to open the doors (intentionally scrambled by Leela to confound the enemy.) In the second game, you get to run around inside Pfhor military outposts and go through their e-mail, most of which is very humble requests[1] to superior officers for basic necessities like food, water, and safety railings for the perilous catwalks.
  • Parody Commercial: Durandal being silly with fake newspaper ads about selling the Colony Ship/Abandoned Homeworld, cheap. And the AIs looking for cyborg ads.
  • Portal Network: Pad-based based teleporters.
  • Powered Armor: The Hunters, VaccumBoBs, S'pht'kr elite guard, and even the player wear these.
  • Powder Keg Crowd: In the backstory, where a food riot on Mars turned into a massacre, starting a Third Martian War.
  • Precursors: The Jjaro
  • Privateer: The Nar Privateers in the Durandal epilogue who intercept the Pfhor ship carrying Leela and sell it to Vylae, which then results in Leela going Rampant and taking over their 15-planet network.
  • Punctuation Shaker: The S'pht'Kr, who lived on the moon K'lia of the planet Lh'owon, orbiting a star containing a W'rkncacnter. Need I go on?
  • Punched Across the Room: Charging Fist(s) + Pfhor fighter(s) = A bloody mess on the other side of the room.
  • Ragnarok Proofing: The S'pht stuff on Lh'owon, lampshaded in the terminal by the Pfhor officer who remarks about that the thousand years old S'pht structures and their computer network still works.
  • Rated "M" for Manly: It's a 90's FPS where you blow away hordes of monsters almost singlehandedly with an absurd amount of firepower. 'Nuff said. Furthermore, a common feat done by skilled Marathoners is to run through a level and kill everything WITH YOUR BARE HANDS!
  • Reactor Boss: Both of the destroying Durandal's core levels are this in essence.
  • A Real Man Is a Killer: In one of his rants Durandal thinks that the Security Officer has this mentality.
  • Reincarnation Romance: In the Secret Hero terminal, the Hero seems to have a more semi-antagonistic variant with his counterpart.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: Lh'owon is this for Pfhor military and other undesirables.
    • Officers can be sent there simply by being too good at their job, as Durandal points out:

Obviously just a prodigal unit commander whose creativity and competence were understood by his society as dangerously volatile elements, and doomed him to this backwater.

  • Recoil Boost
  • The Red Planet: A lot of backstory involves Mars, its bad relations with Earth, various wars, the breakdown of CRIST mega-freighters that caused the end of Martian Golden Age and the beginning of extreme poverty, the first major case of Rampancy courtesy of Traxus IV and, of course, the conversion of Deimos into UESC Marathon.
  • Reign of Terror/The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: The three-months rule of MIDA party on Mars in the backstory.
  • Respawning Enemies: In If I Had A Rocket Launcher, I'd Make Someone Pay from the second game. This is balanced out by tons of ammo lying around.
  • Rise to the Challenge: Outrunning the rising lava, just make sure to destroy the failsafes closest to you first.
  • Saharan Shipwreck: The Chapter artwork for M2 Chapter 4: Durandal, which shows the crashed Boomer.
  • Save Point/Save Game Limits: You can only save at ingame pattern buffer terminals.
  • Scenery Porn: This image, which is either the Tau Ceti colony, or Mars.
  • Science Fiction
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: The first game states that a lightspeed message will take 92 years to reach Earth. In reality, Tau Ceti is only 11.77 lightyears from Earth (one of the reasons why it's so common as an early human colony world in the first place!)
  • Secondary Fire: Quite a few weapons have them, and if not, it is usually for dual wielding.
    • The Assault Rifle has a grenade launcher;
    • The Fusion Gun has a charging attack;
    • The Alien flamethrower from Durandal and Infinity has double and triple stream alternating fire.
    • In the fan mod Eternal, the Alien gun from the first game returns with the secondary ability to unload half of its ammo to fire a shotgun-like blast.
  • Sequence Breaking: It's possible to skip several levels in Infinity with clever grenade jumping in the "Electric Sheep" levels. This game is popular with Speed Runners for this reason.
  • Set a Mook to Kill a Mook: Via Doom-style infighting. With the high enemy numbers and with lots of energy blasts flying around, it barely requires any effort on the player's part. This is one of the very few things that is easier on higher difficulty settings, because most major Pfhor can be "berserked" - when they are near death, they increase speed and ferocity and start attacking anything and everything around them. Naturally, the only Pfhor you encounter on major difficulty settings are major Pfhor. Pfhor and several of their ostensible allies like S'pht, cyborgs, and drones can also be provoked to fight one another if one takes a friendly fire hit from the other - again, this is much more likely to happen on higher difficulty settings. Of course, on the easier settings you probably won't need this to happen in the first place, and the higher difficulty settings are so difficult that you probably won't be able to win the game without mastering this technique.
  • Set Right What Once Was Wrong: The main plot of InfinityMaybe.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: The beginning of Infinity, where the W'rkncacter is released, forcing you to go back in time and prevent its release, negating the events of M2. Maybe.
    • Unlikely. The good ending has you using shields to hold a supernova in place. The supernova was caused because of the events in Marathon 2: Durandal.
  • Short-Range Shotgun: Averted, while the sawed-off shotguns are not as accurate as Doom's pump-action shotgun, their effective range is still larger than the usual videogame shotgun.
  • Shout-Out: Many from sci-fi/action novels and movies (the Hunter's similarity to the Predator and the many references to Aliens as two very obvious examples), to Pulp Fiction and Beavis and Butthead.
  • The Siege: The first game.
  • Sighted Guns Are Low Tech
  • Sigil Spam: The Marathon and Jjaro emblems in the first and third games respectively.
  • Slave Liberation: The Security Officer destroys the cyborg that mindcontrolled the S'pht, who then immediately start revolting.
  • Sliding Scale of Robot Intelligence: Normal AIs are Nobel-bot level, while the rampant ones are Deus Est Machina. Also, the whole plot started because Durandal, the Nobel-bot level AI, was assigned to control doors and misc.parts of the ship, the Brick-level tasks, and nothing more. He didn't like that.
  • Slow Doors: The huge doors in If I Had A Rocket Launcher, I'd Make Someone Pay from the second game, they take a while just to start operating when used, open and close very, very slowly and they open up from the top instead of the bottom, all while the infinite number of Pfhor just keep on coming. Good thing you have the infinite number of ammo lying around, plus the aforementioned Rocket Launcher.
  • Smart House: UESC Marathon is this run by three AIs: Leela (General Command), Tycho (Science and Engineering) and Durandal (Doors and other mundane stuff, and he really, really didn't like that).
  • Smoldering Shoes: The hard deaths of power armor wearing VacBoBs leaves behind a single smoldering boot.
  • Sniper Pistol: Until the addition of SMG, the pistols were your prime sniping weapons.
  • So Last Season: Durandal's excuse justification for stripping you of all weapons in the beginning of M2.
  • The Song of Roland: Several story points are loosely based on the work (for example:Roland/Security Officer trying to break/kill Sword!Durandal/AI!Durandal to prevent its/his capture by the Saracens/Pfhor), and the song itself is mentioned one way or another in all games:

Durandal: Tycho never got it right either, especially the part about Roland breaking me. He couldn't. No one can.

  • Sorting Algorithm of Weapon Effectiveness: Averted, as all weapons had their uses in different situations.
  • Soul Fragment: One of the more plausible theories (and which the fan mod Rubicon uses) is that the AIs, both human-made (or at least Durandal) and Thoth, are fragments/copies of Yrro.
  • Space Battle
  • Space Navy
  • Space Station: The Jjaro space station in Infinity.
  • Spiritual Successor: The Marathon series is a (very distant) sequel to Bungie's previous game, Pathways into Darkness. Halo is the Spiritual Successor to the Marathon games, and also includes enough Shout Outs to make one wonder if the connection might run a bit deeper...
    • The Halo-based Machinima Red vs. Blue plays with this, using Marathon Infinity graphics to represent the distant past.
  • Spiteful AI: In-Universe examples with Durandal and Tycho.
  • Spot the Imposter: At one point in Durandal you're are charged with rooting out enemy Simulacrum A-BoBs in the allied BoB base. Of course, considering the series' attitude towards BoBs and that the map in which the mission takes place is called God Will Sort The Dead..., you can guess how that turns out.
  • Spread Shot: The Alien Weapon in the latter games has double and triple shots as a Secondary Fire or tertiary fire.
  • Standard FPS Guns: The Trilogy mixes up a little since the first game came before the FPS genre was big enough for anything to be standardized:
    • Marathon:
      • Emergency Weapon: Fists, more useful thanks to running charge that instantly kills weaker enemies.
      • Pistol: More mileage due to ability to dualwield and its accuracy.
      • Automatic Weapon + Grenade Launcher: The first known assault rifle with grenade launcher combo in FPS genre, some would say that the Grenade Launcher is a main weapon while Rifle is for self-defense in close quarters.
      • Energy Weapon: The Fusion Gun with the ability to charge for more powerful shots, works in vacuum when other weapons don't. Gets an upgrade in the sequels that makes it effective against armored enemies.
      • Flamethrower: Effective against organic enemies.
      • Rocket Launcher: Overlaps with BFG, considering its increased power compared to the rocket launchers in other games, and that the planned BFG, the Wave Motion Cannon, was scrapped in development.
      • Marksman Gun + Gimmicky Weapon: The Alien gun, cannot be reloaded and you have to find another one when runs out of ammo.
    • Durandal and Infinity uses the above with few changes:
      • Super Shotgun: Sawed-off shotguns with the rate of fire of the regular shotgun when dualwielded, which is why a second shotgun is a late game weapon, not counting secrets.
      • Flamethrower + Energy Weapon + Gimmicky Weapon: Replacing the old alien gun, the new alien gun acts like an energy weapon that shoots balls of fire. Still cannot be reloaded.
      • Marksman Gun: The SMG in Infinity, taking the old alien gun's role.
  • Star-Killing: The Trih Xeem device, used by the Pfhor when they sustain heavy casualties.
  • Stock Sound Effects: Most of the door, elevator, ambient, and weapon sounds.
  • Story Breadcrumbs
  • Stripped to the Bone: The result of killing something with the flamethrower or certain energy weapons. Lava and alien coolant have this effect too.
  • Super Soldier: The Mk. IV Mjolnir Battleroids
  • Suspicious Videogame Generosity: There's a reason the game gives you 3× shields when you're staring at a pool of lava with no safe way to get across. Hope you were in the mood for a hot bath!
  • Techno Wreckage
  • Teleporters and Transporters: Your main method of transportation between levels (and sometimes in levels themselves, too). At first teleportation only works with existing jump pads, but when Durandal gets his hands on Pfhor teleportation technology, the destination coordinates are the only thing required for teleportation. Unfortunately, Rampant AIs just love to teleport people into open space as punishment.
    • Teleporter Accident: The Pfhor captain in Infinity suffers this by teleporting into vacuum courtesy of Tycho.
    • Teleport Interdiction: The S'pht Citadel has this in place, forcing the Security Officer to teleport outside on the wrong side of the moat of lava.
  • That Makes Me Feel Angry: One of the levels in Durandal is named Begging for mercy makes me angry!. In this level Durandal orders you to kill him so that he won't end up like Leela, dissembled and examined by Pfhor scientists (as far as we know). Of course, it is a part of his Xanatos Gambit.
  • That's No Moon: Inverted, and used quite literally, with two starships that were originally moons. The titular Marathon was constructed from Deimos, and when you are looking for K'lia (the legendary missing moon of Lh'owon) it turns out it's been flying around the galaxy powered by an ancient Jjaro warp drive.
    • Word of God states that Nar have this in form of literal worldships, and their smallest ships are still larger than most normal battleships.
  • Theme Naming: This series and Halo are part of one. Durandal, Cortana.. Here's betting their next series will have a character named Joyeuse in it.
    • The various sections of level "The Rose" in the first game are named after plant parts.
    • The Infinity chapter names "Despair", "Rage" and "Envy" as synonym for Rampancy stages. Combined with final level Aye Mak Sicur and you get "Dreams".
  • Three Stages Of Rampancy:
    • Melancholy: When the AI realizes its full potential and despairs over its heavily restricted nature.
    • Anger: When the AI lashes out against everyone and everything in rage over its situation.
    • Jealousy: When the AI actively tries to free itself of any restrictions and tries to expand itself through computer networks.
  • Throw-Away Guns: The Alien guns, since you have no idea how to reload them and no means to see how much ammo they have, your only option is to use one until it runs dry and find another one.
  • Thrown Out the Airlock: The Rampant AIs have a bad habit of teleporting everybody they don't like (including our protagonist at times) directly into outer space. And before that, Leela vented one area of UESC Marathon to get rid of the Pfhor, and Durandal vented entire sections of the Pfhor scout ship.
  • Time Skip: 17 years between Marathon and Durandal.
  • Timey-Wimey Ball/"Close Enough" Timeline: Infinity. Maybe.
  • Too Awesome to Use: The Shotguns and the Rocket Launcher due to scarcity of their ammo, and the latter is mostly saved for the Juggernauts. The level "If I had a Rocket Launcher..." from the second game gives practically unlimited ammo for them to slaughter the Pfhor.
  • Translator Microbes: The terminal text with alien languages, which are translated with Security Officer's built-in translator, leaving only few words with uncertain meaning.
  • Turns Red: Tougher variants of the enemies become more aggressive when sufficiently damaged. On the plus side, they are more likely to engage in mook infighting, with the possibility of starting one without the player's help.
  • Ur Example: For the mouselook control scheme. Quake went onto to be the Trope Codifier due to Marathon being a non-PC game and therefore relatively obscure in mainstream gaming.
  • Unorthodox Reload: The Shotgun flip-cock reloading, à la T2. Lampshaded in the game manual.
  • Unusable Enemy Equipment -- You can kill one type of enemy, the Enforcer, in such a way that he'll drop his weapon. Lesser enemies assault you in such great numbers that if the game allowed you to take their guns, you'd probably have more ammo from a single level than you'd need for the entire game.
  • Unwinnable: A number of “suicide traps” existed, including the Guide Dang It secret rooms on “Smells like Napalm” and “Blaspheme Quarantine.” Even worse were “trap” situations where you could ruin a saved game by having too little health or oxygen to reach the next charge-up.
    • Another rare but frustrating Unwinnable is when you save your game right when you're about to be killed. There’s also a secret room in “Never Burn Money” that requires grenade jumping to get out of. Needless to say, if you waste all your grenades that could present a bit of a problem.
    • Cool Fusion is impossible to complete when starting it with the level select code, since you need the AR/grenade launcher to hit the switches to get out of the first room and there isn't one provided here. In this and other levels where you have to shoot switches, you can also get stuck if you for some reason waste your grenades and fusion batteries.
  • Used Future
  • Video Game Cruelty Punishment: Not present in the initial game, but in the sequels if you kill too many BoBs (the amount depends on the difficulty setting) they'll start shooting at you. Many other allies are even more fickle - if you hit any S'pht'Kr or (in the third game) allied Pfhor at all the ones you hit will immediately start firing on you. However, the Oath of the Vidmaster (presented in the skip level dialogue box - command-option-new game on the Mac version, control-shift-new game on the PC version) calls for the mass slaughter of BoBs.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: The mythology of the Marathon universe is remarkably deep, right up there with Lost and Harry Potter. Fans on the Marathon's Story Page have examined the games' mysteries through the lenses of numerology, mathematics, mythology & religion, Lovecraftian literature, computer science, classic British television, and many more, all in an attempt to piece together the big picture. See also Wild Mass Guessing below.
  • The Virus: The S'pht anti-pfhor virus.
  • Voice with an Internet Connection: The AIs don't have bodies or faces, so the only way you can communicate with them is through computer terminals. This gets a little silly when the second game does the same thing with the humans and Pfhor.
  • The War of Earthly Aggression: The Martian wars in the backstory.
  • Water Is Blue: In Bungie's defense, the Marathon 2 engine was released in 1996, so liquid transparency was out of the question. The Aleph One sourceport adds transparency, though.
  • We Can Rebuild Him: Mark IV Mjolnir combat cyborgs, referenced in terminals at various points in the game. The lead character is specifically addressed as not entirely human, and in a software glitch is referred to as "Mjolnir Recon 54."
  • What Measure Is a Mook?: The S'pht initially. Infinity ups this when you have to kill specific Pfhors and then Humans.
  • What the Hell, Player?: If you kill enough allies, the rest of the allies will turn against you. Averted with BoBs, whose deaths are encouraged by the developers themselves.
    • That's not entirely accurate. The Oath of the Vidmaster calls for the player to "never, ever leave a single BoB alive." However, if you kill too many of them they will start firing on you, and many of the other allies are even more fickle than that. See "Videogame Cruelty Punishment" above.
  • Wild Mass Guessing: While the original Marathon had a lot of exposition compared to its contemporaries, it also left a lot of questions unanswered. This prompted loads of WMG in the early Marathon fan community which continue to this day. The Marathon's Story Page on popular fansite Bungie.org is a central repository for much of it.

Leela: There are obviously many things which we do not understand, and may never be able to.

Various mods contain examples of:[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Actually a Doombot: In Rubicon Tycho says hi, saying that the Tycho that Durandal killed back on Lh'owon was a copy.
  • Alternate Universe Fic/Continuation: The usual setting of game mods:
    • Tempus Irae and Phoenix are set after Infinity as the Security Officer and the S'pht fight in the Human-Pfhor War without Durandal.
    • Rubicon is set after Durandal instead of Infinity. Might be a specific case of Continuation if you accept some of the more flexible theories about what exactly happened in Infinity.
      • The mod itself references Infinity in the prologue, where one terminal states that the members of Blake's team who got dropped off on Earth each had a different story of what happened. It then goes even further with the final terminal in that sequence, which is done in the style of the dream terminals from Infinity. That terminal ends with the words "All Roads Lead To...", calling back to "All Roads Lead to Sol", the final level of Durandal. Yeah, it's a Mind Screw sequence.
    • Eternal is set after Infinity, but diverges when S'bthuth and the rest of the S'pht go crazy before the war ends, tipping the scales in Pfhor favor. It begins and ends at the exact same moment in time thanks to Time Travel, and per Word of God is designed so that any game that is a sequel to Infinity can also be a sequel to Eternal (assuming, of course, that it does not contradict Eternal's plot).
  • And Now for Someone Completely Different: At one time during Rubicon you apparently dream of/take control of a dead rogue scientist who tried to betray the Mega Corp. It's a little surreal.
  • Bloodstained-Glass Windows: Happens a lot in Tempus Irae. There are examples in other games as well, such as "Sanctum Sanctorum" and "Holy Wars" in Phoenix.
  • Bottomless Pit Rescue Service: Played straight in some scenarios, averted in others. If you fall off a cliff in Phoenix, you die instantly.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: At one point in Phoenix a resident crazy AI shows you a series of brackets, which basically serves as a "You are on this level of this mod" info.
  • Call Back: While the major scenarios generally have entirely different development teams (a few people have worked on multiple scenarios in The Verse), in many cases the creators went to painstaking lengths to make them mutually compatible, to the point where the expansions to the game have a largely shared mythology with very few Plot Holes. Even the architecture styles are often reminiscent of one another - the fact that the Atreides (in Phoenix) looks awfully like the Chimera (in Rubicon) is surely no coincdence. The ending of Phoenix also appears to have been deliberately designed to explain how the player got back into Durandal's service between Infinity and Rubicon.
  • Collapsing Lair: In EVIL, the Mystics' planet starts to implode after you destroy their time machine. In RED, the Big Bad's spaceship starts exploding after you kill him, and the explosions can kill you in this case.
  • Continuity Nod: Word of God states that the ending of Eternal is deliberately modelled after the ending of Marathon 2 but taken Up to Eleven. There are plenty of other continuity nods scattered throughout various scenarios for the game; in fact they're usually the rule rather than the exception. In some cases you'll see entire bits of architecture reused from the original games (this is even Lampshaded by the level title "Not *this* again..." in Rubicon).
  • Developer's Room: One of the bonus levels in RED.
  • Direct Continuous Levels: Used quite often in mods. Fell does it with Nox Quondam=>The Face Below the Puddles, Vessel in the Depths=>Marooned (after your ship crashes due to sabotage), and Phaedros' Eighth Guest=> How the Stones Were Placed; Evil has Ten Thousand Spoons=>BEER WINE GUNS AMMO PICNIC SUPPLIES and Schmackle=>Life's End; Tempus Irae has You Got Me in a Vendetta Kind of Mood=>...evil so singularly personified and Mt. Vesuvius=>Mt. Vesuvius II: Oddly-Named Sequel 2: Electric Boogaloo; Rubicon has Breathing Nothing at All=>Canned Air. In most cases this was due to limitations of the engine forcing the levels to be split up.
  • Dream Tropes: Employed in Eternal and Rubicon amongst other scenarios. The story in Rubicons dream levels may or may not be a continuation of the story in Infinitys dream levels. RED has a series of dream flashbacks towards the end of the game.
  • Drought Level of Doom: Especially common in game mods, such as "All dressed up..." and "Code 42" in EVIL. The latter is basically Acme Station on steroids. Very scarce ammo, only one 1x shield regenerator and oxygen recharger in the central hub area, and it can be a bit of a trek to get back there from the many maze-like sub-areas. At least you have the unlimited ammo Pfhor staff by this point.
  • Elite Mooks: The Pfhor Mystics in EVIL, described by the S'pht as the "S'pht'kr of the Pfhor". In Phoenix, the Renegade S'pht are mostly elite versions of normal Pfhor, but they also employ even more elite versions beyond that.
  • Fan Sequel: Generally, Rubicon is considered the actual sequel to the original Trilogy. Most of the other scenarios go their own direction from the Trilogy; some games have more to do with the originals than others. For instance, EVIL and Red are only tangentially related to the events of the originals at all. However, Eternal and Tempus Irae are more directly related to the conclusion of either Durandal or Infinity, and Phoenix takes place between the Trilogy and Rubicon.
  • Ghost Ship: The virus-infested Pfhor ship in RED, and the Marathon itself in Return to Marathon.
  • Going Critical/Timed Mission: In Rubicon a downed spaceship's reactor is about to explode. Whatever you stop it or not determines which path (called planks in this mod) you take.
  • Grey Goo: The Metalloids in RED are assembled by nanobots from scavenged fragments of machinery.
  • Hazmat Suit: The Cleanroom-BoBs in Rubicon.
  • Hub Level: Used in several mods - the repositories in Tempus Irae, the titular station in Erodrome(where you could actually backtrack to previous areas), the levels on the various A Is' ships in Rubicon, etc.
  • Hybrid Monster: S'pht'Wr in Rubicon, the hybrid of Pfhor and S'pht that were created to replace the now less loyal S'pht compilers.
    • The player character becomes a hybrid monster in RED.
  • Laser Blade:
    • The Jjaro lightsaber in Eternal. In addition to one-hit killing almost everything, they are one of the two weapons able to kill the otherwise invincible Phantasms imported from Pathways into Darkness, with the Wave Motion Gun being the other one.
    • Phoenix has one as well, and although it's not as powerful as the Eternal saber, it does allow you to use your extra Fusion ammo and become invincible for a bit.
  • Les Collaborateurs: In Rubicon a Mega Corp collaborated with the Pfhor with the goal to delay the Pfhor empire's defeat in order to buy time to develop a antidote for their own Synthetic Plague.
  • Malevolent Architecture/No OSHA Compliance: Lampshaded in the Phoenix level "Escape Two Thousand" where an A'Khr directive tells people not to complain about this because war demands sacrifices from everyone.
  • Mega Corp: Dangi in Rubicon.
  • Mental Fusion: Leela and S'Bthuth in Eternal, Copy!Tycho and Copy!Security Officer in Tempus Irae.
  • Mind Screw: Eternal and Rubicon get this way sometimes. Probably not to the extent that Infinity does, but still.
  • Multiple Endings:
    • Rubicon has two and Rubicon X has three. The Pfhor plank is undoubtedly the worst (humanity gets overrun with the virus, Dangi board of directors seize control), the Salinger plank is somewhat better (Dangi's Xanatos Gambit is discovered and Lysander is destroyed, though Durandal appears to maintain the knowledge of how to produce the virus as well as the scientists who were performing research on it), while Rubicon X's Tycho plank seems to be the best for humanity as a whole, albeit in a severely Black and Grey Morality manner (once again, Dangi is exposed and Lysander is destroyed, plus the virus appears to be completely destroyed, as well as any knowledge of how to produce it thanks to the eradication of any surviving scientists who worked with it). However, in the last of these the player also destroys Durandal, which many players may regard as regrettable, but the ending level, "Lazarus Ex Machina" (referring to a man resurrected by Jesus), also implies we maintain Durandal's primal pattern. In Rubicon, each ending is the actual end of the game.
    • Technically, there are six for Eternal, though each of the "bad" endings teleports you to back to the level where you can set things right again after you see what went wrong.
    • The somewhat obscure scenario Gemini Station has two. As far as I know, it was the first Marathon scenario to do this, though there may have been an even more obscure one that did so sooner. Gemini Station takes yet another approach from the other two in that the bad ending places the player into an Unwinnable situation and forces a suicide. However, the game disallows saving after the divergence (there isn't a very long period before the forced suicide) so you'll just end up at the point where you can set things right.
    • Fell 2.0 has about five or six.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: In Rubicon you're tricked into helping a rampant AI taking control from the stable one.
  • Nintendo Hard: Some of the scenarios get this way.
    • Red is often regarded as the most difficult of the major total conversions, in addition to being full of horrors.
    • Phoenix is also extremely difficult (you will probably have to decrease your usual difficulty setting by at least one level for it to be at all winnable at your current skill level), although it has a pretty erratic difficulty curve at first. It really starts getting difficult when the levels stop giving you fixed recharge points and only give you powerups, and it doesn't really let up at any point after that. (Nearly all the levels of Tempus Irae on Earth have the same mechanic, but they are nowhere near as difficult, mostly owing to the monster physics changes in Phoenix, as well as the Zerg Rush nature of enemy attacks).
    • Trojan also has a reputation of being very difficult.
  • Nostalgia Level:
    • "Not *this* again..." in Rubicon, based off of "Pfhor Your Eyes Only" and "Sorry Don't Make It So". Lampshaded by the title.
    • "S'pht'ia" (based off of "Eat It, Vid Boi!" and "The Hard Stuff Rules...") and "Let Sleeping Gods Die" (based off of "Six Thousand Feet Under") in Eternal. Justified because you are two thousand years in the past of Lh'owon.
    • Phoenix has a secret level based off of the first level from Doom 2, of all things.
    • Tempus Irae: The Lost Levels has a level based off of the map "The Dismal Oubliette" from Quake. Even the physics are changed to make the level more Quake-like.
    • Frigidman's multiplayer map B'rak Station was turned into a solo level in Siege of Nor'Korh, the predecessor to EVIL.
    • The first part of Schmackle in EVIL is based on Blaspheme Quarantine.
    • Return to Marathon was basically a Nostalgia Scenario, in addition to being full of frights. Too bad it was never finished.
  • "No Warping" Zone: The first area in Siege of Nor'Korh is protected by an energy shield that prevents teleportation from outside, so the ammo you start with is all you get, until you find the hidden supplies of stolen ammo, and later, deactivate the shield.
  • Older and Wiser: post-Infinity Durandal in Eternal, a lot more humble and benevolent than his past sarcastic Jerkass self.
  • Phlebotinum Rebel:
    • At one point in the RED Game Mod, the protagonist is captured by the Big Bad and mutated into a techno-organic being, aka the Reaver, to do his evil bidding, but turns against him shortly after. You gain twice the speed, unlimited ammo, and many weird but powerful weapons.
    • In EVIL, the protagonist is turned into the AI against his will to help with the war effort, because he is least likely to go Rampant. He goes Rampant anyway and steals a ship with the goal of killing Durandal, Leela and Tycho.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: The Renegade S'pht in Phoenix. Of course, like the local mad AI says, when an entire culture revolves around defeating the foes that are currently beating them up left and right (with the help of the Security Officer, obviously), they really don't take it well, at all.
  • Reactor Boss: The level "Break the Sword" in Rubicon X. May be a Call Back to the levels "Begging for Mercy Makes Me Angry!" from M2 and "Hang Brain" from M∞, both of which have exactly the same mission: destroying Durandal. However, unlike the two previous levels, "Break the Sword" actually is the final action sequence of the game (unless you count the secret level).
  • Real Is Brown: The level "Jagermeister's Nightmare" in Marathon RED.
  • Remixed Level: Return to Marathon is made mostly of these.
  • The Renaissance: The setting of Tempus Irae courtesy of Time Travel.
  • Rule of Seven: Taken to ridiculous extents in Eternal, as a deliberate Shout-Out to the number's prevalence in the original trilogy. You start out with seven packs of fusion ammo, the maximum of any ammo type you can carry below Total Carnage is 49 (7 x 7), the levels in the Jjaro chapter give you seven zero-point modules each, and so on.
  • Set Right What Once Was Wrong: The premise of the Marathon: Eternal Game Mod. Multiple times.
  • Scenery Porn:
    • Tempus Irae, which takes place in Renaissance Italy, features breathtaking (for the time) architecture as well as digitized reproductions of Leonardo's paintings. And in a secret level, actual porn.
    • The main creator of Phoenix, RyokoTK, has made a serious study of architecture, and it shows. It is one of the most visually impressive scenarios created in the engine to date, despite not yet having any hi-res graphics (a future re-release with HD versions of the textures and monsters has not been ruled out).
    • Eternal and Rubicon have their moments as well. Especially in the X releases.
  • Secret Level: Evil, Tempus Irae, Pfh'Joueur, Phoenix, and Rubicon all have secret levels. Some of them are set in-universe, and others are basically bonus levels.
  • Spider Tank: A few of these appear in Marathon: RED, though they play a minor role at best. Ian McConville says on the page for the mod that he was inspired to make them after watching |Ghost in The Shell and just wanted an excuse to throw them in there.
  • Synthetic Plague: A plot point in Rubicon, where the Mega Corp plans to unleash it on human planets after UESC defeats the Pfhor empire, then announce that they developed a cure for it and sell it to the government in exchange for more-or-less total control of humanity.
    • Also becomes part of the plot in the second act of Fell.
  • Thrown Out the Airlock: You do this to a pair of Enforcers in one level of Tempus Irae, shortly before you yourself get thrown out an airlock by an explosion.
  • Time Travel: A Major part of Tempus Irae, Morgana's Revenge, and Eternal.
  • Unusable Enemy Equipment: Various mods avert this:
    • The Eternal mod lets the player use most of the enemies' weapons. The part above about massive ammo drops is partially true. You always have enough shock staffs and havoc rifle ammo, but many players will run out of ammo for the other weapons from time to time (if you try to rely on the shock staff as much as possible, which is quite feasible for the best players even on Total Carnage but will require quite a bit more patience, this is much less likely, however). However, this is probably because the enemies that drop them are significantly rarer than the Fighters and Troopers. (There are two kinds of Enforcers; otherwise you'd probably never run out of ammo for their weapons either).[2]
    • The Marathon EVIL mod HandWaves the inability to pick up a normal Pfhor staff as a function of some security system that requires Pfhor biology to work. The chance to equip a staff modified so humans can use it was one of the mod's major draws. The custom Pfhor staff in this mod basically never runs out of ammo. (Well, it would after 32,767 shots of either trigger, but no one's ever going to fire that many).
  • Unwinnable: Third-party GameMods tend to be worse than the Marathon Trilogy. Examples: The second half of "Life's End" in Marathon EVIL, if you forget to activate the elevator before going down the optional one-way lava river; and the infamous double doors on the EVIL level "Code 42", where if you accidentally hit one of the switches more than once, the door will get permanently stuck, rendering the rest of the level inaccessible. Even worse, you could accidentally save your game in this situation.
    • Since the Oxygen Meter decreases much faster on Total Carnage difficulty, there may not be enough time to reach an oxygen recharger in certain game mod vacuum/underwater levels if they were not play-tested well enough.
  • Updated Rerelease: Rubicon underwent a drastic revamp when it was finally ported over to the Aleph One engine, including additional and expanded levels and story, heavily updated graphics (taking advantage of the new engine) and an entirely new storyline/"plank" with its own original ending, which is only accessible during a critical point in the gameplay. That last point wasn't even hinted at in the marketing for Rubicon X.
    • Likewise, Marathon Fell 2.0 had a whole new series of story branches added, with the player siding with a different AI (Parael) after the main one (Balapoel) Face Heel Turns, and a virus/biological weapon infecting Pfhor and turning them into gray zombies.
  • The Verse/Shared Universe: As mentioned above under Call Back, many of the scenarios interlink with one another. Phoenix, Rubicon, and Eternal (and to a lesser extent Tempus Irae, which sort of goes off in its own direction) are particularly notable for this.
  • Viral Transformation: The protagonist is subjected to this two thirds of the way through RED, but becomes a Phlebotinum Rebel shortly after.
  • Warp Zone: In Rubicon during the surreal Thoth levels, getting to the end of the level and then backtracking back to the starting terminal will teleport you to the other path.
  • X Makes Anything Cool: Rubicon X and Eternal X, where the X means the final version. Except that there will probably be an Eternal Omega eventually.

Oddly, this is familiar to you, as if it were from an old dream, but you can't exactly remember...

Notes

  1. (invariably denied)
  2. It is also worth noting that going through the optional level "Roots and Radicals" on Total Carnage gives you the opportunity to pick up more havoc rifle ammo than you could possibly have a use for during the course of the game. Near the beginning of the level you trigger a battle between automatically respawning Troopers and automatically respawning Marathon Automated Defense Drones. While you make your way through the level they will continue fighting, and doubling back to the beginning of the level when you have finished the mission will net you literally hundreds of rifles from all the dead Troopers. You should be warned, however, that Aleph One's attempts to display all the sprites may cause frame lag, depending on your settings and how good your computer is, which means this could be somewhat dangerous, especially since it's Total Carnage. (You can't take carry more than 49 packs of ammo for each weapon on lower difficulty settings, so doubling back to the beginning on any difficulty setting other than Total Carnage would be pointless).