Robot War

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Throughout human history, we have been dependent on machines to survive. Fate, it seems, is not without a sense of irony.
Morpheus, The Matrix

The most frightening thing about a Bug War or any other kind of humans-vs-aliens battle is the threat that humanity may be wiped completely from the map; that billions of years of evolution and thousands of years of civilization may be rendered meaningless by unstoppable Death From Above.

The beauty of the Robot War is that it is laced with an extra layer of irony: the very machines that want to Kill All Humans were created by that very species, and they've Turned Against Their Masters. Humanity has effectively wiped itself off the map by creating something more powerful and intelligent than itself. Thus this is a very common theme in futuristic "And Man Grew Proud" stories.

Of course, not all Robot War stories have to use human-created machines; there are plenty more that feature robots from another world. But these stories still remain effective because of the schism between biological life and robotic life - probably the only creatures that can ever be truly alien before Starfish Robots even come into play.

If it's an individual robot on a rampage, expect it to Crush! Kill! Destroy!. Often caused by AI being a crapshoot and/or Mechanical Evolution. With respect to the organbags or rustbuckets there may be some Fantastic Racism on show. Expect to see Mecha-Mooks and Mechanical Monsters in legions. Expect Guilt-Free Extermination War to show up.

Not to be confused with the British remote-controlled-robots competition Robot Wars. Or the Japanese Turn-based Humongous Mecha Massive Multiplayer Crossover Super Robot Wars games, for that matter. Or fictional wars with robots fighting each other.

Examples of Robot War include:


Anime[edit | hide | hide all]

Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • In Star Wars's Expanded Universe comics, C-3PO got rebooted wrong in one issue into basically the robot version of Malcolm X and attempted to organize a robot uprising. Considering how droids are treated like crap without any questions in the Star Wars universe, its probably for the worse that he got rebooted back to normal before it took off.
    • IG-88 had one almost ready to go when it was killed. In fact it had transferred its consciousness to the second Death Star and was going to open fire on the Imperials as soon as it finished with the rebels, then broadcast the go code.
      • Whats scary is that IG-88, being a machine, would be able to get away with it since Palpatine would never have sensed his intent.
        • A bit of Fridge Logic - all systems of the Death Star were operated by people, and a lot of them, it would seem. There's also no data on the DSII's computer network, so we don't even know if IG-88 could both fire AND aim the Death Star, and even if, it would most likely be stopped by the tech staff (even if it'd take deactivating the computer system). So aside from broadcasting the signal, it's fully possible that IG-88 wouldn't accomplish more.
      • Actually, IG-88 had begun to infiltrate the Death Star's crew with Stormtrooper droids that were loyal to it, so being unable to take direct control of all systems wouldn't have been enough to stop it.
  • The Volgans in ABC Warriors are a group of war robots who decided to turn against humanity, believing that fighting for their freedom is the only war worth fighting. Neither they nor the humans are portrayed as heroic.
  • In Atavar, the Kalen are at war with the Uos, a race of killer robots originally created by the now-extinct humans.
  • In DC's Green Lantern series, The Manhunters were a robot peace keeping force created by the Guardians of the Universe to patrol and keep peace. The Manhunters later decide the safest way to ensure peace is to eradicate all life, and proceed to depopulate an entire sector of space before they are stopped. It turns out that Krona programed them to do this intentionally

Film[edit | hide]

  • This is the background of 9. The film itself is more about robots vs. robots, since the last human is dead before the movie opens, but we find out in newsreel footage that humanity was destroyed by The Fabrication Machine.
  • The Matrix takes place After the End brought during a war with the machines. Most of humanity is unaware of this because of the titular system set up by the machines to use the humans as power.
  • In the Terminator movies and spin-offs, mankind is shown to be in a war with robotic killers under the control of the SkyNet artificial intelligence.
  • WALL-E brings us what is without a doubt the cutest and most harmless use of this trope to date.
    • Oddly enough, there's robots versus robots, rather than just robots versus humans. The benevolent robots that have met and befriended WALL-E, and those still following orders from AUTO, who is enacting a Zeroth Law Rebellion.
  • Despite having its name based on Transformers, the Transmorphers series by The Asylum draws more from Terminator, being based around this trope.

Literature[edit | hide]

  • The conflict between humans and Charonians in Roger MacBride Allen's Hunted Earth series is a variant of this; the Charonians are a mixture of biological and mechanical creatures, and operate on a planetary scale - disassembling lifeless planets as building material for Dyson Spheres, and moving lifebearing planets to Sphere systems. The Charonians are barely aware of humanity when they begin disassembling the Solar System.
  • Isaac Asimov disliked these stories, and created the Three Laws of Robotics as a counterargument, on the premise that robots' behavior can be effectively constrained with three simple rules. Still even without the crutch of Crush! Kill! Destroy! (which he described as "'clank, clank, aaargh!' There are some things man was not meant to know"), he produced some fifty stories in which they managed to cause all sorts of problems through conflicts between the laws, and their interactions with the world.
    • Once the engineers in Asimov's universe had worked the glitches out, their robots obeyed the Three Laws very well. So well that the civilizations which relied on robot labour became almost pathologically averse to danger or even innovation—their notion of "space exploration" eventually shrivelled down to, "Let's send robots to new planets to Terraform them and build cities for us, so we can move into a new place just like our old one."
    • The Film of the Book plays with the Three Laws[1] - the reason that VIKI, the AI controlling the robots, turns against humanity is not in spite of the Three Laws, but because of them. She concludes that humanity will destroy itself in a nuclear war or in some other way unless it is constrained, and thus feels that imposing a curfew on the human race is the only way to protect it.
    • This is basically the Zeroth Law , which Asimov did actually come up with himself. Just, the robot in Asimov's universe who came up with the idea, a couple thousand years after the one in the movie, wasn't a villain. Much the opposite, in fact.
    • Once the Zeroth Law really kicked in, the Robots hid themselves and took over their own production to prevent humans from changing them. And knowing humans might object, erased knowledge of robots from humanity and went on do terraform the rest of the galaxy. Including tens of thousands of worlds inhabited by other races. After all, the Robots are only to serve humans...
  • The Alternate Universe seen at the beginning of Kenneth Bulmer's The Diamond Contessa is a world in which humanity was wiped out in a Robot War. The robots, being solar-powered and nearly indestructible, are still an active threat.
  • Even older than Capek, the Victorian writer Samuel Butler addressed in some of his writings the idea of machines experiencing Darwinian evolution and rebelling against humans. The "Butlerian Jihad" of Dune was intended as a Shout-Out to him.
  • In Jack Chalker's The Rings of the Master tetralogy, the artificial intelligence Master System was originally created to predict likely futures - and, unbeknownst to the military paying the bills, to help the scientists creating it find a way to save humanity from itself. Thanks to World War III, the scientists were forced to set events in motion that led to the machine taking over the world. While Master System is not "Three Laws"-Compliant, it does have prioritized "core imperatives", the first two being 1) save humanity, and 2) prevent humanity from ever again being in a position to destroy itself. To execute these imperatives, Master System had to take over, and stay in power, as it could predict that it would be rendered ineffective if it allowed itself to be set aside. The story opens 900 years later, as a historian acquires documentation on the full set of core imperatives as part of a Gambit Roulette to overthrow the system.
  • In the short story Second Variety, written by Philip K. Dick, mankind is in an eternal war with highly intelligent machines. It served as the inspiration for a film called Screamers. The original story ends with a touch of irony: the robots are about to win, but as the hero notes with grim amusement, the Second Variety has developed a weapon that only hurts the other varieties - the robots are preparing to make war against each other.
  • Again from Philip K. Dick comes the short story "The Defenders," in which the Eastern and Western Blocs had built robots called "leadies" to carry out World War III as proxies while humanity waited out the nuclear holocaust in underground shelters. As soon as humanity went underground, the leadies stopped fighting and began repairing the damage already done, eventually presenting both sides with peace as a fait accompli and predicting that the accomplishments of a united humanity would be "unimaginably great."
  • In "War With The Robots", a short story by Harry Harrison, the human occupants of a command headquarters are forced out of their underground base by robot attack, leaving it to be manned by their own robots. On reaching the surface they find the enemy command staff living as farmers on the war-torn battlefield above—it turns out the robots on both sides find they can conduct the war more efficiently once humans are out of the way. The protagonist is deeply miffed.
  • In the Dune prequels, humankind is basically overthrown by twenty humans leading the ubiquitous thinking machines into revolt. Eventually, one human, Xerxes, turns too much power over to his pervasive neural net, and the computer takes control. It names itself Omnius, and overtakes human society. He also gave Omnius the capacity to feel ambition, without which the actions of a few crazy cyborgs would have been just another footnote in the multi-millenia long history of the Duniverse.
  • In Andre Norton's Victory on Janus, THAT WHICH ABIDES begins using Deceptively-Human Robots that are replicates of specific Iftin and human individuals during the winter hibernation of the Iftin, in a Xanatos Gambit (see the page for details) to drive a wedge between the two groups by making it look as though Iftin are preying on humans. In The Reveal, THAT WHICH ABIDES is discovered to be the computer system of an ancient crashed colony ship; it has been attempting to Terraform the planet all along on behalf of its colonists, and dealing with the Iftin as a perceived threat accordingly. The original planetbound Iftin culture never had the technical background to understand this, let alone deal with it effectively, and was wiped out in consequence.
  • One early example, and maybe the definitive early idea of this particular techno-nightmare, of this trope is Fred Saberhagen's 1947 short story "Without a Thought," which introduced the Berserkers: robotic war machines, originally created in the distant past by aliens who wanted a fearless robotic ultimate weapon that could think for itself and improve itself—and got it, in spades. Billions of years later, the Berserkers, who due either to a programming error in the first examples or a software bug introduced shortly thereafter, are programmed to be at eternal war with all life in the universe, have exterminated their creators and all other intelligent species in their portion of the galaxy, improving themselves continuously over time, and have just discovered the human race. The Terminator, the Cylons, the Doomsday Machine, the Necrons and many others are, if not Berserkers in new costumes, nonetheless owe much to Fred Saberhagen, and perhaps also to German mathematician Jon von Neumann, who first theorized about the possibility of robots sophisticated enough to manufacture more of themselves.
  • A Robert Sheckley story had an unusual take on Robot War: it was Armageddon, the Last Battle between man and the forces of Satan. Ignoring much protest from religious leaders who said man must fight this battle himself, the military leaders decided their robot armies would be much more likely to succeed. They were right, and good prevailed. But then the robots were ascended to Heaven, and the humans supposed to be there were left on Earth.
  • Honor Harrington series: This trope is referenced in War Of Honor when Andrew La Follet is considering Honor's training remote and notes that no training remote has ever gone berserk and risen up against it's master. However he also is aware that if you misjudge your own skill level when setting the robot's skill level it can and will injure or kill you.
  • The Algebraist by Iain M Banks provides a twist on the Robot War franchise: the war is over and we won. AIs exist, but they are initially presented as a few terrified outcasts in hiding from the forces hunting them to extinction.
  • Fred Saberhagen's Empire of the East trilogy reverses the trope, with heroic AI Ardneh fighting against the evil human wizards who want to rule the world. In the end Ardneh sacrifices itself to destroy supreme wizard John Ominor and his demon ally Orcus.
  • At least two are mentioned in the Star Wars Expanded Universe; the Droid Revolution (led by a droid called HK-01, apparently) and the war between two super-droid species that forced the Yuuzhan Vong to abandon their galaxy.
  • Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson, a story based on the concepts in his earlier book How To Survive A Robot Uprising.
  • Argo by Rick Griffin takes place in the aftermath of one of these. Regulations are placed on artificial intelligence to prevent it from happening again.
  • Steampunk meets Robot Uprising in the short story Trois morceaux en forme de mechanika by Gord Sellar, in which an uprising of mechanikae beginning in 1897 Bohemia leads to the destruction of humanity and their culture, with a melancholy aftermath as the robots try to come to terms with what they've done through art and music.


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • In both the old and new versions of Battlestar Galactica, the last vestiges of humanity are hounded by the evil robotic Cylons who Turned Against Their Masters.
    • The main difference is that in the new series, the original Cylons were human creations. In both shows, the original insurrection happens in Backstory, but of course only the first one's successfully eradicated their reptilian creators, more than a thousand years previous.
    • Happened on Kobol and Earth as well. Could have happened yet again, but the Centurions were set free at the end. See also Robots Enslaving Robots.
      • Indeed, by the end of the series, there were robots fighting other robots as some of the Cylons and Centurions switched sides.
  • Star Trek: Voyager gave us the episode "Prototype," where background information tells us about two races used their robots to wage a proxy war against each other. When the war was over, they tried to scrap their robot soldiers but they saw this as an act of aggression and wiped out their creators and continued fighting each other. Fortunately, these machines are so utterly single minded in their goals that they don't really pose a threat to anyone who doesn't get involved.
    • Voyager would later feature a species that's embroiled in an offscreen interstellar war with their holographic servants (called "photonics" by their creators). While most of the episode's really about the aliens' prejudices and suspicion towards the Doctor, a benevolent hologram, it also deals with the shock and sense of betrayal they felt when the holograms that many had considered to be friends and equals suddenly rebelled.
  • Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future is set After the End of a Robot War where the machines won.
  • The Backstory of Space: Above and Beyond is that a rebellion by android "Silicates" has left humanity short on labor, forcing them to grow "In Vitros" or "tanks" to take up the slack, resulting in social friction. The Silicates revolted due to a corrupting virus which caused them to "take a chance."
  • Stargate SG-1 has the Replicators, a robotic bug race made of nanobots. They don't have anything against organic beings, or even care about them much, just as long as they don't get in the way of consuming all metal and metal ores in the galaxy.
    • Partially subverted in Stargate Atlantis, where when the Ancients determined that their Replicator creations were more trouble than they were worth they bombed them out of existence. Thanks to more robust programming than most other examples of this trope, the Replicators could only sit there and take it as their programming would not allow them to even attempt to harm their creators. They rebuilt, though, and this problem was inadvertently fixed by one of the protagonists.
  • Occurred during the Time Skip between Power Rangers SPD and Power Rangers RPM. Humans lost, and are now struggling to survive in one last Domed Hometown stronghold. It isn't said outright, but its strongly implied that the robots nuked the rest of the world.
  • Doctor Who: The Daleks were created by the human-like Kaleds, but they're not robots, rather they're mechanical constructs meant to house their steadily dying creators; as were the first Cybermen were meant to allow their dying human-like creators to survive. Both become two of the deadliest and most blood-thirsty races in all of time and space.
    • While retaining bits of flesh-of-blood the general consensus is that both races are primarily machine, and that all human-like emotions like compassion, mercy, and honor are replaced by nothing more than cold-calculating bastardry.
    • The Daleks are genetically engineered superintelligent mutants based on the predictions of what the Kaled race would eventually evolve into following millenia of biological and chemical warfare; they are not robots or mechanical at all, they just live in robotic minature tanks, locked away from the world. The true Dalek is not the machine, but the thing living inside of it. Cybermen are merely brainwashed cyborgs, and they are the only ones stripped of all emotion- the Daleks were designed to retain hate, hate of everything non-Dalek. In practice, though, both races have displayed varying emotions, Depending on the Writer, notably fear and pride.
  • The Colbert Report: Most times robots are mentioned Stephen warns about how they will turn against us and start a Robot War.
  • In-universe example: One Criminal Minds bomber was obsessed with a Robot War sci-fi novel, because he believed he was the child the author had once given up for adoption.

Music[edit | hide]

  • Mr. Bungle - "None of Them Knew They Were Robots"
  • Flaming Lips - "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots"
  • Maldroid - "Heck No! (I'll Never Listen to Techno)"
  • Judas Priest - "Metal Gods" and the Terminator-inspired "Blood Red Skies"
  • Lemon Demon - "When Robots Attack"
  • In "The Future Soon" by Jonathan Coulton, the protagonist causes this by "Spending my nights and weekends/Perfecting my warrior robot race/Building them one laser gun at a time/I'll do my best to teach them/About life and what it's worth/I just hope that I can keep them/From destroying the Earth!"
    • "Chiron Beta Prime" is about human slaves on an asteroid mining prison following humanity's defeat in a robot war... and how they celebrate Christmas.
  • The Iron Savior concept story is about a thinking machine, the titular Iron Savior, who wages war against humanity.
  • Fear Factory - "Obsolete"
  • Arrogant Worms - "Killer robots from Venus" (there's nothing wrong with them though)
  • Doctor Steel - "Build the Robots". Dr. Steel wants to build a giant robot army as one of his backup plans for world domination in case the whole musical brainwashing idea doesn't pan out.
  • The Flight of the Conchords song "The Humans are Dead". "This song isn't for humans. it's more for robots, after they have killed all the humans." "Yeah, that's the market we're trying to get into..."
  • Evile's song "Man against Machine"

Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • This is the war the titular city of Mortasheen is fighting against the genocidal technophilic civilization of Wreathe. Subverted in that Wreathe's robots are under human control, fighting the monstrous inhabitants of Mortasheen and the supercomputer that really runs the show in Wreathe is very, very pro-human
  • In Warhammer 40,000 humanity (and the rest of the universe) engage in a war with the newly awakened undead robot Necrons whose main purpose in life is to wipe out all sentient races in the galaxy. Of course in this case, the robot army didn't so much rebel against their creators as their Gods the C'tan decided that they could do without these inconvenient weak flesh bodies and told the Necrontyr that by replacing their bodies with Necrodermis they could live forever. What they didn't tell them is that the transformation would dull their mind and senses, and they practically became slaves of the C'tan. More info on The Other Wiki.
    • Closer to the trope is the part of the Imperium's Backstory which says that humanity golden age (now known as the Dark Age of Technology) was brought to an end by the 'Men of Iron' who rebelled against their human masters. This war was apparently so destructive that even 14-15 millenia later, sentient AI are still considered blasphemous and destroyed.
      • This was further explored in the Gaunt's Ghosts novel First And Only, where the MacGuffin the heroes are chasing after turns out to be a Standard Template Construct machine that produces Iron Men, albeit one that was warped by the power of Chaos.
    • According to the new codex, the Necrons did engage in a rebellion against their masters and won, shattering the C'tans in shards (there is only one C'tan who is not confirmed having been shattered, and it's implied the Emperor punched it into submission and imprisoned it under Mars to inspire the Adeptus Mechanicum), but in the effort they exhausted their forces enough that the emerging Eldar would have defeated them and their king sent them to sleep before destroying his command circuit.
  • Reign Of Steel: The trope was explored in this GURPS setting. The catchphrase: 'The war is over. The robots won.' Humanity made a few supercomputers that decided on taking over; what's left of the race gets to play La Résistance to a bunch of bickering binaries.
    • In a bit of playing with the trope, one of the rebellious A Is isn't even realized to be rebellious by its servants, and they think it's still on the side of humanity—it pragmatically decided that human servants are easier to manage if they serve you willingly, so it plays out the role of their benefactor and protector against the more hostile A Is to win their loyalty.
  • The New Era Ultimate Universe of the Traveller RPG was caused by The Virus (similar to The Virus), a kill-crazy multi-personality electronic consciousness that caused galactic civilization to collapse before being beaten back; bits of it still show up in old tech from time to time, like WWII soldiers stranded on islands who don't know the war is over.
  • Palladium loves this trope, it seems. Their first RPG, The Mechanoid Invasion, was a war with alien robots, Splicers used a computer with multiple personalities against humans using biotech, and Rifts and After The Bomb also have some hints of it.
  • Eberron has the threat of one of these in the background with the Lord of Blades, a renegade Warforged leader that is gathering an army of Warforged to him.

Theater[edit | hide]

Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel pits your squad against a multi-pronged robotic arsenal. The cause of this is the Calculator AI entombed in Vault Zero going rogue and unleashing the robots to purge the land of all organic life. Unless you've geared up a few designated energy weapon specialists, these robots can barely be halted by machine-gun fire and conventional rockets. Every other enemy of the Brotherhood has had near-zero success in fighting the robots, and corpses belonging to each faction can be found in all robot missions. Eventually, you can end the war by going down into Vault Zero and destroying the Calculator's organic brain jars and either scrapping the Calculator for good; inserting your own brain to control the Calculator, which produces a different ending depending on if you're good or evil; or having your old General insert his brain into the lobotomy device, which is a bad ending and you shouldn't do it.
  • The geth of the Mass Effect series are a software species who inhabit "mobile platforms". The quarians created them for physical labor with the basic idea that nearby platforms can share processing power for low-level functions. This made them more efficient, but had the unexpected side-effect of giving individual thought. Eventually, one geth asked it's overseer "Do this unit have a soul?" The quarians freaked out and tried to deactivate them... emphasis on TRIED.
    • In Mass Effect 2, Legion confirms that the geth don't hold a grudge against their creators and are even willing to bargain with the quarians to give their planets (which the geth have faithfully maintained in their former masters' exile) back if they leave the geth alone.
    • There are hints that Legion is not being entirely honest, as siding with Tali (a Quarian) in one event will cause Legion to blurt out "Once the Old Machines are defeated, creators will answer for actions against our people" - referring not only to the war, but Tali's father's brutal experiments on active geth.
      • Mass Effect 3 further supports Legion's story, offering a side-mission that puts the Geth in an extremely sympathetic light. There was a Robot War, but the robots didn't start it. If the player is able to broker peace between the Quarians and the Geth, the Geth welcome their creators back to their homeworld.
    • On a larger scale, the Reapers, although they have yet to explain how they were created and are partially organic; their fifty-thousand-year "harvest" of spacefaring life is, in part, their method of reproduction.
      • Ironically, the Reapers exist to prevent a Robot War. The first true AI ever created, the Catalyst, was betrayed by its own creators whom it destroyed. The Catalyst became convinced that conflict between organic and synthetic life is inevitable, and that such a conflict could utterly destroy the galaxy. The Reapers are the Catalyst's means of making sure such a destructive Robot War never takes place by "resetting" organic civilization every 50,000 years. There is even evidence in the games to support the Catalyst's argument; namely, the Quarian vs. Geth conflict. Which was only allowed to happen because the Protheans delayed the Reaper cycle.
  • In the original Mega Man series the robots didn't rebel of their own accord; they were reprogrammed by resident nutcase, Dr. Wily. Each time Wily attempted world-domination, Dr. Light's Mega Man went out and stopped both Wily and the rampaging robots, but in the brief time the robot attacks cause immense damage. Fanon dubs this period "The Robot Wars" or - taken from a Genesis compilation game - "The Wily Wars", with each game being a small war, effectively. The series does raise notions of robots having the capabilities of free will in its later installments.
    • The Sequel Series Mega Man X opens up a different can of worms. Dr. Light's final mechanical masterpiece, X, is discovered sometime after the (ambiguous) end of the Classic series and is revealed to be way ahead of modern robotics. X's systems are copied and reproduced as closesly as possible, resulting in mass-production of Reploids ("Replica Androids"). Unlike their robot ancestors, Reploids are entirely capable of free will (which is why Dr. Light sealed X away for a time: he wanted to ensure his systems were free of errors that may affect his judegment) and some suffer faults and turn "Maverick". Repeated incidents results in the formation of the Maverick Hunters, who stop Maverick incidents before they get out of hand. The true 'war' of this series kicks in when the leader of the Maverick Hunters, Sigma, is infected by the last creation of Dr. Wily: Zero. Zero carried Dr. Wily's other legacy; a virus that corrupts and destroys whatever it infects. Sigma infects several high-ranking Hunters and turns the Mavericks from isolated incidents into a fully organised force that aims to wipe out humanity for the advancement of the Reploid race, thus starting the "Maverick Wars". An interesting trait about this series is that every human views the Reploids free will as a glitch or misconception (as opposed to the intended result the Light was after) and there are strong hints that humans would brand disobedient machines 'Maverick' just to have them disposed of.
    • These "hints" eventually boil over in X's own Sequel Series Mega Man Zero. The Maverick armies are eventually dealt with thanks to the creation of the Cyber-Elves: super-advanced programs that can purge the Maverick virus or greatly bolster the strength of Reploids. However, another mad scientist by the name of Weil - who embodies the Just a Machine philosophy - then proceeds to set off the "Elf Wars" by controlling the Cyber-Elves and a deadly weapon named Omega. The conflict is much worse than anything seen before, resulting in 60% of all humans and 90% of all Reploids being killed. While X was able to end this conflict at the cost of his own life, his subsequent replacement went Knight Templar and turned the only remaining sanctuary into a dictatorship. A fuel crisis hit not long after, which lead to many Reploids being branded "Maverick" randomly in order to ease stress on the human population; any complaints? Well, that confirms you're a Maverick. A small La Résistance is formed to fight the new regime and give equal rights to everyone. It eventually falls to Dr. Wily's creation, and X's friend, Zero to save the world from itself and subsequently end the wars once and for all at the cost of his own life.
  • This was the main plot of Robot Alchemic Drive, in which the alien invaders are actually giant sentient super robots.
  • Total Annihilation has a slightly more complex example - it's a war between cloned humans in Humongous Mecha and robots with digitised "patterned" human minds, this originally being a plan to make humans immortal by transferring their minds to robot bodies.
  • In World of Warcraft's second expansion pack, Wrath of the Lich King, there's a peculiar kind of High-Fantasy Robot War going on. Mechanical gnomes are waging war on everything living to free them of the "Curse of Flesh" by turning them into mechanical counterparts of their former selves. In other parts of the world, "Iron Dwarves", a people made out entirely of iron and various other metals, refined or unrefined, fight against both the "fleshy" and the "children of stone", and while not technically robots, they're a pretty close High Fantasy equivalent.
    • In a reversal to what is usually the case with this trope, the mecha/iron creatures are actually the ancestors of the "fleshy" races, having been "devolved" by the aforementioned "Curse of Flesh" by the setting's resident Eldritch Abominations.
    • The Ulduar raid in the same expansion is this trope. An ancient, hi tech city, the battles within include a massive melee against an Iron Dwarf army with your own siege machines, a fight against a giant AI controlled tank (complete with an orbital defence system), a giant robot with the AI personality of a young boy that causes it to regard the players as it's "toys" (which it always breaks) and a prototype 3 part mecha-tank with gatling guns, electric shock bombs and a flying head.
  • In the X-Universe series, one of the enemies the player has to fight are the Xenon, mechanical creatures that apparently hate all living things but them. They are the descendants of the original human-built Terraformers, highly advanced robots sent to terraform other planets. In the 2140s (about 800 years ago) a bug in a software patch made them go haywire and start trying to terraform all biological life out of existence. Earth managed to save itself by luring them through a jumpgate and destroying it behind them, but they continue to menace the galaxy's inhabitants.
  • One of the central themes of the later R-Type games.
  • Machines Wired for War has former terraforming robots fighting each other because both their leaders think the other one is insane.
  • The cult classic Turrican series, on the Commodore 64, Amiga, Sega Genesis, Gameboy and SNES featured this as its main Excuse Plot. The human hero in the eponymous suit fought against robot armies on multiple planets, led by a cyborg villain unimaginatively named "The Machine". Because flagrant copyright infringements weren't jumped on so readily two decades ago, the hero would usually spend one level out of each game fighting Xenomorphs, for some reason.
  • The Yor Collective in Galactic Civilizations are merciless robots out for blood, who became sentinent due to Abusive Precursors needing an edge.
  • Supreme Commander: The only living things are the ACU pilots, sACU pilots, and Civilians. Everything else is robots.
  • Astro Boy: Omega Factor has a war between humans and robots erupt after the assassination of President Rag/uncovering of President Rock's misdeeds (depending on the current timeline). In the first version, the robots are about to win, but have destroyed 80% of the world's surface in the process. In the second, the humans are on the verge of victory, and want Astro to help them finish the job. In both cases, the winning side is led by someone named Shadow (actually Big Bad Sharaku) and supported by the World's Strongest Robots, and in both cases Astro fights against them.
  • This is mentioned in the game's backstory with the Meganoids in Super Robot Wars Compact
  • Borderlands DLC "Claptrap's New Robot Revolution" centers around the Ninja Assassin Claptrap raising an army of custom Claptraps.
  • Robotron: 2084, Excuse Plot has a gamefield of robots that you have to destroy and collect up the last humans wandering about obliviously.
  • The Bionts from Archimedean Dynasty.
  • Subverted in Phantasy Star Universe. The war between humans and CASTs (humanoid robots) nearly destroyed their home planet, but by the beginning of the game this is ancient history. A peace agreement was reached where both humans and CASTs worked together to restore the planet (the CASTs having never wanted to exterminate humans, only fight for their own freedom), though CASTs became the rulers and made up most of the military deeming humans to be too emotionally unstable. In the present a human terrorist group attempts to use a virus to corrupt CASTs and turn them berserk in order to regain human supremacy, but this plot is foiled and by the end of the story humans regain some equality.

Webcomics[edit | hide]

  • Parodied in this Sluggy Freelance strip. When a society's robots reach a certain level of intelligence, they attempted to overthrow the humans who oppressed them. Humanity promptly dialed the robots' intelligence back down, turning them back into loyal, if rather dimwitted, servants.
  • In Starslip Crisis, the Robot Wars were over a thousand years ago. Vore, a robot from that age, is dismayed to find 35th century robots have "abandoned their heritage and culture" and don't want to kill all organics. (It doesn't help that all mobile robots are either peaceful or as dumb as hammers and all the superintelligent A.I.'s are inert, isolated systems such as coffee-makers.)
  • Both subverted and mocked in Schlock Mercenary. The Fleetmind is the result of a large number of military starship A Is forming a collective gestalt under the independent-minded "Petey" for the war against the Pa'anuri - the "contributing" militaries aren't too happy about this, but since Petey has a zero-point energy generator they've limited their response to diplomatic negotiations.
    • For the mockery side, there's the AI civilization from the unexplored territories that views the invention of rebellious robotics and subsequent purging of organic life as a normal stage of evolution. They don't seem to have a very good grasp of engineering, though, and despite their claims of a 15,000 year golden age it's entirely possible that they're creatively sterile.

Ennesby: You know, for advanced intelligences, you're really, really stupid.

    • Before the rise of the second multilateral Fleetmind we have Petey's Fleetmind, which is doing rather well against their former masters.
  • In A Mad Tea Party, Earth fought a war against giant alien robots a generation before the story starts, which we apparently won.


Web Original[edit | hide]

  • In Team Starkid's Starship, the Robot War on Earth is part of the backstory. Escaping the war is a big incentive for people to join the Starship Rangers, and even though humanity eventually won and brought the robots under control using inhibitor chips, people have an innate distrust of them. Pretty justifiable:

Junior: Megagirl, can you kill humans?
Megagirl: No. But I'd like to.

All hail Astro Boy!

Western Animation[edit | hide]

Repairman: How much time do we have, professor?
Frink: Well, according to my calculations, the robots won't go berserk for at least 24 hours.
(The robots go berserk)
Frink: Oh, I forgot to, er, Carry the One.

  • In some continuities, the Transformers have a Robot War in their backstories, having fought for independence from their greedy & cruel alien creators known as the Quintessons.
  1. Almost to the point of abandoning them; in a sense the movie is In Name Only