America loves the Marine Corps, but the whole world loves the idea of Space Marines. Space Marines always inspire a certain degree of sci-fi awesomeness that’s hard to overcome. The world’s first exposure to Space Marines came in 1932 in a short story called Captain Brink of the Space Marines.
From there, the concept continued to grow. Renowned science fiction authors like Robert Heinlein played with the concept. It’s also popped up in video games, movies, and board games and it has become a cliché at this point. I know for a fact that the various Space Marines in film, games, and books influenced my own decision to choose the Marine Corps over all other branches.
Why we love Space Marines
This is the big question. Why do we love Space Marines so much? Obviously, they lend a degree of credibility to works of science fiction. Science fiction that revolves around spaceships and planets clearly needs an armed military force, and the Marines seem to be the best choice for such a task.
These men and women are often portrayed as scrappy fighters. They do more with less and often face terrifying odds but somehow succeed. The United States Marine Corps is also a force viewed positively by the American people and is well known for its combat prowess. So, as a creator, it’s easy to use the USMC to model your Space Marines after. This instantly establishes a connection to your audience as well as an established culture that you can build from.
What’s cooler than a heavily armed team landing on a hostile planet and duking it out with some alien pukes? As a fan of the Space Marine concept, I want to highlight my five favorite examples of the space-faring, gunslinging, and butt-kicking Marines.
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Warhammer 40,000 – Space Marines
In the future, there is only war, and in Warhammer 40K, it’s space war! The Warhammer 40,000 Space Marines are some of the most legendary sci-fi units. They have been cataloged in Games Workshop’s tabletop game, as well as in tons of books, animated movies, and video games. These Space Marines wear massive suits of armor, are genetically modified for super strength, and wield a variety of brutal weapons, including chainsaw swords and .75 caliber bolters.
Like most real Marines, these guys are a rather small portion of the Imperial force, their parent organization. Additionally, these troops are fanatical and cult-like, which is fairly close to how the USMC operates. While they exist in the year 40,000, they still have ties to the Marines of now, and that keeps Games Workshop’s high fantasy world grounded.
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Halo – The ODST
The Orbital Drop Shock Troop, aka the ODST, aka the Hell Jumpers, is an elite force within the Halo universe that serves as the first wave of an assault. They drop feet-first into hell through drop pods and establish a beachhead for follow-on forces. The ODST are the elite Space Marines that conduct drops, long-range recon, direct action, and unconventional warfare. They also wear slick armor and have a unique culture we see throughout the Halo video games and books.
Much like real Marines, the ODST troops are cocky and capable. They conduct a myriad of special operations, and while the Covenant often outnumbers and outguns them, the ODST never gives up. These troops do have a rough and grounded feel to them that reminds me of real Marines.
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Aliens – Colonial Marines
James Cameron often gets Marines right: it helps that his brother was a Marine. The Colonial Marines in Aliens (the second film in the Alien franchise) are clearly Space Marines but go by another name. This force is a rag-tag squad of Marines set on a mission to investigate a lost outpost. These men and women are brave and scrappy.
The Colonial Marines are equipped with beat-up guns and gear and are full of unique individuals. We have the junior leader Corporal Hicks, the slacker PFC Hudson, the hard-charging PFC Vasquez, and the motivated Gunny Apone. It looks like a real Marine squad and feels like one. Except they are fighting aliens and using smart guns.
They have since evolved from their first appearance and now make up a large portion of the Alien mythos.
For All Mankind – The Moon Marines
For All Mankind is very grounded in its sci-fi elements, and it’s a show I’m really enjoying. It’s a bit of an alternate history where the space race never really ended. In the show, Moon marines were established by NASA and the United States military. They needed to protect the moon colony Jamestown from those pesky Soviets. Grounded space warfare sounds like an oxymoron, but here we are.
These guys are armed like actual Marines. They carry M16s to the moon, which are configured for space use. The guns have a few odds and ends to make them easy to use in space suits. We even hear the old Maggie’s Drawers when a moon Marine misses the target. In one of the more realistic aspects of military life portrayed in the show, being a Moon Marine means a lot of sitting around and waiting.
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Doom – Doomguy
Finally, last but not least, we have the Space Marines from Doom. When you open up a gate to hell on Mars, who are you gonna call? Obviously, the Space Marine that’s too angry to die. Doomguy represents the best the Space Marine Corps has to offer, and he isn’t afraid to rip and tear until the job is done. The other Space Marines in Doom often don’t fare as well, but they try!
Doomguy is the Marine all Marines want to be. He’s an unstoppable machine armed to the teeth to defend democracy, baseball, apple pie, and grandma from invading hellspawn. He’s mean, brash, and socially inept. But holy crap, can he fight!
Space Marines forever
I keep looking for a list of Space Force MOSes, and it’s not popped up just yet. Maybe one day we’ll have actual Space Marines. Until then, we’ll have to settle with their sci-fi portrayals
What’s your favorite incarnation of the Space Marine? Let us know in the comments below!
The Marines have Guadalcanal, Inchon, Iwo Jima, and Tarawa as testaments to their superior fighting prowess as a landing force. The Chosin Reservoir campaign is testimony to their indomitable fighting spirit so it is fitting that Marines are the heroes of sci-fi’s “landings” on other worlds.