Mass Effect is a science fiction action role-playing third-person shooter video game series developed by the Canadian company BioWare and released for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Microsoft Windows, with the third installment also released on the Wii U. The fourth game was released on Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in March 2017.

The original trilogy largely revolves around a soldier named Commander Shepard, whose mission is to save the galaxy from a race of powerful mechanical beings known as the Reapers and their agents, including the first game's antagonist Saren Arterius. The first game, released in 2007, sees Shepard investigating Saren, whom Shepard slowly comes to understand is operating under the guidance of Sovereign, a Reaper left behind in the Milky Way tens of thousands of years before, when the Reapers exterminated virtually all sentient organic life in the galaxy as part of a recurrent cycle of genocide for an unknown purpose. Sovereign's purpose is to trigger the imminent return of the Reaper fleet hibernating in extra-galactic dark space, restarting the process of extermination. The second game takes place two years later, and sees Shepard battling the Collectors, an alien race abducting entire human colonies in a plan to help the Reapers return to the Milky Way. The final game of Shepard's trilogy centers on the war being waged against the Reapers.

The fourth installment takes place in the Andromeda Galaxy and features a new cast of characters. [5]

All of the first three major installments of the Mass Effect series have been met with commercial success as well as universal acclaim. The series is highly regarded for its narrative, character development, voice acting, universe, and emphasis on player choice affecting the experience.


The Mass Effect original trilogy takes place in a fictional version of the Milky Way towards the end of the 22nd century.

The Milky Way is inhabited by a variety of unique characters from many different sapient species, most of whom base their technological achievements on that of an ancient civilization called the Protheans. The advanced technology left by the Protheans includes quantities of a substance called "Element Zero," which can be used to alter the mass of anything near it. By utilizing this "mass effect," the galaxy's many races are able to develop technologies such as faster-than-light travel, force fields and artificial gravity. Roughly three-thousand years before the start of the series, a galactic community was formed from the remnants of the Prothean civilization. This community is headed by the Citadel Council, a bureaucratic association led by three unique species: the Asari, a race of monogendered beings closely resembling blue-skinned human women; the Salarians, an amphibious species with considerable technological prowess; and the Turians, a heavily militaristic race of bird-like humanoids. Over the centuries, the Council has encountered many other species that have become close political associates, while others remain independent.

In 2148, explorers on Mars discover ruins of a Prothean outpost. Additionally, Charon is discovered to be a Prothean artifact called a "mass relay," which enables near-instantaneous travel to Arcturus ; it is one of many mass relays littered about the galaxy. Their use allows humanity to come in contact with the Citadel Council and its associate species. As of the year 2183 (the time in which the first game is set), mankind is the newest species to join the galactic community and is still working to make a name for itself.

The Citadel Council partitioned the Milky Way into five different sectors, known as the Terminus Systems, the Attican Traverse, Inner and Outer Council Space, and Alliance Space. Earth is a significant setting, particularly in the third installment. A space station known as the "Citadel," left behind by the Protheans, serves as the capitol for the galaxy; most species have an embassy there, and the Council meets there to deliberate matters of galactic import.

The fourth game takes place in the Heleus Cluster of the Andromeda galaxy, 634 years after the events of its predecessor. When the Milky Way races arrive there, Heleus is embroiled in a brutal conflict between two native races: the Kett, a barbaric race obsessed with assimilating the traits of other sentient species through a process known as "exaltation"; and the Angara, a humanoid species whose civilization has recently been targeted and nearly decimated by the Kett. The Heleus Cluster is also the location of a series of ruins predating an advanced, spacefaring race known as the Jardaan.

The Jardaan made use of powerful terraforming technologies to colonize worlds in the Heleus Cluster, which were otherwise extremely hazardous and naturally unsustainable for life. They later fled from the Heleus Cluster three centuries before the arrival of the Milky Way races, when a protracted battle against an unknown enemy faction resulted in the usage of a weapon of mass destruction aboard a Jardaan space station. The weapon's activation unleashed a cataclysmic energy phenomenon known as the Scourge, which spread across the cluster and greatly damaged the Jardaan's terraforming systems. After the Jardaan left, the Angara, genetically engineered creations of the elder race, began to develop their own civilization before falling under attack by the encroaching Kett.


A trilogy of games has been released, each continuing the previous game's story in chronological order. The Mass Effect series combines action role-playing game elements, with the main series games being in third-person perspective. The protagonist can use two AI-controlled squad members in battle, which usually consist of members he or she has recruited from various places and for various reasons, and taken onto the SSV Normandy SR-2 , Shepard's stealth-recon starship. The player could make perspective decisions depending upon the situation. At these times, the player has multiple sets of dialogue choices with which to respond to NPCs, separated by tone. Starting from Mass Effect 2 , the player can interrupt cut-scenes calmly or aggressively. The games often have various mini-games in them as well, such as drinking, dancing and romancing characters.


Year Title Developer Platform(s)
2007 Mass Effect 1 BioWare Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
2009 Mass Effect Galaxy iOS
2010 Mass Effect 2 2 Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
2012 Mass Effect Infiltrator IronMonkey Studios iOS, Android, Windows Phone
Mass Effect 3 3 BioWare Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii U
Mass Effect Datapad 4 iOS
2017 Mass Effect: Andromeda Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Mass Effect: Andromeda APEX HQ iOS, Android
1. The PlayStation 3 and Windows versions of Mass Effect were ported by Demiurge Studios.
2. Available on Sony's PlayStation Now streaming service
3. Mass Effect 3: Special Edition was ported by Straight Right.
4. Removed from the App Store.

Main series

Timeline of release years
2007 Mass Effect
2010 Mass Effect 2
2012 Mass Effect 3
2017 Mass Effect: Andromeda

Mass Effect

Mass Effect (2007), the first game in the series, was originally created as an exclusive title for the Xbox 360 but was later ported to Microsoft Windows by Demiurge Studios, and to the PlayStation 3 by Edge of Reality. The game focuses on the protagonist, Commander Shepard, and their quest to stop the rogue Spectre Saren Arterius from leading an army of sentient machines, called the Geth, to conquer the galaxy. During pursuit of Saren, Shepard learns of a far greater threat in the form of the Reapers. Saren has been mentally enslaved by the Reaper vanguard Sovereign, and sent into Citadel Space to initiate the purge of all advanced organic life in the galaxy, a cycle repeated by the Reapers every 50,000 years.

Downloadable content
  • "Bring Down the Sky": Released on March 10, 2008 for the Xbox 360 as a paid download and on July 29, 2008 for Windows as a free download: Shepard is asked to deal with terrorists threatening to destroy a major human settlement.
  • "Pinnacle Station": Released on August 25, 2009: Shepard can board the eponymous space station to fight competitively in battle simulations and, if successful, win a "retirement" providing minor in-game benefits.

Mass Effect 2

Mass Effect 2 , the second main game in the series, was released on January 26, 2010 in North America and January 29 in Europe. [6] A great deal of secrecy surrounded the game prior to launch, with few details emerging other than Casey Hudson, Project Director for BioWare, stating that "players should keep their save files, because decisions made by the player in the first game will continue to have influences on their character in the sequel." [7] The game takes place two years after the events of Mass Effect . Human colonies are being attacked, their colonists disappearing without a trace. The game's protagonist, Commander Shepard, is forced into an uneasy alliance with the pro-Human paramilitary organization, Cerberus, in an effort to discover the cause. Evidence emerges pointing to the 'Collectors', an advanced, enigmatic race of insect-like humanoids. Adding to the threat is the revelation that the Collectors are working for the Reapers. Shepard sets out on a "suicide mission" to stop the Collectors, accompanied by a hand-picked team of soldiers, assassins, mercenaries, and specialists. Mass Effect 2 has received overwhelming critical and public praise since its release, for its characters, storyline, voice acting, and refined combat and gameplay with many critics calling it a major improvement over the original and an easy Game of the Year contender despite its January release. At Gamescom 2010, it was announced that a PlayStation 3 version would become available, which was released on January 18, 2011.

Downloadable content
  • "Normandy Crash Site": Released on January 26, 2010 as a free download: additional solo-mission for Shepard, paying respects to Normandy's crew and wreck.
  • "Zaeed – The Price of Revenge": Released on January 28, 2010 as a free download: additional mercenary companion.
  • "Firewalker": Released on March 23, 2010: 5 additional vehicle-based missions.
  • " Kasumi – Stolen Memory ": Released on April 6, 2010: additional thief companion.
  • " Overlord ": Released on June 15, 2010: Shepard investigates a catastrophic AI outbreak.
  • " Lair of the Shadow Broker ": Released on September 7, 2010: Shepard accompanies Dr. Liara T'Soni on her hunt for the elusive Shadow Broker.
  • " Arrival ": Released on March 29, 2011 and acts as a bridge for Mass Effect 3 : Shepard discovers and delays the impending Reaper invasion.

Mass Effect 3

Mass Effect 3 , the third installment in the Mass Effect trilogy, was released on March 6, 2012. [8] Casey Hudson commented that Mass Effect 3 "will be easier [to develop] because we don't have to worry about continuity into the next one." [9] However, decisions are routinely imported from the two previous titles to Mass Effect 3 in order to maintain continuity within the series. [10] In the final chapter of the trilogy, the Reapers have returned in force, and have begun their purge of the galaxy, attacking Earth. During this attack Commander Shepard is on Earth and forced to flee. [11] After fleeing Earth, Commander Shepard must hurry and rally the advanced races of the galaxy to make one final stand, not only to save Earth, but also to break a cycle that has continued for millions of years (hence providing the answer to Fermi's Paradox). The first official trailer was unveiled on December 11, 2010 during the Spike TV Video Game Awards. [12]

Downloadable content
  • "From Ashes": Released on the game's release date: additional mission to retrieve an ancient artifact.
  • "Extended Cut": Released on June 26, 2012 as a free download: features new cinematic sequences and epilogue scenes that expand upon the original ending.
  • "Leviathan": Released on August 28, 2012: Shepard discovers the Reapers' origin.
  • "Omega": Released on November 27, 2012: Shepard helps Aria T'Loak retake command of the Omega space station.
  • "Citadel": Released on March 5, 2013 as the final DLC pack for Mass Effect 3 : Shepard and crew enjoy shore leave and have to face a mysterious identity thief.

Mass Effect: Andromeda

Mass Effect: Andromeda , the first game in a new series, and the fourth major installment overall in the franchise, was revealed at E3 2015. It was released on March 21, 2017. [5] The title utilizes EA DICE's Frostbite 3 engine and was released for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Andromeda is the first game in the series to feature an open world environment and began during the time in which Mass Effect 2 takes place, then jumps 634 years in future. The player character is either Sara or Scott Ryder, designated as a Pathfinder – an operative tasked with discovering new planets in Andromeda Galaxy.


Mass Effect Galaxy

Mass Effect Galaxy (2009): This is a backstory set between the events of Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 and exclusively on the iOS platform. The story is focused around two characters who appear as squad members in Mass Effect 2 : Jacob Taylor and Miranda Lawson. When the passenger liner Arcturian Jade is attacked by Batarian raiders with Jacob on it, he takes on the task of defending the ship. After safely arriving at their destination on the Citadel, Jacob's former CO contacts him about an undercover Alliance operation in the Nemean Abyss to investigate the Batarians' increasingly aggressive activities.

Mass Effect Infiltrator

Mass Effect Infiltrator (2012): A third-person shooter released on the Android, BlackBerry 10, iOS and Windows Phone 8 platforms. The story for Infiltrator involves Randall Ezno, a Cerberus agent, who discovers Cerberus's cruelty and goes rogue, killing Cerberus troopers and freeing prisoners from a hostile base. Players will "receive rewards" for collecting evidence of Cerberus' crimes. According to EA, "Every completed rescue and intelligence discovery in Infiltrator will increase a player's Galactic Readiness rating directly through the 'Galaxy at War' system in Mass Effect 3 ." [14]

Mass Effect: Datapad

Mass Effect: Datapad (2012): A free app for iOS devices. Datapad allows players to check the status of the galaxy map in Mass Effect 3 and receive messages from characters. Datapad contains information about the characters, races, vehicles, weapons, and storyline of the Mass Effect universe, as well as mini-games that interact with the Mass Effect 3 'Galaxy at War' system. It has since been removed from the iOS App Store and the Google Play Store.

Mass Effect: Andromeda APEX HQ

APEX HQ is the official companion app for the Mass Effect: Andromeda multiplayer. Supported by iOS and Android devices, APEX HQ was released on March 15 in Canada, Ireland, Romania and Singapore, and worldwide on March 20, 2017. Through APEX HQ , players can view their progress in multiplayer, equip characters, assign skill points, manage Strike Teams, and access their friend list. The app cannot be used while signed into the game.

Other media



  • Mass Effect: Revelation (2007), by Drew Karpyshyn: The first novel based on Mass Effect , the plot is centered around then-Lieutenant David Anderson and tells the story of how he came to know Saren as well as the beginning of his relationship with Kahlee Sanders. It expands on the history of the Mass Effect universe and reveals in detail how Anderson failed to become the first human Spectre.
  • Mass Effect: Ascension (2008), by Drew Karpyshyn: The second novel based on Mass Effect , the plot centers around protagonist Paul Grayson, a member of Cerberus, who is in charge of raising a biotic girl named Gillian. It is set some two months after the ending events of the first game. [5]
  • Mass Effect: Retribution (2010), by Drew Karpyshyn: On July 27, 2010, BioWare released the third Mass Effect novel, a sequel to Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect: Ascension . [5] [5]
  • Mass Effect: Deception (2012), by William C. Dietz: The fourth Mass Effect novel, it centers on Gillian Grayson. Response to the novel has been largely negative due to inconsistencies with lore and characterization, prompting fans to petition BioWare to disregard the novel as canon. [5] [5] [5] In response, BioWare and Del Rey announced that a number of changes would be made in future editions. [5]
  • Mass Effect: Nexus Uprising (March 28, 2017), by Jason M. Hough and K.C. Alexander. The novel is the first of three intended to weave directly into the game, taking place "concurrently with the adventure of the game itself".
  • Two other Mass Effect: Andromeda novels: Mass Effect: Annihilation by Catherynne M. Valente and Mass Effect: Initiation by N.K. Jemisin are scheduled for publication in Summer 2017 and Fall 2017, all published by Titan Books.

Fan novels

Mass Effect: Pick Your Path (2012) is a popular interactive fiction novel written by Mike Kayatta that runs parallel to the events of Mass Effect 2 . It follows the exploits of an unnamed Citadel merchant who chases Commander Shepard around the galaxy to gain an endorsement for his shop. Encouraged by The Illusive Man for unknown reasons, the merchant becomes haplessly entangled with the dangerous aftermath of Shepard's various adventures. The story, considered similar to the Choose Your Own Adventure series of books, features the same choice-driven format of the games, allowing the reader to choose between "paragon" or "renegade" actions, drastically affect the ending, and even romance a selection of unique party members. The full story was published by The Escapist in March 2012. [23]


  • Mass Effect: Redemption is a four-part comic book mini-series that was released between January and April 2010. The story, which revolves around Liara T'Soni, is set in the interim period between the prologue and main storyline of Mass Effect 2 , and is related to the downloadable content "Lair of the Shadow Broker" that was released for the game. [24] [25] [26] [27] [28] [29] [30] [31] [32] [33] [34]
  • Mass Effect: Incursion is an on-line comic (8 pages) that follows Aria T'Loak's encounter with the Collectors one week prior to the opening events of Mass Effect 2 . The events of Incursion link into the events of the comic miniseries Mass Effect: Redemption . It was released June 21, 2010 through IGN. [35] [36] [37] [38] [39] [40] [41] [42] [43]
  • Mass Effect: Inquisition is an on-line comic (8 pages) written by Mac Walters. Taking place after Mass Effect 2 , the plot follows Captain Armando-Owen Bailey during his investigation of Executor Venari Pallin and corruption within C-Sec. It was released October 26, 2010 through USA Today . [44]
  • Mass Effect: Evolution is a four-part comic book mini-series. The first issue was released in January 2011. The story focuses on the origin of the Illusive Man and is set during the First Contact War, shortly after the discovery of the Mass Relays. [45]
  • Mass Effect: Conviction is a free short (10 page) single issue mini-comic written by Mac Walters. Taking place before Mass Effect 3 , the plot follows Lieutenant James Vega during his stay on Omega before returning to Systems Alliance service. Released in September 2011 available through a digital distribution promotion exclusively at participating retailers. [46] [47]
  • Mass Effect: Invasion is a comic book series (4 issues) released between October 2011 and January 2012. It follows Aria T'Loak, the pirate queen of the space station Omega, as her station comes under attack from a new threat unleashed by Cerberus, the human survivalist organization. [48] [49] [50] [51] [52] [53] [54] [55] [56]
  • Mass Effect: Homeworlds is a comic book series (4 issues) written by game lead writer Mac Walters released April 25, 2012. Each issue focuses on a main character from the Mass Effect series. [57] [58] [59] [60] [61] [62] [63] [64] [65] [66]
  • Mass Effect: Blasto: Eternity Is Forever is a short (14 page) single issue mini-comic written by Mac Walters released on November 7, 2012 through digital distribution. The main character is Blasto, a Hanar Spectre featured in several Mass Effect films as the galaxy's first Hanar Spectre. [67] [68] [69]
  • Mass Effect: He Who Laughs Best is a short (10 page) single issue mini-comic written by Mac Walters released on May 4, 2013 for Free Comic Book Day 2013. It explains how Jeff "Joker" Moreau became the SSV Normandy's pilot prior to the events of Mass Effect . [9]
  • Mass Effect: Foundation is a 13-issue comic series written by Mac Walters. The first issue was released on July 24, 2013. It features a story that runs parallel to the game trilogy and is designed to expand the universe as a whole. [71] [72]


  • Mass Effect : On May 24, 2010, EA announced that Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros. acquired the rights to a Mass Effect film, with the game's executive producer Casey Hudson, as well as Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuck from BioWare, serving as executive producers. Initially, Legendary planned to produce the film with Thomas Tull, Jon Jashni, and Avi Arad, with a screenplay by Mark Protosevich. [10] Protosevich and the producers have stated that the film will follow the plot of the original game. [10] On October 24, 2012, Variety announced that Morgan Davis Foehl would be writing the screenplay. [10]
  • Mass Effect: Paragon Lost (2012): On April 7, 2011, EA announced that anime distributor Funimation Entertainment and Japanese studio T.O Entertainment will produce an anime film adaptation based on the series. [10] The film was released on December 28, 2012. [10] It serves as the prequel to Mass Effect 3 and follows the early career of Alliance Marine James Vega as he leads an elite Special Forces squad into battle against The Collectors. Stationed at a colony in a remote star system, Vega and his soldiers must protect the civilians from a ruthless invasion by the Collectors, determined to capture the population for unknown purposes.

Fan films

Mass Effect: Assignment (2012) is a fan film set in the same timeline as the Mass Effect game series, but following a group of original characters. The film follows the story of two N7 Soldiers, Meer and Hale, who are hunting down Defoe, a smuggler whose cargo is of great interest to a lot of parties. The film was produced by filmmaking duo Sneaky Zebra and marks the first fan film set in the Mass Effect universe. The film features the unique element of being interactive much like the games series allowing the viewer to choose the path of the plot to four possible endings. [78] Three character-based teaser trailers were released in December via Machinma with the full short being released in February 2012. [78] [10]

Red Sand (2012) is a fan film that serves as a prequel to the Mass Effect series. It is set 35 years before the plot of the games and tells the story of the discovery of the ancient Prothean ruins of Mars. The film stars Mark Meer, voice of the male version of Commander Shepard in the games, as Colonel Jon Grissom. It was produced by the students and faculty of the Digital Video Program at the University of Advancing Technology in Tempe, Arizona. [10] [10] [10]

Action figures

Two series of action figures were released by DC Direct and Big Fish Toys for Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3 . Series one included action figures of Commander Shepard, Grunt, Tali, and Thane. Series two included Garrus, Legion, Miranda, and Mordin. Each figure features game-accurate accessories and can be found in game and hobby shops and various online retailers. The figures tied to Mass Effect 3 include bonus downloadable content, which is exclusive and different for each character.

Board games

Risk: Mass Effect Galaxy at War Edition (2013) was announced by USAopoly and was released in Fall 2013. [11] [11]

Art books

Two Mass Effect art books have been released: 2007's Art of Mass Effect , [11] published by Prima Games and 2012's The Art of the Mass Effect Universe , [11] published by Dark Horse Comics. The former book showcases the design sketches and concept art which was created for the original Mass Effect game, while the latter includes art, sketches and paintings for the entire trilogy, including several pieces originally published in the first book.


Main game series characters

Note: Some characters may or may not appear in Mass Effect 2 or Mass Effect 3 , depending on their fate in the previous games. Some of the characters only appear if the player has installed the relevant downloadable content (DLC).

Spin-off game series characters

Novel series characters

Comic series characters

Movie characters


Aggregate review scores
As of April 13, 2017.
Game Metacritic
Mass Effect (X360) 91 [11]
(PC) 89 [11]
(PS3) 85 [11]
Mass Effect 2 (X360) 96 [11]
(PC) 94 [11]
(PS3) 94 [11]
Mass Effect 3 (X360) 93 [12]
(PS3) 93 [12]
(PC) 89 [12]
(WIIU) 85 [12]
Mass Effect: Andromeda (XONE) 76 [12]
(PC) 72 [12]
(PS4) 71 [12]

The Mass Effect series, particularly the second game, has received universal acclaim. [12] Colin Moriarty stated that "the Mass Effect series is one of the defining video game franchises of [the seventh] generation." [12] GamesRadar called Mass Effect the best new franchise of the (then seventh) generation, saying "The galaxy was so well-constructed that it felt like a decades-old franchise and represented a high-water mark for video games as a story-telling medium." [12] IGN rated the Mass Effect trilogy the best Xbox 360 game(s) out of a list of 25, despite being multiplatform. [5]

Mass Effect 2 is widely considered to be one of the greatest games of all time. It garnered numerous game of the year awards and is critically the most successful game in the series. It received over 70 perfect review scores. [5]

While Mass Effect 3 also garnered critical acclaim, controversy surrounded its release due to the public's reaction and refusal to accept the game's (and the trilogy's) ending. This eventually led to BioWare releasing an "extended cut" patch to the ending of Mass Effect 3 which would expand upon, but not replace it. [5] [5]


Two weeks after the game was released, Mass Effect 2 shipped two million copies to retailers. [5] The game sold over 500,000 copies in the month of release, despite being released at the end of the month. [5] Before the release of the third game, the series sold a total of 7 million copies worldwide. [5]

Mass Effect 3 sold over 800,000 copies in its first 24 hours, [5] and its opening month sales were twice that of its predecessor's, [5] selling over 900,000 copies on the Xbox 360 version, outselling the PlayStation 3 version 4 to 1 and bringing in over $200 million in revenue. [5]

As of July 5, 2014, the Mass Effect series has sold a total of 14 million units. [5]

See also