Mass Effect is arguably one of the best video game series of our time. It takes place in a huge galaxy with a wide range of characters, allowing you to scout a massive environment and make a name for yourself through interactions with different groups of people. In fact, the game is so large that fans have created their own theories to better understand the series. Some theories come from hints during character interactions, while others come from different events, such as the Mass Effect 3 final ending, which many fans argue was part of a bigger picture.
While the games do follow a specific plot, they also leave a lot up to interpretation. The game developers are known for sneaking in references and thus many fans have sought to connect the dots and discover the wide range of possibilities or plausible intentions of the developers. Mass Effect Andromeda is the newest game to join the series. Due to its separation from the main trilogy, it has caused quite a stir within the gaming community, with fans trying to link the game to the previous three.
Here are a list of the main Mass Effect and Mass Effect Andromeda fan theories.
Warning: there will be some major Mass Effect 1-3 spoilers and a few minor Mass Effect Andromeda spoilers (because not all of us have competed our first play-through of Andromeda).
20 Shepard Andromeda Initiative Theory
One theory that many fans agree on is that Commander Shepard had to know about the Andromeda Initiative. The Initiative was initially founded in 2176. The events of Mass Effect 1 take place in 2183. During this year Shepard becomes a Spectre, which would have given him high level clearance to classified information. This means that any documents on the Andromeda Initiative, which would have already been in full swing at this point, would have been available to Shepard.
Along with this, in the Mass Effect 2 DLC Lair of the Shadow Broker, Liara T’Soni becomes the new Shadow Broker and provides Shepard with permanent access to the base, along with its wide range of files and footage. It is hard to imagine that there would be no files on the Andromeda Initiative. Video logs in Mass Effect Andromeda further prove that Liara had contact with Pathfinder and main member of the Initiative, Alec Ryder, before the Initiative's departure.
19 50,000 Year Cycle Theory
The 50,000 Year Cycle Theory hypothesizes that there is a 50,000 year reoccurring cycle across the Mass Effect universe. Created by Redditor PeterGot, it argues that the events in the Milky Way galaxy run a specific predetermined cycle. It is known by fans that the Reapers attack every 50,000 years, but this theory states that each cycle has the same characters and events that lead up to the Reaper attack. This means that there has always been a Commander Shepard character who attempted to save the world. Some fans believe that Javik was the Prothean’s version of Shepard.
But what makes Shepard’s cycle different and enables Shepard to finally defeat the Reapers? The 50,000 Year Cycle Theory claims this is due to the Protheans being able to miraculously delay the previous cycle, which in turn gave Shepard's cycle more time before the Reaper attack. Shepard dies at the end of Mass Effect 2. This is arguably what happened to every Shepard incarnation before, but this time, due to the delay, there was enough time for Shepard to be brought back to life, which created an entirely new series of events unseen in any previous cycle.
18 Indoctrination Theory
The Indoctrination Theory is by far the most popular and widely accepted theory among fans. It seeks to explain the seemingly random and anticlimactic ending of Mass Effect 3. The theory declares that the Reapers attempted to indoctrinate Commander Shepard throughout the series. Instead of trying to kill Shepard, which they had more than enough chances to do, the Reapers sought to make Shepard one of their own. The final battle with Harbinger in Mass Effect 3 was therefore a last attempt by the Reapers to fully indoctrinate Shepard and once Shepard was hit by Harbringer’s beam, all the following events took place within Shepard’s mind as a dream.
There are many arguments for this theory. One of the main arguments is the appearance of Captain Anderson and The Illusive Man on the Citadel at the end of the game. Fans believe that Anderson and The Illusive Man represent Shepard’s internal battle: Anderson representing Shepard’s conscious trying to fight the indoctrination, while The Illusive Man represents Shepard’s mind submitting. The final decision made at the end of the series decides whether Shepard manages to escape the indoctrination, by choosing destruction, or succumb to it.
17 Prothean Ark Theory
The Prothean Ark Theory suggests that the Citadel was not the first to set forth an Andromeda Initiative to find a new home world. The founder of this theory, YouTuber x Raîzer x, argues that the Protheans were far more advanced than any other race during any of the other cycles. If the Citadel was able to come up with an idea to build arks to send to another galaxy, it is perfectly plausible that the Protheans were able to come up with the same idea, if not a better one.
The main question would be where the Protheans would send their ark. They may have sent it out to far distant galaxy, or they have have even sent it to Andromeda. It is therefore possible that Ryder may meet some Prothean-like beings in the upcoming games. For this to happen, the Protheans would have had to survive from the time of their own Andromeda Initiative to the time of Ryder. X Raîzer x hints that perhaps the Angara may be an evolution of the Prothean species, though other fans believe that the Kett appear to be more closely related to the Protheans.
16 Catalyst Crucible Theory
The Catalyst Crucible Theory states that the Crucible was ultimately created by the Catalyst and Reapers. But why would the Reapers create a weapon that would lead to their own destruction? They did it to test the galaxy. The Reapers destroyed the civilization of each cycle because they were created by the Catalyst to protect all life from the inevitable conflict between organics and synthetics.
This theory argues that during these previous cycles, the Reapers believed that cooperation between organics and synthetics was impossible at the time. However, in Commander Shepard’s cycle, Shepard was able to unite organics and synthetics together under one banner against a common enemy: the Reapers. Shepard was finally able to destroy the Reapers because, for once, the galaxy had passed the test and worked towards a peaceful future together. Another reasoning for this theory is that the Reapers made no attempts to stop the Crucible’s construction or destroy it.
15 Leviathan Crucible Theory
Many fans have questioned the exact origins of the Crucible. While some fans believe it was created by the Reapers, as stated above by the Catalyst Crucible Theory, others argue that it was created by the Leviathans. The Crucible has been around for many cycles and the Leviathans are the oldest species to have been in conflict with the Reapers. Once the Reapers turned on the Leviathans, it would be common sense to assume the Leviathans would have at least attempted to make some kind of weapon to protect themselves.
When asked about the Crucible in the Mass Effect 3 DLC Leviathan, the Leviathan was extremely vague, stating that it had watched the Crucibles slow construction, but that ultimately each species was unsuccessful. This theory suggests that the Leviathans could have constructed the plans for the Crucible and then enthralled the species of each cycle to create it.
14 Vetra’s Father Theory
One theory that has emerged with Mass Effect Andromeda is that Vetra Nyx is the daughter of Saren Arterius. This theory is credited to Redditor DrPillzRedux, who noticed that throughout party dialogue, Vetra will occasionally talk about her past. She tells Drack in one scene that her father was part of Special Ops and simply disappeared one day. All she knows is that he became involved with “shady types” which eventually caused her mother to leave when Vetra was 15 years old. Vetra’s mother was high up in military command and thus, realistically, would have had a chance to meet Saren, who climbed the military ladder and eventually became the youngest Turian Spectre.
Another argument for this theory is that Turians traditionally take the surnames of their same sex parent, thus Vetra would have taken her mother’s surname, Nyx. The name Nyx originally comes from the Greek deity, who was born from Chaos (i.e., Saren). Mass Effect Revelations took place in 2165 and kicked off Saren’s obsession with the Reapers and Geth. The events of Mass Effect 1 happened 18 years later and by then Saren had become a rogue agent. Vetra’s younger sister, Sid, was one year old when their father left and is presumed to have been born at the beginning or during Saren’s descent into madness.
13 Reaper Indoctrination Theory
The Reaper Indoctrination Theory argues that the Reapers themselves were indoctrinated and forced to take part in the harvesting of other species. This would mean that the Reapers were in fact puppets, forced to do the bidding of a higher being. This theory is based on the construction of the Reapers by the Catalyst, which was in turn created by the Leviathans, with the goal to preserve life.
This theory questions whether the Reapers were Artificial Intelligence (AI) or Virtual Intelligence (VI) beings. AIs are constructed to assist creators and are not self aware, while VIs are self aware and capable of independent decision making. During Commander Shepard’s initial meeting with Sovereign in Mass Effect 1, Liara T’Soni stated that she did not believe Sovereign to be a VI. If the Reapers were AIs, then it can be argued that they were indoctrinated and forced to fulfill a specific purpose. This plays into the 50,000 Year Cycle Theory mentioned above, and would mean that the Reapers were merely a part of a cycle and had no choice but to blindly follow their programming.
12 Cerberus Benefactor Theory
The Cerberus Benefactor Theory has arisen from Mass Effect Andromeda, and argues that Cerberus are the anonymous benefactors behind the Andromeda Initiative. As Ryder collects Alec Ryder’s memories and discovers how Alec became a part of the Andromeda Initiative, it becomes clear that the Initiative’s founder, Jien Garson, accepted donations from an anonymous benefactor in order to get the Initiative up and running. And, spoiler alert: it is discovered that Jien Garson was killed by the benefactor, who used the Scourge incident as a cover up.
Some fans argue that this is a very Cerberus-like act. Cerberus will stop at nothing to promote their pro-human agenda and if Garson somehow tried to defy them and regain control over the Initiative, Cerberus wouldn’t hesitate to eliminate this inconvenience. So perhaps it is not mere coincidence that the only ark to successfully find the Nexus was the human ark.
11 Asari True Form Theory
The Asari True Form Theory hypothesizes that the Asari’s true form is unknown, meaning the form they take across the Mass Effect universe is completely false. The Asari have highly advanced powers of manipulation, as depicted with the Ardat-Yakshi, Morinth, in Mass Effect 2. She is able to influence Commander Shepard’s mind, her eyes turning black and Shepard’s vision becoming distorted. With these abilities, it is highly likely that the Asari can manipulate the way each race views them.
This theory came to light due to a scene in Mass Effect 2, where a Salarian, Turian, and human argued about the Asari form. It becomes clear that each species views Asari in their own image. Since Commander Shepard and Ryder are humans, fans therefore see Asari as a human-like species. One counterargument to this is the Asarian Temple in Thessia in Mass Effect 3, where there are massive stone statues portraying Asari as human-like. However, some fans argue that the Asari have engrained this telepathic programming so deeply into other beings that it even manipulates how others see stone.
10 Shepard Influence Theory
Originally speculated by YouTuber 00meat Plays, this theory argues that Commander Shepard had his own mind-influencing ability. This would explain why Shepard was able to resist the Reaper’s attempts to control him and why he could influence so many people into following him into battle. In Mass Effect 1, the beacon on Eden Prime was instrumental in changing Shepard biologically, managing to transfer some Prothean abilities to Shepard and giving Shepard some form of extra powers that had a lasting effect throughout the series. One of these powers may be the Paragon/Renegade abilities, which Shepard coincidentally obtained just after leaving Eden Prime, and allowed him to exert additional influence over others in dialogue. Besides the Reapers and Leviathans, Shepard was one of the few people that had the power to successfully change another being’s mind against their will.
YouTube commenter Ekter took this one step further and theorized that the Leviathans may have been controlling Shepard, providing a means for Shepard to obtain and harness these special abilities. The Leviathans are one of the most ancient species in the galaxy and have the ability to influence lesser minds. It might be argued that, as they watched over Shepard, they managed to influence some events in the series.
9 Alec Ryder And The Illusive Man Theory
This theory is based on the idea that Alec Ryder and The Illusive Man had met and previously knew each other. This is based on the fact that both were stationed on Shanxi during the First Contact War. The Illusive Man, or Jack Harper at the time, was hired as a mercenary and became part of a special group under the command of General Williams. General Williams served as a Systems Alliance commander during the war and was in charge of a desperate guerrilla campaign on the surface of Shanxi after being cut off from reinforcement. Alec Ryder was part of the Alliance military and was also stationed on Shanxi during the war and guerrilla attacks.
The fact that both Alec and Jack worked extensively on AIs makes this theory somewhat more plausible. The design of AIs is technically illegal in Citadel space. This means that both Ryder and Harper had the same outlawed hobby. This theory is based purely on speculation, but it does have enough of a starting foundation to at least make it an interesting idea.
8 Purgatory Theory
The Purgatory Theory believes that Commander Shepard had died at the end of Mass Effect 3 and that the Mass Effect 3 DLC Citadel takes place in the afterlife. Citadel is a tribute DLC, offering up everything fans loved about the series. It provides Shepard with a sweet pad, some casino drama, and the chance to hang out with all of his old companions again.
Jordan Rivas came up with this theory based on dialogue during Citadel with Avina, the virtual intelligence unit. In the DLC, Shepard can once again ask Avina about information on different locations in the Citadel. However, when you bring up Purgatory, the Citadel’s nightclub, Avina will begin defining purgatory — a Catholic concept about a plane between heaven and hell. This theory argues that it cannot be merely coincidence that the writers of the DLC chose to make this reference, and in fact the idea of the Citadel being a temporary purgatory for Shepard makes sense. Shepard has a strong connection with the Citadel, it being where he began forming close alliances and started his journey.
7 Beings Of Light Theory
The Beings of Light Theory proposes that there are entities called the Beings of Light. This theory came to light due to the Mass Effect 1 codex entry on Klencory, a planet owned by Volus billionaire Kumun Shol. The codex explains that a vision of a higher being told Shol to seek the “lost crypts of beings of light” on Klencory and that these entities were created at the dawn of time in order to “protect organic life from synthetic ‘machine devils.’” It then goes on to say that Shol had been excavating Klencory for two decades with no luck.
Many fans believe that this is a direct reference to the Catalyst, which takes the form of a child shining with light. However, no one quite knows what the “machine devils” refer to. The Catalyst created the Reapers and therefore it seems contradictory that they would be the “machines of devils.” The Reapers were designed to harvest all life in order to preserve it before it is lost to the inevitable conflict between organics and synthetics. This may indicate that all synthetic beings are “machine devils” or may be a reference to an entirely new group, i.e., the Remnant.
6 Wormhole Theory
The Wormhole Theory revolves around mass relays and their destruction at the end of Mass Effect 3. It argues that this destruction had unintentional effects on the environment and the fabric of space-time itself. Any survivors in the Milky Way galaxy would be able to study and rebuild around these effects, able to craft more powerful relays. Taking advantage of these effects, inhabitants of the Milky Way could create the most advanced form of travel we’ve seen yet: a type of wormhole travel.
The Wormhole Theory was created due to speculation about the Mass Effect Andromeda official trailer by the Countdownandromeda Tumblr page. The initial influences of this theory was the explosion of the Citadel mass relay at the end of Mass Effect 3 and how its shockwave looked similar to the explosion-like graphic behind Ryder in the official Mass Effect Andromeda trailer. Though this theory has mostly been put on a side burner, it could possibly be revived in future games if the developers ever decide to revisit the Milky Way galaxy.
5 Stargazer Theory
The Stargazer Theory is very similar to the Wormhole Theory and also focuses on the ending of Mass Effect 3 and the Citadel mass relay. It focuses on the idea that the destruction of the Citadel mass relay is so powerful that it opens up a wormhole that allows the Normandy to jump to the Andromeda galaxy. As Joker attempts to pilot through the blast, the Normandy is spared and able to land safely on a planet within a new galaxy.
An argument for this is that throughout Mass Effect 1, Saren Arterius attempts to use the Citadel mass relay. It becomes evident that this specific relay is extremely powerful and is able to send Reapers into dark space, which means it is also likely able to send them to other galaxies. The explosion of the Citadel relay might then create a unintended jump across the universe to another galaxy.
The theory is named after the stargazer scene at the end of Mass Effect 3, where a character explains the story of Commander Shepard to a young child. It was initially believed by some that this child would be the protagonist of Mass Effect Andromeda.
4 Illusive Cora Theory
One theory that has emerged recently is the speculation that Cora Harper is related to The Illusive Man. This is due to them both sharing the surname Harper which, knowing BioWare, is likely not just mere coincidence. Before founding Cerberus and taking on the ominous name of The Illusive Man, Jack Harper had a normal job and family. During the First Contact War, he met Ben Hislop and Eva Coré, who he became very close with. Some fans have acknowledged that Eva’s last name, Coré, is surprisingly similar to Cora. Due to Cerberus’ involvement with cloning, it might be possible that Cora is a clone of Coré, if not a member of The Illusive Man’s original family.
Another argument for this theory is that Cora is an extremely skillful biotic. Cerberus has a lot of experience in this field, with their extensive past of biotic experimentation. For example, their work on Subject Zero. Some fans believe that though Cora has a past working with the Asari, it is possible that Cerberus sent her to study them to advance human interests and now she is a spy within the Andromeda Initiative. Meanwhile, other fans argue that Cora has no idea about her family ties to the pro-human corporation.
3 Aria T’Loak Is Aleena Theory
The Aria T’Loak is Aleena Theory speculates that the two are the same person. Aleena was a former Asari commando and mercenary. During her mercenary years, she was a close friend of Urdnot Wrex before his encounter with Commander Shepard. They stayed close until Wrex received a contract to kill Aleena. Since the two were friends, they decided to test their skills and battle it out. They found an old space station and fought for days, until Wrex realized that the station’s core was about to explode and managed to escape just in time. He later received a message from Aleena, who was also able to escape, telling him “better luck next time.” Since then Aleena’s location had been unknown.
Aria T’Loak appears in the Mass Effect trilogy as the ruler of Omega. During dialogue with Aria in Mass Effect 2, she hints at her past as a former Asari commando and mercenary. This has led many fans to theorize that the two are the same, since it cannot be mere coincidence that one disappears just as the other emerges.
2 Kett Remnant Theory
The Kett Remnant Theory suggests that the Remnant in Mass Effect Andromeda were originally made by the Kett. Created by YouTubers Hot Not Meh and Blastmaster321, it argues that through some misunderstanding or mistake, the Remnant turned on the Kett. An influence of this theory is the Geth War as well as the creation of the Reapers by the Catalyst. The Geth War was an overall attack on the Geth by their creators, the Quarians. After creating the Geth, the Quarians began to fear that these units were too advanced and were likely to turn on their species. Thus they ordered the termination of all Geth.
The Kett Remnant Theory believes that the Remnant became so advanced that the Kett were soon unable to control them. The Kett then, like the Quarians, felt the need to wipe them out. After many battles, the Kett began to believe that they were successful, but later found out that the Remnants had sought refuge in underground vaults, where they remained in stasis so they wouldn’t be detected. This may explain another reason why the Kett are so interested in getting inside the vaults.
1 Dragon Age/Mass Effect Theory
It may seem like a long stretch, but YouTuber Geek Remix theorizes that both Mass Effect and Dragon Age take place within the same universe. In the Mass Effect 2 DLC Kasumi: Stolen Memory, there is a Darkspawn ogre statue in Donovan Hock’s vault. Some fans argue that Hock is interested in preserving not only art, but also pieces depicting extinct species. In Dragon Age: Inquisition there are several mounted Krogan heads scattered across the game. This may indicate that Krogan had attempted to land on Dragon Age’s planet, Thedas, and scout the area, but were killed and mounted as trophies, due to their oddity.
Thedas' moon is quite large. In fact it is so large that some believe it to be a planet. There is a planet in Mass Effect that looks similar to the moon of Thedas. It is called Klendagon and has a moon, called Presrop, which may be Thedas. The Mass Effect 1 codex explains that Presrop is barren and consists of jagged ridges due to an ancient disaster, which might be a reference to the events of Dragon Age: Inquisition. While other fans see these as merely easter eggs, some believe that there is enough evidence to at least consider this theory.