The world (or should I say galaxy) of Mass Effect is filled with a variety of different kinds of races. This abundance of advanced life in the game is one of its most respected and most iconic features.
In this guide we’ll go through most of the races in the game. The more frequently encountered races (and/or the ones that have a vital role in the galaxy) will be described in detail.
Officially, the Council races are those races which have a representative in the Citadel Council, the main governing body of the entire galaxy.
Originally consisting of three races – the Asari, Salarians and Turians, the Citadel Council made room for one more governing head from the Human race, thanks to the commendable efforts that saved the Citadel against Sovereign’s wrath in the first Mass Effect game.
The Citadel Council now consists of Asari, Turians, Salarians and Humans, which are known as the Council races.
The Asari are an all-female race and are one of the most powerful and well-respected races throughout the galaxy. They were the first species to discover the Citadel, and had the main role in the development of the Citadel Council.
The Asari are famed for their diplomacy, their elegance and their powerful Biotic skills, and are perhaps the most economically stable races of all.
An Asari can live beyond a millennium. Individuals who have crossed the 1000 year age are highly regarded and followed, termed as Matriarchs. Asari have the ability to mate with any kind of gender or species. However, the resulting child born is always an Asari, regardless of the companion’s race/gender.
The Asari generally go through three stages in their millennium life. The first stage is known as the Maiden stage, and starts from birth and lasts for a few hundred years. In this stage the Asari are curious and desire exploration and investigation.
The second stage is the Matron stage, which begins at about 350 years of age. At this time of their life, the Asari desire to settle and have children.
The third stage is the Matriarch stage, and begins at around 700 years of age. The Matriarchs are the most respected individuals in the Asari society, and are looked at as mentors due to their centuries of experience and knowledge. Those who cross 1000 years in particular are very highly regarded and followed.
Humans came in to the light of the other races’ awareness quite late, as they discovered the Mass Relay technology quite late in Mars, which also indicated that the Protheans had been studying the early Cro-Magnon humans.
The rapid development in technology thanks to this magnificent discovery allowed them to venture further into the galaxy than they had ever done before.
It also led to what is famously known as the First Contact War, a short but intense war against the Turians, which were the first galactic race Humans encountered. This occurred when humans tried to activate a dormant Mass Relay.
Since it was illegal by Council law to do so, the human fleet carrying out the operation was attacked by the Turians, and a nearby human colony of Shanxi was occupied. The humans responded by attacking the Turians, and forcibly drove them out.
This retaliation caught the attention of the Council, and attempted to broker a peace, after which the humans were introduced to the galactic races and the Citadel.
In 2165 the Humans were granted an embassy in the Citadel in recognition of their growing economic and military power. They kept colonizing various parts of the galaxy, which led to a long-standing conflict with the Batarians.
Humans were always looked at with a wary eye by other races due to their rapid colonizing ability and their threatening military strength. It wasn’t until the Battle of the Citadel that the humans gained a famed status.
As a result of the successful defending of the Citadel from the Reaper threat, humans were awarded with a position among the Council Races.
The Salarians are warm-blooded amphibian races with a hyperactive metabolism. Because of this, they are very energetic, thoughtful, and often come up with leading breakthroughs in the fields of genetic engineering and technology.
The Salarians were responsible for the development of the then primitive raced known as Krogans, who were used as soldiers during the Rachni Wars. However, this development made the Krogans intelligent enough to start brutally rebelling against the Salarians and attempting to colonize as many areas as possible.
The Salarians then came up with the genophage bioweapon for the Krogans, which the Turians used on the otherwise uncontrollable species to severely cripple their breeding rate.
The Salarians are known for their fast and productive thinking, and it is generally accepted that they know more than they are letting on.
The Turians are a powerful species that have made their mark in the Citadel and the galaxy with their military prowess. They have the largest fleet in Citadel space, and the single largest portion of the Council military. They were invited into the Citadel Council to fulfill the role of galactic peacekeepers.
The Turians have strong political relationships with the Asari and the Salarians. They mostly rely on the Salarians for intelligence and the Asari for diplomacy.
The Turians generally have an autocratic nature, having a strong sense of self-respect and honor. This comes from the autocratic nature on their home world and the long war-filled history. Their government is a hierarchical meritocracy.
While it has lots of potential for misuse, the general up-bringing of Turians has prevented such an incident ever since they joined the Council.
The Krogans evolved slowly in one of the most hostile conditions known in the galaxy. Though predators by standard definitions, Krogans were logically primitive creatures, and their primary reason for their fatalities on their home world was ‘eaten by predators’.
The Salarians were the ones to help Krogans become more cultural, and taught them to use technology so they could serve as soldiers in the Rachni Wars.
However, after the Rachni Wars, the rapid breeding trait of Krogans began to show itself, as their numbers tripled in very short time – to such an uncontrollable extent that they started brutally colonizing already-colonized nearby planets. This forced the Turians to use a Salarian-made biological genophage weapon.
Only 1 out of 1000 pregnancies is viable now due to the result of the genophage. This makes the fertile female Krogans a very rare and prized possession, and often Krogan warlords either fight over them or trade them as an act of diplomacy, though the former is much more common.
The Krogan homeworld is Tuchanka, an ecologically devastated planet. Each Krogan identifies itself with a clan in Tuchanka. Currently, the Urdnot clan is the head clan of the planet.
The Quarians attempted to create synthetic life form for labor force. They managed to do so successfully, but though dorment, the created Geth became more intelligent as their numbers grew due to their hive mind styled programming, and eventually drove the Quarians out of their world.
What Quarians call home now is the Migrant Fleet, a fleet consisting of several ships that move about together in the galaxy, giving them a nomad-like status. However, the Quarians are looked down at with negativity due to the creation of the Geth, and also because of the mishaps that occur wherever the Migrant Fleet goes.
Due to the scarce supplies in the fleet, each Quarian performs a ritual called the Pilgrimage when he/she comes of age, in which they go out to explore the universe and bring back something vital to the Migrant Fleet.
The Geth are a synthetic race created by the Quarians. Though individually dorment and unintelligent, their productivity and sentience grows as their numbers grow because of the Geth Network. This was what led to the Geth asking questions like ‘Am I Alive?’ from the Quarians.
Realizing this, the Quarians attempted to shut down the Geth Network system. The attempt failed, and resulted in a war between the synthetic race and the Quarians, which the Geth won.
Though the impression from the contact with the get during the incidents of the first Mass Effect is that the Geth are generally hostile, it is proven otherwise when the super-intelligent and non-hostile Geth Legion is discovered, who terms the Saren-following Geth as ‘heretics’.
This shows that the Geth are not originally hostile, and do not wish to eliminate other races and act as tools for the Reapers.
Below are some of the other races that are encountered in the world of Mass Effect:
Batarians are four-eyed anthropoid races, and are famous for their long-standing conflict with humans, which resulted in them being sacked from the Citadel.
Because of this, and the general morally grey ethics and belief systems of the Batarians, they are not a popular race in the galaxy.
Batarians heavily practice social caste based on appearances and physique. They believe that any species with less than four eyes is unintelligent. They also heavily practice slavery. They believe in it so much that Batarians see the Council’s anti-slavery position as prejudice.
Drell are omnivorous reptile-like humanoid species with an appearance very similar to Humans and Asari. However, their muscle tissue is denser, and gives them extra strength.
Originally from a world where the Drell population grew so dense that they neared certain doom, the race was helped by the Hanar, who mass-transported them to their own.
Due to this generous and kind gesture by the Hanar at hard times, the Drell feel they are in debt to the beings, and offer what is called the Compact, which the Drell fulfill by taking on tasks that the Hanar find difficult, such as combat. They have the option to refuse this offer, but rarely do so, as it is considered an honor to be requested.
The Drell still face difficulty in prolonged exposure to humid conditions. This has led to an incommunicable but incurable disease called the Kepral’s Syndrome, which creates difficulty to breathe oxygen and causes eventual death. The Hanar researchers are working as hard as they can to find a cure for this.
The Elcor are large, heavy and docile intelligent beings native to the high-gravity world of Dekuuna. Because of the planet’s mass, the Elcor are very large creatures, standing on four massive limbs for increased stability.
The Elcor have very strong olfactory senses, and even subtle body movements, change in tone can tell them about others more than their facial gestures or words would. Since the Elcor talk slow and monotonously, they often attempt to convey their feelings through verbal methods alongside what they say, such as “Tentatively excited, Welcome human, what can I get for you?”
The Hanar are a jelly-fish like race whose home world is Kahje, a planet that is 90% covered by ocean and orbits a white star. Due to many Prothean ruins on the Hanar home world, the race has a formal religion in which they worship the Protheans, terming them as the ‘Enkindlers’.
This is because the Hanar believe that the Protheans are the ones who progressed their society and gave the Hanar the ability of speech. The ability to speak is highly regarded by the Hanar, and they are very descriptive and polite in what they say, to a faulty extent. In fact, they have to take formal lessons to understand slightly casual methods of speech and not to take it offensively.
The Rachni are a highly intelligent an insect-like race, thought to have been forced to extinction during the Rachni Wars. Prior to the Rachni Wars, the Rachni race was discovered by the Salarians who activated a newly discobered Mass Relay.
The results were devastating – the Rachni spread across the galaxy in no time, colonizing and completely eliminating worlds in rapid time.
The Salarians attempted to retaliate by training and advancing the Krogans as soldiers against the Rachni, which completely exterminated them.
However, some Rachni eggs were recovered, and attempts were made to rebreed the species to create and army for Saren. It is learnt that the Rachni onslaught during the Rachni wars was because of indoctrination of the entire species by the Reaper Sovereign.
Little is known about the species called Raloi, except that they are avian. They made first contact with the Asari in 2184 after launching their first space telescope and discovering the Asari cruiser Azedes in their system.
Little is known about the biology of the Raloi except that they are avian in appearance. Due to an alien flu virus outbreak, the Raloi have to wear environmental suits when in contact with other alien species.
The Thresher Maw are gigantic subterranean worm-like predators. They can grow up to 90 meters long, and are considered very dangerous and one of the most fearsome predators due to their immense size.
Thresher Maw can be found in various worlds, though they are mainly found in Tuchanka, and used to predate the Krogans before they were trained by the Salarians.
The Volus are a member of the Citadel with their own embassy, and are also the client race of the Turians. They are known throughout the galaxy for the mercantile prowess, and because of that have had a pact with the Turians, in which they share their trade skills in exchange for military protection.
The Volus are generally used to their high-pressure ammonia-based world, and are not physically accustomed to lower pressures. Because of this, they must wear high-pressure suits and breathers when outside their home-world. It was the Volus who authored the Unified Bank Act, and they continue to monitor and balance the Citadel economy.
The Vorcha are a relatively low intelligent but highly adaptive race of mammal and reptile cross. They are typically known for their rapid regenerative and injury alleviation system. Because of this, they are heavily used as mercenaries, particularly in the Blood Pack.
The Vorcha have no terrestrial analogue, and despite their advanced and susceptible bodies, they are overall unintelligent with low galactic intellect. They also have very short lives, living up to maximum twenty years of age.
The Yahg are a sentient race of towering humanoid predators belonging to the world Parnack. They are brutal and violent in nature, both with themselves and especially with other species/races.
A group of Yahg is unable to cooperate until a single leader is determined either through social maneuvering or brutality (of which the latter is more common). However, once done so, the Yahg seem to accept their leader unconditionally and remain submissive to him/her.
The iconic physical attribute of the Yahg are their eight eyes, which depict their predatory nature. All the eyes are linked to determine the positioning and movements of their prey, and their sophisticated senses have made them adept at reading body language and physical intentions regardless of the race.