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The Entire Dead Space Timeline Explained

The "Dead Space" series debuted in 2008, introducing players to the initially silent protagonist Isaac Clarke and the abandoned "planet-cracking" ship, the USG Ishimura. This first title served as the gateway for many fans, but the timeline for the world of "Dead Space" actually starts prior to the events of the game.

While Electronic Arts only released three mainline "Dead Space" entries, it invested in expanding the "Dead Space" universe with books and other media over the years. This resulted in a vast sci-fi universe with a scope not fully reflected in the core action horror "Dead Space" trilogy. However, prequel novels, spin-off games, comics, and animated movies have filled in the gaps, weaving an often confusing narrative web for the intellectual property.

Those eager to prepare for their return to the franchise through the "Dead Space" remake may wish to revisit the entire timeline and review the key details in chronological order. It all kicks off years prior to the original "Dead Space," centuries before the birth of Isaac Clarke.

The birth of the Necromorphs - Dead Space: Martyr

The events that act as the catalyst for the plague of Necromorphs players fight throughout the "Dead Space" trilogy begin in the year 2214. Humanity discovers the Black Marker at this point, an occurrence detailed in the prequel novel "Dead Space: Martyr." "Martyr" tells the story of geophysicist Michael Altman, the establishment of Unitology, and the creation of the Necromorphs.

In the novel, Altman uncovers the first Marker humankind has encountered. This obelisk-like object causes people to hallucinate and — as revealed later — has the power to reanimate the living corpses that "Dead Space" calls Necromorphs. While investigating a gravitational signal, Altman finds the Black Marker in a crater near the town of Chicxulub. During the excavation process, Altman realizes that, while it drives others to commit murder and suicide, the Marker's power does not affect him. Eventually, those corrupted by the Marker start worshiping Altman for his resistance.

At the end of the novel, the Marker causes the initial outbreak of Necromorphs. Altman almost escapes, but Markoff, a local militia leader who reveals his true loyalty to the Marker and the genesis of Unitology, captures him. Altman dies in a Necromorph attack and becomes a false martyr, with future generations hailing him as the church's founder. Markoff goes on to create copies of the original Black Marker destroyed in Chicxulub. Meanwhile, Unitology grows into one of the dominant religions in the galaxy. 

The activation of the first Red Markers - Dead Space: Catalyst

Using the knowledge that Markoff stole from Altman, the Sovereign Colonies — humanity's united space government — secretly develop more Markers, dubbing the replicas Red Markers. The Sovereign Colonies send the Markers to the planets Aspera, Kreemar, and Aegis VII for testing in the year 2294. All the first Red Markers are eventually activated, leading to numerous catastrophic events across the galaxy.

"Dead Space: Catalyst," the sequel novel to "Martyr,' chronicles the story of how Aspera's Marker caused a Necromorph outbreak. In the middle of the book, Istvan Sato (one of two brothers at the heart of the narrative) arrives at a prison colony on Aspera. Many prisoners feel the Marker's effects, but it calls out to Istvan in particular. The prison's scientists discover that Istvan's brain waves enhance the power of the Marker's signal, turning him into a human catalyst for bringing about a Convergence, the end-game of the Necromorph takeover of a planet and its native species.

Istvan's power creates a way for the three Red Markers to communicate with each other, which causes simultaneous Necromorph outbreaks in each facility. This marks the end of the Sovereign Colonies' initial Red Marker experiment — the first of many to come.

Rediscovery of the Aegis VII Marker

The events of the "Dead Space" saga pick up nearly 200 years later with the rediscovery of the Aegis VII Marker. In 2446, the Concordance Extraction Corporation (CEC) forms and launches its flagship vessel, the USG Ishimura — a large "planet-cracking" ship meant for mining.  As the largest solar mining company in the galaxy, the CEC has immense amounts of power. In 2505, CEC agents enter the Aegis Cluster without legal authorization in search of planets to crack. As part of this process, they detect precious minerals on Aegis VII. Before the Ishimura cracks it, CEC agents also find the long lost Marker on the planet.

After the Ishimura cracks Aegis VII in 2508 and picks up the Marker, the crew rapidly deteriorates, with their mental and physical conditions all ailing. As "Dead Space" reveals, the crew was always doomed. ​​The Ishimura's captain, Benjamin Mathius, was actually an agent of the Church of Unitology sent to retrieve the Marker. Between infighting prompted by the unearthing of this conspiracy and the influence of the Marker, the crew begin to kill each other. Soon, these corpses re-animate and the Necromorph scourge leads to the death of nearly everyone on the ship. In their last moments, someone on the Ishimura sends out a distress beacon to another USG vessel.

Terror on the Ishimura - Dead Space

At this point, the timeline moves into the events of the original "Dead Space." The USG Kellion, a CEC shuttle, picks up the Ishimura's distress call. With the knowledge that his girlfriend, Nicole, was on the Ishimura, engineer Isaac Clarke volunteers to make up part of the boarding crew. He quickly becomes one of the final survivors on the ship. Led by Nicole, he discovers the Necromorph infestation and slowly pieces together what happened on the Ishimura.

Ishimura chief science officer Terrence Kyne contacts Isaac and eventually convinces him to return the Marker back to Aegis VII in order to trap the powerful Necromorph Hive Mind back inside the planet. Once Isaac loads the Marker onto a shuttle, Kendra Daniels, one of the other survivors, kills Kyne and reveals her true identity as a government agent sent to recover Marker 3A (the one sent to Aegis VII). Daniels attempts to escape with it, but Isaac manages to board the shuttle and return the Marker.

Once she catches up, Daniels drops the bomb that Nicole has been dead the whole time and that Isaac's hallucinations led him to bring the Marker back to the Hive Mind. Isaac realizes that he has been tricked and fights the Hive Mind, destroying it along with Aegis VII and the Marker before making his miraculous escape into space.

Dead Space: Aftermath and Ignition set the stage for Dead Space 2

The animated movie "Dead Space: Aftermath" tells the story of the crew of the USG O'Bannon on their mission to investigate and clean up the aftermath of the USG Ishimura and Aegis VII disaster. In time their true goal comes to light: bringing back pieces of Marker 3A. After the expedition, each member of the crew is taken to Titan Station (aka the Sprawl) where its Overseer has them interrogated.

Nolan Stross, chief science officer aboard the O'Bannon, shares that the Marker showed him visions while he studied it. As he lost his grip on reality, Stross eventually killed his wife and child. After Stross gives his account, the head interrogator places him in captivity. At the end of the movie, the Overseer also reveals that they had previously found a delusional Isaac Clarke and imprisoned him on the Sprawl.

In 2511, during the events of puzzle adventure game "Dead Space: Ignition," technician Franco Delille works on the Sprawl. After surviving a Necromorph attack, Franco eventually makes his way to the Sprawl's Psychiatric Ward to free Isaac from his holding cell. And so begins "Dead Space 2."

Isaac destroys the Marker on Titan Station - Dead Space 2

After Isaac wakes up on the Sprawl he finds himself in the midst of another Necromorph eruption. The poor guy just can't catch a break. A woman named Daina Le Guin contacts him, but she soon unmasks herself as a Unitologist after luring Isaac into a trap at the Unitologist church on the Sprawl. Upon getting out of that scrape, fellow dementia patient Nolan Stross, the USG O'Bannon's former senior scientist, reaches out to Isaac and eventually convinces him that, together, the two of them have the ability to destroy the Marker causing the Titan Station outbreak.

Working with CEC officer Ellie Langford, Isaac fights his way to Stross and the Marker. When the three meet up, Stross snaps and attacks Ellie, forcing Isaac to kill him. When Isaac finally reaches the Marker, it seems like it is too late and the Convergence has already begun. Isaac manages to destroy the Marker in a sacrificial move that also initiates the destruction of Titan Station. However, as it falls to pieces around him, Ellie arrives and saves Isaac from the crumbling remains of the Sprawl. The pair escapes and starts a life in hiding on the New Horizons Lunar Colony on Earth's moon.

Dead Space: Liberation gives John Carver an origin story

The graphic novel "Dead Space: Liberation" released simultaneously with "Dead Space 3" in 2013. It stars John Carver, the co-op player character in "Dead Space 3." "Liberation" covers the start of Carver's story in 2514 during his time as a sergeant on the planet Uxor. A radical Unitologist group calling themselves the Circle attacks the Marker station where Carver's wife, Damara, works. Jacob Danik, leader of the Circle and main antagonist of "Dead Space 3," captures Damara and her son, Dylan, eventually killing them.

On the brink of suicide, Carver is rescued by Ellie, who was working with Damara to discover the Marker experimentation the Sovereign Colonies conducted centuries in the past. The two team up with EarthGov's Captain Robert Norton to finish Damara's research. After they locate her data stick, Carver and Ellie realize that they have no way of translating the language without Damara or someone like Isaac Clarke who the Marker has influenced.

Though he objects at first, Norton ultimately gives in and agrees that Isaac is the only one who can help them. After a fight with Unitologist forces, Norton and Carver go after Isaac while Ellie departs for Tau Volantis — the planet Damara identified as the source of the Necromorphs and the Markers.

Fighting the Nexus in Dead Space 3

"Dead Space 3" centers on the final confrontation with the Necromorph Hive Mind and the journey to the source — Tau Volantis, which Ellie believes to be the Marker home world. The game begins when Robert Norton travels to the New Horizons Lunar Colony to recruit Isaac Clarke to help out with their mission. Despite the ending of "Liberation," deciphering Damara's data never makes it back into the story.

While Norton and Isaac try to leave, Jacob Danik launches an assault on the lunar colony. Simultaneously, he activates the Markers across the galaxy and starts a universe-wide Necromorph outbreak. As Danik launches a religious war on humanity, Isaac and his crew escape to Tau Volantis to liaise with Ellie.

After finally meeting up, Isaac, Norton, and Ellie find a large frozen Necromorph Hive Mind known as the Nexus. While they attempt to thaw the Nexus, Danik appears. It comes out that Norton made a deal with Danik in secret and that he has led the zealot right to the location of the Nexus and Isaac. Carver and Isaac have no choice but to fight and destroy the Nexus.

The secret of Tau Volantis - Dead Space 3

After escaping and destroying the Nexus, Isaac and Ellie find a lab where they discover Rosetta, a dissected alien being that, once assembled, gives Isaac a vision and a device called the Codex. Isaac's vision reveals that a Convergence Event happened on Tau Volantis which kickstarted the creation of a Necromorph Moon still orbiting the planet. This is just one of many Brethren Moons the Necromorphs use to spread the Marker's signal.

The aliens who once lived on Tau Volantis halted Full Convergence using a machine that keeps the ocean planet frozen. Following a struggle, Danik steals the Codex and uses it to turn off the machine and complete Convergence. This initiates a sequence of events that sends the moon directly toward Tau Volantis.

Danik dies amidst the crumbling ruins and Ellie finds a shuttle to escape in, leaving Isaac and Carver to work together to fight their way to the machine. They reverse the Convergence, causing the moon to crash into Tau Volantis and destroy everything. As she leaves the chaos behind, Ellie hears Isaac's voice calling out for her before credits roll, creating one possible ending to the "Dead Space" saga.

Isaac and Carver return to Earth ... or do they? - Dead Space 3: Awakened

"Dead Space 3" concludes with an ambiguous cliffhanger that implies Isaac Clarke remains out there somewhere. However, the game's one piece of story DLC, "Awakened," wipes out any trace of ambiguity on that front. This results in a coda to the "Dead Space" saga starring Isaac Clarke and John Carver, both of whom survive the moon explosion and wind up back on Tau Volantis.

Searching for a way out, the pair finds the CMS Terra Nova, a transport shuttle that needs a new ShockPoint Drive. Isaac and Carver locate the drive, but hallucinations plague Isaac. He refuses to install the ShockPoint Drive into the ship because he believes the Brethren Moons will follow them to Earth and kill everyone. In a shared vision, the Moons reveal that they know the location of Earth and are already on their way there. This convinces Isaac to finally boot up the ship, but after returning to Earth's orbit, they hear transmissions revealing that Necromorphs have taken over the planet.

The ending of "Awakened" ultimately doubles down on where "Dead Space 3" left players in the first place. After seeing Earth ravaged by Necromorphs, the Terra Nova crashes into a Brethren Moon and Isaac and Carver pass out, leaving gamers to question which — if any — of the events of the DLC really happened.