Eight Most Underrated Sci-Fi Tropes (Updated in 2023)

Underrated Sci-Fi Tropes

Yearning for some underrated sci-fi tropes representation in today’s mainstream media? Tired of clichĂ© tropes that have been done million times before?

Things like two people from two vastly different worlds who start off regarding each other as enemies, only to be brought together by love, which also happens to conquer all? (Yes, I’m totally talking about Avatar.)

If those tropes seem tired to you, you’re not alone.

Read on for underrated science fiction tropes we’d like to see more of, such as benevolent aliens instead of evil ones, alt-travel instead of time-travel, or a hidden civilization whose technology exceeds the rest of the known world!

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Trope: Good or Bad?

We use the word trope to refer to a literary convention. Allthetropes.org argues that a trope “can be a plot trick, a setup, a narrative structure, a character type, a linguistic idiom,” basically anything in literature that has a recognizable pattern.

Trope in itself is not bad, as it is a literary shorthand to consolidate a concept that would otherwise take hours to deliver to the audience. However, for some people, the word trope may have a connotative meaning that is closer to cliché than convention, depending on personal opinion and its execution in a creative work.



That being said, like it or not, tropes are always gonna be around. Sometimes, certain tropes are just the standard in the genre. But more importantly, tropes will always exist because they contain observations of real life, which we then project into our creative works be it for education, entertainment, or both.

It, then, falls to our shoulders to stay away from overused tropes and give the spotlight and love to some underrated ones. Without further ado, here are a list of juicy yet underused tropes that should appear more in mainstream media! Please be advised that this article might contain spoilers of various movies and literary works, and therefore, please proceed at your own caution.

Underrated Tropes in Sci-Fi

Evil aliens invading the Earth? Time travel gone wrong? Those are so yesterday. Below are some underused sci-fi tropes that we’d like to see more of!

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Benevolent aliens

Evil aliens have been done to death, don’t you think?

That’s why for me, the movie Arrival (2017), starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner, feels like a breath of fresh air. Not only the aliens in this movie are generous, one of them also ends up getting mortally injured as a result of their interaction with humans. Talk about tugging at the heartstring.


An advanced, hidden civilization

If we want to read about backward ancient civilization being bullied by people who come from a more advanced, modern world, we can just read history books.

It’s so cool to see how the Wakandans and Talokans, two ancient yet advanced civilizations in Black Panther and its sequel, Wakanda Forever, stand up for themselves against any threats that seek to destroy their people.


An advanced, machine civilization

Despite the avalanche of negative reviews, the Transformers franchise highlights a cool concept of an advanced machine world. It’s also something we see in the Terminator franchise.

However, they don’t do the justice of describing the world in detail. I think it would be cool to dive into the everyday life of the sentient machine inhabitants of such a world.

Do they ever experience existential crisis? What about love? And do they dream of electric sheep?



A multiverse, or a reality where parallel universes exist alongside each other. Enough said. Right?

Time-travel is so yesterday. With this multiverse trope, someone can alt-travel between their parallel selves in the other parallel universe. How cool is that? I totally blame Everything, Everywhere, All at Once for this newfound obsession.

Non-humanoid aliens

Humanoid aliens are so boring.

And while we’re at it, we certainly need more stories about aliens whose size doesn’t come close to human size. Tiny aliens. Or giant aliens. Imagine all the possible conflicts, the drama!

Or what about aliens that look like rocks, only they’re sentient? Or aliens that exist as elements, resembling what humans know as wind, sunshine, smell, etc.?



Here’s a trope that not many people are familiar with. Uplift refers to the concept of raising animals or species to sentience and intelligence through genetic manipulation or technological means.

In uplift scenarios, humans or advanced civilizations take on the role of mentors or guides, fostering the growth and development of other species to help them achieve intellectual and cultural sophistication. Uplifted beings may be granted legal rights and become active participants in society, contributing their unique perspectives and talents.

As a trope, it is a compelling one that invites speculation about the nature of intelligence, the possibilities of interspecies cooperation, and the potential consequences of tampering with the natural course of evolution.


Often overshadowed by its dystopian counterpart, solarpunk offers an optimistic and environmentally conscious vision of the future. It envisions a world where sustainable energy sources, eco-friendly technologies, and green living practices thrive, creating vibrant, harmonious communities in balance with nature.

In solarpunk narratives, social and cultural aspects are also explored. The focus is on community resilience, decentralized governance, and participatory decision-making. Solarpunk societies strive for social justice, inclusivity, and the equitable distribution of resources, emphasizing cooperation, collaboration, and the well-being of all members of society.


Often overshadowed by cyberpunk, bio-punk explores the intersection of biology, genetics, and technology in a gritty and dystopian future. In biopunk narratives, scientists and corporations manipulate and modify living organisms, including humans, to enhance their abilities, create new species, or exert control over the natural world. These modifications can range from genetic enhancements and alterations to the creation of entirely new organisms.

The trope also focuses on the ethical dilemmas that arise when manipulating living organisms, pushing the boundaries of science and blurring the lines between the natural and the artificial, highlighting the potential consequences of unchecked scientific advancements and the struggles of individuals navigating a world where biology is subject to corporate control.

Create your own trope?

– The movie Arrival (2017) highlights a different concept of time as understood by the aliens visiting Earth. What about a world with a different concept of eating? Living? Breathing? Etc.

– Instead of a conflict between alienkind and humankind, what about a conflict between two alien superpowers and humans are stuck in the middle of the conflict?

– Instead of alien invasion and alien-related conflict, write about a world where aliens cohabitate with humans in a mutualistic symbiosis.

– A futuristic world overtaken by evolved plants, which could talk.

– Undead people (zombies) who are not the result of a virus but technology.


I hope this underrated sci-fi trope ideas gets your inspiration going! For more story ideas and prompts, please browse our Story Ideas & Writing Prompts category!

That’s all I have for now!

Have any question or feedback? Feel free to contact me here. Until next time!

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