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Praetorian Xenomorph: The Guardian Of The Queen

By | Published January 04, 2024

The Praetorian Xenomorph, known as the Royal Guard, is an integral and powerful figure in the Xenomorph XX121 species' hierarchy. Emerging in Alien hives with a big population, they serve as protectors of the Queen or Empress, playing a crucial role in the defense of their species. Here is an overview of the Xenomorph Praetorian, including its characteristics and appearance in different media.

Praetorian Characteristics

The Praetorian from Aliens: Fireteam Elite

Praetorians are distinguished by their size and appearance, standing at least ten feet tall and resembling the Queen, though slightly smaller. As part of their Xenomorph anatomy, they possess a large head crest used for ramming attacks, lack a second pair of arms, and their jaws are filled with metallic teeth, similar to lower Xenomorph castes. Their dark, often black or black-blue skin and long, sharp dorsal spines add to their intimidating presence on the battlefield. The Praetorians don't use much stealth - they are heard from far away with their distinctive screech and loud thumping of their footsteps.

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Praetorian Abilities

The Praetorian from Aliens vs. Predator 2010

These creatures exhibit remarkable abilities, including incredible strength and near-bulletproof skin. Capable of defeating entire squads of Marines and matching Yautja in combat, they are formidable adversaries. Praetorians bleed acid (sometimes even spit acid) in large quantities when hurt and employ their claws and blade-tipped tails as lethal weapons, making them dangerous at any range. The Royal Guards often lead attacks on groups of enemies and remain standing when the weaker warriors have died. Taking down a Praetorian is no easy feat, and only a handful of Colonial Marines and Predators have done so.

Creation Of The Praetorian Guards

Praetorian Guards being created in an Alien hive in Aliens: Genocide

Praetorians are chosen from adult Xenomorphs within a hive and undergo a transformative process involving the consumption of Royal Jelly, a substance secreted by the Queen. This perilous and selective process ensures that only the strongest individuals evolve into Praetorians, ready to fulfill their role as guardians and commanders. Once the Royal Jelly is consumed, the adult Xenomorph will shed its skin a second time and grow in size, including the formation of the head crest. The process is somewhat similar to the mutation effects of the Black Goo Pathogen, but in this case, the creature's intelligence is increased.

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Praetorians Transforming Into Queens

The Number Six Alien is transforming into an Alien Queen

In the absence of a Queen, a Praetorian can undergo a final Royal Transformation to become a new Queen, ensuring the hive's survival. This critical role highlights the Praetorian's importance not just as a defender but also as a key figure in the Xenomorph's complex life cycle. A famous Xenomorph that transformed into an Alien Queen was the Number Six Xenomorph from Aliens vs. Predator 2010. However, Number Six's Praetorian step was cut from the game, but some traces of it still remain (his shadow is a Praetorian in the later levels).

Praetorian Types And Variants

Palatine, the highest rank of the Praetorian Xenomorph

Praetorians are not a monolithic caste within the Xenomorph hierarchy but rather present a variety of types and variants, each exhibiting unique characteristics and roles within the hive. The Palatines are considered to be the most Elite of the Praetorians, protecting the Queen Mother. The Crusher can be considered to be a quadruped version of the Praetorian, being born from an animal host. There are also specialized forms like Ravagers and Carriers, evolving under specific hive circumstances. Ravagers, with their heightened offensive capabilities, are adapted for combating heavily armed and armored adversaries, while Carriers are designed for widespread infestation, carrying numerous facehuggers to rapidly expand the hive's reach.

Praetorians in Alien Video Games

The Praetorian Xenomorph from Aliens: Dark Descent

Although never fully featured in the movies, Praetorians have featured prominently in Alien franchise video games, particularly in the "Aliens vs. Predator" series as boss characters. Their representation in these games aligns with their lore, showcasing their size, strength, and combat abilities. While Alien Queens have often been the final bosses for the Colonial Marine and Predator characters, Praetorians have served as tough mini-bosses. It is a great honor for any Predator to take the trophy of a Praetorian. In both Aliens: Fireteam Elite and Aliens: Dark Descent their canonical appearance further cements their status as significant adversaries within the Alien universe.

Defeating a Praetorian

Successfully eliminating a Praetorian Xenomorph demands strategic and powerful approaches, especially considering their formidable defenses and combat capabilities. Both Colonial Marines and Predators (Yautja) have developed effective tactics for this daunting task. For Colonial Marines, weapons with high penetrative power, such as sniper rifles, prove essential in breaching the Praetorian's thick, almost bulletproof skin. Targeting the creature from a distance can exploit its size, making it a more manageable target compared to close-quarters combat. On the other hand, Predators often utilize their advanced technology, employing spearguns which offer both the necessary penetration and the advantage of stealth, allowing them to strike from cover.

Praetorians in Alien Comic Books

The Praetorian leads other Xenomorphs in Aliens: Defiance

In the realm of Alien comic books, Praetorians have only made a few appearances, but these have been always impactful. Their portrayals often emphasize their role within the Xenomorph hierarchy, showcasing their loyalty and ferocity in protecting the Queen. The Royal Guards first showed up in Aliens: Female War, protecting the Queen Mother, the leader of the entire Xenomorph race. Later on, they were featured in Aliens: Genocide again protecting another Queen, and made one of their final appearances in Aliens: Defiance drawn by the great Tristan Jones, leading a swarm of Aliens.

Praetorians As Toys

A Praetorian Xenomorph by NECA

Despite being heavily featured in Alien and Alien vs. Predator games, not many toys and figures have been made out of the Praetorian, perhaps due to the problematic size and fitting in with other figures. Although not specifically labeled as a Praetorian, NECA Toys did release a figure out of the "Aliens: Defiance Xenomorph", that resembles a Praetorian. It is slightly bigger than regular Xenomorphs and features the iconic crest-head of the Queen's guard. Regardless, Praetorians have been popular with custom toy makers, with fans making figures out of the Ravager, Carrier, and Crusher variants.

Behind the Scenes

A Praetorian guard from Rome

The concept of the Praetorian Xenomorph, inspired by the Roman Praetorian Guards, blends biological horror with ancient warrior traditions. Although the Romans did not have a Queen, they had a male emperor to protect in a similar fashion. The Praetorians have yet to be shown in the movies, although the Predalien from Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem is sometimes considered to be a Praetorian. The Expanded Universe portrayals of Praetorians have been surprisingly consistent, considering differences in other Xenomorph types. The Praetorian concept was also adapted for Star Wars, in the form of red Praetorian guards protecting the Emperor and the Supreme Leader Snoke.


The Praetorian Xenomorph is one of the most powerful and dangerous members of the Xenomorph hive, appearing only during the biggest Xenomorph infestations. As guardians of the Queen and key players in the survival and expansion of their hive, they represent the terrifying efficiency and strategic depth of the Xenomorph life cycle, making them one of the most respected and feared creatures in the Alien saga. Not interested in stealth or capturing hosts, they will tear down any threat to the Queen.

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