While the Mass Effect Trilogy might have heavy elements of a shooter, all three games are really RPGs at heart – and what is an RPG without a load of loot and character customization to worry about? That’s where Armor sets and Armor pieces come in.
Just as with our guide listing the best weapons in Mass Effect 1, 2 & 3, this page is going to be a little complicated – in large part because how armor is treated changes a little between each game in the trilogy. This page is up to date with the Legendary Edition, by the way, where several DLC armor sets were folded into the main game.
In this guide, we’ll offer up our suggestions for the best armor sets and armor pieces across Mass Effect, Mass Effect 2, and Mass Effect 3 – just keep in mind that you’ll need to use our suggestions alongside some of your own judgement depending on your play style.
Best Armor in Mass Effect 1 & how to get it
As with weapons, the best armor in the original Mass Effect is a little more of a complicated question than in its sequels. In the first Mass Effect, loot is effectively always randomized, which means you’ll be at the mercy of dice rolls for the likelihood of you finding the best gear. Further, you’re not just worrying about Shepard – you have to equip the armor of every one of your squad mates. It gets complicated.
Two key things govern your ability to obtain armor in ME1: armory licenses and your character level. Level determines the power of the armor that spawns for you – be that as loot or in stores. All items in ME1 come in numbered versions ranging from 1/I to 10/X – the higher the better.
Armory Licenses determine what brands of armor show up in the Requisitions Store found near Garrus and the Mako on the Normandy – and this shop, which constantly refreshes, is one of your best shots at finding the best gear later on.
With all that noted, here’s our picks for the absolute best armor in ME1:
Colossus Armor – for ME1’s best damage protection
If you want the absolute best armor in ME1 hands-down, there are probably two core answers – and one is certainly the Colossus armor – with the best form of it of course being the top level Colossus X armor. The challenge, however, is getting your hands on it.
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The Colossus Armor has the best damage protection in the game, beating out its similarly-brilliant Predator Armor. It’s available in all three weight classes – the Light Colossus Armor can be equipped by Humans, Turians and Quarians, while the Medium Colossus Armor fits Humans, Turians and Krogans, and the Heavy Colossus Armor Variant can be worn by Humans and Krogans. All Human armor also fits Asari, remember.
To get the Colossus Armor, you’ve got a few basic options:
You can purchase the Kassa Fabrication armory license from C-Sec Requisitions on the Citadel, or from Petozi, the Elcor store owner on Noveria. Once you have the licensed and are high enough level for level 7-10 armors, high level Colossus Armor has a chance to appear in the Normandy Requisitions store – but it is a random chance only. Second, you can get a Colossus Armor as a guaranteed reward for completing X57: Bring Down the Sky. At the end of the DLC, an NPC will offer you something, and you’ll get to choose a style and weight class of armor. Whatever you choose, you’ll get the relevant Colossus Armor at a level appropriate for your current character level. If you want a nice high-level end-game set, you might want to save Asteroid X57 for late in the game – which does go against our ME1 recommended mission order. Colossus Armor also has a very small, random chance to drop in containers in general right across the game – but only once you hit the sort of level where gear that’s VII-X is appearing. Finally, you can buy powerful weapons and armor from Shepard’s apartment that’s earned as part of the Pinnacle Station DLC. Unfortunately, Pinnacle Station is not in the Legendary Edition of this game, so this is strictly for the original version only.
Predator Armor – ME1’s best armor for shields and resistance
The Colossus Armor offers the best raw damage protection, but its closest relation that offers better all-around protection is the Predator Armor. The two are so close that it’s impossible to really draw a line between them – so let’s just say that if you have one of the two, you’ve got the best armor in the game.
The Predator Armor is great because it has the highest shields value in the game, giving you a lot of protection in that form – making up for lower damage protection. Its Tech & Biotic Protection is also very high – not the highest in the game, but when balanced out against the other stats, that makes this one of ME1’s best armors.
You’ve got a few options to get Predator Armor, which can come in Light, Medium, or Heavy forms and be worn by Humans, Asari, Turians, or Krogans – there’s sadly no Quarian option.
Predator Armor is manufactured by Armax Arsenal, so as ever you’ll want to pick up that armory license in order to have a shot at this armor spawning in the Normandy requisitions store. You can pick up the license from Expat, a Volus Merchant found in the Citadel Wards Market area. It’ll spawn in that store once you hit level 36. Second, you can have a random chance of the Predator Armor appearing in containers as generic loot, or even in merchant stores out in the world, once you’re in the level 50-60 range (or the high twenties, if you’re on Legendary Edition level scaling).
Scorpion Armor – ME1’s early to mid-game best armor
While the above two entries focus on the best armor overall in Mass Effect 1, making them highly powerful end-game items, we did want to feature something in this page about an armor you can use from earlier on. For our money, that armor is the Scorpion Armor, a relatively common drop that you can get from very early on – potentially even as early as your first mission.
It comes in Light & Medium variants for most races, while Krogans also get a heavy armor version. It’s a solid all-rounder in terms of stats from early on, with decent damage protection, shields, and tech/biotic protection. The catch is that you won’t want to use it all game – it’ll need to be replaced – and if your chosen Shepard character class requires heavy armor, it isn’t an option.
Onyx Armor – the ME1 N7 Armor
We know what a lot of you are wondering – can you get N7 Armor in Mass Effect 1? The iconic N7 look becomes the new default in this game’s successors, but in ME1 you start out wearing it and by all likelihood discard it pretty early on in the game.
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Well, here’s the good news: the Onyx Armor, manufactured by Aldrin Labs, is the official N7 Armor in Mass Effect. This is the default Armor Shepard and Kaiden start with – but it’ll only have the N7 decals when worn by Shepard.
The Onyx Armor isn’t a great armor even at higher levels, but if you want to return to the iconic N7 look, this is the armor you’ll need to equip.
Best Armor & Armor Pieces in Mass Effect 2
Beginning with Mass Effect 2, the armor system ends up significantly streamlined. For a start, in ME2 you’ll only equip Shepard in armor, as each squad mate comes with their own ‘iconic’ hero look that never changes. Some of your buddies can have their health or shields buffed by upgrades, but only Shepard has to deal with actual armor.
Second, Shepard’s armor is mostly a mix-and-match deal. There are five different sections of their body – Head, Chest, Shoulders, Arms, and Legs – which can all be equipped with different armor pieces. This means you can combine different pieces from different armor sets to create a unique look and combine the bonuses by both.
Aside from this there’s also a handful of ‘full body’ all-in-one armor sets, too. All of this makes it a little more difficult to pick the absolute best armor in ME2 – but we do have some suggestions that might help you decide Shepard’s ME2 getup…
Ultimately, remember that your choice of armor is personal, and is going to depend on your play-style. The second two Mass Effect games are much better balanced than the first, and that means there isn’t really one single armor that is the best – since it’ll depend on how you play. The best armor for a biotic will differ greatly to a soldier, for instance. Also remember that several upgrades available via the ship’s science lab can improve all armor across the board. With that noted, let’s get into it…
The Base N7 Armor is your all-rounder. If you keep the entire N7 set equipped, you’ll have relatively equal bonuses, as each armor piece boosts a different stat, raising health, power damage, weapon damage, and shields all roughly equally. It’s ultimately weaker because of this, as you can’t make the armor lean into your own strengths or weaknesses – but it does the job, and many people love the iconic look. The Kestrel Armor is very powerful, if you like the look at it. Originally DLC, equipping all five pieces of the Kestrel Armor will give you +30% Melee Damage, +5% Headshot Damage, +11% Weapon Damage, +25% Shield Strength, and +5% Heavy Weapon Ammo Capacity. it’s a total beast. You can of course mix and match these sets with other set parts, too – but generally, these are some of the best pieces in the game. In the Legendary Edition, you can buy the armor from a store on Illium. For the highest Health Bonuses, you’ll want to mix and match. The mix of a N7 Helmet, Aegis Vest, Asymmetic Defense Layer shoulder pads, N6 Gauntlets, and Life Support webbing will boost your health by almost 30% – but offer no other bonuses. If you need help with Paragon/Renegade Dialogue choices, try the Death Mask helmet. It offers a Negotiation Bonus of 10%, meaning you can unlock Blue & Red charm/intimidate dialogue more easily. You can get it from Ratch’s Wares on Tuchanka. For hit-and-run play & Sentinels, grab the Capacitor Chestplate and/or Helmet. If you’re the sort of character class that ducks and dives between enemies, dishing out big damage then drawing back before you can get hit in return, the Capacitor Chestplate & Helmet is great. They allow your shields to begin recharging more quickly – which also makes them powerful armor pieces for Sentinels, whose core power is based around their shields. Solider Shepard players should prioritize weapon-boosting armor. For instance, the Ordnance Packs boost your heavy weapon ammo, and several pieces raise your weapon damage. These are deadly in the hands of soldiers. Generally, lean into your Strengths. If you’re playing a Tech or Biotic, armor pieces like the Archon Visor or Amplifier Plates can boost your power damage and recharge speed. Your Shepard will be good at specific things depending on the choices you’ve made – so lean into those.
Full Armor Sets
In addition to the mix-and-match armor sets as described above, several ‘all-in-one’ armor sets were released for ME2 as DLC. These sets can’t be mixed or customized, making them one cohesive look more like ME1 armor – but they are hugely powerful. There’s pros and cons, and generally we prefer the ability to mix and match both for appearance and in-game effect – but if you’re okay wearing an all-in-one, a few of the options are impressive:
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First off, the Blood Dragon Armor just looks absolutely ridiculous. Does it technically fit the Mass Effect universe? Probably not. But it’s a rad reference to another BioWare RPG, and it gives you a solid increase to both Power Damage and Shield Strength. In Legendary Edition, you can grab it from the Omega Market. The Inferno Armor was DLC, but in Legendary Edition you can research it. This is a very in-your-face armor visually, but it does give you a 10% Paragon/Renegade bonus, if you’re focused on the more talky aspects of Mass Effect. Aside from the powerful Kestrel Armor (which is also mix-and-match compatible), the Terminus Armor is probably the best single full set – but it’s mostly suited for the Soldier class, with boosts to shields, reserve ammo, and running speed.
Best Armor in Mass Effect 3
Mass Effect 3 takes the armor system from the previous game and really runs with it, delivering a huge number of armor sets and compatible pieces by comparison. Which, naturally, further complicates the question of which is the best armor in ME3.
Much of the armor in Mass Effect 3 makes a return from the previous game – expect to see stuff like the Blood Dragon and Inferno Armor return, for instance.
There’s a mix of customizable sets and all-in-one armors once again, and the same rules apply: lean into the strengths of your class, powers and play style, don’t forget the upgrades, and don’t sweat it too much. With that said, here’s some notes on some of the best armor and armor pieces in Mass Effect 3’s single player:
This time around, the N7 Armor is more clear-cut. Rather than a jack of all trades, it’s designed to keep you alive, with the complete set giving you a +50% boost to your health. That’s great, especially since it’ll help to keep you in the fight – but there are far more options in this game to unseat it, even if you love the look of it. The Armax Arsenal Armor is great for gun-focused players, offering boosts to ammo capacity, headshot damage, and weapon damage. It can also be split with other armor sets to enjoy only some of these bonuses. Blood Dragon Armor has been given a rethink since ME2 – and perhaps appropriate, the Dragon Age tie-in armor has been restructured around being great for people who play with a lot of powers, like a spell-slinging mage in Dragon Age. It can boost power cooldown speed, damage, and your shields. If you’re a Biotic or Tech powerhouse and aren’t worried about health or shields, consider using some or all of the Serrice Council Armor. This can be purchased or picked up during certain missions, and in a complete set boosts your power damage by 40%. The inverse of the Serrice Council Armor is the Hahne-Kedar Armor. Get this on Tuchanka and Palaven or get it from shops. As a complete set, it offers no defensive or power bonuses, but raises Weapon Damage by a huge 40%. You can mix and match to get some of that bonus alongside others, too. As the name suggests, the N7 Defender Armor is a good all-rounder, like an evolved version of the basic N7 Armor designed to be tanky and survivable. It doesn’t have as much of a health bonus, but instead boosts Shields, Weapon Damage, and Ammo Capacity instead. The three Cerberus Armors – Nightmare, Shade, and Spirit – are all great. These three are all available as a reward from the Combat Arena unlocked by the Citadel DLC, but you can only choose one of the three. Cerberus Nightmare Armor is great for those focused on guns and is great all-around. Cerberus Shade Armor is more defensive, and is great for up-close and personal encounters. Cerberus Spirit Armor is for the power users, with the focus entirely around obliterating your cooldowns and making your skills more devastating. Those who are struggling to stay alive should consider the Collector Armor, which boosts shields and health significantly. Howver, really powerful for Shielding is the Terminus Assault Armor, which raises shields by 30%, the highest amoutn in ME3. It even increases Melee Damage and Ammo Capacity in for the bargain – almost as if it’s encouraging you to get up-close and perosnal…