The fist is the only close-combat weapon available in Marathon and subsequent games, and is always available to the player from the start of the game. Although not particularly powerful, punching power can be significantly increased by gaining some running speed first, and then striking at the last moment.
Punching is especially useful when it is necessary to conserve ammunition for other weapons, or when underwater. It also serves as a method of activating most switches within the game that are reachable.
Beginning with Marathon 2, pressing the secondary fire button will bring up a second fist, which allows for a slightly-increased hit rate as well as the ability to block the attacks of certain adjacent enemies.
On certain levels (those designated "Rebellion" within Forge, Bungie's Marathon map editor), the player begins with no weapons and low health, and begins with both fists in a "lowered" position. Examples of these levels are The Big House and Rise Robot Rise.
- Pledging "to punch all switches" is one of several parts to the "Oath of the Vidmaster," first seen in the Marathon skip-level dialog.