We earn commission if you purchase items using an affiliate link. We only recommend products we trust. See our affiliate disclosure.
The 90s era wasn’t short on amazing anime series. We get so caught up in today’s anime that we forget about the anime that began the fad.
If you watched anime in the 90s, you remember the iconic raw art style and well-thought-out plots that accompanied each show. During a time when anime wasn’t even mainstream in the Western world, these 90s anime definitely stood out among the rest.
1. Dragon Ball Z
Although Dragon Ball Z debuted in 1989, the series didn’t end until the mid-90s, giving it plenty of time to make an unforgettable mark on that decade. This wildly popular anime follows the exciting story that comes after the original Dragon Ball series.
Dragon Ball Z is worth the hype that it’s been getting for decades. It follows Goku and his friends, as they engage in grueling battles against extraterrestrial opponents. The anime has some of the most epic fight scenes in all of anime, along with a ton of unique villains and characters.
2. Outlaw Star
Outlaw Star is your classic space western anime. Gene Starwind, the red-haired protagonist, spends his time picking up work anywhere he can find it. However, when gets a job as a bodyguard, things don’t go as planned.
Gene ends up aboard one of the fastest spaceships: Outlaw Star. Gene and his oddly mature 11-year-old friend, Jim Hawking, must find the Galactic Leyline while dodging perils and space pirates.
3. Yu Yu Hakusho
Don’t overlook Yu Yu Hakusho—this show has one of the most interesting storylines. The anime tells the tale of Yusuke Urameshi, a troubled boy that goes out of his way to save a kid from getting struck by a car. In turn, Yusuke ends up taking the hit and dying from his injuries.
Yusuke doesn’t die for good. Instead, Yusuke goes through a series of tests to determine his integrity. Once he proves himself, he gets resurrected and tasked with solving supernatural mysteries.
A man known as Vash the Stampede has a bounty on his head worth an exuberant amount of cash. Everywhere he goes, he brings destruction, mostly because of the reckless bounty hunters chasing after him. In fact, he’s never actually killed anyone, despite carrying a revolver.
Two insurance agents, Meryl Stryfe and Milly Thompson, try to keep track of Vash’s whereabouts as he makes his way across the planet Gunsmoke. Soon, the group finds themselves stalked by dangerous assassins.
5. The Big O
The Big O is an underrated 90s anime that you should definitely watch if you haven’t yet. It’s set in the futuristic Paradigm City, forty years after a strange incident. This incident resulted in mass memory loss for the city’s entire population.
The expert investigator, Roger Smith, works with his android friend R. Dorothy Wayneright in an attempt to uncover the mysteries of the past. Sometimes, Roger finds the need to enlist the help of the Big O, his own giant mech.
6. Cowboy Bebop
Not only does Cowboy Bebop have one of the most legendary anime theme songs, but it’s also an icon of the 90s. The show follows Spike Spiegel, a space bounty hunter living in 2071, During this time, earth has become inhabitable, so humans have turned to exploring the vast solar system. The Solar System Police enlists the help of “Cowboys,” or bounty hunters, to help fight crime.
The laidback Spike is accompanied by his lively friend, Jet Black, aboard the spaceship Bebop. As the two go after bounties, they get themselves involved in strange adventures and add more members to their motley crew.
7. Sailor Moon
Just about every 90s kid remembers tuning into Sailor Moon. The series revolves around Usagi Tsukino, a girl who thinks she’s just a typical middle-schooler. That’s until she comes across Luna, a black cat that can actually talk. When Luna gives her an enchanted brooch, Usagi becomes the heroine, Sailor Moon.
Usagi teams up with other Sailor Soldiers: Sailor Mercury, Sailor Mars, Sailor Jupiter, and Sailor Venus. Together, they must use their magical abilities to defend the Earth from The Dark Kingdom.
8. Serial Experiments Lain
Want an anime that will confuse and intrigue you? I urge you to check out Serial Experiments Lain. This cerebral anime series won’t bore you—it’ll make you think. Serial Experiments Lain tells the story of Lain Iwakura, a young girl who starts using the Wired, our equivalent of the internet.
Lain becomes interested in the Wire after finding out that her classmates have been receiving messages from a dead student, Chisa. Out of curiosity, Lain decides to chat with Chisa, who says that she now lives inside the Wire. This anime only has 13 episodes, so make sure to pay close attention to each one.
9. Rurouni Kenshin
Rurouni Kenshin takes place during Japan’s Meiji period, a tumultuous time when Japan underwent a series of reformations. The story itself is fictional, but it’s loosely based on the life of Kawakami Gensai, a skilled samurai during this time.
In the anime, you’ll learn about Hitokiri Battousai, a ruthless assassin that vanished during the Japanese Revolution. However, Battousai hasn’t disappeared—he’s decided to change his ways and go by a completely different name: Kenshin Himura. He promises to never kill anyone again, but how long will this last?
Don’t Overlook 90s-Era Anime
In the wake of My Hero Academia, One Punch Man, and Black Clover, you might not want to go back to old-school anime. While the anime today is undoubtedly amazing, 90s anime is just as awesome.
Craving more binge-worthy anime? See if you can handle the most brutal anime series of all time.