Robots and machines once dominated anime series and were more famous than any other characters. The mecha genre of anime gave rise to numerous franchises, merchandise (like collectibles and plushies), and even hobbies (like build-it-yourself action figures).
Mecha is a subgenre within science fiction that focuses on mechanical robots, bio machines, high-tech weapons, and futuristic settings. The mecha genre's reputation for badass sequences started with Go Nagai's Mazinger Z, which originated many of the genre's traits.
There are different types of mecha anime, including machines that are self-conscious, piloted, remote controlled, etc. Mecha anime series also tend to overlap heavily with themes of war and rebellion.
From classic alien-fighting robots to psychologically devastating plots, here are our picks for the best mecha anime series of all time.
9. Fighting General Daimos (1978–1979)
Fighting General Daimos is a classic 1978 mecha anime produced by Toei Animation and animated by Sunrise Inc. It follows the story of Earth being invaded by the Baam Kingdom, with the giant robot Daimos (piloted by Kazuya Ryuuzaki) as Earth's main line of defense.
It also features the love story of Kazuya and Erika amidst the large-scale conflict between worlds. Other mecha anime series with nearly similar plots include Voltes V and Combattler V, with all three anime series comprising what's known as the Robot Romance Trilogy.
8. Zoids: Chaotic Century (1999–2000)
Zoids: Chaotic Century is one of the Zoids anime series based on the Zoids model kits by TOMY. It features a planet where the Zoids (bio-metallic lifeforms) are used as weapons of war.
The Zoids are huge mechanical animals that can be piloted. Some have their own intelligence and consciousness, like the organoids that grow more powerful when fused with other Zoids.
Zoids: Chaotic Century follows the story of Van and his Shield Liger, who are caught between the war of empires. The story also features the resurrection of the Death Saurer, a T-Rex-type Zoid that was sealed during ancient times to prevent wide-scale destruction.
7. Mobile Fighter G Gundam (1994–1995)
Mobile Fighter G Gundam (popularly known as G Gundam or Gundam G) is the fifth installment of the well-known Gundam franchise.
Unlike the other Gundam suits, the mecha in this series feature extraordinary cockpits that encase their pilots in suits that allow them to control the robots via their own movements.
The story follows Domon Kasshu, the pilot of the Shining Gundam, in his battle in the 13th Gundam Fight and the mission to find the Devil Gundam. The series showcases many metal-clanging battle scenes, often involving the iconic Shining Finger finishing move.
6. Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion (2006–2008)
Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion from Sunrise is an anime series centering on fan-favorite Lelouch vi Brittania, who is the villain protagonist. He leads a rebellion against the Holy Brittania Empire with his ability called Geass: Power of Absolute Obedience.
This anime series features mechs (called Knightmare Frames) and their fight for dominance. Code Geass combines its characters' supernatural abilities with badass robots into one compelling story.
5. Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995–1996)
While Neon Genesis Evangelion might have had a low-budget production, it told a legendary story that not only featured the badassery of mechs but also the psychological devastation of its pilots.
It features the Evangelions as both biological and mechanical figures who were created to fight off the so-called Angels. The mixture of blood and muscle tissues found in the Evas made them more cyborg than robot, but they also had batteries and cockpits fitted in their bodies.
4. Magic Knight Rayearth (1994–1995)
Mechs in a magical world are made possible with Clamp's Magic Knight Rayearth series, which is surprisingly popular among young girls. It features the Rune Gods Rayearth, Selece, and Windam as deities who appear as huge robots piloted by Hikaru, Umi, and Fuu.
The trio were ordinary high school teens that were mysteriously brought to the magical world of Cephiro, where they find themselves tasked with saving Princess Emeraude from Zagato.
By awakening their respective elements, their corresponding Rune God aids them in their journey throughout the series, up until their battle against someone they were supposed to save.
3. Darling in the Franxx (2018)
Darling in the Franxx is a sci-fi anime series featuring a futuristic and apocalyptic world in which children are known as Parasites and are the only ones capable of piloting the Franxx.
The Franxx has a bizarre cockpit that requires both a girl and a boy to pilot it together. The series also features Zero-Two (a female human hybrid with Klaxosaur blood) and the romance between its characters that spice up the plot of the series.
2. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (2002–2005)
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is an anime series based on Masamune Shirow's manga of the same name. It features a cyberpunk plot in which nearly the entire population consists of cyborgs or tech-modified human beings.
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex features sentient-type mechs that have their own consciousness—like Motoko Kusanagi, who only has her brain and spine as the only original human body parts in her.
1. Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans (2015–2017)
Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans has a plot that incorporates a dark theme into a typical Gundam storyline and its giant robot battles. It's the 14th entry in the long-running franchise from Sunrise, which proves that the mecha series still has some life left.
The plot follows the story of teens who were formerly child soldiers who defected from their former company and established their own mercenary group. It also features the ASW-G-08 Gundam Barbatos, an incomplete unit that was patched up with salvaged parts from fallen units.