25 Best Mecha Anime Ever
25 Best Mecha Anime Ever
With roots dating back to the late '50s, the mecha genre is easily one of the oldest and most varied in all anime. The genre has been used as a vehicle to tell stories about war, featuring kids barely in their teens barely holding it together in a world where every day could be their last.
It can be a bit daunting to figure out the ideal way around this animated world where there are hundreds of possible shows to watch. Fortunately, the best mecha anime series of all time quickly distinguish themselves. Whether viewers are new the to genre, or want more mecha goodness, there's no shortage of excellent mecha anime to enjoy.
Updated by Sage Ashford, March 24th 2023: The mecha genre isn't where it was during its heyday of the '70s, '80s and even the '90s. However, that doesn't mean the genre doesn't have plenty to offer. With so many franchises around still making anime series, there are new shows coming in all the time. At the same time, there are plenty of great series that are both obscure and well-known that fans might have missed. This list has been updated to include even more mecha anime shows for fans to check out.
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25 Stellvia Of The Universe
In the future, humanity managed to survive a dangerous wave of radiation from a supernova, but only barely. Decades later, humanity prepares for another wave of energy from the supernova. Humanity has created "Foundations" — massive space colonies that are meant to protect the planet Earth.
On the Stellvia Foundation, a young girl named Shima Katase prepares for a mission meant to protect Earth from this new danger to the human race. Stellvia of the Universe is a series that prefers character development to flashy action scenes, but it's still a well-written 2000s-era mecha anime. Alongside the characters, fans who like focusing in on the concept of existing in space will find a lot to love here.
The same artist responsible for Ghost in the Shell, Masuasume Shirow, also created the manga that formed the basis for the Appleseed anime franchise. The animated feature made by Gainax deviates a great deal from the original work, with only the setting and characters being common threads.
The plot of the anime focuses on a dystopian society made up of humans, robots, and a combination of the two known as bioroids. Deunan and Briareos, the two main characters, are bioroids with varying levels of either robotic implants or highly skilled in how to use mechanical items like exo-suits. There are a lot of cool toys to watch here along with a fun and exciting plotline that focuses on the action and adventure instead of the existential questions typically associated with the genre.
23 Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann
Studio GAINAX has a great track record with mecha anime. In the mid-’90s, they deconstructed robots with Evangelion, and in the late 2000’s they presented the world with one of the best Super Robot anime in Gurren Lagann. The series begins when Simon and Kamina, two teens who live underground, find a giant robot and make the choice to go to the surface, where they learn of an alien force battling humanity to keep them as slaves underground.
Gurren Lagann contains all the hot-blooded energy anyone could ever want from a Super Robot series, as the show continuously tops each insane feat with something more over the top almost every episode.
22 Astro Boy
When it debuted on Japanese television in 1963, it introduced the style that we now know as anime, and the genre was mecha. Astro Boy — a modern retelling of Pinocchio only with a robot instead of a puppet — was the first anime character that most kids outside of Japan were introduced to before the concept even officially existed.
The 1980s version that is most widely associated with the character is actually a remake of the previous series that aired in the 1960s. This series, along with the titular character, still enjoys a loyal fanbase and continues to generate revenue in the form of movies, animated shows, and a whole universe of merchandising. The original manga, which was first published in serialized form in 1952, was finally translated into English in 2002 by Dark Horse comics.
21 Big O
In the 2000s, The Big O became one of the biggest mecha series in America thanks to Toonami. While the series wasn't nearly as big in Japan, America immediately took to the noir vibes of Paradigm City, a place where no one had any memories from before forty years ago. They also loved the protagonist, Roger Smith, a smooth talking negotiator who felt like Batman with a giant robot.
Within Paradigm City, Roger Smith takes negotiation jobs from other citizens within the city. When problems arise in the form of giant robots known as Megadeus, Roger calls on the unique power of the robot The Big O to handle it. Though Roger only wants to live his life peacefully, his job keeps pushing him to learn the secrets of Paradigm City.
20 Magic Knight Rayearth
Magic Knight Rayearth is proof that mecha has no limits to what it can be. One of the earlier isekai, Rayearth begins when it pulls three junior high girls from their world into the world of Cephiro. In this new world, the girls are asked to track down Princess Emeraude, who has been kidnapped by the high priest Zagato. Emeraude is the Pillar of Cephiro, and her prayers for the peace of Cephiro are the only thing that maintain the realm.
The girls are sent on the quest to save Cephiro, along the way, gaining the favor of three powerful Rune Gods that grant them giant robots. Magic Knight Rayearth is one of the '90s biggest anime series, proof that magical girl anime could be as different as they wanted to be. It was also one of the first successes of the legendary all-female manga group CLAMP, who would go on to create series like Cardcaptor Sakura and xxxHolic.
19 Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin
Before there was Mobile Suit Gundam, there was The Origin. Originally a manga series, Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin is a prequel series focused on the main antagonist of the original series, Char Aznable. Set years before the One Year War, The Origin shows the events that cause the Zabi family to take over the Zeon faction, and what happens to the Deikun family afterwards.
With Char losing his family and forced to hide from the Zabis, he builds an entirely new identity for himself. This series is perfect for Gundam newcomers and hardcore fans alike. Newcomers will love getting into Gundam at the very beginning of the story, while old-school fans have been craving more development to one of the most interesting villains in anime history.
18 Fafner In The Azure
Set in a world where humanity has been all but wiped out due to a conflict with aliens, Fafner in the Azure is one of the longest running "new" mecha franchises out there. When the quiet island of Tatsumiyajima is disturbed by an attack from the Festus, they're forced to put their most powerful weapon on the frontlines: the massive robot the Fafner Mark Elf.
Spread across over a decade's worth of television series, OVAs, and films, Fafner turned into one of the biggest hits for mecha of the last few decades. With character designs from Gundam SEED and writing from Mardock Scramble's Tow Ubukata, Fafner should be on the list of every true mecha fan if they haven't already finished it.
17 Eureka 7
Eureka 7 is proof that BONES should make more mecha anime. Their talent for creating visually distinct worlds and giant robots is matched only by Sunrise, the creators of Gundam themselves. Eureka 7 follows Renton Thurston, the son of a military researcher who supposedly saved the world.
However, Renton's life is anything but exciting, as he spends most of his days just going to school, air surfing, and idolizing the mercenary group Gekkostate. His wish for a more exciting life is granted, though, when a giant robot crashes into his house, giving him the chance to join the group he admires so much, only to find out it's nowhere near as cool as he'd hoped.
16 Code Geass
In the world of Code Geass, the world has been nearly entirely conquered by the Holy Britannian Empire. Only some small resistance forces can stand in their way, and Britannia's ultimate victory seems sure — until Lelouch vi Britannia, Britannia's exiled prince, emerges with a strange new power.
Hunting answers for what happened to his mother, Lelouch will tear down the entire Britannian Empire if necessary. While Code Geass can be uneven at times, the series is unquestionably the most popular mecha series of the last twenty years. Thanks to Sunrise's gorgeous animation and some top-tier character designs from CLAMP, it's not surprising the series captured the imagination of young fans everywhere.
15 Zeta Gundam
A sequel to the original Mobile Suit Gundam, Zeta Gundam turns everything people knew about the original series on its head. The series introduces a new protagonist in Kamille Bidan, a rebellious teenager on the run from the Titans, a twisted faction of the Earth Federation forces. Kamille is forced to join forces with the Anti-Earth United Government, an army fighting for the freedom of the Spacenoids.
While there, Kamille meets two iconic characters from the previous series in Mobile Suit Gundam villain Char Aznable and former White Base leader Bright Noa. Char serves as a mentor to this new hero, in a series which teaches nothing is ever black and white in war. A great series, Zeta Gundam doesn't offer much in the way of plot armor, so fans who don't like character deaths better watch out.
One of the best mecha series of the last decade, 86 focuses on the 86th faction of the Republic of San Magnolia. This 86th faction is responsible for fighting off San Magnolia's longtime enemy, the Giadian Empire.
Though San Magnolia claims their war is waged entirely with robots, only one person outside the 86 knows the truth. A young woman named Vladilena Milize, responsible for leading their forces in battle. An anime that takes an unflinching look at both war and racism, 86 is a series every mecha fan has to watch at least once.
13 Armored Trooper Votoms
Chirico Cuvie was a special forces Armored Trooper pilot in the Gilgamesh Federation assigned to an espionage mission. When his mission goes bad, he is abandoned and left to enemy forces of the Balarant Union. After making a narrow escape, Chirico goes on the run to discover the truth behind his mission.
Armored Trooper VOTOMS exists for the mecha fan that enjoys gritty action, with scenes and sometimes entire arcs being reminiscent of the Vietnam War or D-Day. Though later parts take away some of the realism, most of the series feels like someone wanted to create a cyberpunk universe but added giant robots to it.
12 Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket
Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket is one of Gundam's best, yet least discussed series. A six episode OVA, Gundam 0080 focuses on ten-year-old Alfred Izuruha, who lives in the Side 6 colony. When Alfred discovers a Zeon mobile suit that's been shot down, and it's pilot Bernie Wiseman, he's pulled into the war between the Earth Federation and the Principality of Zeon.
With some top-notch animation and a story that manages to cut through Gundam's usual focus on cool robots to tell an anti-war story, Gundam 0080 is the series to show to someone who hasn't tried out the franchise before. At only six episodes, it's possible to even finish it in just a weekend.
11 Neon Genesis Evangelion
Hideaki Anno and GAINAX’s Evangelion is one of the most well-known and popular mecha anime series of all time. A deconstruction of popular mecha anime of its era, NGE influenced both the mecha genre and anime in general, which it continues to do so nearly twenty-five years after its release.
Nonetheless, very few of those subsequent series match up to the original, which is what makes it a must-watch. For any mecha fan looking for something different, whether it’s plotting or character development, or even something as “simple” as mecha design, Evangelion has that in spades.
10 The Vision Of Escaflowne
A unique mecha-fantasy crossover that was part of the experimental anime invasion of the late 1990s, The Vision of Escaflowne is a combination of action, adventure, and high art. The series is set in a steampunk-fantasy world and told from the point of view of teenager Hitomi, who is pulled from the mundane world of her high school onto the war-torn planet of Gaea.
The mecha in this series are the Escaflowne, mystical robots that fight for the King of Fanelia, a young man called Van. The visuals are pretty stunning, and some of the palace intrigue is as interesting as the wartime action on the ground. This is an ideal crossover genre for those who like anime that's more than strictly mecha, as it also features a great romance.
9 Gundam Build Fighters
Gundam Build Fighters gave a much-needed shot in the arm to the Gundam franchise as a whole. Vastly different from anything that came before it, Build Fighters takes place in a universe where Gundam is just an anime, but special technology has allowed them to move plastic Gundam models and use them in Gundam battles and tournaments.
Build Fighters doesn’t just pay homage to some of the best Gundam designs across all eras of the franchise, it also features cameos from so many Gundam characters some fans have taken to calling it Gundam Heaven. Aside from being a cute series that can be watched by children, Build Fighters has some of the best fight scenes not only in Gundam but in mecha history.
8 King Of Braves Gaogaigar
Takara finished off their “Braves” franchise with a bang, as GaoGaiGar leans as heavily into the realm of hot-blooded heroes and Super Robot action as possible. The series sees the secret organization Gutsy Geoid Guard stand together against the Zonderians, an alien race seeking to turn humans into robots.
Although the anime is definitely meant for kids, GaoGaiGar is still entertaining enough in the first half (and drama-filled enough in the second) that anyone could enjoy. Plus, the mecha designs were done by the creator of the original Transformers, which should be enough to lure in any giant robot fan with a love of the ’80s.
7 Bubblegum Crisis
Think Claymore, but with robotic suits and other high-tech toys instead of medieval weapons. This time the all-female team is known as the Knight Sabers, and they fight using high-tech exo-suits. The show has a similarly dark tone as well, with callbacks to other dystopian future fiction like Blade Runner. Bubblegum Crisis was released in North America in 1991, and it was one of the few to arrive unedited and uncut.
Bubblegum Crisis is not only popular in its own right, but inspired a few notable spinoffs such as Bubblegum Crash, and crossover appearances in other anime. The cyberpunk setting that this show also popularized has also been used in other shows, like A.D. Police Files and Parasite Dolls. Bubblegum Crisis is definitely one of the series that raised the bar for mecha anime in the '90s.
6 Super Dimensional Fortress Macross
Macross proves that it’s easy to combine two things that theoretically should have nothing in common to create something great. Essentially, it’s like the Reese’s of anime. After an alien battleship lands on Earth, humanity experiences rapid growth in technology as they figure out its tech… just in time to wind up locked in battle with a different alien race known as the Zentraedi.
While Macross is loved for its dogfight combat scenes, what really helps it stand out are all the love stories happening in the background. With the addition of an idol whose songs wind up helping to bring peace to the galaxy, there’s nothing quite like Macross in the mecha world.