The Gundam series, created in 1979 by Yoshiyuki Tomino, is one of the highest-grossing media franchises of all time. It's estimated to have generated a total of $20 billion dollars. Not only has it spawned numerous TV series, movies, manga, and video games, but also an entire industry of plastic Gundam models known as Gunpla. Gunpla on its own makes up 90 percent of Japanese character plastic-model sales.
Gundam is also responsible for the modern understanding of "giant robot" mecha anime. It was an inspiration for many other series to come out of both the East and West. Gundam has so many beloved anime series in it's canon, we're just counting down a few of the best.
9 Gundam Build Fighters
Gundam Build Fighters is unique among most Gundam anime because it takes place in a world very similar to our own. It takes place in the near future were the Gunpla model craze has escalated into the ability to build and pilot your own mobile suits. These Gunpla Battles culminate in an annual global tournament.
The main character Sei, a Gunpla builder, partners with a skilled pilot named Reiji. The two of them hope to take on the Gunpla Battle World Championship. While Gundam Build Fighters is in a way just an attempt to sell more Gundam plastic models, it also has a lot of heart. You can tell it was created by the same people who grew up loving the original Gundam series.
8 After War Gundam X
Unfortunately, After War Gundam X didn't receive an English localization until 2016, decades after its original 1996 release in Japan. Therefore, it's probably one of the most underrated Gundam series. That's a shame, because it bring a lot of interesting new ideas to the franchise. It features a post-apocalyptic Earth set in the "After War" timeline. Following a devastating war, mobile suits have made their way to civilian hands and it's up to a few unlikely heroes to keep the planet from falling into chaos once again.
7 Iron Blooded Orphans
Iron Blooded Orphans is one of the darker entries in the Gundam franchise. Over the course of its 50 episodes, it deals with heavy themes such as slavery, child soldiers, and neo-colonialism. Three hundred years after a conflict known as the Calamity War, Mar is colonized by humans. However, many Martian nations live in poverty and are entirely dependent on Earth powers.
The plot begins when Martian noblewoman Kudelia Bernstein highers a security company to transport her to Earth, where she hopes to negotiate the independence of her nation of Chryse. The Earth military attacks them and all seems lost until the hero, orphan Mikazuki Augus, enters the battle piloting an ancient repaired Gundam. The quick, natural pace of the action and the instantly likable cast of characters makes this one to check out.
While it was the sixth installment in the overall Gundam franchise, Gundam Wing is probably the first exposure most people in the US had to the series. It found much greater success there than in Japan and was the entry that popularized Gundam in the West.
The writing and pacing might not stand up to either the more classic Gundam series, or the more polished anime that followed, but it remains a favorite of many American fans.
6 Gundam Seed
Gundam Seed was a modern attempt to take everything that worked from the popular Gundam Wing and the classic Gundam series and turn it into a modern classic. Unfortunately, the sequels to Seed failed to live up to this potential. However, Seed itself remains a triumph in animation and it's a great place for new fans looking for a standalone entry.
5 Gundam Unicorn
Originally a novel written by Harutoshi Fukui, Gundam Unicorn was adapted into a 7-episode series in 2010 and wrapped up in 2014. It served as the final entry into the original "Universal Century" timeline that the original '79 series took place in.
The story takes place 16 years after the One Year War just as humans begin to really colonize space. An anti-Federation group destroys a residential space station. Then Banagher Links, an apparently normal boy, enters the conflict when he realizes his connection to a dangerous item called Laplace's Box. Gundam Unicorn has some of the highest production value in the entire franchise and the spectacle alone makes it worth the watch.
4 Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team
This 12-episode series released between 1996 and 1999, and took place only a month after the beginning of the original Gundam series. It followed the exploits of an Earth Federation ground unit during the events of the One Year War. The main conflict is a guerrilla war between the Earth Federation and the Principality of Zeon. Shiro, the new commander of the 08th Mobile Suit Team has orders to eradicate Zeon's base. But he soon finds out that the last hope of Zeon is someone he knows, and the two of them have to choose what's more important. A unique entry into the original Gundam timeline, The 08th MS Team offers fans a more personal story and well-rounded characters.
3 Mobile Suit Gundam
This is the one. The progenitor. The beginning of all Gundam to come. Released in 1979, Mobile Suit Gundam sparked a whole new era in mecha anime. The original series had a 43-episode run, but there's also a compressed movie trilogy with improved audio quality available for fans to enjoy.
The plot mostly focuses on the rivalry between Federation pilot Amuro and Zeon pilot Char. Both are the best pilots for their people and they have an iconic relationship that several Gundam series have since tried to replicate. While some parts of it may not have aged perfectly, it really is the quintessential Gundam experience.
2 Mobile Suit Gundam 00
Gundam 00 centers on the paramilitary organization Celestial Being. They are the only people in the world who have Gundams. They seek to use their powers to eradicate war on a global level. The series sports extremely high animation quality. It was also the first Gundam series to be animated in high definition. Despite its positive critical reception for its visuals and narrative momentum, Gundam 00 had lower than average ratings. Luckily it did well on commercial DVD sales. It's been called "everything Gundam should be" and is a great place for new fans to join the series.
1 Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam
One of the few examples of a sequel transcending its source material, Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam takes what made the original series great and made it better. Set seven years after the One Year War, it follows new protagonist Kamille Bidan. It tackles difficult subjects like the gray area between good and evil and the consequences of a massive war. It's highly recommended you view the original series before jumping into this sequel. But know that good things await you