Ah, Giant Robots. Who doesn’t love giant mechanical creations stomping around and kicking butt? Over the years there have been many badass robots and mechs that have wormed their way into our hearts, but some are just especially great. So here are our picks for the 10 greatest giant robots, ranked.
A note going in: our list doesn’t separate the difference between a sentient giant robotic being and a human-piloted robot or Mecha. All giant robots, regardless of what drives them, be it A.I. or a pilot, are worthy of our love.
10. Gipsy Danger and the Jaegers, Pacific Rim (2013)
They might be a recent entry to the world of giant robots, but we still love the Jaegers just as much as any other giant mecha. Designed to fight gigantic monsters emerging from a dimensional rift along the pacific rim, the Jaeger program was a pan-nation initiative created after a giant Kaiju carved a path through San Francisco. You’ve got to love a planet that decides its main line of defence is to build nuclear powered robots to specifically punch the crap out of their opponents.
While Pacific Rim had a handful of giant robots to love, we’re giving this to Gipsy Danger. Between its awesome plasma cannon, wrist-mounted chainsword and its ability to boost the impact of its punches by firing rockets in its elbows, Gipsy was the Jaeger that had the kit needed to be the last one standing in Humanity’s war against the Kaiju.
9. The Veritech Fighters, Robotech (1985)
First introduced in Robotech (well, technically Macross, the anime series that the American Robotech series was adapted from), the V-Tech mechs were some of the first transforming robots around, and the adaptation helped popularise giant robots in the west long before Gundam made it over in the mid-90’s.
The Veritechs had three forms — a fighter mode that was a souped up jet plane that could operate in space as well as in atmosphere, a humanoid mecha form, and a weird half-way-house version that was part walker, part VTOL jet. But then again, you can never have too many different kinds of giant mecha.
8. Megazord, Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers (1993)
But why have a single transforming robot when you could have a single one, made out of five different giant robots?
The Power Rangers franchise — or to use its ‘proper’ name, the Japanese Super Sentai series — has been home to some weird and wonderful mecha over the years, but the first Power Rangers Zord still stands as our favourite from the franchise. Formed by combining the 5 prehistoric animal themed mecha of the Power Rangers, the Megazord put a stop to any foe in its tracks with a swing of its power sword.
Also, it carried a robot Mastodon’s head around as a shield. That’s pretty badass.
7. Imperator-Class Titan, Warhammer 40,000
If this was a list for most-ostentatious giant robot, the Imperator-Class would be at the top. The grim, dark future of Warhammer 40k prides itself on the at-times-ludicrously over the top nature of everything about it, so it’s already a pretty high barrier for epic madness… that the Imperator easily soars over.
A whacking 55 metres (or 54.86m) tall, Imperator Titans were few and far between in the mechanised forces of the Human Empire’s armies, but the lack of numbers were made up for the fact that they were almost impossible to defeat. Clad in hundreds of weapons designed to eradicate enemy walkers and ground units, the Imperator is essentially a walking gun emplacement — with a Cathedral on top.
That’s right, each Imperator Titan has a giant cathedral dedicated to the God-Emperor of Human kind built on top, bringing an all new meaning to “pray and spray”.
6. Voltron, Voltron (1984)
So the Megazord was made up of robot dinosaurs. But what beats dinosaurs? Robot Lions! Bring in Voltron, the giant robot formed from 5 Lion-shaped Mechs, which essentially mean Voltron was covered in Lion heads. He even has lion heads for hands! That’s pretty fantastic. Even more fantastic though is that Voltron will sometimes fire all of those Lion heads as an attack.
Although Voltron shares some similarities with the Megazord, it ranks a bit higher because Voltron didn’t just defend the Earth from threats, but the entire galaxy, and did so with ease. You do you, Voltron!
5. Evangelion Units, Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995)
The Evas, as they are known, perhaps blur the line between cyborg and robot more than any other entry on this list — they’re filled with angel blood, and have just as many organic parts as they did mechanical.
Designed to fight the angels threatening Tokyo-3 and the world, the Eva Units are piloted by orphan children through a psychic link, and are immensely speedy and powerful (after all, they can throw spears so hard they literally embed into the Moon after slicing through their target). But as ever with Evangelion, the giant mecha are just as weird and messed up as they are cool. Remember how I said they’re piloted by orphans psychically?
Well, that’s enabled through the fact that the souls of said orphans’ dead mothers are integrated into the Eva’s systems. Yup.
4. Mechagodzilla, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974)
How do you defeat the king of all Kaiju? Why, make a robot version of him!
Making its début in the aptly titled Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, Mechagodzilla was originally a creation of the evil Simians, who wanted to defeat Godzilla and take over earth. Mechagodzilla was made out of Space-Titanium and had a variety of weapons designed to take out the Kaiju, including rocket-launching fingers, but Godzilla promptly cut its tirade short by ripping its head off.
It’s had various forms over the years — Godzilla had a penchant for destroying it repeatedly — but the original is still the best.
3. The Iron Giant, The Iron Giant (1999)
Not every giant robot has to be a big fighter or save the day all the time. Sometimes, they just need to make us cry.
The outer space robot and its friendship with Hogarth Hughes is still one of the most heartwarming animated films ever made, and although the Iron Giant had a huge arsenal of weapons it could turn to when threatened, it didn’t need them: all it needed was the reassurance that it could keep its best friend safe. D’aaaw.
2. Gundam RX-78-2, Mobile Suit Gundam (1979)
Now this wouldn’t be a giant robot list without a Gundam, and the first Gundam is the best of the best.
The RX-78-2 was the star of the original anime series Mobile Suit Gundam, where it’s piloted by Amuro Ray. Although there have been far crazier and more deadly Gundams since, the original Mobile Suit takes its place here because of the way it changed the game for Giant Robots as a genre in Japanese media. Gundam proved that Giant robots could be ‘serious’ machines of war, rather than just the superhero starts of kids cartoons, and RX-78-2 was a huge part of that.
Almost every mecha on this list wouldn’t be here without the badass that is Gundam RX-78-2, and for that we are thankful.
1. Optimus Prime, Transformers (1984)
Oh, you know he had to be here.
For many people today, the Transformers still define their childhoods, and Optimus Prime, leader of the Autobots, stands tall as the icon of the series. He’s had many forms over the years, both as a robot and as some sort of vehicle (but usually his trusty truck), and he’s had many weapons too — but his voice was perhaps the greatest of all. Hearing a robot with the silky vocal cords of Peter Cullen as he cries out “Roll out!” still sends chills down the spines of Transformers fans today. Hell, the voice even managed to save the sharp, angular re-imagining of Optimus’ design for the Michael Bay movies. That is how good it is.
Like the iron giant too, he’s one of the few robots who could make us cry when he died, as he did in Transformers The Movie.