The 1990s undoubtedly stand as a pivotal era for the evolution of the Sci-Fi genre in anime.
It’s not an exaggeration to state that this transitional period played a crucial role in shaping the genre into what it is today.
Consider masterpieces like Cowboy Bebop and Neon Genesis Evangelion, and we’ve already cited two of the most significant anime in history.
And that’s why today we’re delighted to share our carefully curated selection of the best ’90s Sci-Fi anime, meticulously curated according to our tastes.
Table of Contents
It’s hard to find productions with a higher rate of gore and violence than this Genocyber.
This is a story with a cyberpunk heart, in which large private corporations threaten the newly found peace among the nations of the world.
The Genocyber is a terrifying war machine that combines the strength of two sisters with psychic powers. A robot capable of destroying our planet.
Genocyber isn’t beloved by the general public, but it is known to all admirers of splatter. This anime features bloody scenes with a very high rate of violence, often considered gratuitous.
While there is plenty of violence, this anime is terrible in every other aspect, characters and plot included.
Consider watching it if you want an experience similar to that of a B movie and if you love trash.
19. Tenchi Muyo!
Tenchi Muyo! is a popular Japanese series encompassing comedy, Sci-Fi, and romance, spanning various mediums such as anime, manga, light novels, and movies.
It started in 1992 as an OAV series consisting of only 6 episodes and expanded into additional series and numerous products, fueled by its widespread success.
For those seeking a straightforward narrative without excessive pretension or depth, we’re sure you’ll like it.
Tenchi is an ordinary boy who assists his grandfather in maintaining the temple that has been under his family’s care.
Despite the legend suggesting the presence of a fearsome demon imprisoned in their temple, Tenchi dismisses these seemingly silly rumors. Or does he?
And it’s indeed when its curiosity drives him to open the seal that events begin to unfold.
18. Digimon (1999)
Digimon certainly doesn’t need much of an introduction, as it’s one of the most significant franchises in the world of fandom and a direct competitor to Pokémon from the very beginning.
And while it might not have aged perfectly, it’s still true that Digimon remains a timeless classic that holds up even in the present day.
The series revolves around a group of children who find themselves transported to a new realm known as the Digiworld, a world inhabited by peculiar creatures known as Digimon.
The children are faced with the task of finding a way back home, aided by their Digimon partners, with Taichi Yagami and Agumon leading the way.
Many of us grew up with this show, go pay it some respect!
17. Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040
Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040 serves as a spiritual sequel within a parallel fictional universe to the original Bubblegum Crisis series, which debuted in 1987.
This underrated Sci-Fi/mecha series distinguishes itself by offering retrofuturistic atmospheres and narrative choices that stand apart from the usual conventions in the genre.
Following a mysterious earthquake that isolates Tokyo, Genom rises to become a significant social force by providing Boomers, cyborgs crucial for the city’s reconstruction.
Despite the benefits, some Boomers occasionally malfunction, posing a severe threat. To address this issue, the AD Police is established.
The protagonist, Linna Yamazaki, arrives in Tokyo intending to join the AD Police, but her journey takes unexpected turns as not everything unfolds according to plan.
16. Cyber City Oedo 808
Cyber City Oedo 808 is a three-episode OAV series set in a criminal cyberpunk world. It’s packed with action and breathtaking plot twists, all delivered at an intense pace due to its short duration.
This quality makes this mini-series perfect if you wish for a short but intense rush of adrenaline that will leave a lasting impact on you.
Taking place in the year 2808, the story follows 3 inmates sentenced to 295 to 375 years in prison who are given a chance to reduce their sentences by cooperating with the police.
This agreement is offered by the head of the cyber police, Hasegawa, and for each successful mission they complete, they earn a sentence reduction.
The special feature and strength of Cyber City Oedo 808 lie in its ability to immerse the viewer in the minds of the protagonists, who are nothing but desperate men unwilling to relinquish their one chance at freedom.
And this is even if it means resorting to brutal violence.
15. Outlaw Star
Outlaw Star is based on a famous seinen manga and the anime adaptation aired in 1998.
It is a remarkable space-themed anime, with a plot and atmosphere centered around mercenaries, bounty hunters, and space pirates.
If you’re seeking an anime set in space with a strong emphasis on adventure and action, this series is undoubtedly a safe shot.
We are in the future called the Towards Stars Era in which many star systems have been opened to space traffic. Gene Starwind and James Hawking run a small, unassuming handyman agency to make a living.
One day they are hired to protect Captain Hilda, who is piloting a spaceship, the XGP-15A II, also nicknamed Outlaw Star, in search of a legendary location that holds immense treasure.
But as usual, evil-doers, lurk in every corner ready to take advantage at any time, and this situation is no exception.
14. Crest of the Stars
Crest of the Stars is an action romance anime released in 1999 in 13 episodes from which a sequel was also made in 2000 called Banner of the Stars.
It packs vintage Sci-Fi, action, war, romance, and more than a few political intrigues into its 13 episodes, making it a series not to be overlooked.
And much like its sequel, which we would have loved to include in this list but can’t since it came out in 2000, it boasts an incredibly well-crafted Sci-Fi setting that perfectly integrates with the series’ world-building and themes
The story is set in a future where humans are at war against an empire of genetically modified beings called Abh.
In this setting Ghintec, an ordinary boy, is about to become a count of the Abh, so he must learn their customs, along with Princess Lamirth.
13. The Irresponsible Captain Tylor
The Irresponsible Captain Tylor is a 1993 series and a true parody of the other anime on this list in a comedic key.
You know what you are getting into by watching it, but if that is what you are interested in, then there is no way you can miss it.
In the distant future lives Justy Ueki Tylor, a lazy and naive young man with the ability to save himself whenever he finds himself in dangerous situations in incredibly comical ways.
But one day, thanks to a series of incredible strokes of luck that lead Tylor to rescue the Admiral of the interplanetary organization United Planets Space Force from a kidnapping, he finds himself in command of a spaceship.
And this will set off a long sequence of incredible events whose consequences you can only imagine.
12. Martian Successor Nadesico
Mobile Battleship Nadesico is a 1996 series that’s another eccentric and over-the-top parody of the mecha genre.
The story takes place in the year 2196 when Earth is under attack by the Jupiter Lizards, an alien race.
To fight back against the invaders, the planet turns to Nergal Heavy Industries, a private company that has created a powerful armed spaceship called the ND-001 Nadesico.
But because the ship’s technology is incredibly advanced, finding people to pilot it is not an easy task.
This is how Akito Tenkawa, a talented young man who hates fighting and would rather stay at home watching anime, is hired for this duty. And here he’ll meet Yurika, Nadesico’s captain, his future love interest.
Nadesico remains enjoyable even today thanks to its blend of comedy, mecha action, and romance, with some serious drama interludes too.
Once again, this is a satire on the mecha genre too so we recommend it to anime fans who have some knowledge of it, otherwise they will miss out on a lot of references.
11. Battle Angel Alita
Battle Angel Alita is a cyberpunk classic that originated as a manga in 1990 and has since been extended through various adaptations and sequels, including an ongoing manga.
In 1993, a 2-episode OAV series was created, which, unfortunately, experienced limited success. The narrative was later revitalized with a movie employing a hybrid live-action and CGI technique.
While we recommend the 1993 OAV for its vintage appeal and inclusion in this list, we must note that the optimal way to immerse yourself in this captivating world is undoubtedly through the manga.
The story unfolds in a dystopian future within Scrapyard, a place where only the fortunate can lead affluent lives.
In this desolate setting, scientist and bounty hunter Daisuke Ido discovers the remnants of a cyborg amidst the garbage. He chooses to rename her Alita and, over time, develops a strong attachment to her.
But as always trouble is never far away…
10. Macross Plus
Macross Plus is a four-episode OAV released in 1994 that serves as a sequel to the iconic Super Dimensional Fortress Macross series, so it’s a must-watch for fans of the original Macross series.
It preserves the franchise’s best elements, including its vintage style, comedic moments, mecha battles, romance, and a healthy dose of innovation, making it simply excellent.
But this doesn’t imply that it’s merely a rehash of the original series, quite the opposite. Macross Plus, while preserving its standout attributes, has a distinct vibe and narrative.
Set in the year 2040, three decades after the momentous war between Humans and Zentradi seen in the original series, the Supernova Project commences on the space colony Eden.
This project involves testing and evaluating two new models of space fighters, with the plane that passes all tests slated for use by the military.
But fate takes a curious turn as the two pilots selected for these tests are Isamu Alva Dyson and the half-Zentradi Guld Goa Bowman, childhood friends and former lovers who now harbor deep resentment for each other.
And their strained relationship is further complicated by the arrival of Myung Fang Lone, the source of their past discord.
But an unexpected threat forces them to set aside their differences and unite against a common enemy.
9. Mobile Suit Gundam Wing
Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, spanning 49 episodes from 1995 to 1996, is set in the post-colonial year 195, where Earth and its colonies are under the control of a clandestine organization known as Oz.
In response to this tyranny, a rebellion dispatches five young Gundam pilots to Earth, igniting a war that holds the fate of humanity in its hands.
Mobile Suit Gundam Wing is yet another outstanding addition to the expansive Gundam universe, and that’s a fact.
And like its counterparts, it adeptly explores the theme of war and its profound impact on both those who wage it and those who endure its consequences.
Many Americans love this Gundam and you can actually feel its nostalgic vibe. It’s not on the same level as the other Gundam series so watch it for its nostalgic value!
8. Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory
This beautiful OVA is set after the One Year War and serves as the prequel of Zeta Gundam, explaining which events led to it.
If we had to summarize this anime we would say one word: rivalry. The protagonist Kou Uraki has to recover a stolen Gundam with a nuclear warhead from a Zeon remnant, Anavel Gato.
The goal of the last remnants is to reignite the war between the Earth Federation and Zeon and avenge their fallen comrades.
Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory is as Sci-Fi as it gets, pretty much like every Gundam and is a much-needed introduction to Zeta.
We also loved the love triangle and how the characters are portrayed but you will know by watching it.
This is by far one of the most solid ’90s picks thanks to its charming style and a heated rivalry between the 2 enemy Gundam pilots.
Trigun is an iconic action anime set in a post-apocalyptic world that has inspired other series in this subgenre for years. It was released in 1998 and consists of 26 episodes.
Still today, this anime remains one of the best choices you can make if you’re looking for action, plot twists, Sci-Fi and characters written to the limits of perfection.
Another remarkable aspect is its pacing, initially composed of self-contained episodes that gradually coalesce to construct a progressively intricate narrative.
The story revolves around Vash the Stampede, an infamous outlaw who leaves a trail of destruction in every town and village he visits.
To put an end to the chaos and save their failing insurance companies, two agents are sent to apprehend him. But upon encountering Vash, they discover that he is actually a kind and generous individual.
6. Mobile Police Patlabor 2: The Movie
Patlabor stands as one of the most exemplary instances of real robots in the mecha genre (if not the best) and a showcase of how to execute a multimedia project seamlessly.
This extensive project comprises a diverse range of products, including a manga series, two OAV series, an anime series, three animated movies, video games, and action figures.
Out of necessity we have included only the second movie of three in this list, but you may well consider the whole trilogy in it as it’s one big story.
The narrative unfolds three years following the events of the first movie, where Izumi and Shinohara are engaged in testing new Labor in a facility operated by the metropolitan police.
But a series of perilous events quickly transpires, compelling the reunion of the former members of Section 2 as the only means to address the emerging threats.
5. Serial Experiments Lain
Serial Experiments Lain is an avant-garde animation masterpiece that graced audiences with its release in 1998, spanning 13 episodes.
The series explores visionary and ahead-of-its-time themes, almost creating an eerie sense of foresight considering the time of its release. It’s almost as if its creators had glimpsed into the future before going back to craft its story.
So you will understand that it is a must-watch gem and an anime that you don’t get to witness every day.
The story starts with the tragic suicide of Chisa Yomoda, a high school girl.
This event seems to elicit little reaction from those around her until some of her classmates start receiving messages claiming that Chisa is still alive and has found freedom in the Wired, a virtual world.
One of the recipients of these messages is Lain Iwakura, a quiet and introverted 14-year-old girl who embarks on an investigation into this event.
4. Ghost In The Shell
Ghost in the Shell is a cyberpunk masterpiece that originated with an animated movie released in 1995, adapted from the manga of the same name. Over time, it has been transposed into numerous adaptations.
Often regarded as one of the pioneers of modern cyberpunk, it has left an indelible mark on the genre, significantly influencing modern series like Ergo Proxy, Psycho-Pass, and many others.
If you are a fan of cyberpunk and its futuristic settings that hide a lot of crime and corruption, there is no way you can miss it.
This movie follows Major Motoko Kusanagi, a member of Public Security Section 9, in the year 2029, and an incredibly skilled agent and fighter.
She is tasked with investigating a case involving a powerful hacker, the Puppet Master, who leaves victims without memories. But as she delves deeper into the case, things get more complicated with other factions getting involved.
Along the way, Motoko is forced to confront some deep philosophical questions about her existence. As she learns more about the Puppet Master, she realizes that they hold the answers she’s been searching for.
Ghost In The Shell is the pinnacle of ’90s Sci-Fi anime and one of the best works by Mamoru Oshii, you can’t simply miss it.
3. Legend of the Galactic Heroes (LOTGH)
Legend of the Galactic Heroes was released in 1988 as an adaptation of a novel and was divided into 110 episodes and despite its years, it still manages to be incredibly deep in terms of the depth of the characters and their plots.
Not to mention that it’s an unfailing choice if you are looking for psychology, warfare, and Sci-Fi in your vintage series.
The story is set in the distant future, where humanity has colonized and expanded throughout the cosmos.
Amidst the chaos of war, two protagonists emerge: Reinhard von Lohengramm and Yang Wen-li. Both characters possess exceptional leadership skills, intelligence, and talents.
Reinhard is a natural leader with charismatic qualities, while Yang’s extensive knowledge of military history allows him to draw from past battles to his advantage.
Legend of the Galactic Heroes is an unfailing choice if you want psychology, warfare, and Sci-Fi in your vintage series.
2. Neon Genesis Evangelion
Neon Genesis Evangelion is one of the most important and well-known anime ever and the milestone that set the stage for the second half of the ’90s.
Even today, after decades of its release, it continues to generate new theories and interpretations about its story, even after the end of the Rebuild movies.
This can be attributed to its story written to the limits of perfection and rich layers of meaning, with deep characters who all have something to tell and to identify with.
Created by Hideaki Anno and the Gainax studio in 1995, the anime portrays a world under attack by mysterious cybernetic entities known as Angels that threaten the peace of humanity.
To fight them, the Special Agency Nerv uses special mechas called EVAs. The protagonist, Shinji Ikari, is hired by this group to pilot one of the robots, EVA 01, and attempt to end these attacks.
Neon Genesis Evangelion isn’t exactly as innovative as many think as it was influenced by many other similar anime, but that doesn’t affect its status of Sci-Fi and ’90s icon.
1. Cowboy Bebop
Cowboy Bebop is regarded as one of the best anime series of all time, and it’s unlikely to lose this title anytime soon. Released in 1998 with 26 episodes, it’s a series that you’ll never want to end.
It was, is and will be for a long time one of the best choices you can make if you are looking for an adventure, Sci-Fi, drama, and even tear-jerking series.
Set in a not-too-distant future where inter-spatial travel is the norm and Mars is a vital part of human life, the show follows a group of bounty hunters, or cowboys, as they chase down intergalactic outlaws.
Meet Spike Spiegel, a bounty hunter, in the year 2071, and witness Spike’s many talents and abilities in hand-to-hand combat and martial arts, garnering a reputation as one of the strongest fighters in the universe.
He chases criminals with his partner, Jet Black, and together they team up with a con artist, a child hacker, and a Welsh Corgi to form a bizarre family.
All of these characters create a perfect mosaic of regrets, personal stories and struggles that are quite relatable for the viewer.
But when an old enemy comes back into Spike’s life, he must now choose between his past and his newfound family.