One day, humanity will be no more. The planet will be inherited by a different species, with my money being on Octopi making the evolutionary leap towards global dominance on the food chain. What will we leave behind? What will our greatest contribution be, for future species to marvel at as they seek to uncover how we managed to cock up our own planet so catastrophically?
Two words for you: Giant robots.
In all of fiction, there is nothing better than the idea of mechanised steel. It’s an enduring concept, one that continues to find ground today and seeing as I’m in charge, I feel like celebrating my love for pop culture’s greatest triumph. Also it’s my list, and if you feel like being pedantic and telling me that entry X isn’t “technically a giant robot”, then you can kiss my Striker Eureka. My list, my rules yo. Let’s get this show on the road!
The freakin’ rock stars of giant robots. While every entry on this list has something that makes them cool, Pacific Rim’s Jaegers are just inherently awesome. They several hundred tons of awesome, gorgeously detailed behemoths equipped with everything from gigantic buzzsaws to elbow rockets that allow them to hit harder and faster when it comes to laying the smack down on Kaiju opponents.
The fact that they’re also given absolutely silly titles such as Cherno Alpha, Striker Eureka and Gypsey Danger? That’s just icing on a cake of coolness, giving their massive mechanised warsuits a touch of personality that their contemporaries can only dream of having. Because remember, when there are things you can’t fight – acts of God. You see a hurricane coming, you get out of the way. But when you’re in a Jaeger, suddenly you can finally fight the hurricane.
You can win.
What happens when you give life to a bundle of depression, crippling mental neuroses and cover it up in bleeding edge technology and steel? You get the EVA series of angel-punching robots, giant robots tasked with saving the planet from a properly biblical apocalypse at the cost of the pilot’s own sanity. In an age when mecha anime was ruling the airwaves, the EVA bots were a stark departure from the stablished design ideas of that pop culture phenomenon.
Sleek, almost anorexic in design and impossibly agile while existing in a world that had some definitive rules to just how much carnage these creatures were capable of, Neon Genesis Evangelion asn’t just light years ahead of its time when it came to story, but also design.
TRANSFORMERS! MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE! Whether you’re a fan of the classic generation one series, prefer the vastly superior Beast Wars era or you were dribbled on your head as a child and you actually like Michael Bay’s jumble of pixels that form vaguely familiar shapes dishing out ultra-violence to one another, there’s a whole lot of Transformers out there for any fan of any taste. Even if that taste is incredibly bad, should you mention how much you enjoyed Transformers: The Last Knight.
Autonomous beings from the planet Cybertron, the Transformers and their key gimmick of being able to adopt to their environment by taking on all manner of alternative modes makes for a gripping setup. With a war that has a clear sense of right and wrong while juggling some of the more memorable characters from the history of the franchise, Transformers is always ready to roll out and find some new fans.
The grandaddy of mecha! No list would be complete without a mention of the Gundam series, an anime that kicked off a whole new universe of fiction when the first RX-78-2 model first picked up its titanic shield and oversized assault rifle. History was made in 1979, and the world has been a better place ever since Japan began exporting its greatest contribution to the world around them: Giant freakin’ robots.
You dig giant robots! I dig giant robots! We dig giant robots! Chicks dig giant robots! If ever there was a cartoon series intro that knew its market, it had to be Megas XLR. Knowing full well that nothing could be cooler than seeing some classic American muscle car glory grafted onto the body of a cutting edge giant robot suit and outfitted with decades worth of video game controllers, Megas XLR promised action, even more mecha madness and memorable villains.
It didn’t disappoint.
I love these goofy bastards. Not the actually competent mutant-hunting machines from the comics books or the woefully under-sized Magneto minions that ran rampant in X-Men: Days of Future past, but the cannon fodder bots from the classic animated series. With an AI that could be bested by a Nokia 3310 or a mutant whose primary power was fireworks, these Sentinels were largely a joke, mid-card threats who only existed so that Wolverine would have something to stab with those Adamantium claws of his.
Plus, the actual bigger Sentinel who existed as a factory to pump out more bots, still gives me the chuckles for having the funniest demise ever in a cartoon:
If you had to choose any one particular incarnation of Voltron to highlight as the absolute pinnacle of the franchise’s showcase of giant robot lions combining to form one all mighty knight, you’d be hard pressed to top the recent Legendary Defender era. Not just beasts with awesome power contained within, Legendary Defender gave these robots a mythic sense of character, transforming the machines into mechanical creatures with actual souls and personality.
The end result is an awe-inspiring fusion of mythology and technology, creating not just a giant robot, but a symbol. One that was unbreakable, inspiring and ready to kick some robeast ass whenever the universe was threatened.
It’s been more than two decades since I first saw Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, and still nothing compares to the first time I saw Angel Grove’s teenagrs with attitude unite to form the ultimate sword and shield against Rita Repulsa’s army of kaiju. A squad of giant robot dinosaurs was cool enough on its own, but seeing them unite to form a mobile battle station that then morphed into an ass-kicking mecha?
Sure, it was boxy and moved with the grace of a whale with an eating disorder, but hot damn if that familiar guitar riff and over the top action that left downtown Angel Grove in ruins on a weekly basis didn’t excite you, then you were probably already dead inside by the time the MegaZord unelashed its ultimate attack.
Metal Gear Rex
METAL GEAR! Over the years, Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear series has had plenty of iterations on the idea of a mobile weapons platform, but I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for Metal Gear Rex. It’s functionally bonkers, a robot T-Rex whose design seems completely at odds with its purpose to be able to launch nukes from anywhere in the world.
It’s a robot that was built to roar for who knows what reason, massively vulnerable to radar-jamming grenades and almost defeated by a cyborg ninja. It’s still an icon though, a sign of design that has gone too far and even though it was quickly replaced by the technologically superior Metal Gear Ray, this old bot still had a few tricks up its sleeve.
It’s everything you love about Futurama’s resident alcoholic and gambling-addicted robot, but increased to gargantuan size! Plus, when Bender Bending Rodriguez decides to tell you to bite his shiny metal ass, there’s pretty much nothing that you can do to tell this morally-flexible murder machine otherwise.
Agree? Disagree? Are you angrily typing up a comment that is about to lambast me for including that bucket of bolts from The Iron Giant? Go right ahead.
Last Updated: March 26, 2019
March 26, 2019 at 14:23
No Iron Giant 1/10.
(Robot-related feature 12/10.)