The most popular 1990s anime includes classics like One Piece, Great Teacher Onizuka, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Dragon Ball Z, and Sailor Moon
It’s no surprise that the best 90’s anime has had a lasting impact on pop culture. From classics like Dragon Ball Z to Sailor Moon, there was something for everyone in this era of animation.
Whether looking for action, romance, adventure, or comedy, these classic 90s anime will always stay in style! Even today, these shows are still regarded as some of the best and most influential series ever made.
The world of anime has progressed a lot over the years. Newer productions are polished, glossier, and have new artwork. However, nothing beats the real OG’s of the previous decade.
When it comes to 90s anime, the first one that pops into mind is Pokémon. Almost every child knew the joy of following protagonist Ash Ketchum throughout his journey to becoming the best Pokémon master.
However, countless other anime from the 1990s deserve the same recognition and love as the fore-mentioned one. The one problem is that only a few remember them anymore. This post is the complete guide for those wanting to take a trip down memory lane.
We’ll list down some of the best 90’s anime you can still dig out on various streaming sites, paid and free.
No anime list could be complete without One Piece in it. This colossal series is ongoing, being more than several decades strong.
The plot revolves around Monkey D. Luffy, a young boy dreaming of becoming the Pirate King. However, he soon realizes that becoming king is harsh and brutal. Luffy soon creates a “Straw Hat Pirates” team and recruits crewmates to aid him throughout his journey.
Each episode deals with Luffy overcoming hardships through his grit and the power of friendship. One Piece is still a fan favorite even after 20 years of first airing.
The most well-known Shonen 90’s anime has to be Slam Dunk, gaining popularity globally as one of the best sports anime to date.
Based on the manga and later turned into an anime adaptation, the story follows Sakuragi, a lean young man with no idea about basketball. However, the protagonist impulsively joins the school B-ball team to impress his crush.
The main reason why fans dote over this anime is because of the balance it shows between cheerfulness, motivation, and solemnity. Slam Dunk isn’t about friendship overpowering adversities but more about how the characters grow individually.
Since the airing of this series over a decade ago, newer sports anime have taken the same route. However, Slam Dunk still stands on top of the anime chain.
15Great Teacher Onizuka
Commonly known as GTO, this series became one of the best Shonen anime series in the 90s, especially among teenagers. The anime focuses on Onizuka, who’s a somewhat rebellious 22-year-old.
The protagonist decides to take on the role of a teacher after seeing how school girls swayed over their instructors.
However, this light-hearted Slice of Life anime takes a motivational turn when Onizuka realizes he can’t openly commit illegal acts with his female students. Instead, he becomes the best teacher his pupils can look up to, providing invaluable advice throughout the series.
14Neon Genesis Evangelion
You might’ve forgotten about this anime; however, the popular OST (A Cruel Angel’s Thesis) keeps many returning to it over time.
Boasting a storyline equally as impressive as its music, NGE is set in futuristic and avant-garde Tokyo.
Protagonist Shinji pairs up with Evangelion pilots to destroy and eliminate evil Angels from the world. The antagonists in the series are responsible for causing lethal cataclysms across Japan.
Neon Genesis Evangelion is one of the few sci-fi 90’s anime that took Japanese fans and the global anime community by storm. Everything about this series is top-tier, starting from the indomitable music to the unconventional storyline set in the 1990s.
13Dragon Ball Z
Who doesn’t know of DBZ? You probably even have character figurines stashed somewhere in your house.
Not many series can compete with the fan popularity Dragon Ball Z gained, and for all the right reasons. DBZ follows Son Goku’s journey from childhood to achieving heroic strength as a Super Saiyan.
The plot is about Goku and his equally strong friends fighting fiercely to protect the world from alien villains. However, the anime later focuses on Gohan (Goku’s son) too, as well as how many past foes turned into formidable friends.
First aired in late 1996, Detective Conan became one of the most watched 90’s anime, with over 1000 interesting episodes produced. The series follows young high school detective Shinichi Kudo.
The protagonist gets kidnapped one day, and the villains of the Black Organization pump a mystery drug down his throat, strangely reverting Kudo to a child.
Following the abnormal development, Conan must now hide his 17-year-old mental capacity not to cause public panic and find a way to reverse the chemical reaction. Along the way, he becomes one of the best detectives in Japan, with record-solve times.
Watch this action-packed 90’s anime if you want hints of blooming romance between the protagonist and the female lead.
City Hunter follows Ryo Seba, a private detective with a keen eye for the beautiful women around him. He is soon tasked with protecting the sister of his closest friend, with whom he finally kicks off.
Viewers can expect a good balance of budding romance, great action, and moderate humor through this show. On top of that, the anime artwork is another aesthetically pleasing aspect of City Hunter.
10Hunter x Hunter
The manga of this series is known to have one of the best plots in anime history. Hunter x Hunter follows Gon, a young orphaned boy who soon learns that his father is alive.
However, finding him isn’t the most straightforward task, as the dad is a renowned hunter specializing in pursuing rare animal species and treasures, even at the risk of his own life.
The show has a great storyline, with interesting arc changes now and then. It’s a Shonen masterpiece among many viewers around the world. This anime packs every emotion you could feel, from tragedy, deception, and betrayal to love, friendship, and power.
It’s time we mentioned the best Shoujo series of the 90s, with Sailor Moon arguably sitting at the top of the list.
First aired in 1992, the anime quickly gained recognition as a quirky and fun show among pre-teen girls and adolescent women. There are several movie adaptations of Sailor Moon too!
This 90’s anime follows Usagi Tsukino, your average middle-school girl. However, things turn mysterious when our protagonist becomes friends with a talking feline, Luna. The cat gifts Usagi a magical brooch, transforming her into Sailor Moon, a legendary planet warrior.
Together with her other Sailor Scouts, the protagonist has to protect Earth and the rest of the galaxy from ruthless alien villains.
The anime is the epitome of girlish drama and friendship, making it a fan favorite among many teenagers even to this day.
8Serial Experiments Lain
If you want a break from sappy rom-com shows, you should watch this thriller anime. The series follows Lain Iwakura, a soft-spoken introvert with a troubled family background.
However, drama and mystery enter her life when she discovers schoolmates receiving shady emails from a dead classmate.
The eerie visuals and psychological delusions portrayed in Serial Experiments Lain set it apart from other shows aired in the 1990s. This is one of the best thriller anime aired a decade ago, with only 13 confusing episodes created.
7The Irresponsible Captain Tylor
We recommend checking this ’90s anime out if you want to enjoy watching a genius protagonist charge through exciting arcs.
The anime shows protagonist Tylor in the middle of a space war; however, his attitude is far from courageous. Instead, our beloved captain takes on a laid-back and chill personality coupled with a prodigious brain.
Although showing little enthusiasm for winning the war, Tylor comes out unscathed after every battle – proving him to be a masterful tactician when fighting. On top of that, our protagonist is a smooth-talker, seducing many beautiful women in the show.
He also ends up winning over a spy and receiving love from an honorable princess. Captain Tylor’s odd personality and admirable boyishness quickly made him a fan favorite, especially among women.
Many people count this 90’s anime as a Pokémon rip-off, but we beg to differ. Digimon emerged when people were still fawning over Pikachu and other cute Pokémon.
However, this anime’s newly introduced creatures and impressive storyline quickly gained the recognition they deserved.
Digimon went a step further and introduced divorce and death arcs in the show, allowing older audiences to relate as well. Some people think you can’t watch the series without prior game knowledge. That’s not true.
Viewers of all ages can enjoy watching Digimon, regardless of playing the game previously. It’s a stand-alone show with interesting arcs and emotions impacting notable character developments.
5Hell Teacher Nube
We recommend watching this anime if you search for an aesthetically pleasing horror series.
The show follows Nube, a teacher by day and an exorcist by night. He also has a demonic hand, which is the most remarkable feature of the series. Our protagonist and his students get plagued by evil curses and spirits, which Nube has to eliminate.
We should mention that this anime is ideally for older viewers since the show does consist of gore. You won’t necessarily throw up from the blood and flesh slashing now and then, but it can be unsettling for audiences under 14 years old.
One of the undisputed kings of 90’s anime is Berserk, set in medieval-period Europe. The story centers on Guts, a master swordsman reeling from PTSD, and Griffith, a lone mercenary group leader.
The show fixates on religious idolization and follows Guts’ individual growth and transformation. Know that Berserk is deemed as a dark anime, meaning it has gore and violence inappropriate for viewers under 16 years old. You can also expect a bit of fan service here and there.
In short, this 90’s anime has a complex plot with graphic visualization and exciting arcs. Audiences can follow Guts along his difficult journey of avenging his loved ones against the wrath of the gods.
3Mobile Suit Gundam Wing
Although first airing in the early 70s, the Gundam series stretched to the late 1990s and soon became one of the best mecha anime of all time.
The artwork is outdated, but the storyline and arc changes are top-tier even today. This anime doesn’t have any specific villain or antagonist like most shows. However, the contrasting views and ideologies of the characters make this series stand out globally.
Many people might also compare it to Hasbro’s Transformers, given that the Gundam suits are similar in design. Give this show a watch if you want to bask in some good mecha battles fought by metal warriors.
If it were up to us, we’d list all Studio Ghibli movies as the best 90’s anime to date. However, we can’t be biased; that’s why Princess Mononoke will be the only selection today.
When this women-empowered show aired, Hayao Miyazaki created tidal waves in the global anime community. The detailed artwork, the killer soundtracks, and the immersive storyline make it one of the best shows introduced in the 1990s.
On top of that, the aesthetically pleasing and thought-provoking scenes were all intricately hand-drawn by Miyazaki himself.
Princess Mononoke does have hints of gore, but it’s nothing you can’t stomach. With its beautiful production line, Studio Ghibli continues to wow anime lovers, from young kids to older generations.
This ’90s anime is a classic anime that current shows can’t compete with. The show depicts a futuristic, dystopian world with adrenaline-induced action scenes every few minutes. However, the tear-jerking character backstories make this anime beloved by viewers worldwide.
On top of that, every scene is delivered without unnecessary sugar-coating, allowing you to feel the emotions portrayed by the characters.
Watching this anime will let you connect with each hunter and embark on adventurous and dangerous bounty missions. You can also expect a few romance arcs that pull heartstrings worldwide.
Newer shows might have advanced artwork and better graphics, but nothing compares to the joy of re-watching series that triggered the global recognition of anime. Those mentioned above 90’s anime are some of the best in our eyes; however, feel free to value them on your own.
From Cowboy Bebop to Neon Genesis Evangelion, the best 90’s anime was indeed something special. Whether it was the catchy themes songs or the incredible character designs, the best 90’s anime always pushed boundaries with its bold storytelling and captivating visuals. It inspired millions of viewers around the world and left them wanting more.