Giant Robots: Ranking the Top 5

Domo arigato, giant robotto

Raleigh:Some things you can’t fight. Acts of God. You see a hurricane coming, you have to get out of the way. But when you’re in a Jaeger, suddenly, you can fight the hurricane. You can win.

Pacific Rim

Robots have always been cool. While they hit their stride with the advent of science fiction, tales have been told of robots for centuries. The Greek God Hephaestus is said to have created the first robot, Talos, to defend Crete. The Hindu pantheon protects their holy elixir, Amrita, with a saw-wielding robot. Even in ancient times, people knew that Giant Robots are awesome.

There are two types of Giant Robot: Real Robots and Super Robots. Real Robots are portrayed somewhat realistically. They have to account for the laws of physics, undergo maintenance, and are commonly seen in war stories. Super Robots are basically giant mechanical superheroes. They pull weapons from nowhere, combine with other giant robots, and can usually warp reality through willpower and/or the power of love.

So what are the Top 5 Giant Robots? Suit up, it’s time to find out.

Criteria: We will only be examining Giant Robots that are piloted. Intelligent robots like the Transformers or The Iron Giant do not count.

#5 Leopardon

Series of origin: Toei’s Spider-Man
Pilot: Spider-Man

Type: Super Robot

Spider-Man:Ah! The battlefield at last. Captain Universe’s powers are impressive indeed to outrace Marveller’s rocket engines. But now, it is time. Marveller! Change Leopardon!” – Spider-Geddon

Spider-Geddon

What, you didn’t know that Spider-Man had his own Giant Robot? Well in all fairness, Peter Parker doesn’t have one. Leopardon belongs to Takuya Yamashiro, the Spider-Man of Earth-51778.

Yamashiro was a motorcycle racer who discovered a crashed spaceship. The dying pilot warned him of the Iron Cross Army, a ruthless intergalactic empire that was on its way to Earth. Yamashiro was given the spaceship Marveller and the Spider Bracelet, which allowed him to transform into Spider-Man.

Spider-Man fought the Iron Cross Army, but soon learned that their monsters could turn into giants after dying. Luckily, he also learned that Marveller had a robot form called Leopardon that was strong enough to destroy the monsters. Leopardon would weaken a monster through hand to hand combat, then destroy them with a super-powered slash called Sword Vigor.

Spider-Man and Leopardon made the jump from television to comics during the event story Spider-Verse. They proved to be a trump card against the vampiric Inheritors. The popular duo returned for Spider-Geddon and are planned to appear in the sequel to Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

Fun Fact: Leopardon’s popularity led the creators of Super Sentai to add giant robots to their show. They were a runaway success, revitalizing the series. Years later, Super Sentai was brought to the west as Power Rangers. That’s right, Spider-Man and Leopardon are the inspiration for the Power Rangers’ Megazords.

#4 Lagann

Series of Origin: Gurren Lagann
Pilot: Simon the Digger
Type: Super Robot

Simon: “Don’t underestimate us. We don’t care about time, or space or… multi-dimensional whatevers! We don’t give a damn about that. Force your way down a path YOU choose to take, and do it all yourself! That’s the way Team Dai-Gurren rolls!

Gurren Lagann “All the Lights in the Sky are Stars” (Season 1, Episode 27)

Big things come in small packages. What starts as the smallest robot on this list becomes the biggest Giant Robot in fiction. And no, that’s not hyperbole.

In the world of Gurren Lagann, humanity has been driven underground by the tyrannical Beastman Empire and their robots, the Gunmen. A young boy named Simon discovered an abandoned Gunman called Lagann and accidentally activated it. His brother, Kamina, convinced Simon to use Lagann to fight the Beastmen.

The brothers soon learned that Lagann could forcibly combine with other Gunmen and used that ability to steal a robot called Gurren. The resultant robot, Gurren Lagann, proved to be the difference needed to defeat the Beastmen and other threats.

Lagann’s killer app is Spiral Power, an energy source that can warp reality so long as the user has enough willpower. Simon primarily uses this to create giant drills to use as Gurren Lagann’s melee weapon and to combine with other robots. And some of those combinations get big.

Lagann’s penultimate transformation, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, is big enough to throw galaxies as weapons. Its final form is ten million light years tall and could only attack twice without destroying the universe. If it didn’t require so many components to reach the best forms, Lagann would be a lot higher on this list.

#3 Evangelion Unit 01

Series of Origin: Neon Genesis Evangelion
Pilot: Shinji Ikari
Type: Real Robot

Shinji:I mustn’t run away. I mustn’t run away. I mustn’t run away. I mustn’t run away. [charges at a monster] I mustn’t run away!

Neon Genesis Evangelion “Angel Attack” Season 1, Episode 1)

A mentally unstable teenager piloting a Giant Robot against Lovecraftian abominations is humanity’s last hope. This won’t end well.

Set after a near-apocalypse, Neon Genesis Evangelion follows a secret organization called Nerv trying to prevent the end of the world by slaying giant monsters called Angels. Their last line of defense are the Evangelions, giant robots that are able to tear through the Angel’s defenses and kill them.

Evangelion Unit 01 is the prototype, piloted by average teenager Shinji Ikari. Shinji is the son of Nerv’s leader Gendo, who emotionally blackmailed him into piloting the Evangelion because he is one of the few humans able to activate the robot. Shinji and his friends must destroy all of the Angels, while dealing with manipulative factions and intrigue.

The Evangelions use a wide arsenal of weapons scaled to their size. Their best tool is the Absolute Terror Field, a nearly indestructible force field. The only thing that can pierce an AT Field is another AT Field, making the Evas a perfect counter to the Angels.

The Evangelions are powerful, but they have a few drawbacks. The pilot has to synchronize with the robot, so they feel all the damage an Eva takes. Piloting an Eva damages your mind and can drive you insane. The robots have a rudimentary sapience and are prone to going berserk. Finally, if an Angel contaminates an Evangelion, the result will cause the apocalypse. No pressure, right?

#2 Gundam

Series of Origin: Mobile Suit Gundam
Pilot: Amuro Ray
Type: Real Robot

Bright Noa:There is a child in the Gundam’s cockpit!” 
Amuro Ray:I’m not a child! I’m fifteen! And my name is Amuro Ray!” 
Bright:Why are you piloting? Where’s Lieutenant Kemp?” 
Amuro: “I don’t know anything of the official pilot. But I took this unit and took down two Zaku. Have I done anything wrong?

Mobile Suit Gundam “Gundam Rising” (Season 1, Episode 1)

Often regarded as the Japanese Star Trek, Mobile Suit Gundam got the ball rolling for the Real Robot genre. There are hundreds of Giant Robots to choose from in this series, but we’ll stick to the original Gundam.

Seventy-nine years after colonizing space, a war began between The Federation and a collection of colonies called the Principality of Zeon. The Zeon forces quickly took the lead by dropping asteroids onto Earth’s cities and sending in legions of giant robots called Mobile Suits.  

The Federation began building their own Mobile Suit. Forged from indestructible Gundanium and armed with bleeding edge weapons, the Gundam would crush Zeon forces. The only problem was that it was being developed on a colony near Zeon space. Its creator and intended pilot were killed before it could be sent to Earth.

Enter Amuro Ray, son of the Gundam’s creator and burgeoning technopath. He stumbled into the Gundam’s cockpit during a Zeon attack and defeated the attackers. A team of Federation recruits convinced him to join as the Gundam’s pilot and began travelling to Earth, fighting Zeon forces along the way.

Fans of Ready Player One might remember seeing the Gundam appear in the final fight. It was chosen to replace Leopardon because of rights issues. The scene was successful enough that Legendary Entertainment has decided to produce an adaptation of Mobile Suit Gundam, so be on the lookout for that in the future.

Fun Fact: A theme park in Yokohama, Japan unveiled a real Gundam in 2020. It stands 59 feet tall, weighs 25 tons, and can move. That’s right, Japan actually has a giant robot.

#1 Mechagodzilla 3 (Kiryu)

Series of Origin: Godzilla
Pilot: Akane Yashiro
Type: Super Robot

Akane: Let me show you what Kiryu can do!”

Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla

If you come at the king, you’d best not miss. If you’re coming at the King of the Monsters, you’d better have one badass Giant Robot on your side. Mechagodzilla ought to be enough, don’t you think?

Godzilla reappeared after decades of silence. Desperate for a way to kill him, the Japanese Self Defense Force dug up the bones of the original Godzilla and used them as the framework for a giant robot called Mechagodzilla. The machine was stuffed to the gills with weapons and programmed with a DNA-based computer. Now all it needed was a pilot.

Mechagodzilla’s pilot is Akane Yashiro, a soldier who survived a previous run-in with Godzilla. She is an emotional wreck after accidentally killing her superior officer during the fight and views piloting Mechagodzilla as a way to atone. She starts to empathize with the war machine, nicknaming it Kiryu (Japanese for Machine Dragon.)

Kiryu was outfitted with dozens of missiles, guns, lasers, blades, and other weapons. Its killer app is the Absolute Zero Cannon, a gun that freezes the target to absolute zero before shattering them. Despite its power, the cannon requires one minute to charge and drains most of Kiryu’s power, so it only has one or two shots.

There is one major drawback to Mechagodzilla. Hearing Godzilla’s roar causes the DNA computer to access the original Godzilla’s genetic memories. Every computer programmer in the world just threw up a bit at that sentence. My bad. Regardless, the result is that Kiryu can essentially be possessed by the original Godzilla’s spirit. Yes, there is a ghost kaiju in the skyscraper-sized machine.

Mechagodzilla is a staple of the Godzilla series, but those aren’t his only stomping grounds. He appeared in Ready Player One, fighting the Gundam, Leopardon, and a host of other giant robots. Rumors abound that Mechagodzilla will be the main antagonist of 2021’s Godzilla vs Kong.

What is your favorite giant robot? Is there one that’s better than these five? Tell us in the comments.

Gundam in Ready Player One
Image courtesy Amblin’ Entertainment

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