These Top 40 Dark Anime Will Give You an Existential Crisis

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Published: 26/01/2020

Updated on: 12/03/2021

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Need some dark anime to make your weekend just a bit more depressing? Not getting that dosage of absolute existentialist horror? This list of beautiful pieces of storytelling will definitely challenge your sanity.

Best Dark Anime

40. Boogiepop Phantom

MAL rating: 7.17

Boogiepop. Despite the silly name, it delivers chills down the spines of people. Why? Five years ago, grisly murders were committed in the city. It’s common knowledge at this point that if you meet her at night, you will be taken. Nowadays, though, people take these stories for granted. They laugh at it, thinking that no one like that can possibly exist. But no one can deny that strange things still occur in the city, with darkness taking on several forms. Is anyone truly safe? This is a psychological horror anime that hooks you on in the first episode alone. Anyone who watches this will experience awe and terror at the troubled characters and mystery plaguing the city.

39. Casshern Sins

MAL rating: 7.53

In this post-apocalyptic show, humanity has died out in the wasteland that used to be the luscious Earth. Now, the only ones who remain are conscious or sentient robots. They were said to be undying beings – until The Ruin started and a robot called Luna died. Now, their bodies rust, and they can’t do anything about it. The robots are forced to contemplate their deaths and reflect on their mortality. However, there’s a rumor going around that if they eat someone called Casshern, they will be able to live forever. 

Casshern does not know anything about where he came from, what he is or why he exists. But he must do everything in his power to find out soon, or he’ll be hunted immediately by robots. The pacing is slow, but the visuals are insane.

38. Bokura no

MAL rating: 7.66

While enjoying their summer camp, 15 children encounter a cave by the sea. When they enter to explore, they find a man named Kokopelli, the owner. He says that he is currently working on a survival game where a robot has been assigned to protect Earth. Kokopelli persuades the children to sign a contract to test the game, allowing them to have a fun adventure. However, things start to take a darker turn once they do so. The children are forced to pilot the giant robot in the game and win against various alien invasions. But Kokopelli fails to mention a vital piece of information: the energy source of the giant robot. 

The story has a great impact with lots of twists. It sets itself apart from the conventional stories.

37. Paranoia Agent

MAL rating: 7.68

Musashino City has a new terrorist flying around on rollerblades. Known as Shounen Bat, the assailant beats down people with a golden bat. The police officers try their best, but they can never seem to catch him. Several rumors are going around about who the mysterious criminal is. Some say that it’s Tsukiko Sagi, the first victim of Shounen Bat, who is orchestrating the attacks. To investigate this, two detectives get on the case amidst huge paranoia spreading amongst children and adults alike. Will the detectives be able to put a stop to this?

The story may sound like a simple mystery plot, but it is nothing short of phenomenal. While watching the events unfold on screen, you will definitely be holding onto your seats.

36. Talentless Nana

MAL Rating: 7.37

Teenagers who were gifted with supernatural abilities are made to combat threats known as ‘enemies of humanity. To train them and hone their powers, these students known as the ‘Talented’ stay on a secluded island. Nanao Nakajima is a unique student on the island – he has no Talent. Thus, he is often a target for bullying and tries his best not to let others get him down. One day, two transfer students join with mysterious and interesting powers. However, mysterious disappearances start to occur, and the entire class is under threat from an unknown force.

This is a show with a plot twist that will make your jaw drop. Although it has a dark and gloomy theme with teenagers being murdered left and right, the thriller aspect of it is worth it.

35. Blue Literature Series

MAL rating: 7.75

There are several protagonists in this series, and each of them is important enough to get their own synopsis. However, overall, this show thrusts you into the shoes of these characters and really does a great job at it. You almost feel what they feel. Several timeless classics are represented in this series, some of them dating back to the 1920s. In fact, each arc can be seen as a standalone show in and of itself because that’s how much thought went into these. It’s rated R17 for its profanity, sex, gore, and violence. But that’s fine because young audiences wouldn’t be able to appreciate the commentary on society anyways. It’s a dark and depressing anime with great psychological storytelling.

34. Texhnolyze

MAL rating: 7.76

The citizens of Lux have come to call their home “The City.” They believe that the human-made underground city has a mind and will of its own. To take control of Lux, three factions battle amongst themselves to emerge as victors. These factions are Organo, Salvation Union, and Racan.

Ichise is an orphan who has experienced the harsh reality of the world from a young age. He makes a living for himself by being a prizefighter. After certain complicated events, Ichise ends up losing a leg and an arm. Eriko Kamata, a scientist, finds him and decides to use him as a test subject for ‘Texhnolyze.’ Consequently, after this bizarre trial, he starts to work for Organo just as Lux is on the brink of war. The art is beautiful, and the characters are oddly compelling.

33. Angel’s Egg

MAL Rating: 7.68

A little girl carries and protects a large egg wherever she goes. Living in a dark world of shadows, it seems that her only task is to collect water in jars. Once a mysterious man enters her life, things start to change as they discuss the world and the happenings around them. This is a joyride of 70 minutes where there are several allusions to Christianity. It’s not for everyone as it is incredibly slow-paced. On top of that, there is minimal dialogue throughout the film, which leaves it up to the viewers to decide whether it’s a deep story or a shallow visual film. Despite this, it’s quite meticulous, and the characters are fantastic.

Parasyte the Maxim - best dark anime

32. Parasyte: the Maxim

MAL Rating: 8.49

In a world invaded by parasitic aliens, Shinichi Izumi is struck down with one such parasite. However, unlike the others, who were instantly taken over, the parasyte failed to take over his brain, and resorted to his right hand instead. Calling him Migi, Shinichi is forced to live in an uncomfortable symbiotic relationship with him. To stay alive from all the other parasites, they team up to defend themselves.

With an engaging premise, constant cliffhangers, and an overarching dark theme, Parasyte makes for a great binge. Keeping the viewer on the edge of his seat and constantly delivering is a skill, and this anime seems to have struck the right chord. Complimented by top-class animations, it makes for an amazing watch, especially with friends.

horror anime

31. Another

MAL Rating: 7.71

A cursed classroom, where everyone is fated to a terrible death. To cope with this, everyone ignored the existence of a girl in that class. However, with the introduction of a transfer student, things started to go wrong with this batch of students, too, as it did with previous ones.

With incredibly gory deaths, this anime is not for the fainthearted. Also, this is an incredibly thematic anime with a slightly dull ending. But it is a pretty interesting series about the selfish aspect of humans. Everyone worried about their own lives and ready to kill to stay afloat. It makes for a great weekend watch for anime with a dark theme.

30. Haibane Renmei

MAL Rating: 7.99

Haibane has a halo and small wings. Originally born from a cocoon, she awakens to a world that she does not recognize. She is named Rakka by the village of Old Home and slowly starts to adjust to life there. However, there are several strict rules for any inhabitant of the village. Haibane is forbidden to go near the walls surrounding the village or even leave the village. Moreover, several disappearances occur on the auspicious “Day of Flight.” Consequently, these mysterious rules begin to unsettle Rakka as she knows nothing about her past life or of the village.

The anime shows rather than tells, and this may seem patronizing to some viewers. However, it is necessary to enhance the experience.

Overlord - best dark anime

29. Overlord

MAL Rating: 8.07

When hearing about the premise, most others will put it off as yet another isekai anime. However, it is the only isekai anime, which has managed to stick around amongst its competitors of the year. Suzuki Satoru, a shut-in, wanted to enjoy the last moments of the game Yggdrasil. And as the game servers were about to shut down, it dawned on him that he was never kicked out. And so his journey began as Momonga, the great overlord, with insane powers and the vague ambition to rule the world.

What makes overlord so special as an anime is its great cast of side characters. With every new person introduced, we see a fresh set of traits, intentions, and motivations for their own goals. From the adventurers to the politicians to the monsters, each and every character introduced is very well fleshed out and contributes greatly to the plot. With more focus on comedy but having some surprisingly dark themes, Overlord is a good recommendation for anyone looking for a lighter anime in this genre.

28. Hellsing Ultimate

MAL Rating: 8.49

The world of ghouls, vampires, and such has always been treated with fear; however, this anime takes that to the next level. The creatures of the night, which haunt humanity, are out there. Against them is the mercenary association, Hellsing, probably their best weapon. As a result, what we have is the classy vampire Alucard is pitted against these evil forces, resulting in a complete bloodbath of an anime.

Hellsing makes for an amazing watch for an OVA, as very few such good ones exist. Also, the series makes complete use of its license to add gore and complement it with stunning animations. Hellsing is capable of giving eyegasms!

mind game anime - danganronpa

27. Danganronpa: The Animation

MAL Rating: 7.44

Naegi got accepted into the reputed Hope’s Peak Academy. However, things turned out to be a lot more different than what he expected. A cuddly bear of death gives the class a simple condition: kill anyone, and manage to shift the blame. If you are successful, you get to leave while everyone else is killed. If you fail, you are tortured and killed in the worst way possible.

With no hope of escape and rising tensions, murders continue to occur. Now it is up to the rest of the class to correctly identify who the killer is.

The series is originally adapted from the hit game, Danganronpa which tackles investigative themes with gruesome murders expertly. Surely, a must-watch for those who haven’t played the game.

Claymore - best dark anime

26. Claymore

MAL Rating: 7.85

Yoma are beings that live off of human flesh. They also posses the skill to appear human-like and trick their prey. To combat them and save humans, Claymores were created. Raki, a young boy, feels indebted to the claymore known as Clare. She had saved him from a yoma after it consumed his entire family. And so with nowhere else to go, the duo set off, with Clare working for the guild of claymores and Raki sticking with her. However, things eventually take a turn for the worse, as friends slowly turn, and what seemed set in stone was no longer so.

Claymore is a dark anime crafted around the themes of familial love, hunger for power, and deception. Subsequently, with Madhouse animating it, Claymore offers great joy to any onlooker who came for the action and medieval horror and will leave with the excitement for a season 2.

Terror In Resonance - best dark anime

25. Terror in Resonance

MAL Rating: 8.18

VON. The word remains sprayed on the infiltrated nuclear facility, as the stolen nuclear core is whisked away on a jet ski. The top-grade security could do absolutely nothing against the impeccable planning of the terrorists. Consequently, the Japanese government hushes it up until after 6 months.

When two masked men appear on TV and foretell a terrorist attack, and this shakes all of Japan. Nine and Twelve, the prodigal teenagers, pose as “The Sphinx” over the internet, giving clues about terror attacks they have planned. As a result, the police have to solve the riddles and act quickly to save lives. Detective Shibazaki is swept into all this as he starts investigating behind the attacks and the events that thread it all. A tale about terrorism, lies, deception, and a lot of dark thematic moments, this is a must-watch anime for fast-paced mind game enthusiasts.

Death Parade

24. Death Parade

MAL Rating: 8.24

There is a special rule for two humans who happen to die at the exact same time: they get sent to Quendecim. In a bar of judgment, Decim the arbiter pits the two against each other in a game. With the stakes being rebirth and oblivion.

Hence, as the two clash against each other, emotions spill, and memories slowly resurface, leading them to remember everything. Decim is privy to all this, and the fate of the two lies in his hands. In this intense battle of emotions, we see the scarce seen dark side of humans through the anime. An absolute classic, Death Parade is a must-watch for more insight into humans as a whole. It really does bring some very uncomfortable themes to the table, and it does so in absolute style.

sad anime - akame ga kill

23. Akame ga Kill

MAL Rating: 7.76

An anime series characterized by excessive amounts of gore, akame ga kill is Tatsumi’s story and his struggle to fight corruption. He hates what the government in the capital has become and wishes to tear it down with the Night Raid’s help. Hence, this group of assassins aims to overthrow the Prime Minister. The fight to acquire the coveted imperial arms ensues, as the side with more firepower will emerge victoriously.

With the legendary Taku Iwasaki composing the soundtrack, and White Fox animating it, one can expect intense fight sequences. This results in bloodcurdling, dark, and incredible battles, leaving a lasting impression on the viewer. Moreover, the dark overtones in this anime make for some pretty good moments. While the anime is great, I would personally recommend the manga for this one too.

22. Made in Abyss

MAL rating: 8.75

Riko is the daughter of the famous ‘Diver,’ White Whistle Lyza the Annihilator. Sadly, her mother went missing in her last dive into the Abyss – a mysterious chasm that stretches down into the earth, filled with relics and creatures from the past. No one knows what lies at the bottom. This doesn’t mean attempts haven’t been made though. Several Divers try to go down to solve the mysteries and make historic discoveries. Riko aspires to be one of them. Although she is only at the beginner level, she decides to go on a journey into the Abyss to find her mother. However, the memories and the truth of the Abyss is a harsh reality for anyone who attempts to find it. This is a classic anime that must be watched by everyone who loves dark themes.

aot - best military anime

21. Attack on Titan

MAL Rating: 8.48

An incredibly popular anime, Attack on Titan, is the story of 15 foot Titans, who have invaded the last bastion of humanity. This was all that had remained after Titans came into this world. Eren Jeager, the protagonist, who loses his mother to a titan, vows to take revenge by annihilating every Titan alive. And after his training, as he goes out to protect humanity and fight the Titans for the first time, things instantly go awry.

Surely, a thrilling anime filled to the brim with plot twists and deaths, Attack on Titan is a modern classic. Moreover. the viewer is absolutely compelled to instantly consume the next episode as layers after layers of secrets and mysteries are unveiled. From politics and dark character relationships to fight sequences and to fly with the 3-D maneuver gear, this anime leaves no stone unturned in enthralling everyone who gives this one a try.

20. Tokyo Ghoul

MAL Rating: 7.97

Tokyo Ghoul is one of the select number of anime that manages to catch the attention of those outside this genre of entertainment. Tokyo has become the feeding ground of the creatures known as ghouls, who eat human flesh to survive. Unbeknown to Kaneki Ken, the girl he has taken a liking to, Rize Kamishiro, is a ghoul. As a result, when he goes to drop her at her home, she baits him to a deserted place to eat him. And through sheer luck, construction items fall onto Rize and kills her.

After the hospital releases Kaneki, he realizes he is no longer normal. Rize’s organs were used to save him. And so begins his journey of finding his place in both worlds, as he realizes not everything is as it seems in the world of ghouls. A story of gore, mental torture, insane character depth, and dark existentialist horror, this anime is a must-watch for every otaku.

Fall 2018 anime

19. Goblin Slayer

MAL Rating: 7.68

If you have been keeping a close eye on 2018 anime, this one needs no introduction. With a first episode so controversial, it had to re-label the entire anime to a more mature rating; Goblin Slayer isn’t for everyone to stomach. An anime that shows the reality of adventuring and what it would really entail, Goblin Slayer is one dark blood-fest. Featuring a protagonist, who specializes in killing only goblins, the show portrays a more somber adventuring reality.

Truly, the gore and violence in this one may want to make the more casual watcher give this a wide berth. Conversely, the more serious otaku might appreciate the brutality with which the themes are tackled with this one. Goblin Slayer is an incredibly darker version of medieval society with magic with no beating around the bush.

ghost in the shell - stand alone complex - best military anime

18. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex

MAL Rating: 8.45

A future where cyborgs are not just a reality but the norm. This is the future in which Daisuke Aramaki and Motoko Kusanagi live. As a result of this, they are faced with new problems. Section 9, a powerful independent crime-fighting unit, has been set up by the government, of which these 2 are a part. However, “The Laughing Man,” an A-level hacker, throws their team into complete disarray.

Ghost in the shell paints a very vivid image of what the future is going to be like. With cybernetics advancing at the rate that it is, it won’t be long before the cat and mouse game in this anime happens in real life. Fans of a cyberpunk setting will love this anime for its aesthetics, plot, and deep philosophical musings.

Ergo Proxy - Best Dark Anime

17. Ergo Proxy

MAL Rating: 7.97

As the last proper civilization on Earth, the citizens of Romodo try and work on humanity’s recovery. Life outside their safe domes can not exist. To assist in their recovery as a species, humans make use of machines called AutoReivs. These machines help on a regular basis and work as assistants. However, recently, a virus has caught on these robots, giving them self-awareness. The protagonist, Re-l Meyer, is sent to investigate this. She was about spiral into a series of events that would make her come face to face with humanity’s worst sins.

Written and directed with excruciatingly painful detail and thoughtfulness, this psychological masterpiece results in a mind-boggling experience. With a lot of ambiguity, hidden messages, and dark themes, existentialism fans will simply love this anime.

16. Shinsekai Yori

MAL Rating: 8.55

Following the breakout of psychic powers and society’s subsequent breakdown, peace was achieved by isolating those with powers from those without. With a separate set of laws and rules, a new world was created. Saki Watanabe finds herself joining this world after her powers materialized. Ready to join her friends, she became a part of the Sage Academy. But as they start uncovering buried secrets and society’s actual darkness outside their bubble, the group realizes not all is as it seems.

With a cutesy art style to contrast the dark themes it tackles, Shinsekai Yori is one of the few dystopian anime with no cyberpunk setting. The philosophy in this anime is delivered subtly—a classic must-watch.

15. Mirai Nikki

MAL Rating: 7.81

Having imaginary friends is something a lot of us did as kids. Never, however, have they spoken back, let alone enlist us into a battle royale. To become the next God. Each of the 12 people taking part in this are given a dairy, where they are given critical information about the others. Armed with the dairies from God himself, Yukiteru Amano must fight to stay alive. Amongst all this chaos, he manages to make an unlikely ally, one who is the absolute definition of crazy.

Most of all, people who have heard of this one have most likely heard about it through Yuno Gasai. One of the most popular Yandere characters in all anime shows’ gore and dark themes is mostly through her. The protagonist’s a bit timid and psychologically disturbed (think Shinji) and is heavily contrasted by her presence. The music and the animations are top class, giving a lot of potency to the violent brawls to describe this dark anime.

14. Elfen Lied

MAL Rating: 7.71

The government captured and experimented on Lucy, a Diclonius. Being gifted with horns and psychic powers, the facility didn’t bother with any humanity when operating on her. As a result, when she broke loose, she left a trail of bloodshed behind her. Furthermore, she injured herself during this escape, leaving her with a cracked skull and a split personality disorder. And so now, she lives under the care of teenagers Kouta and Yuka. Consequently, they slowly get involved in the dark world of politics, government power, secrecy, and lies.

Having stunning backdrops and brilliant camera work, Elfen Lied captures the essence of a dark thematic anime pretty well. This show is a bit of a hit or miss with many, so do approach with caution—fair warning to those who can’t take nudity and gore very well either.

13. 91 Days

MAL Rating: 7.88

The mafia holds a reputation that can instill fear even in the rich and powerful. Angelo Lagusa saw his entire family get brutally murdered by the mafia and somehow escaped himself by the skin of his teeth. Shell-shocked and completely hollow, he disappears, only to surface again after 7 long years. He receives a letter, which gets him to return to his hometown, Lawless. And so, adopting a new identity of Avilio Bruno, he decides to infiltrate the Vanetti family mafia to avenge his family.

Having learned and perfected special skills to deceive, manipulate and extort information, Avilio sets off on the hunt to destroy each and every member of the mafia. A plot weaved with care and love, 91 days is sure to get the adrenaline rushing for all dark thrillers fans. With mind-warping psychology and detailed character development, this anime is bound to get your dark drama gears turning.

ReZERO -Starting Life in Another World- Memory Snow

12. Re: Zero

MAL Rating: 8.37

The absolute hype beast of 2016, Re: Zero, one of the more recognized isekai LN adaptations amongst this generation of anime. Natsuki Subaru is randomly sent over to a new isekai world, with bright, flashy colors and boisterous crowds. However, all is not as it seems, as Subaru finds to his absolute horror. Every time he is killed in this world, he is reset back to a previous moment in time. And only he remembers of what had happened.

Re:Zero brings a fresh perspective to the table when talking about time mechanics, as Subaru has to suffer over and over again to be able to get to the next checkpoint. Death is as painful as it would seem, except he has to go through it repeatedly. The interesting manner in which he makes each death meaningful and yet suffers and loses his sanity because of it is what draws people in. As a result, it is critically acclaimed as one of the best dark isekai anime out there.

11. Death Note

MAL Rating: 8.66

Death Note has become the face of anime for those outside this medium, as a great place to start. We see through the eyes of the genius Light Yagami, who hates the amount of criminal activity in the world. He detests how it all passes unnoticed. Ryuk, a god of death, throws down a book with the power to kill into the human world. When in class, Light happens to see this book fall. Armed with this power and his ambition and intellect, he sets out to kill any criminal he lays his eyes on. Concerned by these unexplained deaths, the UN employs L, the world’s best detective, to track down “Kira.”

Watching Kira and L outsmart each other is simply mind-blowing.  Both make use of incredibly ingenious tactics to get information from the other. In this cat and mouse game of data attrition, the one who slips up is instantly destroyed. A fascinating watch about mind games, this is a great first anime to enter this genre of entertainment.

mind game anime - psycho pass

10. Psycho-Pass

MAL Rating: 8.55

“Innocent until proven guilty.”
This doesn’t seem to exist in this dystopian setting of psycho pass. Having too high a crime coefficient, as judged by the Sibyl system, means instant detention. Consequently, the law enforcers have tremendous power. Enter Akane Tsunemori, a woman with true ideals of justice. She quickly realizes the system may not be as flawless as it appears. And so, questioning the meaning of justice, legality, and the Psycho-Pass system, Akane fights against everything she has known.

Tackling concepts of mental state and crime mentality, psycho pass is a reasonably accurate vision of a possible future. With the dystopian city filled with corruption and a broken law system, it piques anyone’s curiosity. An engaging dark premise complimented by stunning visual art makes for a great anime.

Steins; Gate

09. Steins; Gate

 MAL Rating: 9.13

An all-time classic, Steins; Gate is the story of Okabe Rintaro, the “mad scientist” who only pretends to be one. Until he hooked up a phone to a microwave and accidentally found out how to send messages to the past. Subsequently, the timeline changes and only Okabe remembers events of the previous timeline. As he keeps using this machine for himself and his friends, he worries about the unwanted consequences it might bring.

And unwanted consequences it did bring.

Any anime fans interested in mature dark themes combined with good sci-fi will enjoy Steins; Gate as we watch Okabe struggle to undo all his changes to save the life of a loved one. Complex discussions regarding time and its alternate streams ensue, as he is forced to live and relive the deaths of his near and dear, thanks to his tampering with a fundamental dimension of life. Finally, for a series with a great combination of characters and plot, Steins; Gate is a must-add to every anime fan’s watch list.

08. Serial Experiments Lain

MAL Rating: 8.01

Getting messages as an introvert is awkward enough, but when it is from a dead classmate who committed suicide, things get a whole new disturbing level. The technophobe introvert, Lain Iwakura, on opening the mail, gets sent to the Wired. Like the internet, the Wired is a virtual world of networks, where Lain encounters “Men in Black” and mysterious riddles. With the distinction of the real world and the wired slowly blurring, Lain is thrown headfirst into a perilous exploit, where her concepts of reality, consciousness, and self-awareness will be challenged.

Critically acclaimed and has won several excellence prizes in Japanese literary competitions, Serial Experiments Lain is a unique piece of entertainment that completely transcends its genre and presents itself as a work of art. People who enjoy deeper reflections on the human conscious will love this series. (Small note, the anime is decently convoluted, so if you prefer more straightforward shows, best skip this one.)

07. Perfect Blue

MAL Rating: 8.37

As common folk, we have many faces and personalities who we love and cheer for as fans. From the point of view of the people under a constant spotlight, things are a lot different. Things get out of hand for the idol Mima Kirigoe when a rabid fan resists her change to an actress. Adding to the stress given by her new job demands, she is forced to take uncomfortable roles. Furthermore, the fan-turned stalker starts releasing her private information on the web.

The whole affair slowly brings Mimi’s mental sanity to an all-time low, as she struggles with coping up with what is real and what is happening in her nightmares. As days blur into weeks and months, with her career slowly slipping from her grasp, her stalker making life a living hell, and an unknown third element laying waste to her new work life, this anime movie is one dark psychological roller-coaster. Also, watching her struggle against all odds in her new position is absolutely mind-bending.

06. Kenpuu Denki Berserk

MAL Rating: 8.35

Any hardcore manga fan has for sure heard of Berserk; if not, read it. The story of Guts and his gruesome escapades has caught the eye of many in this dark-themed genre. The very origins of the black swordsman give shivers to even the bravest men, for he was born from the corpse of his mother. He lives for the battlefield. And so, when his fate collided with the Band of the Hawk, he decided to join it. Adventuring with them and quickly climbing ranks, he comes to realize that everything is not as binary as he initially thought.

Exploring some of the darkest, most grueling themes out there,  Kentaro Miura’s masterpiece has left its mark in this industry as one of the most critically acclaimed works out there. It is fair to point out that the manga for this one is the best there is. With great artwork, and decent animations for its era, the anime isn’t half bad, but I would recommend the manga for this one too.

05. Higurashi: When they cry

MAL Rating: 8.02

Most notable for its horrific gore and powerful dark undertones, Higurashi is an anime about the reserved village of Hinamizawa. Except it stands upon layers and layers of dark secrets. Keiichi Maebara, the protagonist, notices the subtle hints and traces the disappearances and murders down to the annual festival. But as his friends refuse to fork over information, and he slowly starts descending into madness, seeing ordinary folk turn into butchers seemingly in a blink of a moment, the layers of mystery unravel, showing the true dark depths of this anime.

Watching this anime may make some feel a bit sick about themselves, as the viewer takes the role of a cold-hearted scientist. Always observing, always looking for a reason within the madness, and stomaching the deaths and bloodshed calmly while devouring every episode. However, this anime will grab any viewer’s attention, casual or hardcore. A simple premise, executed with brilliancy.

Best Psychological Anime

04. Mahou shoujo madoka magica

MAL Rating: 8.43

Here we have an anime about magical girls with special powers and cute costumes fighting evil witches. A talking cat even grants them a wish before they receive their powers. There can be nothing wrong with this one, right?

… right?

From unexpected deaths and betrayals to an existentialist nightmare and the complete stripping away of sanity for each and every character, Madoka Magica destroys each and every convention of a magical girl’s show. As the LSD-fueled animations of the witch battles get more bizarre, so do the themes in this anime. With time travel, alternate realities, and a different alien species trying to restore the universe’s entropy, anyone interested in seeing raw dark emotions and intricate character development with a superb plot will simply adore this anime.

horror anime - monster

03. Monster

MAL Rating: 8.70

“We make our own worst monsters. We don’t know when we’ve made them, or how, but it is always us.”

The talented Dr. Kenzou is told to shift to the town mayor from a small boy to operate on. Having been placed in a similar position before and sacrificing a poor laborer’s life, he refuses. Hence, the town mayor dies. This, in turn, results in him losing his social standing for a while. However, with the hospital director’s sudden mysterious death and two other doctors, the case against him is dropped. Consequently, he goes on to become the director himself.

Several years later, he sees one of his own patients murdered in front of his eyes, by the very boy he saved all those years ago. Johan Liebert was the mastermind behind the serial killings of the past. And so Dr. Kenzou sets off, to find the boy, and fix the mistakes of his past. With a laser focus on character interactions, deep psychological messages, and compelling subplots, this anime is the darling of anime critics. A must-watch for veterans of anime.

Promised Neverland - Best Mind game anime

02. Promised Neverland

MAL Rating: 8.73

The story of a regular orphanage managed by a caring, loving woman named Isabella. A funhouse, surrounded by a lush field and a huge forest beyond. The kids are told never to go to the leaving gate and stay away from the forest fence. Days filled with boundless joy and laughter, what could go wrong?

(minor spoiler ahead)

Until two of the eldest kids, Emma and Norman, find out the “foster parents” are monsters. And the monsters’ food is the children in the plant orphanage.

With the intense mind games it offers, it’s a must-watch for anyone interested in psychological thrillers. Will Emma, Norman, and Ray outmaneuver Isabella? Or will the cunning, sly “mama” of the house destroy their hope of escaping? Moreover, the underlying dark tones with acute psychological warfare make this anime binge-worthy.

01. Neon Genesis Evangelion

MAL Rating: 8.33

Any avid anime fan has for sure come across the behemoth of 1995, Neon Genesis Evangelion. A mecha show about kids piloting robots to fight aliens makes for a pretty decent watch. However, this particular show doesn’t focus on robots as much as it does on Ikari Shinji’s traumatized mind. A boy with parental issues and low self-esteem is suddenly given the controls to protect humanity. As he slowly grows in character, he begins questioning the reason for his actions and the source for his motivation.

To any fan of the existentialist theme (such as myself), Neon Genesis Evangelion is a visual, aural, and psychological delight. It is filled with questions about the complex realities of living in a society. Seeing the growth and subsequent decline of each character and watching as they question the meaning of consciousness, reality, emotions, and other such extreme topics is thoroughly captivating. Finally, with a dark overhead plot of political tension, backstabbing, and intense character interactions, Neon Genesis Evangelion is a must-watch. It is a true representation of how deep and dark anime in this medium can get.

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