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Have you ever wanted to delve deeper into the weeb/otaku world by watching Gundam, but soon realized there are so many different anime series, OVAs, and movies to watch that you don’t know where to start? You’re not alone. Much like watching Detective Conan or One Piece, there is so much in the Gundam culture that it can act like a bar to less motivated anime fans. In fact, it is one reason why we put it off so long.
In all honesty, usually you can pick up any Gundam series and enjoy it. However, there will be some times where you might feel like you are missing something, and that is the benefit of watching the series in chronological order. You get an extended scope of the universes and the history therein.
If you choose the path of not just picking the series that sounds the most intriguing and watching it, watching Gundam in order is less about lining all the series up, but rather lining the series up in the correct universes in the Gundam Multiverse.
There are currently three main universes in the Gundam Multiverse as well as a large handful of universes that only feature one series. The key to watching Gundam in chronological order is to pick a universe, then watch the shows within the universe. This can be the trouble of just picking series at random and watching them, if you cross universes, it could potentially be confusing if you think about it too hard since Gundam Wing doesn’t have the same history as Gundam Zeta, for example.
So, what are your Gundam Multiverse watching options?
This is the original Gundam universe with the bulk of the Gundam series stored within and detailing a variety of wars between Earth and the Space Colonies over varying time span. If there was one universe in the Gundam Multiverse to commit to, this would be the one. However, with the series starting in the late 70’s, some of them haven’t aged well so you aren’t always guaranteed quality, yet some of the best gems also dwell here.
For this one universe we will also list the dates where the story takes place in the Universal Century just so you know where in the timeline it actually takes place and how long since the events have transpired between series.
This the father of the Gundam dynasty and worth watching for that fact alone. It starts in the middle of the One Year War, the big event in the Universal Century, and primarily focuses on the rivalry between ace Gundam pilots Amuro and Char, who are put at odds by their warring factions. This is where the whole concept of Mobile Suits were introduced, but with 70’s era animation and storytelling, it can be incredibly slow at times while pretty engaging overall.
Chronologically, Origin happens before the original series. In it, Char is still a kid and it details how the Republic of Zeon was created and the One Year War started. However, while it fleshes out the original series, if you watch it first, you won’t understand much.
Released in 2004, 20-something years after the original series, MS IGLOO follows the story of Zeon’s engineering team as they struggle to create technology to equip there army. While it gives insight into why the original series ended the way it did, the CGI seems vastly out of place.
This series is a One Year War side story following of ordinary soldiers on the East Asian front. While the original series can be slow and boring at times, this series that follows average folk instead of the ace pilots, thus it brings a lot of emotion and drama to the table as well as some cleaner animation. If there is one must-watch Gundam from this universe, it would be this one, in our opinion.
This is another side story in the One Year War, but unlike 08th MS, it follows a child protagonist unrelated to the armies and follows him as the horrors of war come into his life. Although short and sometimes short on mech action, it tells a great war story.
This is the precursor to the next big series after the original – Zeta Gundam. You don’t need to watch it to understand Zeta, but it sets up everything for the events that happen after the One Year War when the Federation turns bad.
Following the events of the One Year War, Zeta Gundam displays Char’s redemption and the Federation’s harsh policies through the eyes of Kamille. Considered one of the darker Gundams, you watch the line of good and evil blur in a surprisingly complex story.
This mind as well have been called Zeta Gundam Season 2, but most people would advise skipping it. Whereas Zeta was dark and complex, ZZ switches oddly to a strangely humorous tone that doesn’t really tell an engaging story.
This movie finally switches back to the story of Char and Amuro and displays how their conflict finally ends.
As a newer Gundam series, Unicorn kind of wraps up the Universal Century in its way. Flashes back to UC 0001, the very beginning of human space travel, and traces those events back to UC 0096 where the main character Banagher unravels the mystery. As a newer series, Unicorn is know for its absolutely amazing animation and throw backs to fan favorite mechs.
This movie actually sets the stage for Crossbone, a manga series. However, in production it was shortened from a 50-episode series all the way down to a movie, so the pacing is odd and the story about frontier colonies rising up against invaders from Jupiter doesn’t really go anywhere.
Happening in the distant future from the other events in this universe, Victory Gundam has a pretty clichéd plot about a young boy piloting a mecha in order to face off against the Zanscare Empire. The issue is that it doesn’t really tie into other events in this universe, and it doesn’t tell a particularly fleshed out story either.
Despite housing one of the most wildly popular Gundam series (in the West at least), After Colony is a rather undeveloped universe with only one series and a movie in it. The politics are less complex and there is a more of a focus on the battle, comedy, and drama of it all. Ultimately, what this universe is all about is retelling the sort of story presented in the Universal Century, but the Earth is displayed as the villain.
This series follows five Gundam pilots sent from the colonies to go wreck havoc on Earth and displays their trials and tribulations in doing so, ultimately showing why each pilot fights. Despite being considered a classic by many anime viewers, watch it again, it hasn’t held up so well.
This movie basically expands on Gundam Wing and delves into the past’s of the pilots more. However, the real reason to watch it is for the epic mobile suits. Unfortunately, you can’t watch this without watching Gundam Wing first.
This universe basically takes everything from the Universal Century and gives it a shiny new modern day update. You get more moe-fied characters, shinier animation, and flashier battles. However, it still has those great war plot lines and political intrigues that hook people on Gundam. However, in the Cosmic Era, the war has changed slightly with it being less about Earth v. Colonies and more about unaltered humans, the Natural, verses the genetically engineered humans, the Coordinators.
SEED basically tried to revive the epic rivalry that happened in the original series in a shiny modern package. You get a lot of the same tropes, themes, and event plot points in SEED as you did with Mobile Suit Gundam. However, while everything is prettier and has a best OST of pretty much the lot, it often stumbles in the same way as the original with it going from super boring to engaging often and quickly as it tells its classic Gundam political war story.
As the immediate follow-up to the events of SEED, Destiny wanted to be to SEED like Zeta was to the original series. While darker than SEED, Destiny often undermines itself by having that classic SEED chipper-ness in the characters slip in, which doesn’t make sense in the dark atmosphere it is trying to create.
This is the series that follows up immediately after the events of Destiny. However, it doesn’t expand on that. Instead it tells a side story about the Phantom Pain special forces. While it expands more on their intriguing unit, it doesn’t really add anything. As a web series, no one expected it to either.
Technically following SEED, these two short films kind of completely abandon the main story and just tell side stories that take place in the universe. They don’t add to anything and aren’t particularly interesting to boot.
These universes only have one series in them, and from modern Gundam anime series trends, it seems like the one-shot universe is the new way to go (with the exception of Unicorn). These series often present vastly different settings, but often have the same common themes that makes you want to watch a Gundam series in the first place.
Gundam X tells a post-apocalyptic story after the Earth created a mobile suit that could destroy colonies in one shot. The colonies responded by dropping empty colonies on Earth and forcing the mobile suit to ravage the planet. After that event, the story follows a young thief surviving in this destroyed world. Gundam X tells a story unlike any other Gundam as it is less about war and more about survival. If you like games like Fallout, then this will be a Gundam series more your style.
Instead of devolving into the war, the space colonies decide that it will instead pick a leader by holding a Gundam fighting tournament between their chosen pilots on Earth. G Gundam has its moments, but it is basically your standard fighting anime and lacks the intelligent, complex, and even compelling plot and characters that made the Universal Century great.
This series tells the story of three near-warring factions and a group called the Celestial Beings. This group develops the first Gundam in their universe and plans to us it to decimate both sides wherever conflict breaks out, thus proving that war is fruitless for them. While the plot is intriguing enough, it doesn’t really go anywhere. It has some high-minded philosophy, but eventually the unlikable characters and eventually pointless plot doesn’t make it great.
Turn A Gundam tells the story of a separate race of humans that live on the moon popping down to earth for a surprise visit on their less advanced planet dwelling cousins. The Moonrace wants to return home, so naturally war breaks out with Earth dwellers. It is your classic Gundam plot, but somewhat undermined by the fact that the characters are a little on the young side. Despite that, the visuals are some of the best out of the Gundams and it does master that whole sense of discovery that comes with exploring a new place.
AGE is unique because it is very literal to its title. This series is split into three parts that follow protagonist Flit as a child, an adult, and a great-grandfather. The premise alone make its intriguing, and as a newer series, it brings some nice, clean animation. However, it is yet another mirror of the original Gundam series telling the story of the One Hundred Year War. Unlike the original, it lacks a good rivalry and characters to carry a hit-or-miss plot.
After adapting an anti-technology religion, humanity has entered a time of universal peace. However, one boy wants to ruin it all by piloting a mobile suit he found. Not unlike its name, this Gundam series is confusing. It is like someone took normally complex Gundam politics and turned the dial up to 12. In fact, you won’t fully understand everything until near the end, if ever. However, while complex is fine, the fact that the characters take action with no particular reason behind it is not.
Set 300 years after an event in this universe called the Calamity War, Earth’s government has dissolved into new governing structures, but while Earth is at peace, war is brewing far away on Mars. This series is less about major war and instead about rebellion with various factors and private armies fighting one another in a relatively small world scope. As the newest Gundam, you get that great animation and a complex story line reminiscent of the older series, but with better pacing and less boring down time.