Despite having its share of killer shows, the thriller genre is one of the most overlooked in the anime world- which is pretty unfortunate as nothing feeds you the suspense that keeps you on the edge of your seat better than an excellent psychological thriller. If you’re looking for a show that will mess with your head and have you questioning every character you meet, here is a list of 20 of the best thriller anime to choose from.
Content Navigation (TL:DR)
- 1. Death Note
- 2. Monster
- 3. Steins; Gate
- 4. Death Parade
- 5. Zankyou No Terror (Terror in Resonance)
- 6. Another
- 7. The Promised Neverland
- 8. King of Thorn
- 9. The Future Diary
- 10. Electromagnetic Girlfriend
- 11. Eden of the East
- 12. Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom
- 13. Shiki
- 14. Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni (When They Cry)
- 15. Paprika
- 16. RAINBOW: Nisha Rokobou no Shichinin
- 17. Paranoia Agent
- 18. Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica
- 19. Shigofumi: Letters from the Departed
- 20. Re: ZERO- Starting Life in Another World
1. Death Note
Yagami Light is a bored prodigy who gets his hands on a mysterious notebook, the Death Note, held by a Shinigami (Death God). When he finds out that the book can kill those whose names are written on it, he decides to use this power to shape his idea of a perfect world. This ultimately leaves a wake of bodies that attracts the attention of the best detective in the world, creating an exciting and binge-worthy game of cat and mouse that relies on intelligent and engaging characters to generate suspense.
Working as a brain surgeon in Germany, Kenzou Tenma has everything going well for him- that is until he chooses to save the life of a young boy over the mayor’s life. He loses his stature and position in the hospital but is soon catapulted back to the top after everyone that replaced him gets murdered. Naturally, fingers begin pointing towards him as the murderer, and he has to get to the bottom of the murders and clear his name. As his life unravels around these events, Kenzou Tenma is soon confronted with the possibility that the boy he saved maybe the Monster he’s looking for.
Arguably one of the best thriller anime ever made, Monster has a rich story with a multi-layered plot revealed gradually like in any good mystery.
3. Steins; Gate
Ritarau Okabe is a self-proclaimed mad scientist who spends most of his time in a makeshift lab creating crazy inventions with his two friends’ help. While working on one experiment, the trio realizes that the gadget can send messages to the past- giving them the infinite potential to change the future. While they decide what best to do with this power, an organization called SERN catches wind, and they now have to find a way to elude capture.
Part of what makes Steins; Gate a great thriller are the twists, turns, and revelations spread throughout the show.
4. Death Parade
When people die, they are greeted by the sign “Welcome to Queen Dekim,” ushering them into a strange bar run by the white-haired bartender Dekim. Here, pairs of the dead engage in games after which the winners are reincarnated while the losers are lost in oblivion forever. But this is more than just a game! As the contesters engage in thrilling battles, their true natures become apparent for all to see.
Death parade is a masterpiece that has you wondering who will get a second chance? Presenting different characters throughout 12 episodes, this psychological thriller will put you through a mix of emotions.
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5. Zankyou No Terror (Terror in Resonance)
Six months after an attack on a nuclear facility in Japan, a mysterious video was made by the supposed terrorist surfaces. The two are survivors of an experimental program run by the Japanese government. Identifying themselves as Sphinx, the duo promises to rain terror and mayhem across Japan, spreading mass hysteria and panic. It is now up to the police to stop them.
Using its well-written and mysterious characters, Terror in Resonance creates big-ups that eventually pay off. You are often left wondering what will happen in the next minute or whether anything will happen at all.
As a transfer student in class 3-3 of Yomiyama North, Kouichi Sakakibara can’t help but notice the blanket of gloom hanging over the town and how the whole school ignores the existence of Mei Misaki. Paying no heed to the warning of his new friends, he befriends the lonely one-eyed girl. As he grows closer to the mysterious girl, he is more comparable to finding the gruesome truth behind the village’s fearful atmosphere and its connection to the murder of a popular student 26 years ago.
Another is an excellent anime with a chilling plot that draws attention to both the darkness and the light. If you are all for horror thrillers, Another’s story will conquer you.
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7. The Promised Neverland
The Grace Field House is home to orphans who seem to lead happy lives. However, no one can explain how a child is sent away to a new home every few months only to disappear forever every few months. While most children in the orphanage don’t seem to mind this, three siblings decide to get to the bottom of these mysterious disappearances. Soon enough, they uncover a shocking secret buried deep within the walls of their home.
Throughout the series, there are plenty of great moments that create an air of suspense. However, its most significant appeal is the twists and turns that the characters have to go through as they try to discover every little nugget of truth.
8. King of Thorn
Humanity is threatened by the deadly Medusa virus, which turns its victims into stone. As it spreads uncontrollably around the world, humanity’s last hope is to put a select few into statis and preserve them until a solution is found. After an unknown period, the group wakes up to find that things didn’t quite go as planned. Thorns cover the cryo facility, and deadly monsters are on the loose. If they are to survive, Kasumi and her group have to uncover the mystery of what happened.
9. The Future Diary
Deus Ex Machina is the god of time and space. He has gifted 12 individuals with magical diaries, each with a unique way to see the future. The catch? The young boys and girls have to play a game of survival- a battle royale to the death in which the winner will become the new god of time and space. Yukiteru is one of the contestants, and to survive, he has to form an unlikely alliance with a fellow diary holder- Yuno.
10. Electromagnetic Girlfriend
Juu Juuzawa is a delinquent schoolboy that dislikes befriending people. He meets a mysterious girl, Ame Ochibana, claiming to have known him in a past life and now wishes to serve him. Pretty skeptical at first and wanting nothing to do with the girl, Juu has to enlist her help when a classmate is murdered. He is soon impressed by her intelligence and skill, and the two grow closer as they work to solve the murder.
Showing us that allies can be found in the weirdest of places, Electromagnetic girlfriends use love, loss, and devotion to weaving a thrilling storyline.
11. Eden of the East
Three months after a missile attack hit Japan during the infamous “Careless Monday” attack, Morimi Saki lands in trouble in front of the white house while on her graduation trip. Luckily, she is saved by Takizawa Akira, a mysterious man with no clothes and no recollection of his past except that he is a terrorist. The only things he has are a gun and a mobile phone loaded with millions in digital currency.
12. Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom
Mafia crime is at its peak in America, and assassinations have become a regular thing on the streets. Inferno is the mysterious company behind such dealings, using their ultimate weapon, “Phantom,” to eliminate targets. When a Japanese tourist witnesses one of Phantom’s murders, he is captured, brainwashed, and turned into a human weapon, ‘Zwei.’ Now another one of Inferno’s puppets, will the tourist manage to break free before he outlives his usefulness
In a peaceful and quiet village, what was supposed to be a typical summer takes a turn for the worst when a series of bizarre deaths plague the region. These deaths coincide with a strange family moving into an abandoned mansion in the town. The hospital dean, Dr. Toshio Ozaki, cannot establish the cause of death in the victims, triggering further investigations into the matter.
If you want to go back to the time when vampires were the stuff of nightmares, Shiki gladly gives you the gruesome deaths and thrilling events that characterize a clash between man and Monster.
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14. Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni (When They Cry)
Maebara Keiichi enjoys a blissful existence in his new home, the quiet town of Hinamizawa. As the village prepares to host its annual festival, he quickly befriends a couple of his schoolmates. But as fate would have it, he stumbles upon news of a murder in the town. As more horrific events unfold, it quickly becomes clear that the village and its festival hide dark secrets. The villagers here don’t take kindly to outsiders, and Keiichi soon realizes that they view him as one.
Chiba is a beautiful therapist working for a psycho-medical institute. Her colleague, Tokita Kosaku, invents a device that allows them to visit a patient’s dream and monitor their inner world. One day, however, someone steals the device and uses it to invade the dreams of everyone involved with the project. Now, Chiba has to assume a new identity as Dream Detective Paprika as she hunts down this mysterious dream terrorist.
16. RAINBOW: Nisha Rokobou no Shichinin
In 1955 Japan, Mario Minakami and five other teenagers are assigned the same cell at Shounan Special Reform School. In the cell, they meet an older inmate Rokurouta Sakuragi and quickly establish a bond with him. Together, the seven have to endure the constant humiliation and suffering of prison life as they await the day their sentences will run out.
Thanks to a great storyline, relatable characters, and the constant promise of escape that adds pressure to every moment, Rainbow is one of the best anime thrillers of all time.
17. Paranoia Agent
Lil Slugger is a delinquent school student who loves terrorizing Musashino City with a golden baseball bat while on roller skates. This attracts two detectives, who begin looking for ways to stop the kid from making more attacks. However, as the citizens grow more paranoid and hysteria takes over, the detectives soon realize that this is more than the simple case they were expecting.
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18. Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica
Sayaka Miki and Madoka Kaname are middle school girls leading seemingly regular lives. However, everything changes when they encounter Kyuubey, a feline familiar who offers them a proposition; he will fulfill one wish from each of them. In exchange, they both become magical girls. The two girls also meet Homura Akemi, a transfer student and a magical girl herself, who warns them against accepting this deal by explaining that not everything is as it seems. There is usually a great price to pay.
19. Shigofumi: Letters from the Departed
When people die, they carry words they were unable to say to the grave. In this world, such dead can use “shigofumi”- letters written by the departed to the living expressing their love, frustration, longing, or resentment. Fumika and her talking staff are the mail carriers tasked with the duty of ensuring that each shigofumi reaches the intended recipient regardless of whether the person wants to read the letter or not.
During her errands, Fumika witnesses the secrets and tragedies of both the living and the dead. More importantly, however, her mysterious past; who was she before taking on this job?
20. Re: ZERO- Starting Life in Another World
When leaving a convenience store, Subaru Natsuki finds himself transported into a fantasy world. Before Subaru can wrap his head around the events, he is attacked by thugs and beaten to a pulp. Luckily, he is saved by the mysterious beauty, Satella, and as a way of expressing gratitude, he offers to help her locate her missing insignia. When they eventually find it, the duo is brutally murdered.
Subaru then awakens only to realize that it is all happening again- he is attacked by the same thugs and saved by Satella- he is caught in a time loop, with no way out of it.