If you are anything like us, you can no longer stand the conventional shoujo and shounen anime. You want more! You crave a story so mind-nerving that it pushes you to the limit of your beliefs. You want plots that boggle the mind, leaving it wanting – you want the best psychological anime.
Good news: you will get that in this article!
We have rummaged our collections and selectively compile our list of 40 blockbusters for you. Here, expect that we have covered jump scares, thrills, and even dramas.
Before we delve into the list, are psychological animes worth the hype? Why are they even popular?
Content Navigation (TL:DR)
- Why Are Psychological Theme Animes So Popular?
- 40. Omoide No Marnie (When Marnie Was There)
- 39. Phantom: Requiem For The Phantom
- 38. Mind Game
- 37. Kino’s Journey
- 36. Ping Pong The Animation
- 35. Tekkon Kinkreet
- 34. Mononoke
- 33. Kaguya-sama: Love Is War
- 32. Kakegurui
- 31. Grisaia No Kajitsu
- 30. Code Geass
- 29. No Game No Life
- 28. Yakusoku No Neverland: The Promised Neverland
- 27. Serial Experiments Lain
- 26. xHOLIC
- 25. Gakkou Gurashi
- 24. Ayashi No Ceres
- 23. Danganronpa
- 22. Shinsekai Yori
- 21. Zankyou no Terror (Terror in Resonance)
- 20. Re: Zero – Starting Life in Another World
- 19. Devilman: Crybaby
- 18. Death Parade
- 17. Gyakkyou Burai Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor
- 16. Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni (When They Cry)
- 15. Boku Dake Ga Inai Machi (ERASED)
- 14. Paprika
- 13. Death Note
- 12. Monster
- 11. Welcome To The N.H.K.
- 10. Perfect Blue
- 8. Ergo Proxy
- 7. Steins; Gate: 0
- 6. Psycho Pass
- 5. Ghost In The Shell
- 4. Neon Genesis Evangelion (NGE)
- 3. Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica (Puella Magi Madoka Magica)
- 2. Kiseijuu: Sei No Kakuritsu (Parasyte -The Maxim)
- 1. Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei (Tatami Galaxy)
Why Are Psychological Theme Animes So Popular?
Short answer: this kind of genre unsettles the mind in a fun way!
Unlike other genres, psychological theme animes don’t play around wooing all anime fans. Instead, they are specific and a bit of luxury. The stories here are mysterious and excitingly dark.
Moreover, we all crave different content from time to time. That’s why we rotate our diet. In the same vein, psychological theme animes offer a unique approach to storytelling, and they are engaging. That’s why they are popular.
Now, let’s head back to our list of the best psychological anime!
40. Omoide No Marnie (When Marnie Was There)
At first glance, we thought this anime lacked the typical thriller of psychological animes. However, after watching it a few times, we understand why Omoide No Marnie is an award-winning mystery drama.
The story follows Anna. As a young girl, she had trouble socializing. All that would change when she met Marnie. The two would develop an enviable friendship.
39. Phantom: Requiem For The Phantom
Like the name, this series focuses on a devastating weapon: the Phantom. The plot would revolve around how a mysterious group tagged Inferno uses the tool to cause harm.
In one such occasion of violence, a tourist caught the Inferno and their Phantom committing murder. Unfortunately, the witness couldn’t escape. Worse: the leader of the Inferno recruited him.
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38. Mind Game
This anime is borderline dementia from the start till the end. What we love about Mind Game is its fantastic storytelling. The producers walk you through the stories as though you were there.
At the start, the main character died when a friend tried to rape him. The rest of the story will then explore the depth of guilt, reincarnation, and living life to the fullest.
37. Kino’s Journey
We have to admit that Kino’s Journey is weird. It’s funny how a teenage boy loitering around on his bike could be so adventurous and exciting. But this anime meets all of our requirements.
Kino’s Journey highlights some of the social and psychological issues in society. In particular, it projects why we should understand rather than persuade.
36. Ping Pong The Animation
If you seek a combination of shounen, sports, and mystery, then Ping Pong The Animation will delight you. We love how the blend of the various themes fuses perfectly to create a beautiful psychological anime.
The plot itself is nothing special. It only follows the lives of Makoto, Ryuuichi Wenge, and Yutaka. More importantly, the story revealed why characters acted as they did.
35. Tekkon Kinkreet
This anime is an adaptation of Slice Of Life and psychological themes. In other words, you will get that laid-back feeling but with a healthy dose of mystery.
The story follows two orphans and their exploits in Treasure Town. Nothing happens in the vicinity without them. However, a stranger (Yakuza) will soon threaten their stronghold.
Mononoke is one the shortest psychological anime on our list at just 12 episodes. Despite being brief, the series didn’t suffer a dip in its story and character development.
Here, the plot centers on exorcising spirits. The themes are dark and horrific. Despite all that, the main character can’t help without first reliving the victim’s experiences.
33. Kaguya-sama: Love Is War
Love Is War is a subtle psychological anime. It’s beautiful how the story plasters the deep mysteries under the surface romance.
The story follows the two brightest students in Japan: Kaguya and Miyuki. Thought to be in a relationship, but they are not. The two characters, though, love themselves but face different realities.
What we love about Kakegurui is the detail in the character development. The designs and quality are top-notch. Plus, the theme song is one of the best of any psychological anime we’ve seen.
The story itself revolves around a group of compulsive gamblers. One moment, they are in the euphoria of their wins, then the next, they are lost in despair.
31. Grisaia No Kajitsu
We can’t help others if we don’t help ourselves. Kazami Yuuji will soon find those words to be true in “Grisaia No Kajitsu.”
Unlike the other psychological animes on our list, Grisaia No Kajitsu stands out for how each character has their unique air of mystery.
The story follows Kazami and five female students. He had only one mission: help the girls get over their troubles. The task won’t be easy, however, because Kazami himself has some underlying issues.
30. Code Geass
If you ever crave a psychological anime with a heavy focus on strategy and tactics, Code Geass meets the requirement. The plot features top-grade action and engaging scenes.
Code Geass follows the event of a rebellion in Area 11. Deep in that chaos is the royal prince: Lelouch. He met with a witch where he gained “Geass.” And with it, the prince hopes to end all the violence.
29. No Game No Life
Welcome to a new world where might and energy dictate nothing. Only your mental skills and how you use them in a game count!
In this thriller, you will feel the intricacies of the mind and the mysteries thereof. The story here follows two brothers (Sora and Shiro) and their decision to leave earth for Disboard. The series will then revolve around their gaming prowess.
28. Yakusoku No Neverland: The Promised Neverland
Imagine all the talks you heard about a better tomorrow were false! How would such make you feel? Devastating, huh? That’s what the orphans of “Yakusoku No Neverland” felt!
This horror-thriller centers on a group of orphans living together. Once in a while, the coordinators will harvest one of the kids in the pretense of adoption.
Eventually, the last three orphans would unravel the dark plot and scheme their escape. But were they successful?
27. Serial Experiments Lain
How strange would it feel to receive an email from a deceased? Well, you will find out in this mind-nerving, Sci-Fi, psychological anime.
Serial Experiments Lain, like the name, centers on Lain Iwakura and choices. She and a group of other girls received mails from a deceased Chisa. Now, they must explore the reasons for such.
If you want a slice of comedy, supernatural, mystery, and the drama within, try xHOLIC. What we love about the series is how seamless the characters weave into the plot.
The story centers on Kimihiro Watanuki and his seer abilities. He hated the power until he met Yuuko. The two would later explore their unique gifts in a world of adventure.
25. Gakkou Gurashi
We love how Gakkou Gurashi combines the Slice of Life themes with the mysteries of psychological anime. It is always fun and creative to watch. More beautiful, the series is only 12 episodes.
The story centers on a group of girls living a false school life. They had no choice as zombies lurk outside their school walls.
24. Ayashi No Ceres
This anime is one of the classics on our list. Despite being old, Ayashi No Ceres always brings chills with thrilling scenes.
Here, the plot centers on the bloodline of a celestial maiden: Ceres. She came to earth to bathe and couldn’t get back. Now, her descendants must navigate their powerful magic and learn how to control it.
Undoubtedly, Danganronpa has a twisted plot. The story reeks of mysterious characters and even rules. So, get ready to question your realities because this psychological anime will test your boundaries.
The story of Danganronpa follows Makoto Naegi. He would gain admission into a prodigious school: Hope’s Peak Academy.
Thinking that there is a bright future ahead, Makoto will soon learn it’s all a farce. He might never even get out of school again without committing murder.
22. Shinsekai Yori
This anime combines Sci-Fi, supernatural, drama, and horror to create a masterpiece. More importantly, Shinsekai Yori has a unique story. And that’s why we love it.
Here, people can turn violent at the slightest manipulation. And all that chaos is down to the strange ability of remote matter control.
After a while of turbulence, there was peace. However, such was only transient. Children will soon start disappearing – the matter is back.
But that’s not all that has changed. Now, there is Saki Watanabe and her friends looking to save the day.
21. Zankyou no Terror (Terror in Resonance)
Zankyou is one of the shortest series on this list at only 11 episodes. Regardless, it tells the psychological stories of the characters expansively.
The plot started when an unknown group attacked several facilities. This group carried out the details expertly, only leaving behind a painted word: VON.
The group would later surface as the blend of two masked and nameless teenagers. But why? What would such young minds gain causing so much terror to the nation?
20. Re: Zero – Starting Life in Another World
Have you ever imagined how your life could change just at the open and jar of a door? No? You will get a feel of such thrills and fear in Re: Zero.
We can assure you that this psychological anime promises all the drama and action that you seek. The story itself oozes mystery.
The main act, Natsuki, opened his usual door to get a few things. Just that act and his life took a different turn.
The door Natsuki opened led to a different world and got the beating of his life. He eventually died. Funnily enough, he reincarnated to the same spot. Mysterious, eh?
19. Devilman: Crybaby
Devilman explores the backgrounds of empathy and the supernatural. Plus, the animation is quite engaging for a psychological anime. Those reasons are why we love it.
The story itself centers on a high school student, Fudou Akira. By nature, he cares and hates to see others suffer. But he couldn’t do anything as the Devils tear apart people around him.
However, when one of the Devils threatened to kill Ryou (Fudou’s friend), Fudou merged with the former to become a Devilman. He would later go on saving lives.
18. Death Parade
You probably thought the afterlife branches out to heaven and hell. Well, Death Parade has a different notion.
In this twisted series, you either come back to life (reincarnation) or go into oblivion. The funniest part: the decision to reincarnation or otherwise rest on a bar attendant. Odd, eh?
That’s not all. The bar attendant also dishes random games to rank the dead. In such anxiety, people then tend to show all shades of their behavior. And that’s why we love the series.
17. Gyakkyou Burai Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor
Ultimate Survivor is the perfect exposé on the gambling world. It reveals the greed and the instinct people exhibit when they have nothing more to lose. Now couple all that unveilings with a typical psychological theme – you will get an addictive anime.
The story in this series focuses on Kaiji and how he lost everything while drinking and loitering. Eventually, Kaiji got himself into underground gambling. There, he rediscovered greed and how dark humans are when their backs are up against the wall.
16. Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni (When They Cry)
A little warning: if you chicken out fast, “When They Cry” might not be the best series for you.
Prepare for the scare that frightens the mind as much as it delights it. In “When They Cry,” you will get a blockbuster featuring supernatural, mystery, and thriller.
The plot centers on Keiichi and his adventure. First, he moved to a small village (Hinamizawa), where he made friends with Mion, Rena, Rika, and Satoko.
Soon as Keiichi adjusted to his new environment, he learned about the mysterious disappearances and deaths in the locale. He would then explore the unfortunate events with the help of his friends.
15. Boku Dake Ga Inai Machi (ERASED)
ERASED is a Sci-Fi anime that explores time travel, early life relationships, and domestic abuse. In this series, you can expect dark thrillers that will undoubtedly glue you to your seat.
The story of ERASED follows Fujinuma Satoru and his exploits towards saving lives. He has a unique ability to time-travel minutes before a tragedy to fix such.
However, when Fujinuma got involved in a murder (framed), he time-traveled 18years back. Was he successful?
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Paprika is one of the unique psychological anime we have seen. Unlike other series, it explores human dreams. As such, it is relatable as it is refreshing.
The plot revolves around Atsuko and Kosaku. The two geniuses developed a technology that explores patients’ minds to cure psychological disorders. However, in the wrong hands, the same aid could turn vile.
13. Death Note
Supernaturals also suffer boredom. Hopefully, when they do, they don’t behave like the Shinigami Ryuk in Death note.
Ryuk got bored with his routine and decided to have fun. He threw the death note into the realms of humans.
Fortunately, the book fell into the hands of Light Yagami. Light would later realize that the Death Note kills whoever’s name he inked on the pages.
The plot from there then revolves around Light’s decisions. And it was fun and refreshing to see.
This anime features some of the most horrific scenes of any psychological series. Though classic, the plots are some of the best we have seen.
The plot of “Monster” revolves around the decisions of Dr. Kenzou Tenma. At the onset, he saved a celebrity at the expense of a poor immigrant. Then, he would rescue an unknown boy instead of the mayor’s son.
All those decisions will later come back to haunt Kenzou. But how? Would he make amends?
11. Welcome To The N.H.K.
One word summarises “Welcome To The N.H.K,” and that is comedy. Indeed, the plot is mysterious. Yet, it’s amusing how the events played out.
In this series, you will get a feel of Tatsuhiro Satou’s life. He would drop out of college mysteriously and later decide to stay indoors.
In that isolation, Tatsuhiro would generate all sorts of amusing theories. One such is that a group tagged N.H.K. (Nihon Hikikomori Kyoukai) is behind his NEET acts.
The final straw of Tatsuhiro’s theory: the group is also trying to spread the NEET culture. Would they succeed? Or would Tatsuhiro eventually get a grip? Watch the series and see!
10. Perfect Blue
This anime extends mystery; it is borderline dementia, featuring scary horror drama and action. Those are the reasons we love the series.
Here, the plot circles on Mima Kirigoe. She used to belong to a pop group and was the fans’ favorite. Then, she decided to change her career to acting, and her stardom risks oblivion.
But would all that get to Mima? You have to see Perfect Blue find out!
9. Future Diary
Psychological anime doesn’t always have to be all mysterious and supernatural. There could be a spice of romance and shounen thrills. If that’s what you seek, Future Diary fits the bill.
The story here centers on Yukitero Amano. He’s an introvert, and like most of his kind, he writes in his e-diary. When Yukitero is not writing, he’s talking to his imaginary friends: Dues and Mur Mur.
Unknowingly to Yukitero, Deus is the god of time and space, while Mur is the sidekick. The two would later grant Yukitero a random diary and throw him into a game to become a powerful force himself.
8. Ergo Proxy
There’s nothing as mind-blowing as a combination of nuclear explosions and mysterious plots. Beautifully, Ergo Proxy is a perfect blend of both features. This series oozes Sci-Fi and psychological themes from beginning till the end.
About beginnings, Ergo Proxy started with an explosion that restricted humans to isolated cities. The said cities use AutoReivs (robots) to maintain order.
Unfortunately, the AutoReivs started malfunctioning. In the process of fixing the faults, the main acts met with a monster: Proxy. From that point, the series took an interesting turn.
7. Steins; Gate: 0
This series highlights how despite our best efforts, the past can haunt us. And when it does, such experiences can send us into a deep psychological spiral.
Well, Okabe Rintarou is many of us in this puzzling and thrilling anime. He failed to save a friend: Makise. Since then, he struggled to get on with his life.
The emotional derailment was so much for Okabe that he abandoned his duties. But just how long can Okabe run?
Funnily enough, Makise is bound to reappear, and Okabe will soon relive all the depression. So, prepare yourself for the emotions!
6. Psycho Pass
Like the name, Psycho Pass is a psychological anime. It follows the event of a somewhat “just” society until the agents of the same system uncover the justice to be false.
The series explores the Sibyl system: a means to ascertain the mental health of citizens. Doing so, the State keeps threats to safety and security at bay.
That was the facade until Tsunemori Akane uncovered the truth. She set out with her enforcer, Kougami Shinya, to realign the justice system. But as it turned out, even the agents are fighting for more than justice.
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5. Ghost In The Shell
Have you ever wondered what effects technology might have on humans soon? Yes? Then, you’ll love “Ghost In The Shell.”
In this series, the story revolves around the point of seamless synergy between humans and technology. Unfortunately, just as the innovation makes life comfortable, criminals could also hijack the units for their selfish gains.
That balance and reality are why we love Ghost In The Shell. More so, the series tried explaining the conundrum of the body, soul, and mind.
4. Neon Genesis Evangelion (NGE)
Undoubtedly, NGE is a must-watch Sci-Fi thriller. In our opinion, it is one of the top-10s of all time. What we like about the anime is the plot. Despite the messy and outdated animations, the stories will have come back for a rewatch.
About the plot, it circles Shinji Ikari’s life. Shinji, according to the script, is a pilot and one of the few to fly the beast: Evangelion
The stories will then evolve about why each of the pilots chose to fly the Evangelion to defend the earth from “Angels.” And it was refreshing to watch.
3. Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica (Puella Magi Madoka Magica)
We haven’t quite seen any anime that combines friendship, hope, drama, and despair like Madoka Magica. Yet, this series retains its psychological scenes and thrillers. Plus, there’s magic too.
The story of the Madoka Magica focuses on two school girls: Madoka and Sayaka. They were regular students going about their routine life until the “encounter.”
Madoka and Sayaka met two magical creatures: Kyuubey and Nomura. Kyuubey offered to transform the two girls into fairy beings with extraordinary powers. Nomura, on the other hand, warned them not to agree to the proposition.
2. Kiseijuu: Sei No Kakuritsu (Parasyte -The Maxim)
If you seek a combination of psychological theme and action, Parasyte – The Maxim fits the bill. This action-packed anime combines horror, drama, and horror into a masterpiece.
The story of Parasyte – The Maxim revolves around Shinichi. While a disastrous plague consumes all humans, it couldn’t get into Shinichi’s brain. As such, he retains the features of being human and the strength of a parasyte.
The fun part is how Shinichi decided to use his newly found powers. He aims to protect the human population against extinction.
1. Yojouhan Shinwa Taikei (Tatami Galaxy)
Tatami Galaxy highlights regrets and why it’s best to let go of life’s inhibitions. What we love about this anime is how perfectly it weaves romance and friendship into a mystery theme.
The story of Tatami Galaxy revolves around a college student: Watashi. He takes delight in breaking relationships. All that mischief would soon end when he met the god of matrimony: an odd, egg-shaped-head man.
After the meeting, Watashi reflected on his life to make a change. Fortunately, he got a second chance to travel back in time to restart his college life.
Note: our sequence only reflects our objective views. In other words, you might rank the series or watch randomly as you see fit.