While comedy and romance anime are well and good, and they swell your heart due to all the laughter and sweetness, sometimes you just need a good edge-of-your-seat and unsettling anime to watch.
For something cerebral that will creep your wits out, psychological anime is the way to go.
Today, we’ll be recommending the best psychological anime out there.
These titles know how to play with the human psyche, mess with your mind, and probably give you the heebie-jeebies.
Brace your hearts and minds before we dive in.
- Best Psychological Anime
- 40. Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom
- 39. Texhnolyze
- 38. Cat Soup
- 37. Ergo Proxy
- 36. Mind Game
- 35. Le Portrait de Petit Cossette
- 34. Petshop of Horrors
- 33. Aoi Bungaku
- 32. Mirai Nikki
- 31. Alice in Borderland
- 30. Kuuchuu Buranko
- 29. Nhk NI Youkoso
- 28. Shinsekai Yori
- 27. Bokura No
- 26. Mononoke
- 25. Tokyo Ghoul
- 24. Danganronpa: The Animation
- 23. Psycho Pass
- 22. Parasyte: The Maxim
- 21. School Live
- 20. Zankyou No Terror
- 19. Higurashi No Naku Koro NI
- 18. Zetsuen No Tempest
- 17. Flowers of Evil
- 16. Tatami Galaxy
- 15. Death Parade
- 14. Kaiji
- 13. Kaguya-sama: Love Is War
- 12. Serial Experiments Lain
- 11. Elfen Lied
- 10. Magica Madoka
- 9. Paranoia Agent
- 8. Perfect Blue
- 7. Paprika
- 6. Erased
- 5. Ghost in the Shell
- 4. Neon Genesis Evangelion
- 3. Akira
- 2. Death Note
- 1. Monster
Best Psychological Anime
40. Phantom: Requiem for the Phantom
How would you feel if you wake up in a random warehouse, having no memory of who you are or how you ended up here?
To make matters worse, you are attacked by a random woman who tells you that you have to defeat her and become an assassin to live.
This is Zwei’s new reality – a messed up, edge-of-your-seat, might-die-any-second, new life. But can he pass the final test of actually assassinating someone? Will he eventually find out who he is?
I wouldn’t want to be in this guy’s shoes. But if you’re as intrigued as me, this is an interesting psychological anime to add to your watch list.
Life in the underground city of Lux is no walk in the park. Crimes, gangs, and overall despair suffocate the place.
But at the center of it all is a rare substance called Raffia that is found only in the city. It makes cybernetic prosthesis possible, which is something a lot of people desire.
With the mafia fights over Raffia, a mysterious fighter showing up, and the nagging question of what it is that makes us human, you’ll be plunged in a psychological ride as you explore the world of Lux.
38. Cat Soup
In Cat Soup, Nyata has to make a journey into the land of the dead to retrieve his sister’s soul.
Along the way, he encounters a whale circus, a giant bird, a pig, an elephant, and a man wanting to turn cats into soup.
This experimental film from 2001 balances the cuteness of cats and the eeriness of the psychological genre.
37. Ergo Proxy
What does it mean to be human?
In a technologically advanced world where androids are a regular thing, that question is something to ponder on.
A virus has suddenly made androids self-aware and is driving some of them to violence.
A detective also uncovers a secret government experiment involving a new android-humanoid species.
If you want a psychological anime that is heavy on the philosophical side, Ergo Proxy is worth a try.
36. Mind Game
Nishi has been in love with his childhood friend for years. When he finally decides to confess his feelings to her, he finds out that she’s thinking of marrying her boyfriend.
While the heartache upon that revelation is painful, being shot by the mafia is way worse.
Thinking he could defend the love of his life over some mafia harassers, Nishi gets fatally shot instead.
But wait! Seems like it’s not the end for him. He finds himself in the afterlife with a way to claw back from this hell or heaven he’s in.
This 2004 film will give you one heck of a psychological self-discovery.
35. Le Portrait de Petit Cossette
Art student Eiri has been listless and absent-minded as of late. His friends are starting to get concerned and they’re unaware of the cause.
It turns out that an antique doll inside a Venetian glass has become his new obsession.
Ever since he saw her in his uncle’s art collection from France, he can’t stop thinking about her.
The mysteriousness ramps up when he starts hearing a voice of a young lady calling out to him one night. Is he hearing things or is there more to the trapped antique doll?
34. Petshop of Horrors
Human emotions and desires can be beautiful and ugly, and this anime anthology shows it well.
Petshop of Horrors revolves around the pets from Count D’s shop and how it ends in the hands of humans who have something to deal or resolve in their lives.
Heartbreak, obsession, fascination? Count D and his pets are there to help.
But if things go sideways, Count D maintains that it’s not the shop’s fault, and the responsibility lies with the person.
This is one risky pet shop!
33. Aoi Bungaku
Speaking of psychological anime anthologies, we simply can’t skip the Aoi Bungaku Series.
This is an animated adaptation of popular Japanese literary classics, such as Natsume Soseki’s Kokoro, Osamu Dazai’s Ningen Shikaku, and Ango Sakaguchi’s Sakura no Miri no Mankai no Shita, to name a few.
Through the medium of anime, it gives life to these classic tales without skipping on the mysterious, disturbing, and psychological aspects of these stories.
32. Mirai Nikki
What started out as a digital diary on his phone became a journal that can tell the immediate future.
Shy student Yukiteru didn’t know what to do with this newfound power, but he later finds out that a fellow student has the same powers in her own phone.
This sudden friendship turned into a close partnership when they get thrown into a fatal battle royale.
Deities, obsessions, and death fights – how will Yukiteru handle this?
31. Alice in Borderland
Here’s another psychological anime about getting thrown into a mysterious and fatal game!
Alice and his friends suddenly get transported into a world called the Borderland. Dangerous games are played in order to survive.
Back in their world, Alice was apathetic and had no ambitions. But here in the Borderland, he has to use his wits and quick thinking to survive.
The Borderland is not kind at all, even among friends.
30. Kuuchuu Buranko
Although a great doctor, Dr. Irabu, his assistant, and his methods can be quite odd.
He’s a psychiatrist in his father’s hospital, and together with his alluring nurse and his seemingly different personalities, Irabu helps his patients deal with their mental illnesses.
Vitamin injections, a green bear, and a hidden connection tying everything together – welcome to Kuuchuu Buranko!
29. Nhk NI Youkoso
What do you get when you mix psychological anime with comedy? You get a unique and hilarious show like NHK ni Youkoso!
Tatsuhiro is a shut-in NEET (Not in Employment, Education, or Training) who has been sucked into a multitude of conspiracies and crazy theories about society.
One stand-out conspiracy is his belief that an organization is actually behind his shut-in and NEET status.
Named as the Nihon Hikikomori Kyokai or NHK, he believes this organization is spreading shut-in culture to young people.
To fight against it, Tatsuhiro decides to leave his apartment. But what if the NHK is real and is stopping him from being a participating member of society?
28. Shinsekai Yori
In Shinsekai Yori, young students wait for the awakening of their psychic powers before they can continue their education at Sage Academy.
In this special psychic school, the story’s protagonist, Saki, contemplates on the fate of those students who cannot awaken their powers.
What happens to them? Why didn’t they get their powers? Is the utopia they’re living truly a happy one?
Saki and friends slowly uncover child abductions, the truth about their powers, and the reality of their world.
27. Bokura No
Robots are pretty cool, right? As kids, a lot of us probably wanted to be in a robot fight.
Well, that’s exactly what happened in Bokura no. What started out as a game among kids, ends in carnage when they realize they bit more than they can chew.
In a mysterious cave, 15 kids find an odd scientist, a bunch of computers, and a robot. The man invites them to play with the robot, and everyone but one kid agrees.
It turns out that the robot game is an actual battle, and the kids are now stuck in this deathly situation. Stay away from suspicious people with robots, folks!
A strange man only known as “the medicine seller” travels around feudal Japan to slay spirits called “mononoke”. These are harmful spirits that need to be properly exorcised.
However, they’re not easy to defeat. The medicine seller has to observe these spirits to know what they are, how they formed, and what their weaknesses are.
The medicine seller encounters a bunch of mononoke, all shown in an anthology format. Creepy babies, cats, and other interesting spirits haunt this psychological anime series.
25. Tokyo Ghoul
In the world of Tokyo Ghoul, flesh-eating beings called “ghouls” inhabit the city. They can be tricky to spot since they can look like humans.
Kaneki’s peaceful student life gets turned upside down when he encounters one of them.
What he thought was a cute date turned into a nightmare, and he ends up becoming a human-ghoul hybrid.
Now he grapples about his humanity and the changes he continues to face with his new life.
24. Danganronpa: The Animation
Upon being accepted by an elite school, Makoto thought he’d be facing an enriching school life ahead of him.
But after stepping inside the doors of Hope’s Peak Private Academy, what awaited him was a lesson on deceit and despair.
All first year students are trapped within the school’s walls, and the only way to get out is to secretly assassinate a classmate.
As someone who is naturally hopeful, can Makoto survive his new reality?
Danganronpa has multiple seasons and is based on a video game. If you enjoy watching it, you might enjoy playing it too!
23. Psycho Pass
In the distant future, Japan has enabled a new way to police its citizens. Using the Sybil System, the mental state of each person is checked to determine their threat level to society.
The inspectors of such a system are not above using lethal force to subjugate anyone they deem a threat. Along them are their enforcers who do the dirty work.
The story follows Akane, a newbie in the force who is honest and wants to exercise proper justice.
She discovers that the Sybil System is not as perfect as she expected, and lots of lapses from it have caused pain and torment to others.
She gets partnered with a veteran enforcer. Will her desire to uphold justice continue to flourish or will it get beaten out by the system?
22. Parasyte: The Maxim
Parasitic alien creatures have taken over the planet!
These parasites invade bodies and make their way to the brain, controlling the host to morph and devour for sustenance.
For some strange reason, Shinichi, a seemingly ordinary high school student, manages to fight against this parasite.
Instead of the parasite taking over his brain, it ended up staying in his hand instead.
A human with an extraterrestrial and parasitic hand – will this coexistence be peaceful?
21. School Live
Unlike other young students who would rather play hooky, Yuki actually loves school!
She likes attending classes, she enjoys spending time with her classmates, and she definitely loves staying in school.
In fact, she loves school so much that she actually lives there now!
Together with three other girls and their dog, Yuki is part of the School-Life Club, an after-school club that camps inside the school.
Oddly, it’s usually just them and the school seems deserted.
School Live has some surprises up its sleeves, so prepare your hearts and minds when watching!
20. Zankyou No Terror
A terrorist attack at one of Japan’s nuclear facilities has left the country shaken.
There are no traces of the culprits, the police don’t know what to investigate, and the government is left paralyzed to act.
But a mysterious video shows up online where two masked individuals threaten Tokyo.
They challenge the police and the government while taunting them with the mass panic they have caused.
The identities of the masked men? Nine and Twelve. They’re two young boys with a suspicious past, unknown identities, and mysterious reasons for causing terror in Tokyo.
19. Higurashi No Naku Koro NI
For city boy Keiichi, the village of Hinamizawa seemed like such a quaint and peaceful little corner in the mountains.
There aren’t a lot of kids around his age, the school is actually quite small, and the activities in the village are limited. At least there’s the village festival to look forward to.
It turns out that there are a lot of murders linked to said festival. What rituals is the village hiding?
Are his new friends involved? Can he even trust someone in his new home?
For a psychological horror anime, you can’t go wrong with Higurashi. If you find yourself confused but highly intrigued after a few episodes, you’re on the right track.
18. Zetsuen No Tempest
In Zetsuen no Tempest, Shakespeare meets anime!
Yoshino was content with his life. He has a great best friend, and he has a secret girlfriend who is actually his best buddy’s sister. Life was good…until his girlfriend got murdered.
Now his best friend is off to find the culprit, and some time later a mysterious woman shows up threatening him with a gun!
Magic, witches, and other fantastical shenanigans get involved. This isn’t a simple murder case anymore.
Zetsuen no Tempest is not like its fantasy show contemporaries. Its storyline is partially based on William Shakespeare’s Hamlet and The Tempest.
Literature enthusiasts who are also anime fans, this show’s for you!
17. Flowers of Evil
Speaking of literature, this next entry has a protagonist fascinated with it.
Takao is heavily into Charles Baudelaire’s works. When he accidentally left his Flowers of Evil book, Takao immediately rushed back to his classroom to retrieve it.
But while there, he sees his classmate’s sports garments. In his mind, Nanako is his muse, and stealing her uniform excited him.
He immediately feels guilt and shame, but the act has been done.
Unfortunately for him, another classmate saw his theft. Sawa, another social outcast, starts blackmailing him and forcing him to participate in disturbing acts.
Takao later finds himself in a situation affecting his mental and emotional state. Can he break free and atone his sins?
16. Tatami Galaxy
A lonely college student reflects on his terrible early years in college. He has made other people’s lives miserable, such as trying to break couples, just because he’s miserable.
But no more. He has decided to live the last two years of his college life in the best way possible, starting with a confession to his crush, the underclassman Akashi.
However, he fails yet again. This regret sends him to a surreal journey of self-discovery, filled with roses and late-night ramen.
15. Death Parade
In the world of Death Parade, death isn’t the end. You actually go to a bar and get to play games!
But these games aren’t so simple. Guilt, suspicions, resentments, and inner turmoil?
These games will bring out the worst of its participants. What they thought was the truth isn’t actually real.
And in the end, only one of them gets to go out.
Let’s play some more games with our next entry! In Kaiji, the stakes are high when you play.
After getting involved with his co-worker’s debt and getting harassed by loan sharks, Kaiji had to get creative with how to get money.
In the ship Espoir, there are gambling games for unlucky people like him.
But these games turn deadly in the blink of an eye. What was supposed to be a fun cruise ship of gambling and betting, has turned into a night of betrayal and strategy.
Better wipe those tears, Kaiji!
13. Kaguya-sama: Love Is War
A psychological anime mixed with romance? Yep, you read that right!
Kaguya-sama is about two people who have feelings for each other, but are too proud to admit it.
They instead have made a game out of it to see who will succumb to their emotions first and admit their love.
It’s all so silly, cute, and absolutely romantic. But the mind games they play are not to be trifled with. Not only does it affect one’s mind, but the heart as well!
12. Serial Experiments Lain
Despite staying under the same roof, Lain feels alienated from her family. It doesn’t help that she feels socially isolated from her peers as well.
Things get even more unusual for Lain. A classmate who is supposed to be dead emails some students in their class, and claims to have uploaded her consciousness into the digital world.
This is a story about consciousness, human connection, and the perception of what is reality. Take a nice surreal and psychological trip with this show.
11. Elfen Lied
Two cousins stumble upon a strange girl who has an oddly innocent disposition. She seems injured and lost, and of course the cousins help her, because why wouldn’t they, right?
Well, maybe being a cautious samaritan would be a good choice.
The girl the two cousins helped is actually a Diclonius, an experimented human who has horns and telekinesis powers.
Now all three are on the run from the people who want the girl back. Fair warning, blood and violence are rampant in this psychological anime!
10. Magica Madoka
Madoka wants to be a magical girl to help her friends. Cute dresses, cool powers, and battling witches– that doesn’t sound too bad, right? There’s even a cute magical creature to assist her!
Well, Magica Madoka isn’t your typical magical girl show. Despite the fluffy and pink skirts, tea time scenarios, and adorable creatures (yes, even the witches), it’s a show filled with suffering.
9. Paranoia Agent
We’re in a Satoshi Kon roll with the next few entries! But first – Paranoia Agent.
A mysterious assailant nicknamed Shounen Bat is spreading paranoia in the city of Musashino.
With his baseball bat and rollerskates, he would zoom around town, hitting people senseless.
His first victim is Tsukiko, a character designer by trade. Some people seem to suspect she orchestrated her own attack!
She instead finds solace with her anthropomorphic stuffed animal friend, the very pink Maromi.
8. Perfect Blue
After leaving the life of a pop idol to focus on her acting career, Mima finds herself in increasingly distressing situations.
Her new acting life is getting demanding, a stalker fan is harassing her for leaving her idol group, and a mysterious website is impersonating her!
Mima is at her wits end dealing with all of this, and as a viewer you slowly feel it too.
Our last Satoshi Kon entry is Paprika!
In Paprika, the future has advanced where it can now investigate dreams through a new psychotherapy treatment using devices called “DC Mini”.
But before launching this new technology, a prototype has been stolen, throwing the research team into a panic.
Dr. Atsuko decides to enter the dream world to find who’s behind the theft.
Expect surreal visuals and a roller coaster plot from this psychological anime. Ready to enter the world of dreams?
Satoru’s secret power has always saved him in a pinch. Whenever something happens, he gets teleported back shortly before the accident happens, and he’s able to avert bad things that way.
But this time, something devastating has happened, and his power teleports him back to his past.
A fellow classmate mysteriously disappeared when he was a kid. Could this be related to his present?
This gripping tale of deceit and crime will have you at the edge of your seats.
5. Ghost in the Shell
In Ghost in the Shell, cybernetics and other technological advancements have made people’s lives more connected than before.
But along these upgrades are threats. A hacker, only known with the nickname Puppet Master, has been removing the memories of his victims.
This is where Major Makoto Kusanagi comes in. She investigates the threats posed by Puppet Master while also pondering about life.
4. Neon Genesis Evangelion
Eldritch-like aliens have attacked the Earth. Although the planet has been devastated, humanity continues to fight against the extraterrestrial threats.
The first line of defense against them? Evangelions. These huge robots need a connection with their pilots, so only a select few can operate them.
And boy, do these pilots have a story to tell.
For those not familiar with Neon Genesis Evangelion, it might seem like a simple mecha anime. However, hidden motivations, manipulation, and dark pasts are in fact a-plenty in the story.
Sliding into our list is Akira, a classic cyberpunk action anime.
Despite being in a dystopian reality, Shotaro happily spends his time in his biker gang with his best friend, Tetsuo.
But when Tetsuo gets telekinetic powers after a shocking motorcycle accident, he starts threatening everyone, even the military.
Their already chaotic world just got all the more crazy.
Brace yourself for surreal and disturbing visuals, as well as surprising twists and turns in the story. Akira is a classic and a must-watch anime for a reason!
2. Death Note
Using a mysterious notebook called Death Note, high school student Light thinks he is the only one who could bring proper world order by killing criminals without due process. Well, the law begs to differ!
Eventually, he struggles to do what he thinks is appropriate justice, while escaping the police and dodging genius detectives who are hot on his trail.
His slow descent to madness is fascinating to behold. For a tried-and-tested psychological anime recommended by a lot of anime fans, you can’t go wrong with this one.
And for our most recommended title for best psychological anime, we truly can’t stop singing praises to Monster.
It all starts with Tenma, an up-and-coming surgeon who refused an operation on a politician to operate on an orphan instead.
His good deed cost him his job, reputation, and social status. Worst of all, the orphan disappeared, and odd events started happening to Tenma instead.
What did he unleash that night on the operating table?
Monster has it all – an interesting protagonist with a moral dilemma, a compelling plot with mature themes, and surprising twists after twists.
If it’s psychological anime you want, Monster is the king among these titles.