Giant robots are awesome. Movies like Pacific Rim and Robot Jox, shows like Megas XLR and Transformers, and books like Mecha Samurai Empire and Sleeping Gods have all served as great examples of the way that giant robots can inspire and terrify. Even Spider-Man had a giant robot at one point (and it was awesome). Maybe it’s their titanic scale, the sheer destructive potential they often wield, or their ability to shrug off insane amounts of damage that make them so cool? Regardless of the reasons, nobody can deny the thrill of playing games where you get to pilot one of these metal behemoths.
Commonly known as mech (or mecha) games, titles in this category often fall into the action and strategy genres. With more recent additions like Daemon X Machina, MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries, Panzer Paladin, and the upcoming Phantom Brigade, the mech genre of gaming is alive and well. Here are five games that helped to get the genre off of the ground and some that you may have never heard of.
All Systems are Go
Front Mission 3
While it would be easier to just throw the whole series in here, Front Mission 3 stands out as it was the first in the series to receive a North American release. Front Mission 3 gave players a similar tactical gameplay experience to its predecessor but added additional role-playing game elements, leading to a more simplified gameplay experience overall. This was also the first entry in the series to feature two consecutive plotlines based around the dual protagonists in the story. While many of the locations and events are similar, both storylines feature entirely unique characters and scenarios that give players the experience of two games in one. This is a great entry point into the series for fans of tactical role-playing games with strong narratives.
MechWarrior 2: 31st Century Combat
The BattleTech franchise has a lot of games and while it may have started as a tabletop wargame, it is perhaps best known for its MechWarrior series of video games. As a first-person mech simulator, this game literally put players into cockpit of hulking, vertical war machines known as BattleMechs, and gave them all of the incredible power and weaponry that comes with it. While this title isn’t narratively the best entry point into the BattleTech universe, it was the best mech gameplay experience for its time. All of the qualities found in MechWarrior 2 (customization, squadron commands, and production quality) would be further refined across the series. If anything, MechWarrior 2 is similar in acclaim to the X-Wing series of games – genre-defining, mechanically complex simulators that masterfully combined lore, gameplay, and strategy into a fully immersive experience.
Armored Core 3
The Armored Core series is perhaps one of the best-known mech series to date. With over 20 titles that have touched nearly every PlayStation console (including an Xbox 360 release), the series has a rich history. Armored Core 3 would serve as the first reboot to the franchise, introducing many players to the post-apocalyptic, corporate-funded conflicts featured in the first Armored Core. As a Raven, a mercenary pilot of the titular Armored Cores, the player was given a seemingly overwhelming amount of customization options to outfit their mech to match their preferred combat style. Armored Core 3 also features the most expansions in the series, with a total of four entries telling the complete storyline before Armored Core 4 rebooted the franchise again.
Zone of the Enders
One of the most unique mech games ever made, Zone of the Enders abandons the heavy, ponderous feel of the mech titles featured above for a high-speed, visually stunning gameplay experience. Built to fully utilize 3D space, Zone of the Enders gave players the ability to seamlessly fly, hover, and skate through the game’s multiple environments while slashing, dodging, and blasting enemy mechs with a variety of high-tech weapons. While it is an unfortunately short title, its sequel, The 2nd Runner, took all of the best elements from the first game and improved upon them exponentially with refined gameplay elements, a longer campaign, and improved visuals.
Metal Wolf Chaos
If there is any mech game that truly shines as a testament to the pure, unadulterated joy of giant robots it is Metal Wolf Chaos. Developed by FromSoftware, the game is an absurdist thrill ride that casts the player as the 47th President of the United States fighting to reclaim the country after a coup led by the Vice President. With dozens of weapons to use, an emphasis on simplified gameplay, and a hilarious storyline oozing with satire, the game gained a cult following and was later remastered in 2019 as Metal Wolf Chaos XD.