25 Best Thriller Anime Ever Made (Our Top Recommendations)This post may contain affiliate links. If you buy something we may get a small commission at no extra cost to you. (Learn more).
Sometimes it’s really nice to kick your feet up and watch a simple calming show, to escape the everyday hassle of real life.
But other times it’s just as fun to watch a show that’ll have you sitting at the edge of your seat while your heart-rate goes through the roof.
And there’s plenty of these series in the anime world.
So that’s our topic for this ranking as we count down some of the better thriller anime series worth watching.
If you love a good criminal flick, Rainbow is probably your best bet to start out.
Especially since the show pulls no punches when it comes to brutality, and depicts a very realistic prison setting.
By that, I mean the prison guards are anything but nice, corruption is rampant, Satan is ashamed of some of the things the antagonists do, and the entire anime has a very somber and depressing vibe.
And yet it’s oddly motivational, as the protagonist showcases how far human kindness can get, even when behind bars.
24. Death Parade
Death Parade tackles a topic I’m sure we’ve all thought about: what happens after we die.
It takes a rather interesting approach in its story:
After death, people are sent to a jazzy Limbo club where their morals are tested.
It can get really brutal at times, especially when a certain button is pressed. And the stories told seem very human.
That said, it’s a very original story that features diverse and believable characters, and the funkiest of openers. So it should be on your plan-to-watch list.
23. Talentless Nana
Even though Among Us has lost some of its popularity, the concept is still pretty dope.
And that’s where this anime comes in.
The story centers around a girl who’s sent to an island filled with superpowered teens.
Her mission? Kill as many as you can without being caught.
The plot twist is that she herself is actually powerless, so she’ll have to rely on her wits and a lot of vents to make it out of this one alive.
Although the writing might not be the best in the world, the tension is ever-present and really enticing – especially after a few students are killed and people start to get defensive.
22. Moriarty the Patriot
Now this is your classic story of a group of individuals going against an organization that has lost its way.
The organization this time around is the entirety of Britain.
With new rules set in place that heavily favor the rich, it’s up to Moriarty and his brothers to make some big waves and fight for a more just government.
The show is very tense. And the fact that it’s all rather down-to-earth makes it that much more engaging.
Superpowers are cool and all, but nothing can beat the tension of a loaded gun with only one bullet.
21. When They Cry
When They Cry has been a staple when it came to terrifying an unsuspecting audience for quite some time.
It is perhaps the most brutal series anime has to offer, and it rightfully has a loyal fanbase because of it.
So if you want to go as far away from PG as you possibly can, this show is your one ticket destination for all things gory and terrifying.
Alternatively, if you want to soften the blow ever so slightly, you can even opt for the newest rendition of the show.
20. Aoi Bungaku Series
If you really want a psychological story but don’t feel like seeing the lake of blood you’d get in “When They Cry”, this compilation series might better suit what you’re looking for.
And yes, this is a compilation of sorts that features some of Japan’s most influential writers.
There are six stories in general, and each deals with the human mind or the human experience in its own unique way.
Each story gets about 2 episodes, making for a really fast-paced viewing experience where you’re thrust into a different story just as soon as you wrapped your head around the previous one. If you want something short and pithy, start try out at least one episode here and see what you think.
19. The Garden of Sinners
Now if you want a show that you can really sink your teeth into, I recommend The Garden of Sinners.
It’s a series of no less than 8 movies that all tell one grand narrative.
It’s mostly a supernatural murder mystery with so much symbolism that you can write an entire book about it.
The movies aren’t presented in chronological order, but this actually adds to the overall effect, with the grand narrative becoming clearer with each passing chapter.
It’s a certified masterpiece featuring amazing animation, voice acting, art direction, and a banger soundtrack.
So if you haven’t already, be sure to give Garden of Sinners a try.
Just be sure to have a lot of popcorn on hand, because you’ll need it.
Although this anime is not categorized as a thriller, I believe it has every right of being considered as one.
It tells multiple stories placed in different points of space and time, all culminating on a single train ride.
The suspense that Baccano! holds for the entirety of its run is almost unreal, as the focus zig zags between different characters and their personal subplots.
Sure, the show has some S-class humor, which might break the thriller experience.
But I think that the overall product is more than the sum of its parts, so I would highly recommend it.
17. Mirai Nikki
Mirai Nikki is probably universally known for making the yandere trope as big as it is today, alongside When They Cry, of course.
This anime is a battle royal type show where heads could roll at any moment.
However, alongside all the blood and guts, there are some rather interesting subplots.
Yuno’s backstory definitely had me in stitches. And the concept of a God running the whole thing gives this story a further sense of high-stakes and legitimacy.
Definitely not for those who are faint of heart. But if you’re looking for some unadulterated anime action, it’s a good choice.
Monster is arguably one of the best thrillers ever made. And the writing is nothing short of impeccable.
It centers on the backstory of two twins and a doctor who got tangled up in their mess.
Well I say two twins, but one is definitely more interesting than the other. Of course, I’m speaking about Johan, an S-class genius psychopath who’s the antagonist of the series.
It’s a cat and mouse chase that spans over 70 episodes, never letting up in terms of mystery and action.
The world of Monster is rich and enticing the whole way. So don’t be surprised if you get sucked into the series after a day or two of binging it.
It was high time we had a “mysterious village where people keep going missing” show.
In Shiki, the cause of their disappearance is a disease that actually turns people into vampires.
As you might have guessed, it’s a race against a clock as the protagonists try to figure out what’s going on while, more and more people suddenly disappear.
Shiki is a rather standard premise. But it’s executed really well, leading to a very eerie and unpleasant vibe throughout the entire show.
14. Eden of The East
Eden of the East is the type of anime that initially just confuses the hell out of you, but then quickly sucks you in with no hopes of return.
I mean, just look at the initial setup:
A missile hits Japan, but no one dies. Then we have a time skip where a girl is leaving for America before getting into some dangerous waters and being saved by a naked dude with no memories.
And before you know it, it turns into a Mirai Nikki-type show where people battle to death with their cell phones.
You might look at this setup & at the episode count and think “this must be rushed as hell”.
But don’t worry, there are also two movies to help wrap up the narrative.
You would be hard-pressed to find a psychological thriller more experimental than Paprika.
This is because it’s centered around the craziest part of humanity: dreams.
When a device that allows you to enter someone’s dreams goes missing, it’s up to the protagonists to get to the bottom of it – both in the real world and the dream world.
The animation and art style here are weird at the very least, and sometimes downright bizarre.
But that’s what gives Paprika its shine.
The whole thing is trippy as hell, and you won’t regret getting into this mysterious world.
Psycho-Pass is yet another example of a show that’s not labeled as a thriller, even though it far exceeds the qualities needed to be one.
It’s your standard cop flick with a major trope shattering plot point, that being a system which can determine whether you’re a criminal even before you commit a crime.
Thought-crime, as it were.
The mystery behind this system alone will keep you at the edge of your seat, not to mention one of the best anime antagonists of all time who is (for some reason) immune to the system – even after committing several crimes.
All in all, Psycho-Pass is an absolute must watch.
11. Paranoia Agent
Paranoia Agent is all about one illusive little criminal called Lil’ Slugger.
The name might sound funny, but you’re bound to take him more seriously once you see him beating someone to an inch of their life with a golden baseball bat.
As the two detectives try their best to catch up with the little devil, more and more people fall victim to his deadly swings, with stories spreading all over town.
Sometimes something as simple as catching a singular illusive, irrational criminal is all it takes to make a bomb thriller anime.
10. Vivy -Fluorite Eye’s Song-
Whenever a show has A.I., you know it has the potential for some major shenanigans.
And as you might have guessed, Vivy, the protagonist, is in fact AI herself.
She spends her days in a park, singing and trying to attract tourists, only to be greeted by a different artificial intelligence from the future.
I mean, AI plus time travel?
You should know where this is heading.
Yes, the newcomer is here to stop a war between humanity and artificial intelligence, that’s set to start in precisely one century.
That sounds like a lot more fun than any theme park I ever went to.
9. Denpa-teki na Kanojo
So this is a two-episode OVA murder mystery that tells an excellent story in just less than an hour and a half.
It starts off when a female approaches the protagonist and claims they’re connected through the experiences they’ve shared in their previous lives.
He brushes her off initially, but quickly becomes her partner once a girl in class gets murdered.
Well, I’d say he “teams up” but he honestly just suspected her to be the murderer.
However, the rabbit hole is never that shallow – and these two are in for a wild ride.
8. Shigofumi: Letters from the Departed
This show has a brilliantly simple concept that just works on so many levels.
In Shigofumi, people who die while still having very strong emotions about something(or someone) can pass on a letter to the living.
Our protagonist is the one who has the unpleasant job of delivering all these letters to their respective recipients, while also trying to figure out how exactly she got this role in the first place.
The story is short and simple, but a rather thrilling ride.
When it comes to mysteries, the plot of Another is certainly up there in the anime world.
The concept is as basic as you can get:
You have a male protagonist, an unusual female who tags along, and a mysterious curse that keeps killing their classmates.
In order to stop more people from dying, they have to figure out a mystery long forgotten and break the curse.
Another is definitely a shorter and simpler series, but effective.
The show is also very creative when it comes to character death, since you seldom see it coming.
Especially when umbrellas are involved.
6. Terror in Resonance
The story of Terror in Resonance takes us on a ride as we see two teenage boys turn to terrorism to get a certain message across.
Whenever they blow something up, they leave a coded message behind for the police.
As if they were toying with them.
But of course, it’s all part of a much larger narrative that you probably won’t see coming until the last few episodes (no spoilers).
The boys’ plots are entertaining to watch, and the puzzles they leave behind will have you as curious as the detective who’s hot on their trail. So plenty of thrills to be had here.
5. Puella Magi Madoka Magica
If you want your expectations to be subverted beyond all belief, then this anime is worth a watch.
All things considered, it looks like your typical magical girl show.
However, we get our first hints of its actual narrative when the main cast is warned that the price of power is steep, and that everything is not what it seems.
But since no one ever listens to vague warning, we tumble down this dark and enticing rabbit hole that’ll have you question everything you ever thought about the magical girl genre.
4. Promised Neverland
The first season of Promised Neverland is some of the most intense psychological 300 IQ action you’re bound to see in anime.
The story centers around a group of kids living on a farm with their loving mother…
But then sike! It was all a sham, and all of their lives are in danger.
So it’s up to the older kids to come up with a plan of escape.
The kids are all genius tacticians, but the mother is no pushover herself, leading to this thrilling story where everyone acts friendly while simultaneously thinking ten steps ahead, and trying to find a way to escape this hell.
But speaking of hell, don’t watch the second season. It’s not worth it, trust me.
You know how isekai shows are usually pretty laid back since the protagonist is usually overpowered, and the world is bright and cheerful?
Yeah, none of that here.
Our MC is a normal human whose only ability is to go back in time once he has been killed.
And boy does he get to use it often.
Re: Zero offers both a depressing and very fresh outlook on the isekai genre. Achieving anything in this world is beyond difficult, which makes every piece of progression earned and valuable.
Plus the sound effect for when the protagonist rewinds time is as thriller as you can possibly get.
Since we’re already on the topic of going back in time, and the idea of death happening over and over again, and seeing a person go clinically insane underneath the cruel boot of reality…
Let’s talk about Steins;Gate.
It’s one of those shows that starts off kinda calm and slice of life-y, only to kick everything into gear and present one of the best stories anime has ever seen.
The stakes are always very high. And just like in Re: Zero, you have to fight for every inch of progression.
Steins;Gate’s story has so many twists, turns, upsets, and surprises that you’ll never feel like you truly know what’s going to happen – which is the dream of any thriller fan.
1. Death Note
If you’ve watched any anime at any point, you should have seen big daddy Death Note coming.
It’s arguably the most enticing cat and mouse chase ever presented, especially in the first half of the show.
It’s just two brilliant minds try to outwit each other.
There’s literally no reason not to watch this show (unless you’ve already seen it).
So if for whatever reason you have somehow managed to avoid Death Note until now, go and watch it.
Trust me, it is not overhyped, it’s just brilliant.
I mean, it made me hyped to see a bro wash another bro’s feet. Not a lot of anime can do that.