The Transformers series has had plenty of TV series over the years. How do they stack up against each other?
offers a unique take on the franchise with its anime-like episode approach and emphasis on new robots and transformations.
may not set itself apart from other
series, but its extended fight against Trypticon and multiple subplots make it deeper and more engaging.
Transformers: Rescue Bots
provides a kid-friendly format that explores the Autobots’ experiences and talents in helping others, dialing down the violence for a younger audience.
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When one thinks of Transformers, one often remembers the timeless conflict between Optimus Prime and the Autobots, as well as Megatron and his Decepticons. Surprisingly enough, this conflict didn’t just last in one particular outing and instead lasted throughout various Transformers series. This isn’t quite surprising, considering how relentless Megatron is towards conquering Earth and how Optimus just couldn’t let this happen to their new home.
Surprisingly enough, no matter how seemingly-repetitive things got, there were quite a lot of landmark Transformers series that stood out among the rest. In fact, some fans might argue that certain Transformers series really set the standards with regard to the creation of Transformers stories. Just which Transformers series was a cut different from the rest?
Updated on November 17, 2023 by Rhenn Taguiam: After the Autobots team up with the Maximals to stop Unicron from ravaging the Earth in Rise of the Beasts, the Transformers franchise is apparently slated to have two Rise sequels and a Cybertron-set animated prequel titled Transformers: One. With these stories teasing stronger world-building for the acclaimed robots in disguise, fans may want to start rewatching their favorite Transformers series or get a glimpse of which Transformers cartoon fits their particular interests. However, fans exploring the franchise for the first time may be curious just why they should watch certain Transformers series.
15 Transformers: Victory
|RELEASE DATE||March 14, 1989|
|NETWORK||Nippon TV, AnimeCentral|
One of the more interesting aspects of the classic Transformers era is its connection to its American and Japanese counterparts. While the Japanese had largely adapted the original Generation 1 animated series, they also created their spin-offs, such as Transformers: The Headmasters. It was Transformers: Victory, released in 1989, that serves as perhaps the most radical in terms of its differences compared to the original series.
In this series, Autobot Supreme Commander Star Saber is an adamant defender of Earth against Deathsaurus, the new Emperor of Destruction of the villainous Decepticons. It’s up to Star Saber and his allies to stop Deathsaurus from using Earth’s energy to reawaken his planet-destroying fortress. This series is known to take an anime-like episode approach, where stories don’t always change the status quo, and the transformations are seldom but emphasized whenever important. Fans looking for a cult classic that shows the immense creativity surrounding the Japanese’s take on Transformers may appreciate Victory.
Why Watch Transformers: Victory
Despite its rather poor reception among viewers, Victory remains worth the watch for Transformers fans who want to immerse themselves in this part of the “evolution” of the television series within the franchise. While character development suffers from both Autobots and Decepticons having rather bland personalities, seeing the likes of the Autobots’ Star Saber and the Decepticons’ Deszaras attempt to form a similar yet somewhat different take on the Optimus Prime versus Megatron formula is at least worth evaluating. Moreover, seeing new robots and transformations via the Brainmasters, Multiforce, Micromasters, Breastmasters, and the Dinoforce add some variety to classic Transformers materials.
14 Transformers: Titans Return
|RELEASE DATE||November 14, 2017|
|STUDIO||Machinima, Inc., Hasbro Studios, Tatsunoko Production|
Serving as the second installment of the Prime Wars alternate Generation 1 timeline, Titans Return gives a rather wild take on fan-favorite characters after the devastating events of Combiner Wars. With Cybertron on the path of being rebuilt, a dead Starscream manages to revive into the deadly Trypticon.
Such was its power that Windblade was forced to make uneasy allies of ages-old enemies, including Optimus Prime and Megatron, as they made their way to resurrect the only powers capable of matching Trypticon – the Titans. Unfortunately for Windblade and her team, reviving them may have put Cybertron in more peril. Fans who want to see Optimus and Megatron team up with unlikely allies may appreciate Titans Return.
Why Watch Transformers: Titans Return
Unlike other Transformers series, Titans Return being the second part of the Prime Wars Trilogy doesn’t do anything to set itself “apart” from its other components. At first glance, this makes Titans Return difficult to appreciate as its own entity. However, Titans Return does have the potential to impress in its format, especially when the series is one extended fight against Trypticon with all factions working behind the scenes to secure the upper hand. This approach opens multiple subplots and makes progress with others established in the first season, making this series boast more depth compared to other Transformers cartoons.
13 Transformers: Rescue Bots
|RELEASE DATE||December 17, 2011|
|STUDIO||Atomic Cartoons, Darby Pop Productions, Vision Animation, Moody Street Productions, DHX Media Vancouver, Hasbro Studios|
|NETWORK||Hub Network, Discovery Family|
Given the popular acclaim of Transformers and the appeal of transforming toy cars to children, it makes sense for the franchise to try and create a kids show. While Robot Heroes already existed back then, Transformers: Rescue Bots was created as a direct successor, again featuring a new team of Autobots dedicated to teaching children about safety and hazards.
However, Rescue Bots isn’t just a run-of-the-mill children’s show with funny Transformers elements, as its premise is rather heavy. In it, the Rescue Bots respond to Optimus Prime’s original message for active Autobots in space to come to Earth. While the Rescue Bots had arrived on Earth after stasis, they were fortunate to have been away when Cybertron was destroyed by war long ago. With Heatwave, Boulder, Blades, and Chase being the only Rescue Bots remaining, Optimus Prime assigned them to the Burns Family of first responders to help the community of Griffin Rock near Maine.
Why Watch Transformers: Rescue Bots
Despite the demographic of Rescue Bots catering primarily to children, it’s interesting to find out how the Transformers could dial down its ages-old conflict between the Autobots and the Decepticons in a format that isn’t too violent for children. The titular Rescue Bots focusing on a younger generation of Autobots as they’re trained to do good allows younger audiences to relate to their experiences, especially when it’s emphasized throughout the series that Rescue Bots, like children, have talents they can use to help others.
12 Transformers: Combiner Wars
|RELEASE DATE||August 2, 2016|
|STUDIO||Machinima, Inc., Hasbro Studios, Tatsunoko Production|
Due to the expanded nature of the Transformers universe, it makes sense for some stories to explore the lives of specific characters and alternate takes on their series. For instance, the Shattered Glass series gives an inverted take on the franchise’s factions, with Decepticons being good and Autobots being evil. This time around, the 2016-2018 Prime Wars trilogy gives an alternate take on the Generation 1 story, albeit more subtly.
Starting with Combiner Wars, this story involves an uneasy peace in Cybertron created after the mysterious disappearances of Optimus Prime and Megatron. With the Enigma of Combination creating Combiners such as the powerful Victorion that led into the Combiner Wars, it’s up to Windblade, discontent with the inaction of the new Cybertronian Council, to take matters into her own hands – all with intense Transformers action scenes. Fans looking for a Transformers series that Optimus Prime and the Autobots don’t necessarily headline may appreciate Combiner Wars.
Why Watch Transformers: Combiner Wars
The idea of Combiners being Transformers fusions was unprecedented even during the original toys’ release, making Combiner Wars a worthwhile watch to see how a show could adapt these new robots in a modern-day format. Its premise of a Transformers sequel without Optimus Prime and Megatron, as well as introducing lore in the form of the Mistress of Flame, Rodimus Prime, and even the “threat” of Combiners adds some variety to the classic Autobots versus Decepticons formula.
11 Transformers: Power Of The Primes
|RELEASE DATE||May 1, 2018|
|STUDIO||Machinima, Inc., Hasbro Studios, Tatsunoko Production|
It’s not all the time that a third season neatly wraps around a short miniseries, and Transformers: Power of the Primes gets the job done for retelling the Generation 1 story as the last entry in the Prime Wars trilogy. In it, the rest of the Transformers team, led by Windblade and Transformers villain Megatron, need to cope with the fact that Optimus Prime has died. In contrast, the immensely-powerful Fallen (Megatronus) has a nefarious plan to bring Cybertron under his control.
This part of the Prime Wars series explores the Dinobots and a slight retelling of the Beast Wars story, with Optimus Primal eventually proving himself to be one worthy of being Optimus Prime’s successor. Fans looking for a straight-to-the-action take on the Transformers franchise won’t feel lost, with Power of the Primes, with its extremely entertaining take on the sci-fi action adventure.
Why Watch Transformers: Power Of The Primes
This final third of the Prime Wars Trilogy makes it evident that Transformers as a franchise is allowed to set stakes with world-ending consequences, character deaths, and the horrifying realization that Autobots can’t always be the “winners” of their war against the Decepticons. While hardcore fans may feel disappointed in the way Power of the Primes approaches certain set lore in the franchise, being set in its own universe can help to forgive the miniseries for its rather surprising takes on classic plotlines.
10 Triple Combination: Transformers Go!
|RELEASE DATE||July 1, 2013|
|NETWORK||DVDs via TV Magazine and TV-Kun|
Anime fans might be surprised to know that there’s actually a Transformers anime out there, one of them taking the form of Triple Combination: Transformers Go!, which was launched alongside the Swordbot toylines. The anime takes place in Japan, where Predacon minions try to acquire the Legendiscs to awaken Dragotron, their evil Demon Emperor. However, two separate Autobot combiner teams, the Swordbot Samurai Team and the Swordbot Shinobi Team, team up with two kids to fight this new threat.
Despite its short run of only ten episodes, the show does exemplify the lengths a Transformer series could go to in order to promote a new team. The Swordbot Shinobi and Samurai Teams are Combiners, with its three-bot teams capable of transforming into awesome forms. Aside from a heavy emphasis on action, the time travel premise of acquiring the Legendiscs adds a unique spin to this miniseries.
Why Watch Triple Combination: Transformers Go!
The heavy emphasis that Triple Combination provides with its Combiners and Predacons makes for interesting interactions, especially in terms of combat. It’s always a delight to see how the Swordbots bond with their kid companions, giving the series its shonen-meets-aliens spin that isn’t always tackled with the humans in other series. Despite its rather kid-friendly premise, Triple Combination’s fantasy-esque take on Transformers’ esthetics may be worth the look for robot enthusiasts.
9 Transformers: War For Cybertron
|RELEASE DATE||July 30, 2020|
|STUDIO||Rooster Teeth Studios, Polygon Pictures, Allspark Pictures, Entertainment One|
Given the interrelated stories between the original The Transformers cartoons and the likes of Beast Wars, it can get difficult for viewers to get a full grasp of the franchise’s core narrative if they had to watch a couple hundred episodes’ worth of stories. Thankfully, the Transformers: War For Cybertron series resolves this by packing quite an intense Transformers story into a neat 18-episode format, each split into three chapters.
Primarily made to support the launch of the three-part War For Cybertron Trilogy toy line, the War For Cybertron also happens across the span of three chapters. Fans love War For Cybertron,in particular, for its decent narrative revolving around the Cybertronian Civil War that had the Autobots and Decepticons flee Cybertron for Earth, as well as the introduction of the Maximals and Predacons. Uniquely enough, its final chapter culminates in an epic finish, ending itself by introducing fresh new faces, new connections, and a villain looming over the horizon.
Why Watch Transformers: War For Cybertron
Compared to more action-packed Transformers series, War for Cybertron is a more mature take on the franchise that almost falls into drama. Action is more spread out across the series, making these scenes all the more worthwhile whenever tension leads to climactic chases and fights. While War for Cybertron could use more action, its take on a grittier Transformers story isn’t always seen in its more hopeful, Earth-set counterparts.
8 Transformers: Armada
|RELEASE DATE||August 23, 2002|
|NETWORK||TXN, Cartoon Network|
Of all the Transformers series to grace television, it’s perhaps Transformers: Armada that may be part of the most memorable for fans and newcomers alike. While it generally has the same premise of Autobots and Decepticons warring in Cybertron, this time, the conflict revolves around the mysterious Mini-Cons, smaller Transformers capable of providing their users with great power. Newcomers might appreciate the appeal of Powerlinxing Mini-Cons and, eventually, Transformers Super Weapons and Fusions. Meanwhile, hardcore fans may also remember Armada, particularly for the lack of Bumbelee, who was this time replaced by the over-eager Hot Shot.
Despite its mixed reception, Armada evidently helped bring the Transformers to a more modern audience, incorporating multiple concepts in the franchise into its rather expansive narrative. And given its take as a cross between a conventional anime and a Western cartoon, Armada provides a unique flavor to the entire Transformers franchise, especially considering the visual appeal of 2D transformations compared to the grand 3D effects of more recent media.
Why Watch Transformers: Armada
Among Transformers titles to grace television, Armada may have encapsulated how “robots in disguise” would work in the context of a shonen anime series. On top of faithful adaptations of Optimus Prime and Megatron’s evolving conflict, the inclusion of Minibots as a neutral sought-after faction gives an additional layer of strategy to both the Autobots’ and Decepticons’ movements. Moreover, eventual tugs of war involving legendary objects such as the Star Saber add much-needed depth to the Transformers mythos that younger fans may appreciate.
7 Transformers: Cybertron
|RELEASE DATE||January 8, 2005|
|NETWORK||TV Aichi, Cartoon Network|
Franchise fans who remember the adventures of Optimus Prime and the Mini-Cons in Armada will experience an even bigger adventure this time with the entire universe hanging in the balance. In Transformers: Cybertron, a massive black hole threatens to devour Cybertron and other nearby worlds. And while Primus’s essence in the Omega Lock has enough power to stop it, the Lock needs four Keys, scattered across the galaxy, to open it. In a race against time, Optimus and his team of Autobots will have to get to the Keys before Megatron, utterly consumed by a thirst for power, gets his hands on them.
Despite the initial negative reception, Cybertron tries to remedy the problems of its predecessors, Energon and Armada. This time around, the basic plot of Cybertron helped facilitate a more cohesive plot, giving more than enough room to establish the series’ core mythos and attachment to characters. Moreover, with Cybertron being the most recent Transformers series at the time, the show didn’t hesitate to fill its episodes with multiple references and Easter Eggs, adding to its major appeal.
Why Watch Transformers: Cybertron
Unlike the middling Armada and Energon, Cybertron sets itself apart as an anime series with its more rhythmic pacing and better take on character development. Its story arcs were adapted from the comics, giving the Transformers room to breathe in various character progression moments while at the same time anchoring their moments to shine in decently spaced-out multi-episode arcs. The anime appropriately transitions from a lighthearted first half on Earth to a much darker second half set in space, all without losing its “rule of cool” across both the Autobots and the Decepticons.
6 Transformers: Animated
|RELEASE DATE||December 26, 2007|
|STUDIO||Cartoon Network Studios, Hasbro Entertainment|
The series experiences a return to form of sorts thanks to Transformers: Animated, which at its release steered clear of the grand opera-esque stories of its predecessors and instead focused on standalone episodes. In Animated, Optimus Prime and the Autobots end up making a base in Detroit after possessing the AllSpark artifact and would now have to adjust to life as Robots in Disguise. In here, they meet new friends, new superhuman villains, and witness the repercussions of a world that managed to begin reverse-engineering technology from a dormant Megatron.
Despite its episodic approach, a lot of the background details in Animated eventually blossom into full story arcs, bringing quite a flavorful finish to the rather simple nature of the show. Thanks to its straightforward narrative and focus on G1 characters, Animated easily becomes a good gateway into the Transformers series without dropping lore on the viewers.
Why Watch Transformers: Animated
Despite the lackluster animation (ironically), Transformers: Animated does boast quite a likable cast of characters, especially for franchise fans who just want something not too serious to sink their teeth into. The premise of a maintenance crew having to deal with high-level threats due to bad luck adds tension to every story. And while the good guys always win in this kid-oriented show, this predictable ending interspersed with different takes on storylines still makes for an entertaining experience.
5 Transformers: Prime
|RELEASE DATE||November 29, 2010|
|STUDIO||K/O Paper PRoducts, Darby Pop Productions, Hasbro Studios|
People who want a unique take on the Transformers concept might want to look into Transformers: Prime, especially since it begins on Earth on the get-go and not a prologue happening in Cybertron. This time around, Optimus Prime and his Team Prime are staying in Nevada, hiding their true natures while eventually meeting and befriending various humans. Meanwhile, Megatron has been steadily gaining new members to his forces and has the Decepticons search for the unstable Dark Energon, capable of giving him more power.
While the series does succeed in giving a new dimension to the Transformers series, it does lack a bit in terms of the character development scene. The desire to feature multiple Autobots and Decepticons proved well in exposing them to a new audience. Unfortunately, the focus on an overarching plot and renewed mythos did compromise some opportunities for character development.
Why Watch Transformers: Prime
Despite having the familiar plot of “Transformers arriving on Earth,” this time in a secret war for Energon, Prime immediately sets itself apart from most Transformers series for being rather dark for modern animation. Its more compact cast boasts more fluid character development throughout the season, fleshing out the motivations of Autobots and Decepticons as well as the social maneuvering of Transformers with each others’ presence. Its action scenes remain spectacles to look at, especially when the story elements leading up to these confrontations are compelling modes of character development.
4 Beast Machines: Transformers
|RELEASE DATE||September 18, 1999|
|STUDIO||Mainframe Entertainment, Hasbro|
|NETWORK||Fox Kids, YTV|
Serving as a direct sequel to Beast Wars, the Beast Machines: Transformers cartoon continued the adventures of Optimus Primal and the Maximals after arriving back in Cybertron. However, instead of seeing a flourishing paradise, they encounter a barren wasteland populated by Vehicon drones controlled by Megatron. Through the intervention of the Oracle supercomputer, the Maximals are “reprogrammed” to have techno-organic bodies, helping them survive a lethal virus and giving them a fighting chance as they’re vastly outnumbered by Megatron and the Vehicons.
Contrary to the Beast Wars series, Beast Machines definitely had a darker tone for a Transformers cartoon. Viewers will almost immediately see the disadvantage in terms of numbers and how the Maximals will have to rely on their wit and guerilla warfare to use Cybertron’s environment itself against their enemy. And while Beast Machines wasn’t very well received due to this change of tone, it did show the potential of the Transformers franchise having a more mature story.
Why Watch Beast Machines: Transformers
Despite Beast Machines having its fair share of flaws, it’s precisely due to these perceived errors that the show shines as a unique take on the Transformers franchise. Viewers who want to look at Transformers beyond “robots in disguise” will have Beast Machines ask them why “robots” have to be “in disguise” in the first place, where philosophical undertones of the perceived conflict between technology and nature aren’t always black and white. This more mature take on Transformers concepts adds more nuance to characters, especially when both the Maximals and the Predacons were developed as cast members that aren’t necessarily hard good or hard evil.
3 Beast Wars: Transformers
|RELEASE DATE||September 16, 1996|
|STUDIO||Alliance Communications, Alliance Atlantis Communications, Mainframe Entertainment, BLT Productions Ltd., Claster Television Incorporated|
Fans of the Transformers series would be surprised to see none of the Autobots and the Decepticons in Beast Wars: Transformers. Rather, they get a rag-tag team of Transformers who can shift into animals in a relatively unknown time and era. Led by Optimus Primal, the Maximals will have to defend their home against the Predacons, who want to dominate all life.
Although not necessarily liked by a lot of fans when it first aired, Beast Wars: Transformers earned itself a cult following as its three seasons worked well in introducing a new cast of interesting Transformers as well as successfully managing to tie it to the rest of the community.
Why Watch Beast Wars: Transformers
The leap to 3D graphics and a story set centuries after the original Transformers cartoon added a lot of expectations to Beast Wars, all of which the cartoon manages to deliver. Its focus on character development as a means to propel the plot forward served as a great way to reintroduce both fans and newcomers to the “future” of the Transformers mythos. And while fans may miss Optimus Prime and the original Autobots, Beast Wars manages to transform both Maximals and Predacons into characters worth investing in, especially with the different cruxes of their stories.
2 Transformers: Cyberverse
|RELEASE DATE||August 27, 2018|
|STUDIO||Boulder Media, Allspark Animation, Entertainment One|
|NETWORK||Cartoon Network, Netflix, YouTube|
Newcomers to the franchise who want a completely fresh take on the Transformers franchise may appreciate Transformers: Cyberverse. Set in its own continuity and featuring new evergreen designs, Cyberverse is a retelling of the Great War in Cybertron and its aftermath, this time around focusing on a brand new mythology. In the story, when the Autobots venture to Earth, the newcomer Windblade must help an amnesiac Bumblee regain his memories while locating both Optimus Prime and the AllSpark.
However, fans would love Cyberverse for its interesting take on the narrative, especially as tensions rise. Aside from the hunt for the AllSpark, Cyberverse will introduce unique civilizations that would threaten the Transformers, as well as multiple instances of both Autobots and Decepticons questioning their role in the war.
Why Watch Transformers: Cyberverse
While its episode runtime is rather short, episodes in Cyberverse are packed with content that ensures viewers receive just enough character development, story progression, and action scenes. Unlike other reboots, Cyberverse’s more condensed take on the Transformers story gives it a lot of room to diversify in narrative progression, making this series more appreciable compared to other material in the franchise.
1 The Transformers
|RELEASE DATE||September 17, 1984|
|STUDIO||Sunbow Productions, Marvel Productions|
Perhaps the best way to enjoy the Transformers franchise is through its original series, The Transformers, which laid the groundwork for most of the setting, characters, and storylines. At its core, the series formally introduces the conflict between the Autobots and the Decepticons, which continues to the modern-day after they’re awakened from stasis from their crash-landing billions of years ago.
While a lot of the major storylines from The Transformers already exist in the other series, the 1984 cartoons did have their fair share of unique story arcs. Combined with the fresh mythology of the Transformers, fans can watch and discover which concepts would carry over to other parts of the expanded Transformers franchise and which would be left to obscurity.
Why Watch The Transformers
Clunky animations due to age aside, the original Transformers cartoon remains a framework for most other Transformers media due to its historical impact. Despite having the traditional take on Autobots winning against the Decepticons, the original cartoon manages to showcase the most important aspects of a Transformers series: the varying ideologies of Autobots versus Decepticons, Optimus Prime being the pinnacle of leadership, Megatron and Starscream elaborating on the depths of ambition, and the ways robots can “disguise” themselves in a world filled with distrusting humans.
Current Series Transformers: EarthSpark TV Show(s) Transformers, Transformers: Prime, Transformers: BotBots, Transformers: Cybertron, Beast Wars: Transformers, Transformers: Rescue Bots, Transformers Robots in Disguise Creation Year 1984