Over thirty plus years the Gundam franchise has become for many little more than a model factory. The anime serving as glorified commercials to show off their best suits. While the titular Gundam’s often get the lions share of the love; many of their more basic cousins are no slouches either when it comes to design. With that in mind here are some of the (Non-Gundam) suits I find to be the most visually striking and compelling.
Notes: To be eligible the suits have to be featured in a Gundam anime (OVA, Film, or Series) and cannot at any point be considered a “Gundam” or a Mobile Armor.
Further Notes: I will be assessing for fun the relative strength of the Mobile Suits within their respective series. The Lowest ranking is “Mass Production”, meaning an average Gundam in their series at the time would use them as cannon fodder. Followed by “Sub-Gundam”, these are more powerful suits that can engage an average Gundam but will be outclassed. “Gundam Level” - exactly as it sounds it is at the level of an average Gundam at that point in its series. “Beyond Gundam” - these suits are rare as they will outclass an average powered Gundam at that point in the series. Of course, this is more subjective than anything so have at it in the comments.
OZ-00MS2B Tallgeese III - New Mobile Report Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz
Power Level: Beyond Gundam
For the entirety of Wing, the Tallgeese was the preeminent enemy mobile suit. With chief antagonists of the series Zechs Merquise and Treize Khushrenada both serving as pilots. The original Tallgeese having been destroyed in an attempt to secure the Wing Zero. Following this, the Mark II was developed and used as Treize’s personal suit. As Zechs - now Milliardo Peacecraft - ascended to Gundam Pilot status.
By the time of After Colony 196 Zechs’ Epiyon Gundam was destroyed but a new suit was commissioned for his use by the new Unified Earth Sphere Alliance. The Tallgeese III, visually similar to its predecessor was enhanced with various weapons based on the Epiyon. Including a heat rod as well as a Beam Weapon outclassed only by the Twin Buster Rifle. By the time of the final battle for Earth, the Tallgeese III was the single strongest non-Gundam mobile suit in existence. Second to only the Wing Zero in pure destructive power.
GNX-603T - Mobile Suit Gundam OO
Power Level: Sub-Gundam Level
The designs of Gundam OO are a visually striking bunch. Being among the strangest in the series, they defy a lot of Gundam design conventions. Making their stable of suits quite distinct from what had come before. This is true of GN-X, a design very reminiscent of the series Thrones Gundams. As like those models, the GN-X has a distinctly sinister look.
This was of course by design, being the primary weapon of the antagonists to the series. The distinctive red hue of the False GN Drives, coupled with OO’s high definition animation made them far more visually interesting then other mass produced units. While the GN-X would be upgraded over the course of OO. The attempt to improve on the design only served to make them bigger and blocker which took away from the design.
MS-06R Zaku II High Mobility Type AKA “Psycho Zaku”- Gundam Thunderbolt
Power Level: Gundam Level
The main suit of the Living Dead Division in the recent Mobile Suit Gundam Thunderbolt. The Psycho Zaku takes the base design of the classic Zeon fighter and ramps it up to eleven. With enough power to match and at time overwhelm its rival Gundam this is one Zaku that can throw a punch.
Despite the nickname Psycho, the Psycho Zaku does not have the yet nonexistent Psycho Frame technology. While Thunderbolt is known for playing fast and loose with 0079 era technology levels. It never went that far. All around the Psycho Zaku is a large and intimidating beast of a machine and I love it.
GNX-Y901TW Susanowo - Mobile Suit Gundam OO Second Season
Power Level: Gundam Level
As I mentioned above as the GN-X moved up in its production line a lot of what made it appealing was lost by adding more bulk. This was not the case with its custom upgraded model specifically designed for “Mr. Bushido”, the Flag Fighter Graham Aker. Two designs of the line were featured in the second season of OO; the Masurao and the Susanowo.
Outwardly similar in designs I prefer the Susanowo, as I find the red on red paint job of Masurao tacky. With black and red being a classic combination of colours for a reason. Effectively the Susanowo was a suit of long sharp lines and angles giving the outward appearance of blades. A likely callback to the Seven Sword Gundam - Exia. As a general rule, I do not like suits that you could literally call edgy, I found that the Susanowo managed the balance well.
MSN-04 Sazabi - Mobile Suit Gundam: Char’s Counterattack
Power Level: Beyond Gundam
Big, bad, and in charge the Sazabi was designed with one thing in mind to be the final Mobile Suit for one of the most popular characters in anime - Char Aznable. Built around the prototype Psycho Frame, the Sazabi was as powerful and mobile as any Gundam. A feat proved when it fought one on one with eternal rival and quintessential Gundam pilot Amuro Ray. Though the outcome of the match was more a matter of pilots skill. The Sazabi more than held its own against the technically superior Nu Gundam.
Further to its short but illustrious operational history, it is a damn good looking suit. Larger than I normally prefer, its girth does not take away from its amazing design. With multiple moving and separate parts, it would have been a nightmare to animate. However, all the effort was worth it in the end. Sazabi was a fitting final suit for Gundam’s greatest Char. While it would be copied and emulated many times, the original has never been surpassed just like its pilot.
MBF-M1 M1 Astray - Mobile Suit Gundam SEED
Power Level: Mass Production
SEEDs design are among the more conventional of modern Gundam. Which likely contributes to their popularity at large and the distaste they invoke among longtime fans. The Astray’s do not break this convention. Though for one reason or another, have stayed with me as one of the best Mass Production models. Effectively mini-Strikes (but not hideous like the Strike Daggers...) the Astray was a stylish suit, if effectively useless in battle.
It was not until the GN-X a new non-specialized suit was as interesting as the Astray’s in my opinion. Furthermore, their contradictions to being a machine of war made by a pacifistic land are so quintessentially Gundam. All in the Astray’s were fun little suits in a series of ugly to okay mass production models.
V08-1228 Grimgerde - Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans
Power Level: (Near) Gundam Level - note the Suit itself is not that strong it requires a good pilot to make it so.
Much like the Tallgeese before it. The Grimgerde is the progenitor to Gjallahorns mass-production models used during the series. Explaining why there are so many physical similarities between them. Furthermore, like the Tallgeese’s before it only a select few can actually pilot the suit effectively. As the suit is so light it takes expert levels of skill to strike hard and fast. Anyone but a master would likely graze their opponent ineffectively, producing openings.
In terms of design, I will be honest, I am partial to melee based suits and Grimgerde is a prime example of them. While the majority of Iron-Blooded Orphans mobile suits utilizes brute force. The Grimgarde like the Valkyries of Der Ring des Nibelungen of which it is named is sleek and agile. A fitting suit for an odd Char-Clone like McGillis.
EB-08jjc Reginlaze Julia - Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans
Power Level: Gundam Level -note the Suit itself is not that strong it requires a good pilot to make it so.
A test Mobile Suit in the second season of Iron-Blooded Orphans piloted by its namesake Julieta Juris. The Reginlaze Julia is very similar to the Grimgerde in design. Heavily reliant on quick melee strikes but deadly precise with them, it was likely second only to the strongest Gundams in the series the Baal, Barbatos, and Vidar. Though once more like many suits on this list it requires a skilled pilot to bring out its full potential.
I’ll be blunt here, it is a pointier and more angular Grimgarde. I love this design, I just feel bad for the animators who had to animate it.
NZ-666 Kshatriya - Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn
Power LeveL: Sub-Gundam
A redesign of the Mobile Suit Queen Mansa from ZZ Gundam. The suit has one defining feature its overwhelming firepower. Less a Mobile Suit and more a mobile artillery platform the Kshatriya can single-highhandedly subdue entire colonies.
As a suit only able to be piloted by Newtypes/Cyber Newtypes the Kshatriya outclasses all mass production models. The suits biggest drawback is that it is relatively underpowered compared to the Gundams of the time. Most notably due to their ability to focus on single targets more effectively. All around the Kshatriya features an awesome and refined design, backed by modern animation techniques, making the Kshatriya a beautiful mobile suit to watch too.
Note on Level: As the Kshatriya was featured early in Unicorn the only Gundam to compare it to was the Unicorn itself - one of the most powerful Gundams ever made at that point. The “Sub-Gundam” designation merely reflects the suit is weaker than the Unicorn the only Gundam of its series at the time to compare it too.
MSN-00100 Hyaku Shiki - Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam & ZZ Gundam
Power Level: Gundam Level
Think I was leaving off the Hyaku Shiki? Nah. Probably the first and one of the best almost Gundam’s the Hyaku Shiki was actually designed to be a Gundam. Except during series development, the suit was moved down a notch and given to Char Aznable Quattro Bajeena as his personal suit.
Striking in design and capability the suit came close in my mind to overshadowing the main suit of the first series the Zeta Gundam. Aided by the fact it was piloted by the best character in the franchise. The suits golden design it would go on to influence other mobile suits over the years, most notably the Akatsuki Gundam. Making it also one of the most influential designs of the early Gundam era.
I hope you enjoyed reading my little list as much as I enjoyed writing it. A proper Gundam models list will also be following where I do the same based on the actual Gundam’s of the franchise. All images and technical names are from the Gundam Wiki, I don’t remember the codes of Mobile Suits on my own. Leave some comments and tell me what your favorite non-Gundam Mobile Suit is.