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10 Anime Like Serial Experiments Lain For Fans of Psychological Thrillers

anime like serial experiments lain

Who knew an anime would end up predicting our current lives and the way most of it is lived on the virtual platform? Serial Experiments Lain left the audience scrambling for more and that is why we have for you here a list of psychological and thriller anime like Serial Experiments Lain. Released in 1998, Serial Experiments Lain earned huge acclaim from critics and fans alike for its avant-garde premise.

What started off as a seemingly strange plot, perhaps even a haunted one slowly spirals into one of the most intriguing and convoluted stories in anime. This cyberpunk psychological thriller by director Ryutaro Nakamura revolves around Lain, a young teen who upon encountering multiple cryptic mysteries that lead her to uncover important truths about herself.

List Of Anime Like Serial Experiments Lain

  1. Neon Genesis Evangelion
  2. Texhnolyze
  3. Ergo Proxy
  4. Boogiepop Phantom
  5. Psycho-Pass
  6. Haibane Renmei
  7. Mousou Dairinin
  8. Ghost Hound
  9. Steins; Gate
  10. Dennou Coil

1. Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995)

Neon Evangelion Genesis is a mecha psychological drama set 15 years after a worldwide catastrophe in a futuristic Tokyo. Anno takes a multilayered approach to this story that follows a teenage Shinji Ikari who gets recruited into an organisation, Nerv who along with the Evangelion pilots try to prevent Angels from causing even bigger destruction.

This anime was considered a pop culture force in the Japanese anime industry and features amazing battle sequences. What it does even better is the portrayal of the psychology of the human mind which is a key theme in Serial Experiments Lain as well as the self, the body and the truth behind existence. If you love psychological anime like Serial Experiments Lain, you are sure to love Neon Evangelion Genesis.

2. Texhnolyze (2003)

Texhnolyze is a fantastic, yet underrated anime that blends surrealism, psychological thriller as well as cyberpunk in an effortless story. It centres around Ichise, an orphan who finds himself used as a test subject after an altercation costs him two of his limbs. Soon enough, he along with Onishi and Ran realise they might be the only ones who can save the collapse of their city, Lux.

Chiaki Konaka and Yoshitoshi Abe have worked on both anime so the art style is pretty similar. Both are experimental as well as experimental in their style and run along some dark themes and symbolic scenes. If you love storylines that make you question, as in anime like Serial Experiments Lain, Texhnolyze will definitely have you intrigued. 

3. Ergo Proxy (2006)

Are you one of those who are curious about the future when robots finally take over us? Well, this cyberpunk psychological thriller can give you a glimpse. Ergo Proxy is set in a timeline where humans and androids coexist peacefully until our worst fears come true and a virus gives them self-awareness, allowing them to commit a series of murders. As Inspector Re-L Mayer investigates, the plot reveals a much more complex play at hand.

Both anime deal with cybernetic relations in exceedingly intelligent ways and pose several important questions involving humanity’s evolution and social metaphors. With striking visuals and interesting characters, there’s much to keep you hooked if you want to watch psychological anime similar to Serial Experiments Lain.

Also Read: Anime Movies like Howl’s Moving Castle

4. Boogiepop Phantom (2000)

A Madhouse production, it is based on a light novel series by Kouhei Kadono. This thriller is one for a binge if you enjoy dark urban fantasy-based anime. The story centres around a series of murders that follow a strange incident that happened five years prior. The consequences then lead to a hunt for the serial killer as darkness takes many forms. 

Both Boogiepop Phantom and Serial Experiments Lain deliver intricate plots in hauntingly beautiful ways. These anime really drive that philosophical gear in your head and make you question humanity itself. Boogiepop Phantom is your best choice when looking for anime like Serial Experiments Lain.

5. Psycho-Pass (2012)

In the year 2113, Japan implemented the Sibyl System, which requires citizens to undergo a test called “Psycho-Pass” to determine their likelihood of turning into a criminal.  Young and green, inspector Akane Tsunemori quickly discovers that the exam is not nearly as reliable as it first appears to be. What do you do when the justice people are supposed to turn to begins to crack under corruption? 

One of the things that make Serial Experiments Lain so interesting is the way it slowly and mysteriously unravels the story. The same aspect is what drives Psycho-Pass as well. The cryptic and unorthodox direction of both these anime makes for an extremely exciting watch when it comes to shows like Serial Experiments Lain.

6. Haibane Renmei (2002)

This Japanese fantasy series follows Rakka, a new Haibane, a being resembling an angel in the fictional city of Glie. As mysterious disappearances become rampant, Rakka is unsettled as she along with those around her do their best to break free from their pain in the past and attain salvation.

This anime really intrigued me because the tone is very different from Serial Experiments Lain and also not. There is a similar air of mystery surrounding the plots, and both share similar unsettling atmospheres. However, Haibane Renmei is lighter and has a simpler plot design while being symbolic as well. So, it’s a relaxing pick for someone who desires the same level of intrigue as anime like Serial Experiments Lain. 

Also Read: Anime like Noragami

7. Mousou Dairinin (2004)

Also known as Paranoia Agent, in this story, we find the city of Musashino, Japan under terror as a juvenile serial assailant known as Lil’ Slugger goes around on his rollerblades bludgeoning citizens with his golden baseball bat. Detectives Ikari and Maniwa find themselves under increasing pressure with the list of victims getting longer as they unravel mysteries deeper than they expected. 

What is true and what is simply perceived? That is what the two anime very curiously tackle. With stunning visuals and thought-provoking storylines, both anime leaves a lot for the viewers to feast on. If you love anime like Serial Experiments Lain, there is no way you can go wrong with Mousou Dairinin.

8. Ghost Hound (2007)

The Serial Experiments Lain team collaborates once more on this supernatural suspense thriller.  Three high school boys, Taro, Makoto and Masayuki have all gone through traumatic events that allow them to have out-of-body experiences. They soon come together and realise there are stranger things taking place and eventually investigate the key to their trauma which lies in the Unseen World.

Here’s a fan-made trailer:

Ghost Hound is a brilliant anime that ties together horror, mystery and drama. You really have to watch out for the details, but this one is a treat for horror fanatics. If you love anime like Serial Experiments Lain for the eerie and the mysterious, Ghost Hound is the one for you. 

9. Steins; Gate (2011)

This sci-fi psychological thriller revolves around Rintaro Okabe, a self-proclaimed ‘mad scientist’ who, along with his friends works on a time travel machine that transports messages to the past thereby holding the power to change the present. Tension peaks as they try to get it working before the evil organisation, SERN can lay their hands on it.

Steins; Gate is an unforgettable story as the world tilts and the lines blur between reality and the virtual dimension, which is a major theme in Serial Experiments Lain. With every episode, the mystery gets darker and deeper, and if you enjoy such mind-boggling anime like Serial Experiments Lain, Steins; Gate has to be your next pick on the watchlist.

10. Dennou Coil (2007)

In this sci-fi anime, it is now 2026 and reality is heavily superimposed with augmented reality technology. An unofficial detective agency called “Coil” investigates and handles corruptions of the virtual world when they cross paths with a mysterious virus that erupts from a seemingly inaccessible place.

This one is a personal favourite and definitely one of the most enjoyable ones on this list. There is urban fantasy, there are old-school Japanese scenes as well as Japanese folklore – all blended into this amazing piece of animation. While there are similar themes of cyber invasion into humanity like Serial Experiments Lain, Dennou Coil is a much lighter watch. If you want to experience similar concepts, but a lighter atmosphere Dennou Coil is it!

Honourable Mentions 

Here are a few anime like Serial Experiments Lain that didn’t make the list, but you can check them out nonetheless: 

  1. Mahou Shoujo Madoka ★ Magica 
  2. Paprika
  3. Perfect Blue 
  4. Sonny Boy
  5. Ghost in the Shell

When Lost aired over a decade ago, its successful narrative created a pop culture impact and changed the landscape of television. If you are a fan and want to watch shows like Lost then you can have a look at this list we made just for you.

Lost

The hugely successful television series Lost aired in 2004. The premise, as we know, deals with a group of people surviving a commercial passenger plane crash on a remote island. The show masterfully explores supernatural and sci-fi elements on this mysterious south Pacific island. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KTu8iDynwNc

The use of cliffhangers at the end of each episode of Lost kept the viewers on the edge of their seats, desperately craving for the next episode to come. Even though it's a large ensemble cast, most of the characters receive a justifiable personal arch. Lost was inspired by the movie Castaway and became one of the most expensive pilots to be shot at the time! Lost continues to be appreciated for its originality in storytelling and dynamic character arcs. 

List of TV Shows Like Lost

  1. The Leftovers
  2. Manifest
  3. Lost Room
  4. Twin Peaks
  5. The Prisoners
  6. Battlestar Galactica
  7. The New People
  8. Flight 29 Down
  9. Fringe
  10. Alcatraz
  11. Under the Dome
  12. Dark

1. The Leftovers (2014)

IMDB ratings: 8.3/10

Cast: Carrie Coon, Justin Theroux, Amy Brenneman and Margaret Qualley

Creator: Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta

The director of Lost, Damon Lindel also created a supernatural drama series called The Leftovers. The show begins 3 years after an unexplainable global event called ‘Sudden Departure’  where almost 2 per cent of the population, nearly 140 million people, disappear. The Leftovers isn't about WHY people are gone, it's about how the ones who remain dealt with their loss, people often try to comfort themselves with dreams, angels, gods, or even death.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FLT3YUALJno&t=8s

The Leftovers will leave you with so many questions but beyond words, you have to feel it and savour its unanswered questions to find peace. The Leftovers is an incredible television series that starts incredibly well but loses its way by the series's end. I have to say though, Carrie Coon has brilliant moments in the end. The Leftovers is so weird, fragmented and nonsensical at times that it reminds me of Lost. If you are looking for shows like Lost, I recommend that you give The Leftovers a try.

2. Manifest  (2018) 

IMDB ratings: 7.1/10

Cast: Melissa Roxburgh, Josh Dallas and J.R. Ramirez 

Creator: Jeff Rake


The Manifest is a supernatural drama show about a bunch of people who discover that they lost 5 years of their lives when they landed in New York after their aeroplane faced severe turbulence. All the people on the plane were presumed to be dead. Now, these people have to find a way to adjust themselves to a new life around their loved ones. Mild spoiler! They learn their loved ones and the rest of society is not as they left it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1hNAIzkQWY

I found that the show’s premise was very intriguing and the actors give a very convincing performance. The narrative details of the show, however, in my opinion, are a bit sloppy and inconsistent. The writers surely have room for improvement but their concept is incredibly thrilling. Every episode of Manifest keeps you on your toes. Manifest has completed 3 seasons up until now and continues to be on air. Manifest is a pretty good choice if you want to watch TV shows like Lost.

3. Lost Room (2006)

IMDB ratings: 8.1/10

Cast: Peter Krause, Julianna Margulies and Peter Jacobson

Creator: Christopher Leone, Laura Harkcom

This lesser-known show The Lost Room is an American Sci-fi television miniseries which only had 3 episodes of 90 mins each and no follow-up seasons. The show was based on a very unique idea where the room in question (known as the ‘Lost Room’) and the objects in the said room had supernatural powers. This strange room is set in a 1960s motel along the iconic U.S. Route 66. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DfWrECLnFYU

One day the protagonist (Peter Krause) Joe Miller’s daughter disappears inside the room. Joe, with the help of objects present in the room, tries to find his daughter Anna (Elle Fanning). The story of Lost Room was intensely engaging. I found the direction and the actor’s performances to be absolutely brilliant. It baffles me that the creators did not return to make another short season within the same concept. If you have been searching for TV series like Lost then I can assure you that Lost Room will be worth a watch.

4. Twins Peaks (1990) 

IMDB ratings: 8.8/10

Cast: Kyle MacLachlan, Mädchen Amick, Sherilyn Fenn and David Lynch

Creator: David Lynch

David Lynch, the well-known director of weird and captivating films such as Eraserhead and Blue Velvet created an iconic show called Twin Peaks. It is a hauntingly eccentric show about the investigation of the mysterious murder of a small-town homecoming queen named Laura Palmer. Believe me, as odd as the show may seem at first, you will grow to love it, after all, it is considered to be one of the best mystery shows ever created. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zwn9ou_nf-I

With the mysteries, the supernatural elements and the list of bizarre characters, Twin Peaks has it all. In my opinion, the cinematography of the show was truly ahead of its time. Kyle’s Dale Cooper was especially entertaining. Twin Peaks’ experimental formula of the satirical soap opera is extremely unsettling yet rewarding to watch, I must warn you, it’s not for the faint-hearted!  If you are in search of TV shows like Lost then Twin Peaks won’t disappoint you.

The Prisoners (1967)

IMDB ratings: 8.5/10

Cast: Patrick McGoohan, Angelo Muscat and Geroge Markstien

Creator: Patrick McGoohan


The Prisoner centres around an unnamed British agent (Patrick McGoohan) who tries to flee his country after abruptly quitting his high-ranking government job. He is abducted and held captive in a strange ‘sea-side’ village that is isolated from the rest of the world. This village is a highly secure and monitored place filled with weird technology. There are only 17 episodes to this late 60s show but it manages to bring up such surreal surprises, it's sure to leave a great impact on the viewer.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4JrNr85fPms

The Prisoner’s unique concept influenced many popular shows including Lost. The creators of Lost even cited the show. I was very impressed by how ahead of its time The Prisoners proves to be. If you want to watch more shows similar to Lost the Prisoners should definitely be on your list.

6. Battlestar Galactica (2004)

IMDB ratings: 8.7/10

Cast: Katee Sackhoff, Edward James Olmos and Tricia Helfer 

Creator: Glen A. Larson

The 2004 Battlestar Galactica is a reboot of the original 1978 miniseries of the same name. Do not be mistaken by the title, the show is not related to Star Trek.  Battlestar Galactica is set in the 7th millennium AD and follows Cylons, the robot enemy of humanity that resurfaces to destroy the 12 colonies of Mankind. Only a few survive and are able to escape on ships led by a powerful warship called Battlestar Galactica. Mankind struggles to fight the Cylons and work their own political agendas and disputes while finding their long-lost 13th colony Earth.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TnYsf2Yv8i8

The show is a dark, intense and gritty socio-political commentary with EPIC cinematic value. The script is especially clever and as a huge fan of sci-fi shows, this show ticks the boxes in all the right categories. When the show was released, it blew the viewers and critics away. As far as an obsessive and gripping story goes, Battlestar Galactica is one of the most similar to shows like Lost. 

7. The New People (1969)

IMDB ratings: 7.3/10

Cast: David Moses, Zooey hall and Tiffany Boiling

Creator: Larry Gordon Aaron Spelling

The New People is an American Tv series that aired only for 1 season and is focused on a couple of college students who survive a plane crash. The incident takes place while they were returning from a trip to Southeast Asia, their plane crashes on an island in the south of the Pacific ocean. 

By now this show must already be sounding a lot like Lost to you, and it surely is. The remaining group of people discover an unusual truth about the island: there’s an above-ground unused nuclear test site filled with supplies for the survivors. If you want to see more plane survival stories like Lost then The New People should definitely be on your list.

8. Flight 29 Down (2005)

IMDB ratings: 7.2/10

Cast: Allen Alvarado, Halle Hirsh and Corbin Bleu

Creator:  Stan Rowgow D. J. MacHale

The show Flight 29 Down is a drama series about a group of pre-teens/teens who are stranded on a South Pacific island after their plane crashes in a tropical storm while they were flying from an eco-adventure camping trip in Palau. The show is in many ways a younger version of the Adult-centred show Lost but sans the supernatural elements. I’d say that the show draws inspiration from the show The New People.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MLeG0w3kL8k

Flight 29 Down uses the technique of a video diary as a plot device for the viewers to keep up with the story of these children. It was very engaging to watch young intelligent characters finding their way on the island. The first two seasons of the show are quite engaging but I seemed to lose interest in its 3rd and final season. Regardless, Flight 29 Down is a really good series to watch if you want to see TV shows like Lost.

9. Fringe (2008)

IMDB ratings: 8.4/10

Cast: Anna Torv, John Noble and Joshua Jackson

Creator: J. J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, and Roberto Orci

Fringe is a popular Sci-fi crime drama television series. It may seem like a standard procedural drama at first, but the show actually explores the parallel universe, alternate versions of people filled with crazy scientific experiments. I personally had a great time watching this show.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=29bSzbqZ3xE

Fringe is actually inspired by shows like Lost, The X-files and The Twilight Zone. The 3 main characters of the show work with a special division called Fringe. There are so many brilliant twists and turns in Fringe that in my opinion, the show is at the top of its category. If you are searching for TV series like Lost, I strongly recommend you watch Fringe

10. Alcatraz (2012)

IMDB ratings: 6.9/10

Cast: Sarah Jones, George Garcia and Jonny Coyne 

Creator: Elizabeth Sarnoff, Steven Lilien, Bryan Wynbrandt

This American fiction show is based on the infamous Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary built on Alcatraz island in San Francisco Bay. The prison is now closed but once kept some of the most dangerous criminals of America. The show takes the liberty to make a show around the conspiracies of the place.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V514ACIGp_k

In the interesting premise we see that under unknown circumstances, 256 inmates and 46 guards of the prison disappear without a trace. Later the disappeared ones start to appear one by one without ageing a day and resume their criminal activities with no realisation of disappearance. A special government unit is dedicated to finding and putting those criminals back in prison. If you are looking for mystery shows similar to Lost, try watching Alcatraz. 

11. Under the Dome (2013)

IMDB ratings: 6.5/10

Cast: Alexander Koch and Rachelle Lefevre

Creator: Stephen King

Based on a novel written by the sci-fi legend Stephen King, Under the Dome tells the story of the residents of the fictional small town called Chester's Mill, when a huge, transparent and indestructible dome suddenly cuts them off from the rest of the world. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f_Y5YeYrqUk

Now the trapped residents try to find a way to discover the truth, origin and purpose of these domes. This journey forces them into situations where they learn more about each other than they ever knew. Under the Dome may not be on the top of this list but it’s quite a decent watch if you’re looking for mystery shows similar to Lost

12. Dark (2017)

IMDB ratings: 8.7/10

Cast: Louis Hofmann, Lisa Vicari and Gina Stiebitz

Creator: Baran bo Odar, Jantje Friese

The German-language Netflix series Dark is an interesting blend of Science fiction and Mystery. Truly a compelling and mind-bending story to watch. At the beginning of Dark, many children suspiciously start disappearing in the German town of Winden. The dark past of generational mysteries of 4 families living in the town namely, Kahnwald, Nielsen, Doppler, and Tiedemann is brought to light.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrwycJ08PSA

After the discovery of a wormhole, the lives of the families intertwine more than one can imagine. I believe every element of the show is top-notch, especially Dark’s cinematography, which is a TRUE masterpiece. If you are looking for TV series similar to Lost then the intense and gripping story of Dark is sure to keep you engrossed.

Honourable Mentions

Here are a few TV shows like Lost that didn’t make the list, but you can check them out nonetheless: 

  1. Carnivale
  2. Yellowjackets
  3. Game of Thrones
  4. Black Mirror
  5. Flashforward