Death Note has undeniably left an indelible mark on the Western mainstream media, as few other iconic anime series have done. In this psychological thriller, fans were immersed in the intricate dynamics between its main characters — Light Yagami and L. The exciting plot of the show appealed not only to newcomers to anime but also to seasoned enthusiasts.
For the uninitiated, this immensely popular and widely praised anime follows the journey of a high school student, Light Yagami, who aims to ascend to godlike status. When he discovers a supernatural notebook called the Death Note, he realises it grants him the ability to kill anyone by writing their name while picturing their face.
Fueled by a desire to rid the world of criminals and create a utopian society under his rule, Light embraces the power of the Death Note. However, his actions attract the attention of law enforcement, leading to a tense cat-and-mouse game with the gifted detective L. As the duo engage in a battle of wits, the series focuses on the complex themes of justice and the consequences of immense power.
Anime: Death Note (2006) pic.twitter.com/TXOxW9bnji
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Given the intense drama woven into the series, it is easy to get engrossed and wish to watch similar top-tier anime series like the iconic Death Note. However, thanks to its distinctive suspense and mystery, it could get challenging to find similar-themed animes. But fret not. Whether you gravitate towards Light’s narcissistic personality or admire L’s brain, our specially curated list of the 13 highest-rated series similar to Death Note will satisfy your craving for psychological thrillers.
Here are the best anime series like ‘Death Note’ to binge-watch
Steins; Gate (2011)
Like Death Note’s consistent suspense building, Steins; Gate will keep you on your toes throughout the series as you try to get to the end as soon as possible to see what happens next.
In the series, Rintarou Okabe is a self-proclaimed mad scientist who, along with his friends, creates a makeshift time machine using a microwave and a mobile phone. The group accidentally discovers they can send text messages to the past, which leads to a series of experiments with time travel. However, they soon realise that changing the past has disastrous consequences. Now, they must work to decipher the secrets behind the technology to prevent a global catastrophe.
IMDb rating: 8.8/10
Code Geass (2006)
In Death Note, we see Light Yagami use his ominous power to improve the world. Similarly, in Code Geass, we follow the story revolving around an exiled prince, Lelouch vi Britannia, who acquires a unique and enigmatic ability called the ‘power of absolute obedience’ from a mysterious woman named C.C. Using this supernatural power, aka Geass, the prince becomes the leader of a rebellion against the oppressive rule of the Holy Britannian Empire. In this role, he orchestrates a series of intense mecha battles as part of his quest for justice and change.
IMDb rating: 8.7/10
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Link Click (2021)
The series starts with a different case every week and eventually merges into the overarching story arc. Here, we see Cheng Xiaoshi and Lu Guang manage Time Photo Studio, where they cater to clients seeking relief from their regrets. Their process involves using a photo to transport Cheng back to the moment it was taken. He assumes the client’s identity, absorbing their memories and emotions. Meanwhile, Lu possesses the ability to monitor events in time and aids Cheng in reliving the client’s experiences. They operate within strict parameters: they have a single opportunity to time travel for up to 12 hours, aiming to fulfil their client’s needs without altering past events.
With an interesting plot, Link Click has managed to categorise itself among hit psychological thriller animes. The need for the protagonists to help society with their unusual powers is what makes this a must-watch for fans of Light Yagami’s adventures.
IMDb rating: 8.6/10
Parasyte: The Maxim (2014)
One of the highest-rated animes of all time, Parasyte: The Maxim is a perfect show to add to your watchlist if you are looking for elements of thriller and comedy. Based on Hitoshi Iwaaki’s manga series, it follows Shinichi Izumi, a 17-year-old, whose right hand is invaded by an alien parasite. This creature, named Migi, fails to reach the host’s brain and instead forms a symbiotic relationship with him. To ensure his survival as part monster and part human, Shinichi must master the delicate balance of coexisting with the creature inside him.
What makes it similar to Death Note is the way the protagonists come across an external force and learn to handle it in their own manner.
IMDb rating: 8.3/10
Paranoia Agent (2004)
Paranoia Agent is based on a social phenomenon in Musashino, Tokyo, triggered by a juvenile serial assailant called Lil’ Slugger. The story starts unfolding among a diverse ensemble of individuals, including his victims and the detectives tasked with capturing him. With each character taking their turn in the spotlight, the story gradually unveils hidden aspects of their private lives and uncovers the truth behind Lil’ Slugger’s actions.
Created by the legendary Japanese filmmaker Satoshi Kon, the series carries various signature elements of Kon’s films like Perfect Blue and Paprika — such as combining fiction with reality. It is considered one of the closest animes to Death Note, in terms of storytelling and themes by fans.
IMDb rating: 8/10
Death Parade (2015)
Death Parade is set in a universe where the recently deceased are sent to Quindecim Bar where various games determine the destiny of their souls. At the heart of it, the anime series primarily revolves around Decim, the solitary bartender running the place. He is accompanied by his assistant as they navigate the complex and morally challenging process of determining the fate of the souls of their patron.
Apart from death being the centre of the plot in both, Death Note fans will also find this show similar to their favourite anime as it raises thought-provoking questions like “What is the fate of each visitor and the circumstances leading to their demise?” and “What will these souls face in their afterlife punishment?”
IMDb rating: 7.9/10
Terror in Resonance (2014)
Created in an alternative version of the present day, Terror in Resonance tells the tale of two teenage boys, who steal a prototype atomic bomb, seemingly launching a terrorist attack. Under the alias Sphinx, they upload a video on the Internet, issuing a threat to destroy Tokyo unless a cryptic riddle is deciphered. Unbeknownst to many, they are survivors of a covert experiment aimed at turning orphaned children with savant syndrome into living weapons. As the story unfolds, they form a connection with Lisa, a lonely high school girl, who becomes entangled in their mission to expose the sinister activities of the academy.
In a parallel vein to Death Note, this anime showcases brilliant protagonists, who engage in high-stakes confrontations with authorities, orchestrating intricate scenarios that push the boundaries of intellect and strategy.
IMDb rating: 7.8/10
Tokyo Ghoul (2014)
Tokyo Ghoul follows the story of Ken Kaneki, a college student, who gets turned into a half-ghoul after a chance encounter with a creature which survives by consuming human flesh. Kaneki must navigate his new existence as he grapples with his identity, the ghoul society and the conflict between humans and ghouls.
With a heavy likeness towards Death Note, we see both leading characters come across new truths and creatures that give them a new sense of identity and introduce them to a different world altogether.
IMDb rating: 7.7/10
Tomodachi Game (2022)
In Tomodachi Game, high school student Yūichi Katagiri is a part of a close circle of four friends. However, their peaceful existence is disrupted when their class’s funds for a school trip are stolen. Due to someone’s debt, the group gets entangled in the enigmatic Tomodachi Game. Here, they face daunting challenges where their bonds of friendship, loyalty and moral compass are tested against the temptation of wealth, all while resolving the truth behind the mastermind orchestrating this sinister contest.
If this premise rings familiar, you might be thinking of Death Note, where the young Light often tries to outwit L and the authorities through his master plan.
IMDb rating: 7.6/10
The Future Diary (2011)
If you cannot get enough of Death Note, The Future Diary will surely keep you on the edge of your seat. Yukiteru Amano is a loner high school student who spends most of his time writing in his diary on his phone and conversing with an imaginary friend, Deus Ex Machina, the god of time and space. However, his life takes a drastic turn when he discovers that his phone diary can predict the future. He soon realises he is a part of a deadly survival game orchestrated by Deus Ex Machina. Yuki is pitted against other individuals, each possessing their future diaries with unique abilities, in a battle royale where the last survivor will become the new god of time and space.
IMDb rating: 7.5/10
Another is a classic combination of psychological thriller and horror. Kouichi Sakakibara is a young boy, who gets transferred to Yomiyama North Middle School. However, upon his arrival, he notices a strange and eerie atmosphere surrounding his classmates and the school. He befriends Mei Misaki, a mysterious girl in his class, who wears an eyepatch and is often isolated by her peers. As they grow closer, Kouichi discovers a chilling secret — his classmates are hiding a terrifying curse that dates back to a tragic incident that occurred 26 years ago.
IMDb rating: 7.5/10
B: The Beginning (2018)
B: The Beginning combines elements of crime, mystery and supernatural themes, like Death Note. The story revolves around a unique dual-narrative — on one side, there is the investigation led by a brilliant detective named Keith Flick, who returns to the force to solve a series of gruesome murders that seem to be linked to a mysterious criminal known as Killer B.
Simultaneously, the plot follows a young man named Koku, who possesses supernatural abilities and is searching for his past while getting entangled in a complex web of conspiracies and supernatural occurrences. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that there’s a connection between Koku’s abilities, the series of murders and a secret organisation experimenting with advanced technology.
IMDb rating: 7.1/10
Platinum End (2021)
Mirai Kakehashi is a high school student, who finds himself in a dire situation after attempting suicide due to overwhelming despair following the death of his family. He is saved by an angel named Nasse, who grants him supernatural powers and invites him to participate in a deadly competition to become the next God. Mirai, along with other chosen candidates, receives wings that grant him the ability to fly and special arrows that can manipulate others’ actions and thoughts. As the candidates compete for the position of God, they face moral dilemmas and the darker aspects of human desires and ambitions.
From the creators and writers behind Death Note, Platinum End bears striking resemblances, especially in character designs. For fans who craved more of Light Yagami and L’s plot, the parallels make this new series a compelling watch.
IMDb rating: 6.2/10
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(Hero and feature image credit: Courtesy IMDb/Death Note and Tokyo Ghoul)
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
– What should I watch after Death Note?
If you wish to watch shows similar to Death Note, you can try Code Geass, Another, Platinum End, Steins; Gate, The Future Diary and Paranoia Agent.