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Transformers:: How to watch the animated Autobots & Decepticons shows & movies in release and chronological order

Want to get started on watching the animated Transformers? Here’s how to do it!

Transformers: Prime screencap
Image credit: Hasbro

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Transformers, more than meets the eye! They may seem like ordinary vehicles, but when the world is threatened these Autobots are ready to roll out! Based on Hasbro’s popular toyline, Transformers is an animated epic that follows the war between the Autobots and the Decepticons. The epic struggles has thrilled audiences for decades, from the original 1984 animated series, to the current Paramount+ show. But with so many different versions and timelines, how can a new or casual fan catch up with the lore and enjoy the best of the Transformers cartoons?

Not to worry, Popverse has you covered! This guide will tell you everything you need to know about watching the Transformers in release and chronological order.

(Note: This guide covers the animated versions of the Transformers. For their live-action adventures, please refer to this guide)

How to watch the Transformers cartoons in release order

Transformers 1984 cartoon
Image credit: Hasbro

Are you ready to start your Transformers viewing journey? Make sure you take plenty of bathroom breaks, because there have been 29 animated projects in the past 40 years! It might seem intimidating, especially since some of the cartoons share the same name. Not to worry, just follow this list if you want to watch all the Transformers cartoons in release order.

How to watch the Transformers cartoons in chronological order

Transformers Beast Wars
Image credit: Hasbro

If you prefer watching Transformers in chronological order, but aren’t sure how the continuity is divided up, this section of the guide will bring you up to speed. Some of the cartoons take place in different points of the timeline, and some take place in entirely different universes. With so many projects, it can seem overwhelming, but if you use this list as a roadmap, you’ll be able to navigate the Transformers multiverse with ease.

American Generation 1 Continuity

This continuity covers the original Transformers cartoons, which introduced millions of viewers to the war between the Autobots and the Decepticons. These cartoons established most of the core pieces of Transformers lore, which is still being used to this day.

  • The Transformers seasons 1-2 (1984-1987)
  • The Transformers: The Movie (1986 animated film)
  • The Transformers season 3-5 (1984-1987)

(Note: Transformers: Generation 2 is re-edited versions of the original animated series)

Japan Generation 1 Continuity

Consider this an alternate version of the American Generation 1 Continuity. Transformers: The Headmasters is an anime that is set after the first three seasons of the 1984 American cartoon. The Headmasters ignores the events of the later seasons, diverging from continuity to tell their own story. If you love old school anime, you will dig these shows.

  • Transformers: The Headmasters (35 episodes, 1987-1988)
  • Transformers: Super-God Masterforce (42 episodes, 1988-1989)
  • Transformers: Victory (44 episodes, 1989)
  • Transformers: Zone (1990 direct-to-video special)
The Beast Era

The Beast Era begins in the future, where the descendants of the original Autobots travel to the prehistoric past. They wind up battling the descendants of the original Decepticons, creating a new branch of continuity. While the Beast Era uses many elements from Generation 1, it is set in its own universe.

  • Beast Wars: Transformers (52 episodes, 1996-1999)
  • Beast Machines (26 episodes, 1999-2000)
  • Beast Wars II episodes 1-32 (1998-1999) (picks up after Beast Wars season 3 and ignores Beast Machines)
  • Beast Wars II: Lio Convoy’s Close Call! (1998 animated film)
  • Beast Wars II episodes 33-43 (1998-1999) (picks up after Beast Wars season 3 and ignores Beast Machines)
  • Beast Wars Neo (35 episodes, 1999)
Robots in Disguise

Transformers: Robots in Disguise is a 2000 anime that served as a loose sequel to the Generation I cartoons. However, the American dub established the series as a complete continuity reboot.

  • Transformers: Robots in Disguise (39 episodes, 2000)
The Unicorn Trilogy

The Unicorn Trilogy was a continuity reboot that told an epic story over three anime series.

  • Transformers: Armada (52 episodes, 2002-2003)
  • Transformers: Energon (51 episodes, 2004)
  • Transformers: Cyberton (52 episodes, 2005)

(Note: Transformers: Cybertron was produced in Japan as Transformers: Galaxy Force. It was intended to be another continuity reboot, but the American export re-edited the series to tie it in with previous Unicorn projects)

The Animated Universe

Transformers: Animated was an American produced series that took heavy inspiration from Generation I projects. It brought the franchise back to basics, while telling a more serialized story for modern fans.

  • Transformers: Animated (42 episodes, 2007-2009)
The Bayverse

Transformers: Cyber Missions is the only animated project that takes place in the same continuity as the live-action films, aka the Bayverse. Cyber Missions was a web exclusive series of 13 episodes that streamed on Hasbro’s website.

  • Transformers: Cyber Missions (13 episodes, 2010)
Aligned Universe

In the 2010s Hasbro attempted a grand experiment with Transformers media, attempting to tell a cohesive story across comics, cartoons, video games, and toys. This was known as the Aligned Universe, or Aligned Continuity. The following animated projects took place in that universe…

  • Transformers: Prime (65 episodes, 2010-2013)
  • Transformers Prime Beast Hunters: Predacons Rising (2013 animated film)
  • Transformers: Rescue Bots (104 episodes, 2012-2016)
  • Transformers Go! (10 animated shorts, 2013-2014)
  • Transformers: Rescue Bots Academy (104 episodes, 2019-2021)
  • Transformers: Robots in Disguise (71 episodes, 2015-2017)
Q Continuity

The Q Continuity is comprised of 2 anime projects released to celebrate the franchise’s 30th anniversary.

  • Q Transformers: Return of the Mystery of Convoy (13 episodes, 2015)
  • Q Transformers: Saranaru Ninkimono e no Michi (13 episodes, 2015)
The Prime Wars Trilogy

The Prime Wars trilogy was a series of cartoons released to help promote the Prime Wars timeline. Each series was comprised of shorts, never longer than 13 minutes. Prime Wars is meant to be a continuation of the Generation I continuity. Is it the future of Generation 1, or an alternate future? It depends on your own personal canon preference.

  • Transformers: Combiner Wars (8 episodes, 2016)
  • Transformers: Titans Return (10 episodes, 2017-2018)
  • Transformers: Power of the Primes (10 episodes, 2018)
Cyberverse

A continuity reboot that focused on Bumblebee. Unlike past incarnations, each episode of Cyberverse was only 11 minutes long.

  • Transformers: Cyberverse (64 episodes, 2018-2021)
War for Cybertron

War For Cybertron was a Netflix exclusive series. The series is divided up by three subheadings (rather than seasons), War for Cybertron: Siege, War for Cybertron: Earthrise, and War for Cybertron: Kingdom.

  • War for Cybertron Trilogy (18 episodes, 2020-2021)
BotBots

BotBots was a Netflix series that put a humorous spin on the Transformers franchise. It follows a group of items at a shopping mall that are transformed after being struck by an Energon cloud.

  • Transformers: BotBots (ongoing series, 2022-present)
EarthSpark

Another continuity reboot. EarthSpark was produced by Nickelodeon for Paramount+. As of this writing, it is the newest ongoing animated Transformers project.

  • Transformers: EarthSpark (ongoing series, 2022-present)

Do the Transformers cartoons all take place in the same continuity?

Transformers: EarthSpark
Image credit: Paramount+

As you can see by the previous section, the Transformers franchise has had various continuity reboots over the years. In fact, there have been times where multiple continuities have aired simultaneously. Other cartoons have had a looser relationship with continuity, using elements from previous incarnations, but telling their own stories. If you’re confused about Transformers continuity, refer to the chronological section of this guide.

Do the Transformers cartoons take place in the same continuity as the live-action films?

Transformers: Cyber Missions
Image credit: Hasbro

The live-action Transformers movies are a complete continuity reboot, with no connection to any of the previous cartoons. The only cartoon with any connection to the live-action films is Transformers: Cyber Missions, an online CGI cartoon released exclusively for Hasbro’s website. The series is set between Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Transformers: Dark of the Moon.

For more on the continuity of the live-action Transformers films, please refer to this guide.

Where does GoBots fit in?

Challenge of the GoBots
Image credit: Hanna Barbera

Challenge of the GoBots is a Hanna-Barbera animated series that premiered in 1984. The series was followed by a 1986 animated film GoBots: Battle of the Rock Lords. Based on the Tonka toyline, GoBots follows a group of warring robots from outer space. Sound familiar?

Tonka was bought by Hasbro in 1991, and in 2010 it was retconned that the GoBots were distant ancestors of the Transformers. IDW’s Transformers Animated: The AllSpark Almanac II established that the Decepticon Sketch traveled to another dimension and became one of the Renegades from the GoBots animated series.

The 1984 animated series wasn’t intended to be part of the Transformers universe, but thanks to corporate takeovers and retcons, it’s now part of the franchise – kind of.

If you want to be really thorough, you can add Challenge of the GoBots to your animated Transformers watch order, but it isn’t necessary.

Where can I watch the Transformers cartoons?

Transformers: Rescue Bots Academy
Image credit: Hasbro

If you want to watch the Transformer cartoons, you will need a few different streaming services. Transformers: EarthSpark, the latest animated series, is a Paramount+ exclusive. As of this writing, Netflix is the streaming home for Transformers: Prime, Transformers: War for Cybertron Trilogy, Transformers: Cyberverse, Transformers: Robots in Disguise, Transformers: Rescue Bots, and Transformers: Rescue Bots Academy.

Tubi has many of the vintage Transformers cartoons, including the original 1984 series, Transformers: Beast Machines, Transformers: Armada, Transformers: Energon, Transformers: Cybertron, Transformers: Animated, and Transformers: Prime.

Some of the Transformers animated projects aren’t streaming anywhere, but they can be found on YouTube. It’s important to remember that some of these cartoons might wind up in different places when their streaming licenses expire.

Now you know everything you need to begin your animated Transformers journey! Autobots, roll out!

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Joshua Lapin-Bertone avatar
Joshua Lapin-Bertone: Joshua is a pop culture writer specializing in comic book media. His work has appeared on the official DC Comics website, the DC Universe subscription service, HBO Max promotional videos, the Batman Universe fansite, and more. In between traveling around the country to cover various comic conventions, Joshua resides in Florida where he binges superhero television and reads obscure comics from yesteryear.
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