A genre of Humongous Mecha with a gritty, hard-Sci Fi take on the concept of literal Mechanized Infantry. Their plot lines tend to overlap considerably with most other kinds of Military Science Fiction.
Real Robots are usually designed and manufactured by the military or by corporations, as opposed to the Mad Scientists/nutty professors who crank out Super Robots. In addition, while Super Robots are usually piloted by the professor's nephew or some other Boy of Destiny, the pilots of Real Robots tend to be military personnel or mercenaries contracted out from some wing of the military/industrial complex. While many Super Robots can be repaired with Hot Blood or The Power of Friendship (or simply never take serious damage at all), repairs on Real Robots tend to be a time consuming and costly affair.
While a Real Robot pilot may have special powers, they don't require them to pilot the mecha, unless the mecha makes use of very special equipment — and even then, in nearly all cases, the mech can be piloted by somebody else with the same ability, or even without that ability, who will simply be unable to use the special equipment. Real Robot series tend towards the themes of "War Is Hell" or "We're all alike, if only we could sit down and talk to one another".
Real Robots are very often damaged, even destroyed during the series, and in many cases, main characters get killed in rather pointless ways... just like in a real war. A Real Robot doesn't require being made with current technology, but does require a relatively well-tested, "hard science" aspect at its core — something with properties which are very well defined in scope and limitations.
Real Robot series tend more towards "cynicism" on the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism. If they're computer games, they tend to opt toward more "realistic" controls using as much extra input hardware as they can get their players to buy, sometimes even making their own. Alternately, they can be incorporated into wargames, with the player giving orders to a squad of mecha.
The distinguishing trait between Real Robots and Super Robots is whether the mech is seen as a tool or a vehicle: a Super Robot acts like a tool, in that its a focal point for the pilot, who supplies the skill, willpower and sometimes power; a Real Robot in contrast acts like a vehicle, it has greater power, speed, mobility or defense than the pilot, who serves as the equivalent of higher brain functions.
The expression originally came from "Real Robot Line", a term used by Sunrise in the 80s to promote their Gundam and Gundam-like animes during the decade. It became popularized in the West thanks to Super Robot Wars using Real Robot and Super Robot in an attempt to distinguish Mazinger Z and Mobile Suit Gundam units. Super Robot Wars OG series later define their original mechas that Super Robots are designed for a specified reason and are usually ready to fight against many opponents while Real Robots are designed to excel in common situations and in groups.
Contrast Super Robot and also see Mini Mecha, Spider Tank, and Walking Tank.
Ironically, the Guntank, the mobile suit that looked like a more realistic combat mech, was slowly phased out of the story because the writer thought they were verged on Super Robot territory (mostly because it was originally inspired by Getter 3).
∀ Gundam, Turn A and Turn X units uses a highly advance nano-machine system, which gave them overwhelming powers, yet still plausible.
Mobile Suit Gundam 00 can be counted a an exception, as the show drifts towards a super robot style as the show progresses.
The Universal Century is an odd case. It's definitely a universe of war stories, but the Newtypes have a tendency to bend the genre towards the Super Robot Genre. While the Minovsky Physics work in a relatively well-defined manner for mobile suits, psychic abilities often go off the wall and turn the suits from vehicles into expressions of the pilot's Heroic Spirit, and sometimes the spirits of the dead too.
Patlabor, where mecha are mostly used in a non-military setting by industrial workers and the police. The military (Japanese Self Defense Forces in particular) have some mecha too, but they tend to be of the Spider Tank variety, until they start to commission a few ARL-99 Helldivers, the military model of the police use AV-98 Ingram (a helldiver spare part was even used to fix Ingram 2's head in the 2nd movie.) and the Atlas/Hannibal series, described by Asuma as "glorified armored cars".
The second scene of the first movie shows this trope at its finest form. Paratroopers are dropped in with Helldivers acting as light armor support and it takes the combined firepower of helicopter gunships, recoilless rifles and other weaponry to disable the rogue mecha they are hunting down.
It should be noted that the original Macross series toyed with this for awhile, as it did most tropes. While the Valkyries and Destroids are quite clearly just advanced military hardware from the outset, for awhile it appears that the eponymous Macross itself might qualify for Super Robot status, what with its main cannon capable of blowing away entire enemy fleets in a single shot. That is, until the climax of the show where it's revealed that EVERY Zentradi ship has a gun just like that, they've just been refraining from using them as they wanted to study the Macross and its inhabitants before destroying it.
The transformation of Macross might be inspired by a reader letter in Animage magazine asking director of Mobile Suit Gundam Tomino whether the odd shaped mothership Whitebase can transform into a giant robot.Tomino's response? You watch too much anime, watch more Gundam instead.
Martian Successor Nadesico: Played with, in that many of the mecha pilots are fans of Super Robot shows, and try to bring in the associated tropes. (Sometimes this is vaguely succssful. Sometimes this is tragic.)
Armored Trooper Votoms, which is famous as being one of the grittiest and hardest mecha shows ever released. The mecha are small, ugly and utilitarian and seemingly very disposable, at least to the main character who goes through dozens of them by the series end.
Worth noting, the Arm Slaves are primarily in the range of 6 meters. Only one hits 20m (a fairly average size for Mobile Suits), and it requires a physics-defying Black BoxApplied Phlebotinum generator simply to support its own weight. The anime increases the sizes to 8 meters and 40 meters, respectively.
All the mecha in Soukou No Strain but Ram-Dass and the Gloire are mass-manufactured and the pilots generally expendable. (There is more than one Gloire in the Union's ranks, but one has illegal modifications.)
This is one half of the premise of Dai-Guard, the other half is the economic and political ramifications of the existence of of a Real Robot, and the effect piloting it has on the professional and personal lives of the pilots and crew involved. The level of damage sustained, the lengthy repair times, and inability to operate the robot for extended times due to extraordinary costs might make this one of the most credible Robot anime of all time. Consider that when the military finally develops its own version of the title robot it's straight gray metal with none of the flashy paint applications that like Dai Guard to the Super Robot way of thinking.
This series also plays with the trope, since it feels like a sequel to a Super Robot show, when none of the Super Robot tropes work anymore. (E.g., the backstory looks a lot like Getter Robo from some angles.)
Both the manga and anime versions of Appleseed have Landmates, which are larger than a bodysuit but smaller than an average mech. The pilot's feet end up where the kneecaps are, and the larger set of upper arms mirror the movements of a form-fitting set of forearms and hands.
Code Geass has a solid Real Robot setting where its small Knightmare Frames are originally used in a way that is halfway between modern entries in the Mobile Suit Gundam universe and Armored Trooper Votoms. During the second season, a rapidly-accelerating Lensman Arms Race takes place, which means that the two most advanced Knightmare Frames end up being head and shoulders above anything else by the finale.
HAVWC units from Flag are slightly larger than tanks (in their four-wheel mode), are usually deployed from real-world Osprey transport helicopters, and use their four-wheeled mode to travel across terrain before the four wheels come together underneath the machine to make it "stand up" so it can fire its massive gatling gun. It also requires extensive modification and testing to attach a new weapon to it, and an entire episode of the series is devoted to tuning the machine in preparation for loading a giant sniper rifle to it. Its designers and pilots were concerned that the machine's frame wouldn't be able to withstand the recoil of the artillery-sized rifle, and if the frame was tuned to compensate for this problem, then the rifle wouldn't be as accurate. It's quite apparent that this show was made by the director of Gasaraki.
While the main characters in any series of Zoids tend to make it look like a Super Robot show, the rest of the characters and background are more grounded and treat them more like machines.
Made glaringly obvious when one team has their machines disabled by a Face Fault.
Getter Robo, despite traditionally being thought of as a classic Super Robot series, gains a bunch of Real Robot elements during the second installment of the manga. The old Super Robot elements still remain (and still exaggerated to extremes), but they now take place in a more Real Robot setting, with a greater focus on politics, strategy and featuring some harrowing depictions of warfare. These elements prevail to some extent in the installments that followed.
It probably helps that this particular incarnation of the Getter Robo, not being powered by Getter Rays, isn't nearly as powerful as the original Getter Robo. However, the manga eventually returns to its Super Robot roots once the Shin Getter Robo shows up.
The Ridebacks from the anime/manga of the same name, motorbike-esque vehicles with arms and the ability to convert between a splits-like speed mode and a humanoid maneuvering mode.
The Air Gear manga has a few of these in the form of the 'Caesar's Chariot', a one-person vehicle similar to a tank. Although it has a turret, in place of tracks it has a twin two-segment legs with wheels on the end that fold up much like a human kneeling. It's considered a prototype, but being able to stand, crouch and even jump combined with its smaller footprint makes it far more maneuverable than existing tanks. Doesn't stop them from being thrashed by the series' protagonists though.
In spite of being based off of an old 1970s Super Robot anime by Go Nagai, Gaiking: Legend of Daiku-Maryu obeys a number of Real Robot conventions. They accurately describe the abilities and uses of the series's resident Minovsky Physics, the Daiku-Maryu frequently needs supplies, and it takes steps to show many of Gaiking's enemies are Not So Different.
This is the pre-amnesia backstory of the megadeuses in The Big O. Given, a number of them have some pretty fantastical abilities so it may not completely apply.
Blue Comet SPT Layzner is definitely one of these, to the extent that ammunition & fuelling are actually key plot points.
The Ghost in the Shell franchise isn't strictly a Mecha Series but it treats its mecha in as hard a manner as it treats cybernetics.
Vipers Creed with the Maneuver-Roid, which can switch between a mech and a motorbike. These are heavily customized with different weapons and equipment, depending on the operator. Given that Shinji Aramaki made the majority of the show, it should be no surprise to anyone. The mechs are powered up thanks to the electrical supply built in the highways after World War III and global warming.
The Sakura Taisen/Wars franchise.
The Gunparade franchise pits Real Robots against Kaiju. March is significantly harder than Orchestra but both treat their mecha as essentially giant infantry - with many of the same problems.
The AMP suits from Avatar are fairly realistic Mini Mecha. Their vaguely humanoid shape (including hands) is justified because it makes them more natural to pilot (and the audience actually gets to see this when the controls are shown in use), and gives them the flexibility to be used in many roles — several times they are seen loading and unloading containers and doing other heavy non-combat work. This flexibility also means the suits can operate a variety of heavy weapons, without needing to have Arm Cannons built in. The Pandorapediahas an article on them detailing lots of other realistic design details. It notes that the AMP suits were based on earlier powered military exo-skeletons (which are actually being developed in Real Life).
In Iron Man 2, Justin Hammer manufactures his "Hammeroids" to sell to the government in an attempt to put Tony Stark out of business.
Technically, it's Vanko who makes them for Hammer. Hammer originally wanted to mass-produce cheaper versions of Tony's armor for the military. Vanko convinces him that drones are better.
Although they aren't focus of the story, the treatment of Humongous Mecha in Star Wars series fit this trope. While they are pretty deadly on their own, they can be taken down, and usually work together with other units.
Most novels in The History Of The Galaxy series prominently feature serv-machines, which are mass-produced and piloted by a human/AI combination, with the AI learning non-standard tactics from humans. Can also be piloted by AIs, but off-the-assembly-line models are not very effective, as they lack experience. The author likes to go into technical detail regarding the operations of these machines.
Typical of the genre, there are multiple models geared towards specific roles on the battlefield. The most common ones are the heavy Phalanxer and the light Hoplite, which often work in combat pairs with the Phalanxer providing heavy, long-range support, while the more nimble Hoplite keeps it safe from enemies that get too close or provides scouting intel, such as target-spotting. Other mentioned models are the medium Raven and the obsolete Golden Eagle (used by one side in a brutal interstellar war but chose to adopt the other side's designs after winning).
There are also cheap, mass-produced automated walkers armed with a single laser cannon and able to interface and work in tandem with a limited group of identical walkers.
The BattleTech universe and its MechWarrior games. The BattleMechs are simply robots and their pilots simply humans. BattleMechs are akin to modern tanks in being kings of the battlefield, but like modern tanks they are still under threat from armored vehicles and even infantry; lone infantry troopers have been shown taking down a BattleMech with nothing more than a grappel rod and demo charge. A few particularly gifted pilots almost cross into Super Robot territory (Though their machines remain absolutely normal), but then they get old or suffer some other infirmity.
The Striders and Gears of Heavy Gear are somewhere between Humongous Mecha and powered armor, but they are clearly Real Robots. The only marker they don't hit is interchangeable pilots, and that's because most pilots are only trained for one specific type of Gear or Strider over an entire lifespan. Beyond that point, they're treated like lighter, cheaper, and more mobile tanks, without the tank's hefty armor and heavier firepower. This can lead to problems when the computer games pit you againstdozens of tanks.
Warhammer 40000 tends to treat its various Mecha along these lines, varying between different factions and types of giant robots. Imperial Guard Sentinels, Tau Battlesuits and Eldar War-Walkers are simply specialized units that die about as fast as anything else, while Space Marine Dreadnoughts and Eldar Wraithlords are a class up. Then there's the Titans. Subverted to some degree in that Imperial mechs are treated as walking god-machines, Eldar mechs use the trapped souls of their people, Chaos mechs are literally possessed by demons, and Ork mechs work because the Orks think they do. However, Tau use true real robots, but ironically none of them are Humongous.
Warmachine has warjacks which are massed produced by the various nations and bonded to the minds of the warcasters that use them. These bonds can be easily severed so as to allow warcasters to switch warjacks as they are destroyed or otherwise replaced, though personality traits and sparks of self awareness can develop in warjacks if they are bonded to one warcaster for long enough.
Exalted's warstriders are usually a Magitek version of this. While one does have to be an Exalt to pilot one, that's simply because only Exalts can provide the Essence to power them. They're tools of war, that provide greater strength and defenses (and bigger weapons) in exchange for being a massive pain to maintain. However, once Solars get involved, you get personalized Royal Warstriders that are pure Super Robot.
Enlightened Mortals can use Warstriders, it is simply inefficient. Warstriders work more like giant power armours, augmenting the pilots, than vehicles controlled by them. And they are essence hogs as well, especially with a full kit of magitech equipment.
The most common kind of robot in Mekton, although you can do Super Robots too. In particular, anything costing less than 100 CPs. The system tends to break when you go above two or three hundred C Ps, and due to the system using cost multipliers for many "flashy" (and a few core) system, making a typical Super Robot tends to cost several thousand.
Despite their impressive size and weaponry, Combots in Metal Fatigue are this. They are assembled in factories, piloted by interchangeable crews and can be refitted with new parts or even reverse-engineered enemy equipment as you see fit.
Hawken focuses on an Endless War between two Mega Corps for the precious resources of a planet colony that has been infested with some sort of virus that turns everything it touches into cybernetic material. Despite being in the future, nearly all the mecha are not cutting edge - most are either outdated, re-purposed mining or transport vehicles, or made from scrap, and it shows in the designs, which are ugly, bulky, and not too aerodynamic.
Assault Suits Valken/Cybernator employs this trope - the titular assault suits, as well as other Humongous Mecha, are deployed in large quantities, all very similar in design. As evidenced by the intro, any schmuck who was unlucky enough to get drafted can pilot one. In addition, the game's box art shows an assault suit being fueled and worked on, like any real vehicle would.
Terran 'mech' play was expanded in the sequel, with Humongous Mecha Thors and Transforming Mecha Vikings. The upcoming expansion may introduce the BattleTech-esque Warhound if Blizzard manages to iron out its current balance issues.
The VTs of the Steel Battalion games are the most blatant example. Especially when you must figure out how to drive a Humongous Mechawith a Humongous Controller featuring 3 joysticks, 4 pedals, and more than 50 buttons and dials! Have a looksee◊.
It's worth noting that one button is the eject button, which you must use in time or else the game will erase your save file, as if you died.
The Armored Core series is also an example. As of AC4, there are three types of robots: MTs, extremely expendable fodder bots that usually go down in one hit, "Normals", custom-built giant robot built to spec from the ground up for each pilot, with modular equipment and parts that can be swapped out between missions (Also known as old-style Armored Cores), and the "Nexts", Armored Cores with the latest advances in Applied Phlebotinum to create energy shields and perma-thrusting.
In the AC1 series, most Ravens are explicitly normal humans. There are some exceptions, and the player can become a modified human if he or she loses enough money to be 'volunteered' into the Human+ program. In AC3, you even get to watch a few MT pilots graduate through the ranks into Ravens. It seems more as though it's a matter of economics rather than physics, and the average pilot just isn't worth the cash to put into an extreme giant mecha.
The titular HOUNDs of Chrome Hounds. Essentially a combination of Mech Warrior and Armored Core with a speed limit of 20 MPH, anything smaller than an ACV is essentially an non-entity compared to the HOUNDs, but ACVs can cause trouble when they have numbers on their side, and HOUND v HOUND combat is brutal almost beyond belief. One's first ten or so forays into multiplayer combat are guaranteed to end badly for the new guy, as the more experienced pilots rip both the rookie and themselves into tiny chunks of metal. Much like real life air combat, the victor is the one who screwed up the least.
The Front Mission series of games. War machines there include tanks and 'copters as well as robots, most of which are camouflage painted and equipped with bigger versions of infantry or armor weapons. Pilots can swap parts in and out as they wish, but their skill lists generally tend in a certain direction for each pilot in order to create a balanced team. Also, the mecha of this series see heavy use in construction and civil engineering as well.
Though some of the bosses and unlockables certainly border on Super Robot territory. Interestingly, one of the easiest ways to beat the first game is to be Wrong Genre Savvy and spend all your money and experience on buffing your main character to (relatively) God-like power.
Taken to the extreme with the units in Total Annihilation. The infantry of the ARM and CORE armies are simply humanoid vehicles, mass-produced just as easily as tanks, ships and aircraft. The CORE infantry could, however, be considered an aversion, since they don't have pilots, but are controlled by an implanted human consciousness. So the mechs are more like their actual bodies than a vehicle.
The AFW units in Ring Of Red are exemplars of this trope - requiring a crew to load the main weapons, and additional infantry squads to provide support and cover fire. They also can only operate for very short periods before overheating, and visually are basically tanks with legs - many models take very obvious inspiration from WWII-era tanks. Crippling the legs is important; there are no less than four infantry techniques meant specifically to do just that, and an AFW's targeting computer is programmed to shoot the legs when allowed to calculate max accuracy.
Command And Conquer has seen extensive use of Real Robots in the Tiberium trilogy. The third Red Alert is the only Red Alert to feature robots in the way this trope uses it, although they border on ridiculously powerful or ridiculously flexible.
Interestingly, the third C&C game goes back to standard vehicles for most roles, citing that mechs are too expensive to maintain and too easy to destroy, especially by commandoes, who can plant charges on the legs.
Iron Soldier for the Atari Jaguar has the player piloting a stolen Real Robot against the enemy's forces.
Shogo: Mobile Armor Division, a PC FPS, made by the same people who made FEAR years later, was pretty much the closest thing to a Gundam FPS before they actually made a Gundam FPS. In Japan only, on the Wii. Completely deviating from series like Mech Warrior, it featured multiple types of mecha, as well as on-foot sections, critical hits long before Team Fortress 2 ever came up with the idea in an FPS, a story with Multiple Endings (complete with an Unknown Rival played for laughs), and it was an in Animesque style inspired by various mecha anime. Also, provided you have the right weapons, lots of Stuff Blowing Up. Basically, it was pretty damn fun. Unfortunately, it came out roughly the same time as Half-Life, but would become a source of references for future Monolith titles, including FEAR.
The Vital Suits in Lost Planet: Extreme Condition are fairly realistic, at least until the final battle. It would take years to even emulate the new Vital Suits in the sequel.
Virtual On, though the LLN series - Fei-Yen, Angelan, and Guarayakha lean toward the Super Robot characteristics.
The eponymous weapons of Metal Gear. The series even goes as far as specifying different mecha models for the US Marines, Army, and Navy, as well as mentioning copies being built by terrorist organizations and Third World countries. Although the Navy's Metal Gear is later revealed to be more of a giant floating fortress than a mecha.
The Tactical Surface Fighters of the Muv-Luv franchise, due to circumstances in the world they were developed, largely took the place of fighter aircraft in military combined-arms strategy. Most TSFs are even named after real-world fighters, and visually evoke the ones they are named after. The setting itself is among the more serious and realistic ones in the real robot genre, with the mechs limited to approximately modern-day weaponry (2000-shot 36mm chain guns, six-shot 120mm cannons, guided missiles), nations' reliance on combined-arms tactics instead of TSFs alone, and high casualty rates.
The FEAR games, while placing more emphasis on supernatural horror, takes place in a near-future Cyber Punk-esque setting where Mini Mecha are a common fire support weapon in urban environments. These "REV" units range from heavy Powered Armor to several-meter-tall "elite" armored units, armed with lasers, autocannons, missiles, and grenade launchers, depending on the model.
The Warhound in Ghost Recon: Future Soldier.
The Mech Warrior franchise is a series of Humongous Mecha simulators set in the BattleTech universe. The mechs are essentially Walking Tanks, very vulnerable to having their legs shot out from under them, are (relatively) slow, and have extensive modification options, such as swapping out armor for a bigger engine or more guns. Firing your weapons causes the mech to heat up, and Over Heating your mech can cause your ammo to cook-off or the nuclear fusion reactor to explode inside your mech. MechWarrior Living Legends is the first game to feature combined arms multiplayer (tanks, aircraft, Powered Armor), and it highlights the advantages and disadvantages of mechs; A mech is more agile over rough terrain, but they often lack the straight-line speed of tanks in the same weight class. Mechs may have more adaptable armaments, but tanks mount big guns. Lots of big guns. Many tanks can aim higher up than mechs, as they do not need to deal with stability, but they cannot aim as far down due to the body of the tank getting in the way.
Th Gears from Blood Gear from Turbografx CD can be considered, maybe except the Final Boss from the game is most Super Robotand remind a certain Devil Gundam.
LIMBs in My Life At War are bulky mass-produced machines powered by jet fuel that get destroyed frequently and have one arm that is controlled by a gauntlet on the pilot's right arm so they can use their left to manipulate the legs and shoulder cannons with a joystick. Especially the Free Market models, Dhuvalian LIMBs use some futuristic weapons like Active Camouflage and railguns but are still pretty realistic.
Exo Squad had very Real Robot mechas that got damaged or put out of commission as easily as most military vehicles in Real Life are. In fact, the eponymous Squad specifically included a repair specialist whose primary purpose was field maintenance of the others' E-frames. And, of course, she wasn't 100% successful. The Squad's mechs did get a Mid-Season Upgrade but it only propelled them into Super Prototype zone appropriate for an elite regiment that they are, rather than Super Robot space.
The entire Robotech franchise, including Shadow Chronicles.
Franchise/Transformers dips in and out of this depending on the series. While powerful by human standards, the transformersare technically just aliens, and are often considered nothing more than soldiers by those around them and physics bending technology being considered nigh-supernatural. Transformers Prime is probably the best illustration of this approach.
In Empire, the rebel's mechas - simple two-legged machines with two machine guns - are great against infantry (and normal civilians), but police are able to destroy two by ramming a police car into the thin legs, and helicopters can stay well out of their range of fire and destroy them.
The Chinese-made Astro Plan, which has recently come under fire for plagiarism issues.
The upcoming animated movie Future Fighters.
Phantom. (The Korean manhwa)
Little Bee. (The prequel to Bee's character story in School Shock)