Harem anime typically involve a large cast of girls which fall in love with the main character, often a socially inept or shy male. That's the formula, and for the large part, anime has been reluctant to deviate from it in any significant way.
You'd think that by now, they'd have figured out a way to actually make a 'good' harem. Despite their popularity, only 2 harem anime sit above a 8.00 score on MAL (not counting sequels). But hey, that's not to say there aren't any gems to be found here. If you're after a good harem anime, this is great place to start.
Based on the Harem Anime Ranking Page on MAL as of the date of publication. Continuations or related anime are listed as honorable mentions.
Members: 221,490 | MAL Rated 6.17 | Aired Summer 2007 | Produced by TNK
Odds are that you know how this ends already, doubly so if you've played the visual novel. Although the story's infamous for going to some seriously dark and bizarre places, it starts off innocuously enough: high school student Makoto Itou, the most selfish and detestable protagonist in anime history, gets romantically involved with two of his classmates.
This isn't a good anime, let's be clear about that. It's a horrible story only barely salvaged by the 'developments' that happen near the end of the story, which are shocking enough to make you think you just might've watched something of substance. Nevertheless, it does appear to have a special part in anime history, and may just be something you want to check out.
Best Harem Anime List
Members: 144,048 | MAL Rated 7.40 | Aired Summer 2008 | Produced by Seven Arcs
19-year-old Minato Sahashi can't get into college because he doesn't do well under pressure. Due to a rare genetic accident, what he can do is unlock the full potential of the Sekirei—superpowered alien beings—with a kiss. But he's far from the only one who can. The Sekirei and their masters battle to see who is the best. This isn't the first "kiss contract" show, nor is it the only one on this list of the top harem anime.
Members: 147,438 | MAL Rated 6.62 | Aired Fall 2008 | Produced by Madhouse
A psychological harem anime based on a visual novel with an over-stylized title. Takumi Nishijou is a schizophrenic hikikomori, or recluse. He's forced into the real world by a series of strange events and visions surrounding a recent string of murders. Takumi finds himself surrounded by several girls with some connection to the incidents, but can he tell what is real and what isn't?
Members: 150,585 | MAL Rated 7.46 | Aired Spring 2013 | Produced by J.C.Staff
Youto Yokodera is a perverted high school student who can't express his true feelings. He wishes on a magical cat statue to be able to speak up, but ends up swapping personality traits with several girls at his school. Sorting out the magical mess brings them all closer together... a little too close at times. A school comedy featuring a male main character and a lot of cute female characters, this is another "sort-of-harem" anime. With so many to choose from, you're sure to find your "best girl" out of these cuties!
Members: 157,030 | MAL Rated 7.21 | Aired Spring 2010 | Produced by Artland
Akuto Sai wants to graduate from Constant Magick Academy and enter the clergy, but he is shunned after an aptitude test declares him the future Demon King. As he tries to buck his evil reputation, Akuto meets several girls, some of whom want to destroy him, while others want to exploit his demonic potential. However, as the series progresses, it becomes evident that whatever their motives, they are all also "crazy" in love with him! This top harem anime is full of excitement!
16. Strike the Blood
Members: 161,547 | MAL Rated 7.44 | Aired Fall 2013 | Produced by Connect, Silver Link
After being possessed by the spirit of a powerful vampire, Kojou Akatsuki is placed under observation by Yukina Himeragi, a warrior girl under orders to kill him if he becomes dangerous. That doesn't stop her (and his friends, and his classmates, and his enemies) from getting a crush on him though! This anime is the best combination of action and romance.
15. Kiss x Sis (TV)
Members: 162,963 | MAL Rated 7.09 | Aired Spring 2010 | Produced by Feel
Keita Suminoe has been close to his older twin stepsisters Ako and Riko since they were children. Now, they're in high school and those feelings have turned romantic... for the twins, at least. As his classmates and even his teachers fall for Keita, will he decide that incest is the lesser of many evils? The intense themes make this passionate series quite shocking at times, but they also add a unique form of entertainment that is not available in your "average" harem anime.
14. Mayo Chiki!
Members: 142,166 | MAL Rated: 7.53 | Aired Summer 2011 | Produced by Feel
Lots of anime guys in harem anime get nosebleeds from getting approached by too many sexy girls at one time. Sakamachi Kinjiro's nose will explode with a simple caress from a hot anime girl! His full name contains the word "chicken", which is quite the fitting label for this timid young boy. But everyone must face their fears at one point. What better way to get over his phobia than by acquiring a harem filled with beautiful girls?
Members: 175,414 | MAL Rated 7.68 | Aired Fall 2009 | Produced by AIC A.S.T.A.
What's better than a harem of beautiful women? A harem of beautiful angels! A perverted teenage boy teaches a fallen angel how to love. Well, technically, Ikaros is an "Angeloid", but that's good enough for Tomoki Sakurai. Tomoki must help Ikaros, as well as the other Angeloids that follow her to Earth, to adapt to human culture. But what is more human than sexual attraction? And thus this harem anime was born!
12. To LOVE-Ru
Members: 178,550 | MAL Rated 7.34 | Aired Spring 2008 | Produced by Xebec
Rito Yuuki is afraid of girls, and can't confess to the one he loves. But one night he accidentally gropes an alien princess that teleports into his bath, and on her planet, that's a marriage proposal! As Rito fends off the boundless affection of Princess Lala, he must fight off the suitors and bounty hunters pursuing her, while juggling an ever-growing harem that includes his crush, his teachers, and even his sister!
Members: 197,818 | MAL Rated 7.12 | Aired Winter 2011 | Produced by 8bit
A futuristic arms race leaves the world in a state of uneasy peace, due to powerful mechs—the Infinite Stratos—that can only be operated by women. Enter Ichika Orimura, a 15-year-old boy who is somehow the only male able to pilot one. His rare status makes him an object of curiosity and lust at the all-girl pilot school. This aviatic harem anime will have your imagination soaring within the first episode!
10. Date A Live
Members: 210,493 | MAL Rated 7.54 | Aired Spring 2013 | Produced by AIC Plus+
What are the limits of your compassion? Would you love someone even if they caused planet-wrecking natural disasters? It's not like Shidou Itsuka really has a choice. In a world constantly under attack by alien Spirits, Shidou has the ability to steal their power away and defuse their threat to humanity... by kissing them, of course. However, it must be a real kiss (not some lame old couple peck). In Date A Live, building a harem is a survival tactic, and tamed Spirits will join in battle against the new invaders. It's like a hybrid of Pokemon and Pacific Rim, but with teenage girls... and it's a harem anime? Sounds like a top combination to me.
Members: 226,848 | MAL Rated 7.67 | Aired Winter 2011 | Produced by Studio Deen
The unlucky Ayumu Aikawa is murdered, only to be revived and enslaved by the beautiful necromancer Eucliwood Hellscythe. Then a freak accident gives him her powers, turning him into a zombie/magical girl. Yes, with panty shots. Ayumu battles the anti-magical girl forces of the Megalo as he fends off affection from classmates and vampire ninjas alike! But unfortunately for poor Ayumu, there's no running from a harem anime.
Members: 237,000 | MAL Rated 7.14 | Aired Winter 2008 | Produced by Gonzo
Tsukune Aono can't get into any high schools because of his awful grades, but Youkai Academy accepts him... whereupon he finds out that it's a school for monsters! He quickly finds a girlfriend in classmate Moka Akashiya, who wears a rosary that seals a powerful vampiric personality within her. As monster girls fall in love with Tsukune, he must juggle their affections and keep his own human status secret. This top supernatural harem anime is out of this world!
Honorable Mention: Rosario to Vampire Capu2
Members: 267,880 | MAL Rated 7.61 | Aired Summer 2006 | Produced by J.C. Staff
Louise Françoise Le Blanc de La Vallière comes from a noble family of witches, but she herself is terrible at magic. When the time comes for the witches of Tristain Academy to summon their familiars, Louise summons Saito Hiraga, an ordinary Japanese boy. Saito must adapt to this magical new world, his role as a servant, and the advances of Louise's classmates. If Little Witch Academia didn't have enough nudity for you, this top harem anime might!
Honorable Mention: Zero no Tsukaima: Futatsuki no Kishi, Zero no Tsukaima: Princesses no Rondo
Members: 245,505 | MAL Rated 7.57 | Aired Fall 2011 | Produced by AIC Build
Also known as Haganai, this popular harem anime draws inspiration from the creator's own teenage awkwardness. Kodoka Hasegawa is having trouble making friends at his new school because his grumpy expression and blond hair make everyone think that he's a delinquent. He soon meets a girl who speaks to an imaginary friend, and together they form a club for outcasts! Predictably, the members are all girls and all fall in love with him.
Honorable Mention: Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai Next
Members: 236,551 | MAL Rated 7.90 | Aired Winter 2014 | Produced by Shaft
Raku "Womanizer Senpai" Ichijou is the heir to a powerful Yakuza family. When a rival American gang threatens his territory, he's promised to the daughter of their chief as a peace offering. The kids hate each other, of course, and things get more complicated when Raku's childhood friend—whom he vowed to marry during childhood—returns to make good on their promise! Many characters from Nisekoi are MAL user's "Best Girls"!
Members: 226,314 | MAL Rated 7.95 | Aired Fall 2010 | Produced by Manglobe
Ever wished your time playing visual novels could amount to something more? You might like The World God Only Knows! Keima Katsuragi is a "kiss-hating" otaku who rejects 3D women and their complicated emotions. Funnily enough, he's the best when you need help on clearing dating sim games. An accidental deal with a demon ropes him into the real dating scene, however! Spirits from Hell have escaped and latched onto humans, and like Date A Live, they can only be defeated with a kiss. Oh, and Keima's got a Battle Royale collar that will kill him if he fails. No save scumming in this harem anime...
Honorable Mention: Kami nomi zo Shiru Sekai II
Members: 72,323 | MAL Rated: 8.09 | Aired: May 22, 2009 | Produced by AIC & BeSTACK
What might explain this series' relatively high MAL score compared to other harems is the unusually well thought out story. The girls in Isekai no Seikishi Monogatari are given more of a substantial reason to fall in love with Kenshi, the MC, and fall in love they all do. Even one of the character's mom ends up smitten.
It's a 45 minute per episode, 12 part OVA spin-off of the Tenchi Muyou series which features Kenshi, a young boy that's transported from Earth and must pilot mecha's in order to find his way back.
Members: 282,261 | MAL Rated 7.70 | Aired Winter 2012 | Produced by TNK
This has to be the best harem anime (with a male protagonist) ever! Breaking with tradition for an ecchi anime, the perverted male protagonist is killed in the very first episode. I know, karma. But that's only the beginning of Issei Hyoudou's story. He's resurrected by senior student Rias Gremory, who reveals that their school is full of supernatural creatures—and she herself is a devil! Naturally, Issei's primary goal is to rise through the diabolic hierarchy to assemble his own harem... assuming he recognizes when his classmates are in love with him.
Honorable Mention: High School DxD New
Members: 335,950 | MAL Rated 8.39 | Aired Spring 2006 | Produced by Bones
Haruhi Fujioka is a rare scholarship student at the prestigious Ouran High School. After breaking an obscenely expensive vase, she is forced to join the Host Club to work off her debt. As it happens, Haruhi easily passes for a boy, and quickly becomes popular with the Host Club's female clients as well as her male colleagues! Perhaps it's appropriate that the top harem anime has a protagonist that appeals to everyone.