10 best episodes of X-Men: Evolution, ranked (and a bonus episode)

Relive the action, drama, and unforgettable moments in this beloved animated series that redefines our favorite mutants’ journey through high school, battles, and the quest for acceptance.

X-Men Evolution Opening
X-Men Evolution Opening / reconmeee

I remember my sister and I rushing home from school when we were teens just to sprawl on the couch with some tasty snacks and the next episode of the X-Men: Evolution series, a series where we see our favorite X-Men as teens trying to figure out and control their mutant powers while dealing with typical (and not-so-typical) high school shenanigans.

Imagine the drama of prom night but with the added twist of accidentally teleporting to the dance floor or turning your date into an ice sculpture. This series wasn't just about battling the villain of the week; it was a deep dive into what it means to grow up different. It cleverly used the mutant metaphor to explore themes of acceptance, identity, and finding one's place in a world that’s not always welcoming. Plus, it gave us some of the most stylish superhero outfits this side of the Marvel universe and a human-looking Nightcrawler thanks to an awesome bracelet given to him by none other than Professor X.

What set X-Men: Evolution apart wasn’t just its fresh take on familiar faces - it was how it introduced us to a whole new level of character development. Watching characters like Nightcrawler, Shadowcat, and the ever-brooding Wolverine navigate the halls of Bayville High added layers to their personalities we'd never seen before. The show masterfully balanced epic battles with heart-to-heart moments, all while keeping that quintessential X-Men flair for the dramatic. It was like watching your favorite comic book pages come to life, complete with all the mutant mayhem and moral quandaries you could hope for. Whether you were in it for the action-packed adventures, the complex character arcs, or just to see your favorite mutants in a new light, X-Men: Evolution delivered a mutant-powered rollercoaster ride that still has fans talking.

And, if I'm being honest? I've always loved X-Men: Evolution a lot more than X-Men The Animated Series.

I've scoured the depths of the X-Men: Evolution universe to bring you the crème de la crème, the episodes that made us cheer, gasp, and maybe shed a tear or two. From epic showdowns that redefine the meaning of "team goals" to heart-wrenching character arcs that hit you right in the feels, I give you the top 10 episodes, plus a bonus one.

Whether you’re here for the high-flying action, the intricate plot twists, or just to see Wolverine getting all grumpy and adorable, there's truly something for everyone.

10. "Mindbender" (Season 2, Episode 10)

This episode is like a rollercoaster ride through a funhouse mirror, only with mutants. Imagine walking into class, expecting a normal day, and suddenly you're on a wild adventure, but not the fun kind. This is what happens when Mesmero, a villain with mind-controlling powers, decides to crash the party. Jean Grey and the gang find themselves doing things they'd never dream of, all thanks to Mesmero's puppet-master vibe. This episode takes us on a mind-bending journey, showing us the power of manipulation and the strength it takes to fight against it. Plus, it's got that eerie, "something's not quite right" atmosphere that keeps you glued to the screen. It's a thrilling reminder that even superheroes can have their strings pulled, making for an episode that's as entertaining as it is a cautionary tale.

9. "Fun and Games" (Season 2, Episode 4)

The grown-ups are gone, and the young X-Men think, "Party at Xavier's!" That's the delicious setup of "Fun and Games," where the mansion turns into the ultimate teen chaos zone. It's much like when parents leave town and the kids find the cookie jar, but instead of cookies, it's mutant powers running wild. This episode lands at a solid 9 in the top 10 because it's a delightful break from the usual save-the-world Tuesdays. We get to see our heroes in their downtime, throwing a bash that quickly spirals out of control. It's not just about the laughs - it's a peek into their personalities outside of battle. Arcade makes his first appearance, adding to the mayhem with his villainous hi-jinks. Amidst the epic battles and heavy plots, "Fun and Games" serves up a reminder that the X-Men are still teenagers, eager for a slice of normal life... or as normal as you can get with superpowers.

8. "Under Lock and Key" (Season 3, Episode 9)

This episode throws us into the thick of it with Mesmero's sneaky shenanigans as he tries to free Apocalypse. It's like watching a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat, except the rabbit is a world-ending villain and the hat is full of trouble. This episode is epically packed with action and suspense. With Mesmero using Gambit as his unwilling assistant in a high-stakes magical act, the X-Men find themselves playing a game of catch-up to prevent a disaster. It's a rollercoaster ride of emotions as our heroes try to keep the key away from the lock, literally and figuratively. This episode shines with its intense plot twists and showcases the lengths to which our heroes will go to save the day. It's one of the bests for a reason - blending the perfect mix of heroics, teamwork, and that classic X-Men drama we all can't get enough of.

7. "African Storm" (Season 2, Episode 7)

This episode sweeps us away to Africa, where Storm reconnects with her roots, only to find herself in a tempest of trouble. An evil witch doctor, jealous of our weather-wielding heroine's powers, concocts a plan to steal them and dominate Africa. Talk about a bad forecast! What makes this episode a fan favorite isn't just the thunderous action but the deep dive into Storm's past, shining a light on her strong connection to her African heritage. It's a blend of action, emotion, and a touch of the mystic, wrapped in a vibrant cultural tapestry. "African Storm" is a stormy spectacle of self-discovery and badassery, proving once again that Storm is much more than just another weather forecast.

6. "Cruise Control" (Season 3, Episode 13)

Imagine the X-Men swapping their superhero capes for beach towels in an episode that splashes into the fun side of being mutants on vacation. This isn't your typical day at the beach, though. When the X-Men decide to chill and catch some waves, they end up surfing on a tidal wave of trouble. From dodging awkward vacationer vibes to a volcanic eruption that’s more heated than a debate at the Xavier Institute, this episode packs a vacation punch. It's like watching your favorite mutants trying to be normal tourists, but, you know, with the ability to control the weather and shoot lasers from their eyes. "Cruise Control" shines because it gives us a break from the usual world-saving drama to show us a lighter, more relatable side of our heroes. It’s a beach episode with a twist, blending action, humor, and a bit of sunburnt chaos, proving even X-Men can't have a normal vacation.

5. "The Cauldron (2)" (Season 1, Episode 13)

Magneto, the master of magnetism, finally unveils his grand plan. It's like the ultimate chess move in a game where the pieces are real people with superpowers. Our beloved X-Men are tested to their limits, not just in terms of powers (which, let's face it, are pretty cool) but also their friendships and loyalties. This episode is like the mutant version of a high-stakes reality show finale, where bonds are put to the test, and the drama hits peak levels. It's a recipe for entertainment gold, blending action, emotion, and those juicy "will they or won't they survive" moments that keep us glued to our screens.

4. "Dark Horizon (2)" (Season 3, Episode 12)

Dive into the heart-pounding sequel of the Mesmero saga where our favorite mutants take on the looming threat of Apocalypse. This episode is like the ultimate superhero showdown but with a twist - it's not just fists and powers; it's a battle of wits and willpower. Mesmero's mind games have everyone on edge, turning friend against friend, and it's up to the X-Men to untangle this mental maze before Apocalypse wakes up to wreak havoc. Imagine the tension of a thriller mixed with the action of a blockbuster, plus a sprinkle of X-Men magic. It's a recipe for an unforgettable episode that not only keeps you on the edge of your seat but also deep dives into the complexities of our heroes. This episode is a testament to the strength and unity of the X-Men, proving that together, they can overcome even the darkest horizons. A true masterpiece in the series, blending high stakes with emotional depth, making it a fan favorite and securing its spot in the top 4.

3. "Day of Reckoning (2)" (Season 2, Episode 17)

"Day of Reckoning (2)" turbo-charges its way into the third spot on our top 10 episodes list with more drama than a mutant high school prom. Imagine the biggest, most epic food fight, but instead of mashed potatoes and mystery meat, it's mutant powers flying everywhere. This episode is like the season finale of your favorite reality show, where everything hits the fan. The X-Men and Brotherhood throw down in a spectacular showdown, making it a feast for the eyes. Plus, we get to see our favorite characters in new lights, facing challenges that push them to their limits. Why does it rank so high? Because it's got it all: action, emotion, and those moments that make you want to call your friends and talk about it all night.

2. "Self Possessed" (Season 3, Episode 8)**

"Self Possessed" swoops in as the second-best episode, and it's all about Rogue getting tangled in a whirlwind of her own powers. Rogue's life is already a rollercoaster because touching people means absorbing their memories and powers and knocking them out cold. But now, imagine her powers going haywire, and she's reliving all those absorbed personalities and powers at once. It's like a chaotic party in her head where everyone's invited but nobody wants to be there. This episode shines because it dives deep into Rogue's struggle, making it a wild ride from start to finish. We see her battling not just with enemies but with herself, wrestling with questions of identity and belonging. "Self Possessed" isn't just action-packed - it's an emotional whirlwind that gives us a front-row seat to Rogue's inner turmoil, making us cheer, cry, and gasp as she tries to find her place in the world and within herself. It's a masterpiece of storytelling that showcases the heart and soul of a hero on the edge.

1. "Ascension (2)" (Season 4, Episode 9)

Imagine the X-Men universe as a colossal cake, and "Ascension (2)" is the cherry on top, doused in explosive sparklers. This isn't just any old finale - it's the epic showdown where our mutant heroes face off against the big bad Apocalypse, a villain so powerful he makes previous baddies look like playground bullies. Every single X-Men rallies together in a spectacle of powers, teamwork, and jaw-dropping action that makes your couch feel like a front-row seat to the best superhero mashup. The stakes? Nothing less than the fate of the world (because, of course). It's a rollercoaster of emotions, with twists that tug at your heartstrings and victories that'll have you pumping your fists in the air. The episode packs so much punch, it's like watching a blockbuster movie crammed into 20-ish minutes of animated glory. In the grand tapestry of X-Men: Evolution, "Ascension (2)" is the masterstroke that delivers a finale worth its weight in adamantium.

Bonus episode: "Walk on the Wild Side" (Season 2, episode 13)

"Walk on the Wild Side" is the episode where the ladies decide they're done playing by the boys' rules. Tired of being sidelined, they form their own all-female team, the Bayville Sirens, and take to the streets to show what girl power really means. It's a rollercoaster of high-octane action and sisterhood that turns the tables on the usual mutant mayhem. But what truly sets this episode apart is the catchy little anthem that accompanies their night out on the town, a little tune so awesome that my sister and I recorded it on our good ol' flip phones and used it as our ringtone for a long while. And yes, we still know the lyrics. This tune isn't just a background beat - it's a rallying cry, a sassy, empowering soundtrack that captures the essence of the episode: bold, defiant, and utterly unforgettable. You'll find yourself humming it long after the credits roll, a fun and fierce reminder of the time the X-Women took the spotlight and absolutely rocked it.

From the heart-stopping finales to the jaw-dropping reveals, X-Men: Evolution had it all - lessons in friendship, courage, and rocking a uniform while saving the world. It’s been a nostalgic trip down mutant memory lane, reminding us why we fell in love with these characters in the first place. Whether you're a long-time fan or a newcomer to the mutant saga, Evolution offers a ton of adventures that resonate with anyone who’s ever felt a little different.

Here's to more rewatching, more debates over the best episodes, and forever keeping the X-Men spirit alive - especially by tuning into Disney Plus every Wednesday morning for a new episode of X-Men '97.

Next. The 8 best episodes in the original X-Men Animated Series, ranked. The 8 best episodes in the original X-Men Animated Series, ranked. dark