Godzilla is so iconic that even people who have never seen a single one of his movies knows who he is. His name summons a distinct image — a gargantuan kaijū with dorsal plates that glow when he breathes atomic fire.
And what of his fellow monsters? By now, most people recognize the likes of Mothra and King Ghidorah. Surely, they also know of Godzilla's robotic doppelgänger Mechagodzilla. But for all the popular kaijū Godzilla encounters, there are others who don't ring a bell when their names are uttered. So, let's list off some of the most underrated kaijū in the Godzillaverse.
In Godzilla's Revenge, we not only experienced a universe where Godzilla and his kaijū friends are merely fictional characters, but we also meet a new foe named Gabara. The film isn't highly revered even among Godzilla fans, but it features a glimpse of the typical life of a latchkey kid in Japan during the 1970s.
What makes Gabara — Godzilla's son's own bully — so intriguing is his folkloric inspiration. He resembles both a toad and an oni, a type of Japanese ogre or yōkai. Gabara also has a distinct ability to generate electricity and channel it through his hands. It appears Gabara only existed in the imagination of the main character in Godzilla's Revenge, which makes the metafictional story even more intricate.
Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster was intended to have King Kong in place of the Big G, but clearly that didn't happen. Having Kong fight a giant shrimp would have made more sense. Alas, Sea Monster is a truly underrated entry in the Shōwa era. There's beautiful cinematography and a human-level threat that's actually compelling.
The mammoth crustacean is named Ebirah, whose name prefix literally means "shrimp" in Japanese. This pesky ocean kaijū is obviously outmatched by Godzilla, but the movie has them spar regardless of that fact. And Ebirah puts up a good fight before he's turned into seafood. Any monster who can go hand-to-hand with Godzilla for longer than a few seconds is good in our book.
Aside from his own standalone film, Varan hardly appeared in the actual Godzilla series. He had a bit part in Destroy All Monsters, but he never engaged in battle whatsoever. Then, he was supposed to be in Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack before he and Anguirus were switched out with King Ghidorah and Mothra. The reason why? Varan and Anguirus weren't considered to be popular.
So, as seemingly obscure as Varan is, this kaijū is a neat one. He can glide like a flying squirrel, and he's a deity among his human followers. All in all, Varan definitely could use a revival in the modern series.
In the 1970s, the growing popularity of tokusatsu — special effects oriented action shows — on Japanese television was one major reason as to why Godzilla films weren't attracting audiences like they used to. So, in a bid to lure people in, the series was retooled so it appealed to kids. This included the introduction of kaijū who looked more like Power Rangers villains.
From deep below the Earth was Seatopia, an underground kingdom who wanted to usurp the surface world in Godzilla vs. Megalon. And to do so, they unleashed their beetle-like monster Megalon. Nothing about Megalon makes any sense from a design standpoint. Yet, he's undeniably interesting to look at if nothing else. Had he been in a better film then perhaps fans would like him more, too.
Gorosaurus first appeared in the sequel to King Kong vs. Godzilla known as King Kong Escapes. He played a role similar to that of the Tyrannosaurus Rex in the 1933 King Kong film. And much like the T-Rex, Gorosaurus did not make it out of the battle alive.
Another Gorosaurus was present in Destroy All Monsters, and he proved to be a vital asset in the all-out fight against King Ghidorah. The combined efforts of everyone's brute strength still might not have been enough if not for Gorosaurus' signature, kangaroo-like kicks. Here's to hoping Gorosaurus pops up again in the future.
Starting in the Heisei Godzilla films and onward, Mothra became a divine defender of the universe. The insectoid kaijū was tasked with saving Earth from various threats, which largely included Godzilla. In the 1992 film Godzilla vs. Mothra, we meet Mothra's dark counterpart, Battra. This "evil" parallel was engineered thousands of years ago to rid the planet of any discernible enemy. Unfortunately for humans, their treatment of Earth has put them squarely on Battra's blacklist.
Over time, Battra and Mothra came to an understanding when they needed to put a stop to Godzilla. The former even sacrificed himself so that Mothra could fulfill a greater mission. Battra only appeared in one film and a subsequent television series Godzilla Island. If there is ever another Mothra movie, they should definitely include Battra.
4 King Caesar
Despite Japan having such a unique folklore, very little of it gets absorbed into the Godzilla films. This changed in the 1974 film Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, where the King of Monsters battles a superpowered robot made in his image. In the meantime, a group of people helps in the summoning of an ancient beast who protects the Azumi family in Okinawa. With King Caesar's help, Godzilla was able to defeat his metallic nemesis.
King Caesar is based on the shīsā, a mythological creature in Okinawan history. He's thought to be magical despite not having any abilities other than agility and eyes that can reflect energy attacks. Nevertheless, Caesar was a good ally so he should be brought out of retirement again.
In the 1989 film Godzilla vs. Biollante, the cells of Godzilla were combined with a rose and human cells. Then, a hybrid plant kaijū called Biollante was born. Godzilla instinctively sought his relative out, and he tried to destroy her. Which he thought he did, but she returned in a more horrifying form. Ultimately, Biollante disintegrated and her cells ascended into space.
Biollante was a behemoth who was obviously inspired by H. P. Lovecraft's creations. In Japan, neither she nor her film were very popular at first. In retrospect, she's become a fan-favorite.
Like other science fiction and horror films in the 1970s, Godzilla vs. Hedorah is a stab at addressing concerns about our environment. Though the movie does make its point, it does so with little subtlety. That being said, the film did give us an imaginative villain. Godzilla was up against an alien lifeform that was created from and feeding on Earth's pollution. This was a monster we made.
Hedorah was a staggeringly tall creature who could instantly change into other forms, which included a tadpole-like kaijū and a flying incarnation that resembled a UFO. Being a soulless alien made Hedorah unlike other foes Godzilla has tangled with. He was a horrifying monster who could have easily destroyed mankind had it not been for the heroic Godzilla.
In Frankenstein Conquers the World, the titular character is really a boy who has been mutated into a giant. He comes up against a burrowing, irradiated dinosaur who has been feeding on people and local livestock. Frankenstein is blamed for the creature's crimes before Baragon makes himself visible. While this Baragon was killed, another appeared in Destroy All Monsters in a very limited capacity.
In Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack, Baragon was one of the three guardian kaijū who was destined to protect Earth from threats like Godzilla. Sadly, Baragon was easily picked off. The horned, subterranean monster is affable as he looks like a dog. But considering how he's been treated over the years, Baragon is more like an underdog.