Fans familiar with Gundam outside of Japan are likely only to be aware of the most recent series, such as Gundam Wing, and Gundam SEED. Fans of these series might not know that there is more to it. There are over 23 years worth of Gundam stories, with approximately over six timelines. That is a lot of Gundam to go around. If you're a fan of the aforementioned series, then let's took a brief overview of the Gundam timelines in order of their popularity.
Universal Century, or simply UC, is the first in the series of Gundam timelines in the franchise. The story of Mobile Suit Gundam, first airing in 1979, begins in the year of UC 0079 starting with the "One Year War". Two factions, the Earth Federation Force and the Principality of Zeon, don't agree with each other on the living conditions between Earth and the space colonies. The Zeon no longer want the Earth Federation in the business of the colonies, which begins years of conflict between those who remain on Earth, and those who favor the colonies.
The Universal Century is the longest and iconic Gundam timeline, with two direct sequels to Mobile Suit Gundam: Zeta Gundam and ZZ Gundam. The story of the Universal Century continues with the OVAs: 0008: War in the Pocket, 0083: Stardust Memory, The 08th MS Team, and Gundam Unicorn, including movies Gundam F91 and Char's Counterattack, which concludes the story from the One Year War featuring Amuro Ray and Char Aznable.. It is a timeline highly recommended to those with an extended interest in the series as a whole.
Future Century is one of the first timelines to move away from the UC era, beginning with Mobile Fighter G Gundam in 1994. Taking place in FC 60, the way of life involves real-world nations sending their experienced "Gundam Fighter" towards the Gundam Tournaments, held every four years. The winner of the tournament receives full support for their nation until the next tournament. There are even rules in place similar to boxing, as if the Gundam Fights were a major sporting event.
Like in the Universal Century series, and nearly every Gundam series following the original, G Gundam includes the familiar fixture of elements such as space colonies, in addition to the unforgettable mecha designs. In G Gundam, space colonies factions are named after their original countries on Earth. For example: Japan is now Neo Japan, North America is Neo America, and so on.
After Colony, or AC, is the timeline known well to fans of Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, airing in 1995. Wing returns to the story of war, which could be similar to the original Gundam, noting the modernization of the series with independent pilots serving their own purpose whilst helping in the war. Like the original Gundam series, Wing has had slightly more spin-offs, beginning with the Endless Waltz OVA a year later.
Further story expansions include the most recent Frozen Teardrop novelization launched in 2011. In-depth backgrounds of the pilots can be found in Episode Zero and Blind Target. Another series in the After Colony timeline is The Last Outpost, which takes place during the events of Wing, but do not feature the main characters besides cameo appearances of minor characters.
Cosmic Era is another recent Gundam timeline, covering the events of Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, and the sequel SEED Destiny, released in 2002 and 2004, respectfully. Elements in SEED nearly follows the style of the first Gundam, with enemy mobile suits resembling Zaku of the Principality of Zeon.
Gundam SEED, including SEED Destiny, have 50 episodes each, totaling 100 episodes. Most Gundam series, with the exception of the original's 42 episodes, run on an average of 49 episodes. While the first SEED series received mixed reviews due to generational differences, SEED Destiny is a series that even SEED fans agree that should not have been created, with many episodes toward the show's conclusion of questionable quality.
The most recent Gundam series of the late 2000s to air outside of Japan is Mobile Suit Gundam 00, taking place in the modern era of Anno Domini, or "AD", in 2307. Gundam 00's story begins with space colonies already in the late stages of development, after the discovery of limited fossil fuels on Earth. Factions in Gundam 00 are continent-based organizations on Earth: Human Reform League (Russia, India, China, and the ASEAN: Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Union (the Americas, Australia, and Japan), and the Anti-Earth Union (Europe).
The initial reception of Gundam 00 is how much has changed in terms of world politics, compared to Gundam Wing, which might have also had similarities during its era in the mid 90s. Taking iconic series such as Wing, as well as G Gundam, featuring five pilots, Gundam 00's main pilots consist of four pilots, who are members of the anti-war organization, Celestial Being, who are sought against by the three factions.
Gundam 00, first airing in 2007, has two seasons, both at 25 episodes each compared to SEED and SEED Destiny's 50 episodes. A full-length movie, Awakening of the Trailblazer, was released in 2010, concluding the story of Gundam 00. There are two manga side-stories, Gundam 00-F, and its sequel, Gundam 00-I, both printed in Gundam Ace magazine.