The Transformers are some of the most amazing lifeforms in the entire galaxy. Coming from the futuristic Planet Cybertron, the wars involving these mechanical giants transcend anything that we humans could ever attain. From their advanced weaponry to their capability to transform into a vehicle or gun on a moment's notice, there seems to be no intense battle that they aren't prepared for.
That doesn't mean that they are beyond ranking systems though. The Transformers understand that the war requires organization and strategy just like any other. Because of this, the Autobots often have appointed leaders in the form of Primes. These Primes have been around since the creation of the Transformers, and they only seem to grow in wisdom and in number.
What sets the Primes apart is that they bear the Matrix of Leadership, which is essentially their right to rule. This Matrix gets passed down from one Prime to another, and gives each of them the tools necessary to be an effective leader.
Looking back at the history of the Autobots, who were the greatest Primes to lead a team of Transformers? Surely you have some already coming to mind, but I guarantee you won't be familiar with some of the 15 most powerful Primes in Transformers. Keep in mind that, for the purposes of this list, a Prime will be defined as someone who held the Matrix or was officially designated a Prime. No interim or de facto leaders will be present here.
15 Rodimus Prime
In the first Transformers animated movie, many people were shocked by the fact that Optimus Prime was killed in the first act. The rest of the movie progressed without a proper leader for the Autobots until the very end. During the climax, the Autobot Hot Rod was faced with an immense challenge. During it, he could hear the voice of Optimus Prime recognizing him as the new leader of the Autobots. He acquired the Matrix of Leadership and became the powerful Rodimus Prime.
Rodimus Prime always tried to live up to the legacy set by his predecessor. Due to his eccentric and hasty nature, he and some others questioned his ability to lead. Nonetheless, Rodimus rose to the challenge and was ready to face the Decepticons. Right off the bat, Rodimus was capable of firing multiple lasers out of his arms for long range attacks, and made use of a saw blade that he could whip out whenever. Rodimus also had a powerful short circuit function that he could use to "short circuit" other Transformers and turn them into mere dust. Rodimus Prime has since become a fan favorite Transformer and an effective leader of the Autobots. He has appeared in several iterations since then, but not as a Prime.
14 Vector Prime
The Transformers all had to come from somewhere, and they have a history dating back millions of years. When the first Transformers were created, the being Primus constructed Thirteen robots. One of these robots was Vector Prime. Due to his long history as an Autobot, Vector Prime knows just about everything there is to know in the entire universe. He has been alive for so long that some people even refer to him as the first Autobot. He once held the Matrix of Leadership before leaving by himself to fulfill his role as a guardian of time and space itself.
Because of the nature of his job, Vector Prime is one of the most powerful Transformers. Period. Guarding time and space necessitates that Vector Prime be able to travel through it. He can instantly move through different time periods and universes as he deems necessary, and that alone makes him a force to be reckoned with. Because he spends so much time guarding universes and the timeline, Vector Prime rarely shows his face in the present day. However, he has been known to jump from his job in order to help the Autobots in their war against the Decepticons.
13 Sentinel Prime
Because of the nature of the Transformers series, there are many different versions of Sentinel Prime that bear many different properties and abilities. That said, each one of them are still quite strong, and I'll try to address more than one.
Sentinel Prime, in the G1 series, was a powerful and scary Autobot, standing much taller than the rest of them. In this continuity, he was the predecessor to Optimus Prime. He has some of the most advanced and powerful tech that any Transformer can have, and because of this, Sentinel Prime is extremely confident in his own strength. In the IDW continuity, Sentinel Prime was a herald for the teachings of the Thirteen across Cybertron, and became involved on the wrong side of many dastardly plots. Here, Sentinel was still a capable fighter. In Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Sentinel Prime was brought back to fight the Decepticons in Chicago, but ended up betraying the Autobots and killed Ironhide where he stood. It took a lot of power and gumption from Optimus and the rest of his team in order to get rid of Sentinel.
12 Optimus Prime
It goes without saying that any list regarding the Autobots or the Primes is going to include Optimus Prime. This wise leader has been leading the charge against the Decepticons since the characters were created, and we all love him for it. After being an innocent caught in Megatron's gaze, Optimus was transformed into the Prime that he is today. Attempting to always be a source of hope without making any decisions that could corrupt his integrity, Optimus has a lot of weight on his shoulders.
Don't misunderstand me either. Just because Optimus struggles to do the right thing doesn't mean that he isn't ready to bring the pain. As the leader of the Autobots, Optimus has plenty of equipment to take down Decepticons when he needs to. He is often shown wielding a large blade that he uses to slice through the machinery of his foes. Optimus can also make excellent use of a gun and his semi form to crash into any enemy. He is the staple of not only the Autobots, but the Transformers franchise itself.
11 Zeta Prime
"This Security Council has lost the will to do what must be done. That is why I was chosen to be Prime... because I am the monster the people need."
At the time of Zeta Prime's rise to power, the Senate on Cybertron was very corrupt (as most Senates are). One of the Senators, Shockwave, felt that there needed to be a change in the order of things. The Autobots needed a new leader, and he felt that Zeta would be a great candidate. He altered Zeta's body to fit a Matrix and sent him on his way. Eventually, Zeta Prime would rise to the rank of a Prime and begin reforming the Autobot society. However, what people saw as great change at first slowly descended into madness. Zeta Prime was very strict and controlling. When he said something, the others had to accept it as law. Zeta Prime ended up trying to rule over the entire world, brainwashing Autobots and Decepticons alike, and destroying cities when he felt that it was needed. It was then that the Autobots and Decepticons temporarily joined forces to bring him down. If there was going to be a better order, it was clear that a new Prime had to be present.
10 Omega Prime
Ultra Magnus wasn't a particularly strong Autobot, but he was always ready to die for his friends and take massive blows to the face. However, he ended up growing tired of it all. He wanted to have the impressive skills of his comrades. Then he decided that he wanted the power of the Matrix of Leadership. Recognizing that his brother Optimus held the Matrix, he figured the only way to acquire that power would be to form with the Autobot leader.
After tricking Optimus into forming, the two became the powerful Omega Prime. Much to Ultra Magnus's surprise, he had little control over their body and Optimus was in the driver's seat. Reluctantly he worked with his brother to take down massive Decepticon foes. In the future, the two would realize that their formation was so powerful that they would combine on multiple occasions to fight enemies like Galvatron. Omega Prime was able to kill Galvatron once and for all with the use of the Matrix Blade and the combined strength of the two brothers. Yes it's a little like Dragon Ball, but it's cooler to see robots combine.
9 Leo Prime
Autobots who stand for what is right often end up as the best leaders. Many years into the future (in regards to the present day Transformers), there existed a team known as Maximals. They were a spin-off of the Autobots and surpassed the age into a time period known as the Beast Era. This age held a lot of Autobots who were capable of transforming into different animals and using those abilities in combat. It was here that some of the more impressive leaders arose, one of them being Leo Prime.
Leo Prime was originally Lio Convoy, who was simply an honorable Maximal who climbed through the ranks. He believed that someone's true nature would be shown by the way they fight. Because of this, Leo himself would fight fairly and with the utmost respect. Make no mistake, he was a really nice guy, but he could also pack a serious punch. His character and progress were watched by the leader of the Maximals at the time, Optimus Primal. As Optimus watched Leo, he became more amazed at the young Maximal's integrity. Because of this, Leo Prime was chosen as the successor to Optimus and became the wise leader of the Maximals.
8 Nexus Prime
A few times in Transformers are we presented with a group of little robots who can combine into something truly amazing, such as the Devastator or Predaking. What if you take that philosophy and apply it to a Prime? You would get the immense Nexus Prime.
Nexus Prime is another one of the original Thirteen, and he was originally assigned to protect a form of Energon across multiple universes, but he has since then done different things. Nexus bore the powerful Star Saber from the first Autobot, but times got really tough, and the Thirteen decided that they needed to split the sword into five fragments and hide them. They also split up Nexus into five fragments in order to hide the sword in various points of the universe. For many years, Nexus sat dormant until the day came that he needed to return. Eventually it did, and Nexus hadn't lost any of his edge. After reforming the Star Saber (that held the Matrix of Leadership), Nexus became a force to be reckoned with against the Decepticons. His immense size and skill alone make him an immediate threat, but with the use of the Star Saber, he becomes nearly impossible to kill.
7 Nemesis Prime
Not all Primes are good, and some are created out of spite. After seeing the annoying thorn in his side destroy all of his Decepticons, Unicron decided to clone the leader known as Optimus Prime. Through the use of the powerful Dead Matrix and no small amount of torture, the evil planet was able to create the being known as Nemesis Prime. This Prime has all of the abilities of Optimus Prime but without the honor. Nemesis Prime will kill as sees fit, and harm those that he wants to. He operates on no moral compass and never intends on it.
Nemesis Prime quickly became one of Unicron's top servants, and he wanted nothing more than to please his master (whatever distracted him from his painful existence and all that). After being defeated by the Autobots, Nemesis Prime was taken to the Alternity, where he was reformed and used for the forces of good, finding more meaning to his existence by fighting his former master, ditching the name of Nemesis Prime and becoming Black Convoy. In the G1 series, Nemesis Prime was created by a human rather than Unicron.
6 Nova Prime
As we've seen before, some Primes just let the power go to their heads, and that's the unfortunate story behind Nova Prime. Nova Major and Alpha Trion were left as the last two standing during a brutal battle, which they ended up surviving. It was after that when Nova Major expressed interest in becoming a Prime, and Trion passed the mantle to him. Nova Prime's ultimate goal was to build a united structure for Cybertron where everyone remained in their place. It seemed legit at the time, I'll give him that.
As Nova Prime got into the rhythm of being a Prime, others started to notice that some of his ideals were a bit off. He devoutly followed the god known as the Guiding Hand, and he found some documents written by that god itself. One statement stuck in his mind: "all shall be one." Because of this, Nova Prime felt that he had to free every organism in the universe from their individuality and make them a part of his rule. Nova Prime was a massive and powerful Transformer, and he believed that his race was superior to all others, and people should be grateful just to gaze on their magnificence. Wacko.
5 Optimus Primal
If you thought that there could be no greater Autobot than Optimus Prime, think again. Contrary to what your first instinct would be, Optimus Primal and Optimus Prime are not the same person. Optimus Primal serves as the leader of the Maximals many years in the future, and has a lot of different traits than the Autobot he was named after. For instance, while he respects the rules of the Maximals, he tends to find some workarounds on some occasions. He feels that the greater good can allow for some bending of structure, but this has led to some of his best decisions. Optimus Primal is known to often put himself on the line in the heat of battle to save his friends. If he fails or loses a partner, he takes the loss personally. Despite his youthfulness, Optimus Primal managed to launch Cybertron into a new advanced age, which gained him a lot of respect from his subordinates.
In battle, Optimus Primal reworked his body to transform into a gorilla that is stated to be the size of King Kong. He also has a host of deadly missiles that sit in his shoulders.
4 Primal Prime
While the name might be a bit of a tongue twister, don't let it stop you from appreciating the power of Primal Prime. Years in the future, the alien species known as the Vok decided to create an entirely new Autobot to fight against the forces of darkness. They took the Matrix of Leadership and a few other objects to build the being known as Primal Prime. Being programmed with the Matrix, Primal held all of the wisdom of each of the Primes that came before him, and became one of the most powerful Transformers to date.
Primal Prime became a huge source of conflict with the Tarantulas stole the Matrix, but the Vok counteracted this by taking control of Primal Prime themselves. Primal Prime's immense power was able to defeat the Tarantulas and restore the Matrix (in an unpublished comic). Because of Primal's design, he garnered a lot of attention from the public eye, despite having no desire to become a celebrity. However, all of the events surrounding Primal Prime don't change the fact that he is essentially a one-man army. He can take out whomever he wants with however much force he desires.
The original Thirteen were great and all, but they were not created at the same time. Somebody had to come first, and that someone was Prima. He was assigned to lead the Thirteen into battle and protect the planet of Cybertron. Prima and his brothers were given the ability to transform so that one day they would be able to battle and defeat the dastardly Unicron. Due to the nature of his name, Prima is often cited as the first Prime to ever exist.
Prima was no pushover either. He fought for the concept of good itself, feeling that freedom and nobility should be available to all. He wields the Star Saber, which enabled him to combat even the toughest of enemies. When everything went downhill, Prima chose to stay on Cybertron and fulfill his original duty to protect it. However, Prima faced great opposition as the Decepticons rose to power. When the Predacons emerged from an event, it was up to Prima to defeat them. He ended up fighting one on one against the voracious Predaking. Despite the latter's amazing power and instinct, Prima still managed to come out on top and forced the Decepticon to submit.
This is where things start to get a bit confusing. It is clear that Prima was the first created Autobot, but as the Transformers cartoon states, there was somebody that predated Prima. This being was known as Primon, and he is the first Autobot that there is record of, though we're not sure how that can be. Some people theorize that he was an entity that is older than the creation of Cybertron itself, but that brings loads of theological questions that are probably too complicated to discuss here.
It is unclear what Primon's true battle strengths were, but it's clear that he had to be some kind of amazing individual to predate the creation of Cybertron. When Rodimus Prime gained the Matrix of Leadership and was given guidance by multiple Primes, the first one to speak with him was Primon. This character is so legendary and elusive that not even Vector Prime is sure where he came from or what he was really about. All that we know is that Primon bore the Matrix and bore it well enough to pass it down to Prima before passing himself into legend. Try not to think about it too much.
Primus is the ultimate Prime. His existence goes back to the beginning of the universe itself. He and Unicron were entities that decided to have their own separate outlooks on life. Primus was on the side of good and life, and ended up creating the Transformers. He was also powerful enough to become the planet Cybertron, where his creations would live. You could argue that Primus technically isn't a Prime and doesn't deserve to be on this list, but I would argue back that the status of Prime comes from his name. The Matrix of Leadership came from Primus himself, so I think that more than validates him for this list.
Each Transformer that lives has a piece of Primus inside of themselves, and those that are aware of the being worship it. That said, Primus is not without fault. He has shown to be tricked and manipulated by characters such as the Fallen. However, that doesn't stop him from being the most powerful Prime and the foundation to what the Autobots have been fighting for millions of years. He is the embodiment of order and heroism, and if it weren't for him, the Primes would not exist.
Sources: Wikia, Hasbro
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