Jeremy enjoys anime when not working as a chemist or building manager.
It's not a typo: that's how you spell ALfheim, the name of the second virtual world encountered in this series. In ALfheim, players select one of nine base classes, each with unique abilities; we'll list which race each of today's fighters selected (minus those who never participated in ALfheim) and briefly discuss the strengths of that race.
Sword Art Overview
Sword Art Online is an anime set in the 2020s, where entire virtual worlds can be experienced in massively multiplayer online (MMO) video games. Players in these games level up, collect weapons, and hone their skills to increase their power. Throughout the anime, we're introduced to many powerful gamers; which one reigns supreme?
Today, we'll examine the best of the best and declare the ultimate digital fighter! Spoilers ahead, so only continue if you don't mind some plot twists from the first and second anime.
ALfheim Race: Sylph (Specialize in Wind Magic and Speed)
Starting things off, we have the menacing Leafa. It's a silly name, but it's just her avatar. In real life, Kirito's younger sister, Suguha, controls this blond-haired warrior. Suguha is a renowned kendo practitioner, making her formidable both in the real and virtual world. Leafa's blade poses a large threat, but she skillfully uses magic to blast foes or heal allies, making her a well-rounded fighter. She also serves as a fountain of knowledge for Kirito, guiding him through the initially unfamiliar world of ALfheim.
Weakness: In battle? No unique skills. In life? Continuously falling in love with her brother.
ALfheim Race: Salamander (Specialize in Fire Magic and Power)
Good ol' lovable Klein. The guy may act somewhat goofy, but he always cooperates with others to overcome obstacles. Klein wields a sword to great effect, helping defeat several Floor Bosses. Additionally, he can enhance his saber with fire magic, further increasing its attributes. Klein may not be the star of Sword Art, but he's proven himself on multiple occasions. For example, he's trusted to lead his own guild (each member of which survives the game), he earns Mjölnir, Thor's legendary hammer, and he (together with Kirito) once held off an entire guild. Klein's a powerful combatant, but perhaps his greatest talent is his ability to work with others - in addition to commanding his own guild, he's the first to befriend the initially antisocial Kirito.
Weakness: Women. Dude, just be yourself.
ALfheim Race: Cait Sith (Specialize in Beast Taming and Speed)
Asada Shino controls Sinon, the renowned sniper in the gritty virtual world Gun Gale Online. Sinon uses a large sniper rifle to pick off enemies from a great distance and very rarely misses a shot. The rifle also works surprisingly well even at shorter ranges, and Sinon carries a pistol to further enhance her close-quarter abilities. When she transfers to the fantasy world of ALfheim, Sinon uses a bow for sniping purposes. In fact, she even hit a target at 200 meters—when the bow supposedly has a max range of 100. Sinon shares a motto with many real-world snipers: "One shot, one kill."
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Weakness: Ironically, outside the virtual world, Sinon's terribly afraid of guns. Also, she's vulnerable in close combat.
ALfheim Race: Salamander (Specialize in Fire Magic and Power)
Next up, we have Eugene, commander of the Salamander Armed Forces. Eugene doesn't have as much screen time as today's other characters, but that doesn't stop him from dominating ALfheim. For a while, he was considered its strongest player. His physical power and sword technique are both impressive, and he even develops his own 8-hit skill, "Volcanic Blazer". However, his true power lies with his rare equipment. The rare Blood Armor deflects many a blow, and the Demon Sword Garm (the second strongest blade in the game) can phase through weapons when striking, making it nearly impossible to block.
Weakness: Arrogant, and perhaps overly reliant on his equipment. I bet many a woman could describe an ex-boyfriend as such.
ALfheim Race: Undine (Specialize in Healing Magic and Underwater Combat)
Today's fifth spot goes to Mary Sue, er, Asuna. Her swift blade quickly earns the nickname "Lightning Flash" and elevates her to second-in-command of the strongest guild around. She plays a key role in several Floor Boss fights and is one of few players to successfully single-handedly hold off a boss until reinforcements arrived. She also wields "Starry Tear", a 5-hit combo attack. Upon playing ALfheim, Asuna retains her sword skills but also becomes quite adept with magic; she can hold her own from any range. Late in the series, Asuna is granted the amazing 11-hit "Mother's Rosario" technique, cementing her place as one of the best fighters in the show.
Weakness: She's pretty versatile, with no glaring faults. However, she started the show as a new MMO player and was thus unfamiliar with many of the game mechanics.
4. Death Gun
ALfheim Race: N/A
Poor Death Gun just wants some friends. Look at that innocent face. Maybe if other players were nicer to him, he wouldn't snipe them with paralyzing rounds from afar, then shoot the immobilized targets with his Black Star handgun. And if he got invited to a few more parties, he almost certainly wouldn't use his lengthy dagger, Estoc, to hack enemies to shreds. And I'm sure if you politely asked him, Death Gun would gladly share his cloak that offers complete invisibility. Sadly, we only see him in Gun Gale, as he never travels to ALfheim.
Weakness: Questionable mental state. Also, lack of armor means he can dodge most attacks, but can't take many hits.
ALfheim Race: N/A
Heathcliff commands the strongest guild, "Knights of the Blood Oath" (with Asuna as Vice Commander). His strength is unquestionable.. though whether it was fairly obtained or not is up for debate. You see, we ultimately discover him to be the creator of the Sword Art virtual world, and we even watch as he cheats (by boosting his speed beyond system limits) to win a duel. But even without his shady methods, Heathcliff is a tremendously powerful player, known for conquering every monster he encounters. He uses a sword and shield combo to block and counterattack at the ideal moment, and he possesses the individualized skill "Holy Sword". We can't be sure if Heathcliff leveled up fairly, or simply rigged the system to acquire his power; either way, very few can match him in battle.
Weakness: Though his defenses are formidable, they're not quite impenetrable; his shield can be battered aside with enough force.
ALfheim Race: Imp (Specialize in Dark Magic and Wall Running)
Second place goes to Konno Yuuki, a player who many fans argue to be the strongest in the series. Not hard to see why; in ALfheim she won 67 consecutive duels, earned the nickname "Zekken" (meaning Absolute Sword), and created her unique sword technique, the 11-hit "Mother's Rosario". She also has the best reflexes of any player and has been immersed in the virtual world for nearly three years straight. Yuuki is incredibly powerful but never lets it go to her head, and acts respectfully towards opponents. Since Asuna's last name is Yuuki, Yuuki once joked that if they married, her new title would be Yuuki Yuuki.
Weakness: It's possible Yuuki's magic is subpar (since she never really needs to use it). Also, she's by no means dumb but tends to rely on others for strategies.
ALfheim Race: Spriggan (Specialize in Illusion Magic, Night Vision, and Multi-Weapon Wielding)
Main character Kirito draws power from a plethora of abilities. First, he has excellent reflexes (second only to Yuuki) and exceptional willpower. He's also intelligent and analytical, quickly deducing the best ways to fight. Plus, he shines with his unique dual-wielding skill, letting him fight with two blades at once. In addition to offering increased damage and speed from the twin swords, he can use "Starburst Stream", a devastating 16-hit combo. Kirito took down a mighty Floor Boss by himself with this, and it's the strongest technique in the series.
Need more? Kirito later obtains the legendary blade Excalibur and has been shown to slice through both bullets and magic using his speed. He's lost fights (Heathcliff and Yuuki have both beaten him), but those were special circumstances (discussed below). At his best, Kirito's the strongest player in the anime.
Weakness: Without his dual wielding, he's.. well, still really dang strong. But not quite so much.
Why Heathcliff and Yuuki are Weaker Than Kirito
Heathcliff beat Kirito, but only by rigging the system to avoid taking a direct hit.
Yuuki also beat Kirito. However, Kirito did not use his legendary weapon, didn't dual wield, and later admitted he held back in the fight. Debates still continue as to is truly the best swordsman from the series. Which side are you on?
Future of Sword Art
Hopefully, you've enjoyed learning about the fiercest battlers in SAO. Give the series a shot if you're searching for an anime with action, romance, appealing artwork, and weapons that are never, ever ripped off from Star Wars. We may not all agree on the placings of today's characters, but hopefully, we can reach one consensus—seriously Sugu, why pick the name "Leafa"?
Questions & Answers
Question: Disregarding strength, who is your favorite character from the top fighters in Sword Art Online?
Answer: I've always liked Klein, and really wish he'd gotten more screen-time. That fact that his guild never lost a single member during the events of SAO showcases his excellent leadership, and he gets a few cool moments in SAO2.
© 2015 Jeremy Gill
Jeremy Gill (author) from Louisiana on December 11, 2016:
First, Kirito fairly beat Heathcliff in their first fight, or would have, except Heathcliff (using his hidden identity as the creator of the game) hacked the game and froze time.
Second, Death Gun fought Kirito in a different MMO where Kirito was still adjusting and didn't possess dual-wielding or Starburst Stream.
Last, Kirito is heavily implied to be stronger than Yuuki in the show. I won't argue that it's different in other depictions, but this article discusses the anime.
So yes, Gargoyle, special circumstances.
Gargoyle One on November 14, 2016:
Under special circumstances? What? Sorry, but accept it. Kirito would've lost to heathcliff if Asuna didn't step in and save him, and if Kirito didn't get saved by the power of love bullshit.
Death gun would've beaten him without Sinon's help.
Yuuki would've lost in the anime sure, but in the Light novels she beats Kirito fairly after a fan minute fight, the author outright said she would win 8\10 times even with duel wield(also before someone brings it up the line that says Kirito would win with Excalibur is a false rumour.