10 Must-See Anime Like Sword Art Online
Sword Art Online—An Action-Fantasy Anime
Anime lovers who are also fond of MMORPGs were excited to find out that Sword Art Online, the Japanese light novel series, has been adapted into an anime. Although there are a lot of criticisms about the overall quality of Sword Art Online, there is no doubt that it is well-liked by many anime fans.
The Virtual Reality Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (VRMMORPG), Sword Art Online (SAO), is released in the year 2022. It allows players to control their in-game characters with their minds, using a virtual reality helmet called Nerve Gear. The players' excitement turns into horror as they soon discover that they cannot log out of the game. They are informed by Kayaba Akihiko, the creator of SAO, that the only way to return to the real world is to reach the 100th floor and defeat the final boss.
The catch? If their in-game characters die, they also die in real life.
If you loved Sword Art Online, you should also check out some of the anime below!
10 Anime like Sword Art Online
1. Accel World
Haruyuki Arita is a student who is often bullied at school, which causes him to have low self-esteem. He turns to playing squash to free his mind from his miserable life but everything changes when Haruyuki meets Kuroyukihime, the most popular girl in school. She introduces Haruyuki to a secret program called Brain Burst.
Haruyuki soon finds out that Brain Burst is not only a program that speeds up the cognitive process, but it is actually a Virtual Reality Massively Multiplayer Online (VRMMO) Fighting Game, where people fight each other to gain Burst Points, which can be used for acceleration abilities in the real world.
Haruyuki and Kuroyukihime join forces to reach Level 10 within Brain Burst, meet the creator, and find out the real purpose of the secret program.
2. Log Horizon
This is an anime that often gets compared with SAO. In fact, you will see tons of discussions comparing Sword Art Online and Log Horizon all over the Internet. The main similarity is that both take place inside a MMORPG. It is important to note, however, that even though both series feature the same setting and characters fighting in-game to return to their normal lives, the stories are entirely different.
The MMORPG, Elder Tale, has been a phenomenal success following its eleventh expansion pack. The game has grown its user base to millions of players. The next expansion pack, however, surprises thirty thousand players as they suddenly find themselves wearing their in-game avatars. They soon realize that they are inside the game they love. Shiroe, a gamer who is socially challenged in real life, teams up with other players to take on the challenges in their way.
3. No Game No Life
Ryota Sakamoto, 22 years old, is unemployed and lives with his mother. There is only one thing that he excels at, which is playing a combat game called Btooom!.
One day, he wakes up in a tropical island and has no idea how or why he got there. He sees someone and asks for help, but the stranger responds by throwing a bomb at him. He realizes that he is trapped in what seems to be a real world version of Btooom!. Ryota meets Himiko, another Btooom! player, who is his in-game wife.
Can Ryota make good use of his gaming skills now that his actual life depends on it?
No Game No Life is a relatively new anime series that was released on April 9, 2014. Online anime communities are littered with discussions comparing SAO and No Game No Life—again because both anime have the same setting. This anime, however, doesn’t have as much action since it is more of an adventure-themed, supernatural anime. It has many comedy scenes and fun games which make it very enjoyable to watch.
No Game No Life follows the story of siblings Sora and Shiro who are known for being great gamers but are reclusive and unsocial in real life. They are a member of “Blank,” a mysterious group of gamers who do not lose in any of their games. One day, they are summoned into a world where everything is decided through games and in which humanity is driven to one remaining city. It is now up to Sora and Shiro to defeat the leader and save the human race.
Many say that SAO is based on the .hack series. This alone should be enough to pique your interest, especially if you love the virtual reality MMO genre. .hack//SIGN also does not have a lot of action sequences. The story revolves around gradually revealing the secrets of a game until the main protagonist finally discovers the reason he can't log out.
Tsukasa wakes up inside a game called The World. He is unable to recall anything that happened prior to his awakening. Suspected as a hacker, he realizes that he cannot log out of the game. Tsukasa wanders around and finds an item in the form of a “guardian,” which protects him from all harm. Other players learn about his situation including the leader of the Crimson Knights, Subaru. They try to find an answer to Tsuakasa’s problem before it's too late.
6. Mirai Nikki (Future Diary)
This psychological thriller may not seem anything like SAO, but it actually does share some striking similarities, including a main character who isn’t very good with people and suddenly finds himself in a dire situation. He makes friends in the game, only to lose them later on because of the game itself.
The story follows Yuki Amano, a socially awkward boy who prefers to write in his diary or talk with his imaginary friend, Deus Ex Machina. One fateful day, he learns that Deus Ex Machina is more than just a figment of his imagination. Deus gives him a diary containing events that will happen in the next 90 days. Asked to participate in a battle against twelve other people, each equipped with a future diary, Yuki needs to find a way to kill all his opponents and prevent the Apocalypse on the ninetieth day.
7. Tower of Druaga: The Aegis of Uruk
This anime is similar to Sword Art Online in the sense that both take place in a tower-like setting, in which the characters need to get to a certain floor before being able to move on to the next. The ultimate goal, of course, is to reach the last floor and defeat the final boss. Tower of Druaga also features many RPG elements such as hunting for rare items, forming parties, and leveling up.
The anime begins during the Third Summer of Anu, a period when the powers of the monsters in the Tower wanes. People take advantage of this and set up camp inside—securing their stronghold within the Tower with the ultimate goal of reaching the top. The armies of Uruk Kingdom lead the pack, but adventurers known as “climbers” hop on their quest as well, attracted by the rumored Blue Crystal Rod found on the very last floor. Jill is one of the new climbers, seeking to reach the top of the Tower and defeat the Evil Lord Druaga.
The Tower of Druaga Opening
8. Guilty Crown
On December 24, 2029 a biological hazard known as the Apocalypse Virus descends over Japan. This is later referred to as the Lost Christmas of 2029. Because of the gravity of the outbreak, Japan seeks international help and the United Nations responds by sending the GHQ to help them. After containing the outbreak, Japan is put under the powers of the GHQ.
The story follows Shu Ouma, a high school student who inadvertently obtains a rare and great power, The Right Hand of the Kings. This ability allows him to extract voids from other people, weapons that are the manifestations of peoples' hearts. He meets a girl named Yuzuriha Inori, a member of the rebel group called Undertakers, which seeks to restore the independence of Japan.
With the ability he has mistakenly gained, he is now thrown in the middle of the conflict and must liberate his nation once again.
Guilty Crown Opening
9. Kaze no Stigma
Yagami Kazuma belongs to the Kannagi family, well known as masters of the Fire technique. However, Kazuma is cast out of his family after being defeated by a distant relative, Ayano, in a match in which the winner would wield Enraiha, Blaze Lightning Supremacy.
Kazuma returns four years later as a master of Fujutsu, or the Wind technique. He is reunited with Ayano and his younger brother Ren. Soon, however, Kannagi family members are murdered, and the weapon is eventually discovered to be Fujutsu.
Kazuma, with Ayano beside him, now has to prove that he is not responsible for the murders.
Kaze no Stigma: Episode 1 (English Dub)
10. Hunter x Hunter
Hunter x Hunter follows a young boy named Gon, who discovers that his father, Ging, whom he thought was dead, is actually alive. In fact, Ging is a legendary hunter, someone who has proven to be an elite member of society. Gon embarks on a long journey to find his father, soon realizing that he wants to become a hunter as well.
After turning 12, he takes on the Hunter exam, even after learning that many applicants end up dying. He meets several friends, including the silent but deadly Kurapika, the funny but very skilled Leorio, and the ex-assassin Killua. Their friendship is put to test as many trials and threats come their way.
Which anime like Sword Art Online will you watch next?
© 2013 Caleb Melvern