10 Must-See Anime Like Sword Art Online

Updated on April 18, 2016
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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.

Plot summary

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

Plot Teaser

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.

Plot Teaser

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

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.

Plot Teaser

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.

4. Btooom!

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Plot Teaser

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?

5. .hack//SIGN

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.

Plot Teaser

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.

.hack//SIGN Opening

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.

Plot Teaser

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.

Plot Teaser

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.

Plot Teaser

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

Plot Teaser

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

Plot Teaser

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?

See results

© 2013 Caleb Melvern

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    • profile image

      Label Less 3 days ago

      Right on Zeron87, we welcome opinions here, But not projections of insecurity

    • Zeron87 profile image

      Zeron87 13 days ago

      NerdSweeper: It's your opinion that these anime are bad. What appeals to one person's taste might not appeal to yours. I'll admit SAO was kind of a letdown and The Future Diary had the ingredients of a brainy show yet sadly wasn't, but I enjoyed both anime. They had their flaws, but it didn't stop me from enjoying what they did bring to the table. Not every anime can be a Nichijou, Fullmetal Alchemist, or a Nana.

    • Zeron87 profile image

      Zeron87 2 weeks ago

      Very solid list, man! Another addition to this list, and one of my personal favorites: Overlord, about a guy stuck in an RPG while he leads a guild of monsters. Can't wait for season 2 ^_^!

    • profile image

      ANBU 3 weeks ago

      OVERLORD is much similar to sword art online

    • profile image

      NerdSweeper 5 weeks ago

      Sword Art Online sucks ass, the characters are dull, Kirito is just a Gary Stu "character" who happens to be god, gets to fuck all the girls, and is incredibly stupid. The fact that many of you call this a well-written plot anime is the sole reason why we don't have good animes these days.

      Also, Mirai Nikki sucks ass too. No amount of edgy fangirls will prove me wrong because both of these animes are bad.

    • profile image

      Erza Scarlet 6 weeks ago

      Where is pokemon? XD jkjk

    • profile image

      Gray fullbuster 2 months ago

      That natsu dragneel person is correct fairy tail is a very good anime it is a must see for anime fans

    • profile image

      Qt 4 months ago

      You should've included Phi Brain: Kami no Puzzle

    • profile image

      An otaku 6 months ago

      WHERES OVERLORD!?

    • profile image

      Natsu Dragneel 6 months ago

      "Fairy Tail" is really good too, you're probably thinking its a boring anime because of the title but you're wrong, 100% wrong! Fairy Tail has a lot of episode but believe me, when you're done with all the episode you'll wish there are more! The first few episodes might be boring but when you get on it will get more and more amazing. I really, really, really recommend this anime and it's not just me, a lot of people love this, FYI. Plus, Fairy Tail will teach you something you might have been lacking...As you can see, my name I put up is Natsu Dragneel. Natsu Dragneel is the main character in the anime and he is AWESOME!!! Natsu is a rowdy and tough teenage boy that likes to fight but he has a very kind heart. He went on adventures with his friends. Ok! I'm not talking anymore, I don't want to spoil it for you.

    • profile image

      Cyote 9 months ago

      Btoooom has a terrible ending. No need to watch it.

    • profile image

      JrTheKing 9 months ago

      ....and konosuba.

    • profile image

      JrTheKing 9 months ago

      You forgot overlord.

    • profile image

      Sao4Eva 9 months ago

      Sao is the best dude i love it so please Reki Kawahara hury for season 3 i need it in meh life. I LOVE SAO

      PLEz Reki Kawahara HURY

    • profile image

      Sao4Eva 9 months ago

      Honestly I suggest Log Horizon but I do love Sao way more. Season 3 pleZ

      I

      Need

      SAO

      PLEZZZ PLEZ Reki Kawahara PLES HURY PLEZZZ

    • profile image

      wdqere 9 months ago

      :/ i really want season 3 of sao to come, I NEED UNDERWORLD

      PLEZzzzzzzzzzzz

    • profile image

      Unicorn_Kitty 10 months ago

      I have watched almost all those or at least tried them and I find I like the more mundane adventure anime. Thats why although Hunter x hunter is highly recommended by most, its plot can get complicated.

    • profile image

      Anonymous 10 months ago

      SAO is the greatest anime ever

    • profile image

      Rakgorn 11 months ago

      Dont skip Overlord. It is just 13 episodes for now, but very enjoyable.

    • profile image

      Lili_otaku 11 months ago

      You should watch Log Horizon and tower of Druaga:The Aegis of Uruk!!!!But I prefer SAO so...

    • profile image

      rudyf 12 months ago

      overlord?

    • profile image

      litin 12 months ago

      Log Horizon is a must watch if you like SAO!!

    • profile image

      Spartan 12 months ago

      Overlord is missing?

    • profile image

      Adnane. 13 months ago

      Where is (OVERLORD).

    • profile image

      Asuna is the bae 13 months ago

      Sao gave me chills

    • profile image

      GAMERZ 14 months ago

      PLEASE INCLUDE ALL OF THIS

      Danmachi

      Hai to Gensou no Grimgar

      Overlord

    • profile image

      Brother0dd 14 months ago

      You forgot Overlord

    • profile image

      Aidan 14 months ago

      I'm 14 and I have a lot in common with kirito so I find both season 1 and 2 amazing

    • profile image

      99Problems 15 months ago

      half the list aint nothing like SAO but there no despute that they are all great anime...........

    • profile image

      Rin 15 months ago

      Where is Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash

    • profile image

      David White 16 months ago

      I'm sorry. Nobody can beat Yuki Kajiura! Her work on .hack// is enough to keep me poised. It was the archetype for what SAO was. First half of the first season on a very personal scale with one person trapped in The World. It was boring for a lot of my friends who couldn't keep up with the actual episodic story when it was originally airing on CN. I'm bias because the block this aired included my now favorite animes of all time. Sign, Kenshin and Bebop. Trigun aired in that block as well.

    • profile image

      :( 17 months ago

      Where is Overlord

    • profile image

      Timber 17 months ago

      I love sao and future diary/mirai nikki

    • profile image

      Aww hell naw 18 months ago

      Where is OVERLORD

      one of the best anime out there and the main character is also stuck in the game

    • profile image

      _____ 19 months ago

      "sighs" I've seen all the anime listed and even the ones in this comment section

    • profile image

      Emotionless 19 months ago

      Accel worlds ending was a let down and future diary

    • profile image

      Mario Castellanos 19 months ago

      You guys should try the new anime, And you thought there is never a girl online?

      It's really reminds me of Sao. It's nothing like Kirito and Asuna but it's still airing. Maybe it'll get better ^.^

    • profile image

      Glen Senecal 19 months ago

      The last three are nothing like SAO

    • profile image

      Ella 19 months ago

      I came here looking for new animes to watch. I found 2. I'm going to cry one day when I have watched every single anime show.

    • profile image

      Saika 21 months ago

      Durarara is a really GOOD anime! it has 4 seasons too! it's not everyday you come across a good anime with 4 seasons! the first one has 25 episodes too. the other ones have 12 or 11 episodes :)

    • profile image

      McDonald Trump 21 months ago

      Another anime just like Sword Art Online name is Overlord

    • profile image

      Dk 21 months ago

      Another game just like Sword Art Online name is Overlord

    • profile image

      asuna sun 2 years ago

      Which one do you guys reccomond me watching??

    • profile image

      edward_kiritosan 2 years ago

      does sword art online released it season 3?

    • profile image

      MasterJ 2 years ago

      *looks at the list*

      *sighs*

      Ive already seen all these...

    • profile image

      Ren 2 years ago

      Blue Exorcist For Life :3

    • profile image

      I love asuna 2 years ago

      SAO for life only forever...nothing more.

    • profile image

      Dinosaur 2 years ago

      sorry but your hunter x hunter vid is kinda bad pick a season 1 vid at least without those stuped cards -_-'

    • profile image

      Johnny 2 years ago

      Try "Is it wrong to try to pick up girls in dungeon". only like 10 episodes out so far but i love it as much as sao atm :S

    • profile image

      xXThe_RageXx 2 years ago

      I keep looking for new Anime but can't find any interesting ones

    • profile image

      Pencilus 2 years ago

      well both Accel World and SAO are written by Reki Kawahara soo ....

      they even have a shared universe

    • profile image

      neff 2 years ago

      "Is it wrong to pick up chicks in dungeons" reminds me a lot of sao too

    • profile image

      qwertyuiop 2 years ago

      I've seen some of these, Accel World is by far the best and I prefer it - slightly - over SAO.

    • profile image

      Jeff 2 years ago

      Well at least I could enjoy something new

    • profile image

      imac 2 years ago

      I looked at these, and im just gonna re watch sao.

    • profile image

      Pabbles 2 years ago

      Thanks for those lists. I'm pretty much in the dark when it comes to anime series more recent than the early 2000s, and SAO was the first series in years to really "spark my fire" for anime anew. I've enjoyed plenty during those years, but nothing on that level.

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