24 Must-See Anime Like Sword Art Online (Updated 2020)
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!
Anime Similar to Sword Art Online
- Accel World
- Log Horizon
- Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash
- Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?
- Death March kara Hajimaru Isekai Kyousoukyoku
- That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime
- In Another World with My Smartphone
- How Not to Summon a Demon Lord
- And You Thought There is Never a Girl Online?
- KonoSuba: God's Blessing on This Wonderful World!
- Re:ZERO - Starting Life in Another World
- The King's Avatar
- Problem Children Are Coming from Another World, Aren't They?
- The Rising of Shield Hero
- Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online
- No Game No Life
- Mirai Nikki
- Tower of Druaga: The Aegis of Uruk
- Guilty Crown
- Kaze no Stigma
- Hunter x Hunter
Overlord now ranks as one of the most popular anime series of all time—and for good reason! This isn't your ordinary "player stuck in an online game" show. Overlord makes things interesting by telling a story of how it would be like if it's a villain that ends up getting stuck in the game. The unique mix of characters and personalities makes the show exciting and unpredictable.
2. Accel World
If you're a hardcore anime fan, then you've probably heard a ton of theories surrounding the link between SAO and Accel World. The two shows are set in the same universe apparently, just at different timelines. It's widely believed that NerveGear was the first generation of the tech used in 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.
3. 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.
4. Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash
Kirito being too overpowered is one of the primary criticisms about Sword Art Online. Many fans also dislike the harem elements, which could prove to be a bit too much at certain points. These two issues aren't present in Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash. Here's a show you should definitely watch if you're more into team-oriented battles instead of one character dominating everything.
5. Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?
During the early parts of SAO, you were probably looking forward to watching Kirito get stronger and climb up the tower until reaching the top floor. But instead, we see him on the top floors almost immediately. The good news is that Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? strays from this kind of storytelling. The main character ramps up his fighting skills until he obtains a special ability that enables him to work his way deeper into the dungeon.
6. Death March kara Hajimaru Isekai Kyousoukyoku
As soon as you watch the first few episodes of Death March kara Hajimaru Isekai Kyousoukyoku, it's hard not to compare it with SAO. The game mechanics where you can't log out, the importance of maintaining your HP to avoid real-life death, and the need to figure out a way to escape virtual reality—these elements can be seen in both shows. The main character is also overpowered and, much like Kirito, seems to have a thing for girls fantasizing about him.
7. That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime
It's evident how OP Rimuru Tempest is from the beginning, and he gets even stronger as the show goes on. Just like Kirito, Rimuru develops his own army. That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime also has strong harem elements, and the story gets darker toward the end which many SAO fans would likely appreciate.
8. In Another World with My Smartphone
Mochizuki Touya shares many similarities with Kirito. After getting struck by lightning, he finds himself transported to another world where he possesses superpowers and a smartphone. Touya is overpowered as well, and he likes to use his skills to help others. There are plenty of fight sequences in which he fights alongside female characters.
It's easy to see why Btooom! is often compared to SAO. Both male protagonists have unmatched passion for the game they love. Ryota Sakamoto suddenly finds himself stuck in the game, and he must find a way to return home with the help of fellow players.
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?
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.
11. How Not to Summon a Demon Lord
This Isekai series features a male protagonist who gets summoned as Demon Lord Diablo. From the first few minutes of the show, you'll see similarities with SAO, particularly when Diablo begins forming a harem. The show contains several action scenes that keep things interesting to watch despite Diablo being too strong compared to all the characters.
12. And You Thought There Is Never a Girl Online?
One reason why And You Thought There Is Never a Girl Online? is so interesting to watch is the fact that the characters try to act as their real selves within the game. Just like Sword Art Online, you'll find many female characters fighting with one male protagonist. Although it doesn't have a lot of dark and dramatic scenes, it still has its fair share of similarities to SAO.
13. KonoSuba: God's Blessing on This Wonderful World!
If you want an anime like SAO but more light-hearted, then look no further than KonoSuba. The story is set in a fantasy world with video game mechanics. It still follows the typical direction of the male protagonist having to deal with different obstacles to accomplish his goal, but KonoSuba does this while inserting lots of hilarious scenes. While it's more of a comedy than a virtual reality anime, this show is well worth checking out.
14. Re:ZERO - Starting Life in Another World
Here's another show where the main character finds himself in a fantasy world. Unlike SAO, however, the protagonist doesn't start out strong. He soon gains a special ability and gets surrounded by female characters, although his eyes are set to only one girl. If you want a show with less romance and more dark and psychological moments, Re:Zero should be the next one on your list.
15. The King's Avatar (Quan Zhi Gao Shou)
SAO and The King's Avatar both tell the story of skilled gamers in MMORPG settings. Although The King's Avatar focuses on eSports instead of being stuck in a video game, the show can be compared to SAO especially when it comes to the main characters. The plots take different directions. If you want something with heavy emphasis on action scenes, then give this one a shot. Not to mention, the main character is more relatable since he loses everything at the beginning and works his way back to the top.
16. Problem Children are Coming from Another World, Aren't They?
This show follows three of the characters as they enter a game-like fantasy world called Little Garden. The male protagonist is overpowered just like Kirito. And if you liked the second half of SAO, you'll find that it gives the same vibe when watching Mondaiji-tachi. The art and animation are also comparable to Sword Art Online.
17. The Rising of the Shield Hero
SAO and The Rising of the Shield Hero starts out in the same fashion, with the male protagonist suffering from a traumatic experience of being placed in an unfamiliar world, only to find comfort in a female character they meet later on. Naofumi Iwatani isn't as strong as Kirito at first, but he soon forms a party with mostly female characters to help him complete various objectives.
18. Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online
You probably know that this one's coming. There isn't much to say about Gun Gale Online since it's a spin-off, so similarities with SAO are almost inevitable. Some fans would say that GGO is actually a better version of the original, while many would say otherwise. If you loved SAO, though, this show is a must-watch.
19. 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.
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.
20. 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.
21. 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.
22. Guilty Crown
Guilty Crown may not be set in virtual reality, but I can't help but be reminded of Kirito when I see Shu Ouma engage in action. Both of them are thrust into war and ultimately become the most powerful. Things get more interesting when you factor in the strong female characters from the two shows. Although they can stand for themselves, both females soon find themselves in situations from which the male protagonists must save them.
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.
23. Kaze no Stigma
Alright, I'll be the first to admit that Kaze no Stigma isn't anywhere near the same genre as SAO. Despite that, I think it's well worth watching. If possible, try reading the light novel series as well. The anime adaptation is considerably less brutal, but this doesn't take away from its fantastic storyline.
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.
24. Hunter x Hunter
This one's a bit of a stretch as well, but Hunter x Hunter features some RPG elements. You can even draw a comparison when you consider Gon and Killua playing Greed Island and finding out that it's actually set in the real world.
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?
New additions to the list
© 2013 Caleb Melvern