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12 Great Anime Like Sword Art Online

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  • Posted on 08th Apr, 2022 15:35 PM

If you loved Sword Art Online, theres a whole world of anime waiting for you to discover. Here are some excellent shows with similar premises.

p>Sword Art Online debuted as a visual novel series in 2002, and Reki Kawahara's story was adapted into a smash-hit anime in 2012. It has since received many seasons and spinoffs, each tackling a new MMO or gaming genre. Yet for all its storylines, fans tend to appreciate the first arc the most.

In SAO's original story, an MMO traps players within its walls. There is seemingly no escape, and if players die in the game, then they die in real life. Some gamers decided to live their lives peacefully in the world of this fantasy MMO, while others looked for a way out. Concepts like these have appeared in anime before and since, in scenarios from deadly games, to video games, to Isekai anime and everything in-between. For those who loved the premise of Sword Art Online, these are good choices to watch next.

Updated April 2, 2022 by Mark Sammut: Sword Art Online's popularity has not waned much over the last decade, as it continues to produce new anime series and movies at a pretty consistent rate. Along with inspiring an army of imitators, SAO also shares many similarities with other anime, include some series that predate Kirito's adventures. This article has been expanded to include a few more anime like Sword Art Online.

12 Accel World

Japanese Title Accel World
Studio Sunrise
Where to Stream Hulu, Crunchyroll, VRV, Tubi

Based on another light novel series by Reki Kawahara, Accel World revolves around an augmented reality game, Brain Burst, that grants its users a special power to slow down the passage of time in the real world. A bullied kid, Haru heads online to seek refugee, where he ultimately comes across a popular girl from his school called Kuroyukihime. She invites Haru to Brain Burst.

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Accel World is not quite as popular as SAO, but the anime has many of the same hallmarks as Kawahara's other franchise. That said, Haru is a very different from Kirito.

11 Log Horizon

Japanese Title Log Horizon
Studios Satelight, Studio Deen
Where to Stream Funimation, Crunchyroll, VRV (Season 1 & 2)

On the surface, Log Horizon and Sword Art Online seem like they are cut from the exact same cloth. Both anime have plotlines involving players who become trapped in MMORPGs, forcing them to adapt to the cultures of their games. Both anime have "overpowered" protagonists to a sense, although SAO's Kirito is mostly a physical threat while Log Horizon's Shiroe is a thinker.

The shows differ in their exploration of their respective worlds, as Log Horizon dedicates far more time to showcasing the societies that grow in Elder Tale, the MMORPG. While Shiroe is the main character, the isekai anime has an almost ensemble cast since it dedicates a great deal of time to its supporting figures.

10 .hack//Sign

Japanese Title .hack//Sign
Studio Bee Train
Where to Stream Hulu

The .hack series launched as a global branding effort across all forms of media. There were games, books, manga, and this first anime adaptation, .hack//Sign.

All stories in this series take place in a fictional MMO called "The World," which runs on VR headsets. The players don’t get trapped in it, unlike Sword Art Online. The only exception is a mage-like character named Tsukasa. Why can’t he leave? That’s the core mystery, which he seeks to resolve.

9 Overlord

Japanese Title Overlord
Studio Madhouse
Where to Stream Crunchyroll, VRV, Funimation, Hulu (Season 1), Tubi (Season 1)

Overlord is another game-based anime. It started out as a novel in 2010 which then led to a light novel followed by a manga and then this anime.

In this anime, the MMO is about to shut down. The show's protagonist, Momonga, is the leader of his own guild. He decides to hold a party online to count down the servers shutting down — but no one comes. When the clock reaches zero, he discovers he can’t leave, and the plot thickens from there.

8 Summer Wars

Japanese Title Summer Wars
Studio Madhouse
Where to Stream N/A

Summer Wars is an anime film with yet another MMO at its core. The game is actually more like a social networking platform, where players can jump in and chat with their friends in virtual form.

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Eventually, a virus is let loose, and because this game is so integrated into society, it is trying to destroy everything from within the grid. Can the heroes defeat it before it is too late? The answer to that should be obvious, but the ride makes it worth watching.

7 Danganronpa: The Animation & Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope's Peak High School - Future Arc

Japanese Title Danganronpa: Kibou no Gakuen to Zetsubou no Koukousei The Animation & Danganronpa 3: The End of Kibougamine Gakuen - Mirai-hen
Studio Lerche
Where to Stream Danganronpa: The Animation Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope's Peak High School - Future Arc

Danganronpa is about a group of elite students at a private academyl who are suddenly thrown into a game of murder. At the head of it all is a demonic bear named Monokuma, pulling the strings and manipulating the students as he wishes.

The goal of each student is to kill everyone without getting caught, at which time they will be declared the winner. If found out, they will be executed; if they manage to fool their classmates, everyone but the perpetrator is executed. The murder trials flow better in the original games, but the various anime adaptations like this one do a decent job of getting the core plotlines in.

6 The World Ends With You: The Animation

Japanese Title Subarashiki Kono Sekai The Animation
Studios Shin-Ei Animation, domerica
Where to Stream Hulu, Crunchyroll, Funimation

The World Ends With You started off as a game for the DS in 2007 in Japan. After many years it finally got a sequel, Neo: The World Ends With You, as well as an anime adaptation.

The anime is pretty faithful to the original game. Both games and the anime are about people who die and end up in a mirror version of society. Instead of ascending to heaven or hell, they must play a game of death. Whoever wins at the end of the seven-day marathon gets to make a wish.

5 Deca-Dence

Japanese Title Deca-Dence
Studio Nut
Where to Stream Hulu, Funimation

The story of Deca-Dence is almost a spoiler to discuss, but since the twist comes after the first episode, we're willing to discuss it here. On the surface, this is an action anime that takes place in a devastated world where the rest of humanity is held up in a movable city and giant bugs roam the earth looking for flesh.

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The twist is that these humans are in a simulation and a group of underground mutants is controlling them. Is it just a game to them, or is it something more?

4 The Future Diary

Japanese Title Mirai Nikki
Studio asread.
Where to Stream Hulu, Crunchyroll, Funimation

The Future Diary is one of the most suspenseful anime of all time. It takes place in a seemingly modern setting — except in this world, a god exists. The current one is dying, so he decides to choose a bunch of random people to compete for his position In a game of death. Whoever comes out on top is declared the new god of that world.

Players in the game can kill however they want, and they are assisted by magical phones that can predict the future in several unique ways for each participant. It's full of suspense and drama, keeping viewers engaged throughout.

3 Btooom!

Japanese Title Btooom!
Studio Madhouse
Where to Stream HIDIVE, Crunchyroll, VRV

Btooom! is the closest one can get to the original Battle Royale movie. Random strangers are sent to an island — and unbeknownst to them, it's in order to kill each other.

Each contestant is armed with a bomb that is unique to them. Some have timers, some explode upon contact like land mines, the list goes on. A small group of players decide to survive together, but as is always the situation in these games of life or death, other players are in it to win it. The anime never finished but the manga did for those curious about the ending.

2 Akudama Drive

Japanese Title Akudama Drive
Studio Studio Pierrot
Where to Stream Hulu, Funimation

Akudama Drive is a newer cyberpunk-infused anime from 2021. It stars a group of thieves who were racing each other to see who was the better among them one night. There was supposed to be a cash prize at the end — but they were instead treated to a bomb collar around the neck.

There is plenty of suspense and action, but it also has comedic elements because the main protagonist, who goes by Swindler, is an ordinary girl. She gets caught up in this business when she is mistaken for someone else by accident.

1 Inuyasha

Japanese Title InuYasha
Studio Sunrise
Where to Stream Hulu (167 Episodes), Crunchyroll (54 Episodes), VRV (54 Episodes), Funimation (54 Episodes), Netflix (54 Episodes)

At its very core, Sword Art Online is a fantasy Isekai. That’s why it would be in poor taste not to recommend one of the most beloved Isekai shows of all time, Inuyasha. This series stars a typical high school girl who falls into a well one day, and ends up in Japan’s past. This version of Japan isn’t normal either, but is instead filled with demons.

The protagonist, Kagome Higurashi, meets the titular Inuyasha along the way, and gets roped into a grand adventure to save the world. The action and animation are still great to this day, as are the comedy bits. It’s a true classic.

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