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In anime, game genre is not common, it might still be considered an uprising genre so there're a limited amount of series out there. Lately, there has been a boom in game anime and most of the anime under this category have made it to the top in only weeks. This genre can include either card games like Yu-Gi-Oh!, anime based on playing games like No Game No Life, anime that came from games like Pokémon Origins, or simply anime that involve a point system gained by defeating enemies for a certain reason, resulting in a winner or loser.
Strangely, sports or martial arts anime are not considered as part of the gaming genre; mostly “hobby sports” mark their names under the list. It was hard to pick just 10 because they all excel in their way. If I had to pick the best of the best, it would be :
10. Sword Art Online
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: Jul 2012 - Dec 2012
Sword Art Online is the best-yet released MMORPG in 2022. This game is not only top-notch with 10 thousand subscribers, it is THE game that revolutionized virtual online gaming. Using a console called “NerveGear,” the players control avatars with their mere thoughts.
The player under the user name “Kirito” finds out, together with all the other players, that he can’t log out. What looks like a bug in the game, soon begins to feel like a nightmare when the game creator (GM) appears in front of the players and assures that it is meant for them to be incapable of logging out. The twisted intentions of the GM is for the players to beat the game without dying. If you do, you not only lose the game but your real life as well. Literally.
Using his gaming knowledge, Kirito attempts to please the sick desire of the GM and free everyone. He embarks on the quest alone but… anyone that has played an MMO knows the chances of a single player beating the game alone; can he make it?.
SAO is downright on point when it comes to MMORPGs which has captured its viewers. In real life, MMOs have surpassed the 10 million subscribers making them extremely popular and desired (like SAO in the anime). This anime explains everything a basic gamer should know, so even if you’re not into gaming, the series is still enjoyable.
This anime captures all of MMOs main characteristics: party system, guilds, teamwork and friendship. Deep down in every gamers heart, we all wish we encounter an alternate reality like SAO one day, regardless of the cons. Cross your fingers for 2022!
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Oct 2012 - Dec 2012
Online Game, Btooom!, consists on winning battles using only bombs. The game looks like a shooter game from the future. The best Japanese player in the game, Sakamoto Ryouta, is challenged to compete against the top players in the world. He accepts but there’s a catch, it's not in the game; instead you play Btooom! in real life! Eh? Wait, this game was with bombs...right? Darn.
Ryouta needs to stop thinking selfishly and consider that his life and everyone’s life around him is at stake. He gets stranded on an island and is unable to leave until there is only one player alive. In a twisted game of life and death, how far will professional gamers go to save themselves?
Games coming to real life, seems like a dream come true for gamers right? well unless you play a game like Btooom!, no thanks. This one shows how strategy is the key for winning any game and how gaming knowledge can maybe save your life one day.
8. .hack//G.U. Trilogy
- Episodes: 1 Movie
- Aired: March 25, 2008
The .hack series is considered the father of the game anime genre. In my opinion, G.U. is the center point of all the series; we get to see what happens after the original story. Unlike previous .hack's, the protagonist of G.U. is known to be an ex Player Killer Killer (PKK) Haseo, who has the reputation for being “The Terror of Death”.
It’s no secret that this series is the second round for .hack, as the game itself is called “The World:R2”. Haseo encounters the legendary Kite, our previous protagonist, but he doesn't seem as friendly as usual; actually he is now a bug of the game.
When defeated by Kite (known as Tri-Edge), Haseo loses all his data and is forced to play under a new avatar called Skeith, who has the ability to Data Drain, the same ability used by Kite to turn him into a noob. As a personal revenge and the wish of the GM, Haseo embarks on a search for Tri-Edge, and anomalies called AIDA, whose corrupt power leaves anyone killed by them in a coma in real life.
This OVA is all CG which is great, because it makes it feel like we're watching a game but with an anime feeling added to it. It’s enjoyable even if you're unfamiliar with the .hack series, but if you have seen I’m sure you’ll be already craving to play the game again by the time it’s over.
It’s needless to say why I chose this to be in the top 10 best game anime list; it captures to perfection what video gaming is all about inside an MMORPG. You can either enjoy the movie at once or the same story is playable in the game, .hack//G.U.. Too bad it’s for the prehistoric PS2.
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: Apr 2004 - Jun 2004
Sometimes people die “before their time,” but what does this mean? Kei and Masaru are about to find out. They die saving a drunk homeless person that fell into the subway tracks. Instead of a heaven, they end up in a room full of people who also seem to have died tragically. Unable to get out, they have no choice but to play a twisted game forced upon them by a black ball that inhabits the room called, Gantz.
Gantz offers them one more chance at life if they are able to beat the game. It consists of killing aliens, robots or monsters that inhabit the human world. The prey are not happy about it, in fact, they’re very violent. As games offer challenging content, Gantz doesn't slack off. Dying during a mission loses your chance of living again. The way these monsters kill is brutal, surely you don't want to lose. Oh, as a regulation, your teammates can also betray you for more points! Fun times!
Gantz is more like a hunting sport game and the trophy is to live again. Of course regular people will never want to end up like our protagonists, but hey, gamers have to admit they’re at least curious about “what if” Gantz is a real thing? Let’s play some more games as eh-em... research, just in case.
6. Death Parade
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Jan 2015 - Mar 2015
When we die, who decides if we go to heaven or hell? Death Parade is a good answer. People who die at the same time in real life end up at a bar named Quindecim; unaware of their deaths. This bar is locked up and no one can get out. As the people try to escape the bar, the game begins.
The bartender, Decim, offers them the exit if they agree to face each other in any type of game decided by a roulette. As the only way out, the players are forced to agree and play, but there’s a twist to this. The game is played using your senses, it actually hurts you more the closer you are to the end of the game. As the game progresses, the players slowly remember how their deaths happened. Finally, the last round of the game is the decisive moment of judgement of whose soul is lost forever and who gets one more chance in life by being reincarnated.
Death Parade shows the true nature of people via a game. It depicts the innermost intentions of humans, mostly being dark and crooked when survival is at stake. When you lose a game, how do you react? Do you get mad? Agitated? Did you think about the feelings of your opponent? Good! Let’s hope we never end up at Quindecim.
5. Log Horizon
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: Oct 2013 - Mar 2014
“With no fear of death” is how people of this world live. They are conscious that they are stuck inside a game and cannot die, what they fear the most is “for how long”. Players of Elder Tales need to rebuild their lives now that this game has become their reality. This is centred around the social interaction of the characters and a bit less around battles like other anime similar to it. Shiroe, along with the members from a guild he formed named Log Horizon, sets off to discover the potential of this new life.
What’s fun about this anime is that it’s more light regarding drama and it’s filled with comedy. The people behind this anime feel like they had first hand knowledge of MMOs and the kind of people who play it; they created characters that certainly are possible to find in real life games.
This anime helped us pick right back up from where SAO left us. Although not as SAO fans expected, it has it’s own shine and is, in fact, not so similar. It’s still loyal to actual online games with not so much romance or sexy shots involved.
4. C: The Money of Soul and Possibility Control
- Episodes: 11
- Aired: Apr 2011 - Jun 2011
Kimimaro has a simple dream of becoming financially stable. A mysterious man appears at his door and offers to make his dream come true, in fact, even better by offering an insane amount of money. The man in return asks only for Kimimaro’s future and out of curiosity, he withdraws the money. He is given a black card that when used it gives you the option to make a deal inside an alternate world called, The Financial District. The deal consists of challenging opponents by betting a large sum of money. The challenges are fought with special avatars called assets, who are only visible inside this world.
Games of gamble is the basis of this anime, and it shows how dark and confusing playing for money can get instead of having fun. This anime is sadly underrated! Maybe the long title and complicated story scares many people away. But if you like to submerge yourself deep in thought and have an existential crisis, this anime was made for you.
3. Summer Wars
- Episodes: 1 Movie
- Aired: August 1, 2009
Natsuki is ashamed of going back home during summer vacation without a boyfriend, so her plan is to hire one! She picks a math genius, Kenji, for the job, who secretly has a crush on her so he can’t refuse. What he later finds out is that he’s not home alone with her, but instead together with all of her gathered family. In commemoration of her granny’s 90th birthday, Natsuki’s big family came to live together.
Kenji receives a text message containing only numbers; convinced that this is a math challenge, he decides to solve it. It turns out to be that this number was linked to the world of OZ. Everything in the world is linked to OZ. The world runs on it and modern society depends on it. The numbers Kenji cracked triggered a virus to destroy OZ.
Summer Wars shows what the power of unity can achieve. It mixes Japanese culture, games, internet and future technology in one masterpiece. The battles in the world of OZ are that of games and even the fate of Japan is decided by winning a game online.
2. Selector Infected WIXOSS
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Apr 2014 - Jun 2014
Selector Infected WIXOSS is a card game anime. In this world, the card game is called WIXOSS, and it's just a regular magic card game. For special girls called Selectors, the game is more than it seems. Selectors have a LRIG card that can speak to them and other Selectors. LRIG grants any wish these girls want at the cost of winning a certain amount of battles.
The protagonist is named Ruu, the first girl to ever become a Selector with no wish. The penalty for losing the game 3 times is extensively worse than the wish being granted. As Ruu and her friends discover the real meaning of the battles and the cards, the anime crawls down deeper into you making it one you'll definitely recommend.
It’s strange to stumble upon a card game anime and surely, this one will not disappoint. Even though the anime has a round ending, a movie will be released soon in Japanese theatres.
1. No Game No Life
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: Apr 2014 - Jun 2014
NGNL is a dream come true for any gamer. Two siblings, Sora and Shiro, are known as the unstoppable players, “Kuuhaku“. There is no game they have lost and for this reason, they are challenged by a mysterious person in a chess match online. As they cannot step down from a challenge, they accept and win. Instantly, after their victory, they wind up falling into a new world where they are greeted by a little boy named Tet, who calls himself the God of Games.
This world is called Disboard, and in here every type of problem is solved by playing games. The conflict could be as complex as deciding the fate of a whole nation. The things at bet have to be of equal value for both sides. Usually characters in the same position as Shiro and Sora, would make all the efforts to try and return to their real world but, why would they? For them, this is the ideal world. They aim to rule this world and fix all the social and political problems it may have. The only way to do this is winning every challenge until they can eventually reach Ted and defeat him.
The series is not only about serious gaming, it’s really funny too. Besides anime, NGNL is available in manga and light novels as well.
It’s game over for this list. If you love games, I'm sure you'll agree with our selection. High-end anime that capture the essence of gaming are the best, but you end up with mixed feelings of whether to watch more anime or play more games. That’s tough… but that’s why multi-screens were invented!.
How about we play a game now? In the comments, post what games are worthy of becoming an anime or vice versa! Let's see what game gets the most points! Who knows, maybe our plea will be heard.