Sword Art Online, whether you hate it or not, is one of the most controversial anime of the 21st century.
It’s so polarizing that fans will either:
- Love it.
- Hate it.
- Or feel “neutral” towards it.
And even though anime like .Hack came before SAO, Sword Art Online managed to introduce VR and the concept of “last man standing wins” to the anime gaming genre. In a way that hasn’t been done before.
With that said, here are all the BEST similar anime to Sword Art Online.
For both fans and non-fans of the series.
The BEST Anime Like Sword Art Online:
1. The Rising Of The Shield Hero
The Rising Of The Shield Hero is a recent anime series from 2019.
The Isekai concept of being born into a new world is loud and clear with this anime.
There are a couple of similarities between Shield Hero and SAO:
- The main protagonist: Naofumi Iwatani is put through trauma not long after being born into a new world.
- Naofumi finds comfort in a girl called Raphtalia, who’ later introduced. Similar to how Kirito and Asuna help each other.
- Even though Naofumi isn’t “strong” from the beginning, he’s still forced to deal with unfair circumstances.
- And before you know it – Naofumi has a full party of characters (especially female characters) who support his goals.
Naofumi is a better well-rounded character than Kirito, but if you’re a fan of SAO you’ll appreciate The Rising Of The Shield Hero. For it animation, style, themes and enjoyable characters.
2. That Time I Got Reincarnated As A Slime
Rimuru Tempest is the main protagonist of this story. After dying in an attempt to save a bystander, he’s revived as a powerful slime monster. Capable of absorbing anything.
The main similarities between Tensei Slime and SAO are:
- Rimuru Tempest is OP no different to Kirito. In fact that’s how he practically starts out, despite getting stronger later.
- Rimuru is a likable character and a natural leader. Later developing his own army, country and “harem” like Kirito.
- You have some moments in Tensei Slime where the action gets intense.
- And a little later into the anime it starts to get “kinda dark” which SAO fans will appreciate.
The main difference between Tensei Slime and Sword Art Online is the story and where it takes you.
Rimuru is trying to build a peaceful nation and help everyone thrive. Where as Kirito is stuck in a VR game trying to escape with his life.
3. Re:Zero – Starting Life In Another World
Re:Zero is a different beast to the others on this list. But it’s still similar to Sword Art Online. Especially when it comes to what each character is “put” through.
- Subaru Natsuki, the main protagonist, is sent to another world that seems “cute” at first glance.
- But later in the 45 minute first episode, things take a dark turn for the worst.
- The internal struggle Subaru faces is similar to what Kirito is put through in season 1 of SAO.
- Both characters are relatively “weak” in the real world, and try their hardest to push past their setbacks.
The main difference I Re:Zero is more psychological and violent than SAO by far. But the subtle similarities are enough to give this a go as an SAO fan.
4. Fate Stay Night
Fate Stay Night is a fantasy series based on the holy grail. An item that’s able to grant anyone’s wish.
But to use it – 7 servants and masters are forced to fight to the death for the holy grail.
- The main protagonist: Shirou Emiya may remind you of Kirito in subtle ways.
- Each protagonist fights for a purpose as they struggle to survive and do what’s morally right.
- Just like SAO, Shirou has a female partner: Saber. And they usually fight together.
- Depending on which version of Fate Stay Night you watch, Shirou falls in love with Saber.
The main difference is Saber’s more mature, stronger and disciplined than Asuna. And there’s never a point where Saber is used as a “damsel in distress”.
You’ll love the chemistry between Shirou and Saber. It’s similar to Kirito and Asuna to certain degrees.
5. Log Horizon
Log Horizon is a classic MMORPG in the anime industry. It’s also one of the most respected gaming types of anime series.
Most fans don’t speak “bad” about it.
Here are the main similarities:
- In Log Horizon, the main characters aren’t fighting for their deaths. Instead – they choose to “live life” inside the game.
- Both protagonists from each anime develop their own sort of “harem”, a cliché that shouldn’t surprise anyone.
- The gaming references, battles, strategies and tactics are similar. And SAO fans will love it.
- Even though the motivations of each protagonist is different, the world they live in shares similarities.
The main difference with Log Horizon is the adventure aspects. It has SAO beat in every way possible when it comes to the fun adventures.
Related: 15 Of The Best Adventure Anime Shows
6. Selector Infected Wixoss
Selector Infected Wixoss is actually a magical girl anime series.
That alone might make you wonder why I’m recommending it at all. But there’s a reason.
- Selector Infected Wixoss, like SAO, is based in an alternate world besides the “real” one.
- When Kirito uses the nerve gear, he dives into VR. In the same way, when each characters plays a card battle, they’re “transported” into Wixoss itself.
- Both characters jump in and out of the real world vs “virtual” world throughout the series.
- And the more you dive into Wixoss, the darker it gets.
The main difference is the magical girl aspects. And of course – the main characters being female.
Aside from that, there are subtle similarities between both anime.
7. And you thought there was never a girl online?
This anime is a harem/Ecchi type of series with strong Otaku influences. And even though this anime isn’t dark or dramatic, it has a fair amount of similarities to SAO.
- The main theme of this anime is based within the actual video games. With each character mimicking their “real” selves within the game.
- Magic battles, in-game action and everything in between is a running theme in this series.
- Like SAO, female characters are predominant. With one protagonist who’s male.
If you want something different and a little “left field” with similarities to SAO, this is the anime you’re looking for.
It’s worth trying.
8. How Not To Summon A Demon Lord
How Not To Summon A Demon Lord is like your typical Isekai series. The main character is transported to another world by force.
The main difference here is the main character doesn’t die.
Instead he’s summoned as his favorite video game character: Demon Lord Diablo.
- Diablo accidentally forms a harem from the first 5 minutes of the anime. After being transported.
- No different to Kazuto Kirigaya, Diablo is OP and there’s almost nothing he can’t do.
- That being said, the anime does make some effort in making the action scenes interesting. Despite Diablo being OP.
- And some of the battles are sick.
You’ll get a similar feeling watching How Not To Summon A Demon Lord. But this anime is lewd in comparison.
So keep that sh*t in mind. 😉
9. In Another World With My Smartphone
Mochizuki Touya will remind you of Kirito more than any other anime on this list. Except he’s stylish and knows how to dress compared to Kirito.
- Mochizuki Touya is transported to another world after accidentally being struck by lightning.
- To show God’s forgiveness, God gives Mochizuki Touya the chance to relive his life in another world. With superpowers and a smartphone.
- Touya’s OP but he has a different personality to Kirito. He takes liberty in sharing his power with others and helping them.
- Most action scenes and battles are fought alongside female characters, with a little added humor.
It’s not the most similar anime compared to some on this list, but the main protagonist is enough to fill the gaps.
10. Kono Subarashii
Kono Subarashii is like another shade of SAO, but with tons of humor, comedy, and ridiculous episodes. Anc characters who are even more ridiculous.
- The main protagonist has “heart” like Kirito, but a different personality all together.
- Kazuma breaks stereotypes and cliches you tend to find in other anime series.
- Even though Kazuma isn’t your typical protagonist, he does have a “subtle” harem like Kirito.
- And even though Kono Subarashii is a parody, there are action scenes, magic battles and more that’s comparable and pretty impressive.
The main differences is the comedy. And the lack of “dark” episodes, mostly.
- Problem Children Are Coming From Another World Aren’t They?
- Accel World.
- No Game No Life.
- Guilty Crown.
- Mirai Nikki.
Source: SAO Wallpapers
I’m the Founder of Anime Motivation.
The 1st anime I watched was Dragon Ball Z. Followed by Claymore, Inuyasha, Attack On Titan, and the rest as they say is “history”.