There's an entire subgenre of MMORPG anime, and we can't get enough of it.
The 7 Best MMORPG Anime Shows
Following last month's breakdown of the best MMORPG movies and MMO TV shows, we're keeping the silver screen shining through an examination of the best MMORPG anime shows. Little did we know when we started our research that there is an entire subgenre of MMORPG anime. A subgenre that we're now very much in love with.
And to be clear, we are not talking about anime-style MMOs like the Naruto MMORPG Naruto Online or the Dragon Ball Z MMORPG Dragon Ball Online. No, we're talking about MMORPG anime shows that revolve around the very idea of players, quests, PvP, PvE, trading, guilds, and dragons... you know, the games that make life worth living!
Sword Art Online
Arguably the best-known MMORPG anime show, Sword Art Online came from light novels that sold over 30 million copies. The subsequent anime series was hugely divisive among fans of the MMORPG anime genre. Fans praised the studio's animation skill and the stunning musical score. Whereas Sword Art Online's detractors criticise the unusual pacing and the sometimes-dubious quality of writing. As a result, you'll find the majority of Sword Art Online reviews give either 5 Stars or 1 Star ratings.
Though, indubitably, Sword Art Online explores an appealing concept: the exploration of a multitude of virtual reality game worlds beginning with a VR MMORPG. Sounds like harmless fun, right? Well, that's until 10,000 players don the VR technology for the first time and find themselves unable to logout until they've beaten all 100 floors of the steel castle of Aincrad...
Layered three-dimensional characters and an ominous setting that give it its own distinct gothic-gamer flavour
Eleven expansions in, and the fictional MMORPG Elder Tale is a global phenomenon. What then happens to brilliant protagonist Shiroe and his friends is something every MMO gamer has dreamed of -- they get sucked into the game. To survive, and later to thrive, the friends use the tips and tricks they've learnt in their gaming lives -- using D&D style planning for every encounter as they master mechanics and experiment with their abilities.
Originally based off a Japanese novel series by Mamare Touno, Log Horizon spring boarded off of a user-generated content site and has now been picked up and adapted into manga and anime.
One last (Crunchy) roll of the dice, eh? That's what guildmaster and office worker Ainz Ooal Gown thought when he logged on for the final hour of his go-to MMORPG before shutdown. And yet the not-always-likeable protagonist is surprised to discover that upon the clock striking midnight, the game does not end. Instead, he and his entire guild have been transported into another realm -- a realm that is positively dastardly. Will his guild have what it takes now that the stakes are most definitely raised?
Heavy on the fan-service, Overlord isn't the most original title in the "trapped in the game" genre of MMORPG anime. It does, however, have layered three-dimensional characters and an ominous setting that give it its own distinct gothic-gamer flavour.
The King's Avatar
Okay, disclaimer: We haven't watched any of this one yet. But both the live action series (which is interspersed with animated Glorygameplay) and the original Chinese animation have a significant following and are highly regarded.
Both shows follow the phoenix-like return of a professional gamer, who, having been kicked off his superstar esports team now works the night shift at an internet café. The pro gamer protagonist originally leaves because he takes a stand against over commercialised promotion of his favourite game, which is somewhat ironic when you realise The King's Avatar is produced by Tencent. But that's all before attempting a triumphant return to glory (and Glory).
The .hack multimedia franchise is now so broad that it's almost a subgenre in itself. From the countless PlayStation2 video games (.hack//Infection, .hack//Mutation, etc*.), mobile games (.hack//MOBILE*) and even collectible card games (.hack//G.U.).
And that's before we get to the topic of today's list: MMORPG anime shows. There are far too many MMORPG-adjacent anime shows in the .hack universe, so we'll just introduce the best of them -- .hack//SIGN -- a trapped-in-the-game style anime series which premiered all the way back in 2002.
After becoming lost in the VR MMORPG The World, protagonist Tsukasa explores at a surprisingly leisurely pace. The series defies many anime expectations in that it is light on combat and constantly keeps players guessing with false narratives, red herrings, and unreliable narrators.
No Game, No Life
Being trapped in a video game is one thing, being trapped in it with your sibling is another one entirely. A complex series of publications covering light novels, manga, anime shows, and movies, it takes a bit of digging to get back to the roots of No Game, No Life, but it's certainly worth it.
The plot is pretty epic by anyone's standards. Two gifted siblings excel at different aspects of gameplay; they are geniuses, prodigies, and urban myths amongst the populace. But they soon learn that their reputation spreads far beyond the mortal realm. The "god of games" lays down his gauntlet and the two siblings set out to defeat him at his own games. The gifted siblings deploy their opposing skills to beat the god at chess, but then go on to explore strategy and theory of a range of other challenges.
Recovery of an MMO Junkie
You've turned 30. You hate your career. You decide to spend more time doing the things you enjoy. What do you do? Quit your job and start playing an MMORPG (Fruits de Mer). What follows is a story of meaningful relationships forged through gameplay, and moreover the limitations of that very medium.
Moriko and Lily instantly form a joyful bond in the game, all the while never realising that their out-of-game lives closely intersect. As is all too easy in our genre of choice, Moriko begins to lose herself a bit too much in the MMORPG. After becoming a recluse, a series of coincidences lead her life in new directions once more. Recovery of an MMO Junkie is a bit of a modern classic, and we enjoy how it explores both the positive and negative aspects of escaping into massively multiplayer online game worlds.
So there you have it, our list of the best MMORPG anime shows. But guess what? We're not done yet. We've got a part two coming up with even more MMORPG animes that you should watch. So if you're a fan of BOFURI, Overgeared, or Is it wrong to pick up girls in a dungeon, then stay tuned -- it will be published in early November. In the meantime, why not check out last month's list of live-action MMORPG movies and TV shows. Don't forget to bookmark us!