Sword Art Online & 9 Other Great Video Game Isekai Anime

Sword Art Online is largely seen as the originator of the isekai craze in anime and manga. It specifically created a trend of video game-inspired isekai with rules and concepts based around online gaming. Of course, it’s not the only anime to do this, and it might even be far from the best.



Numerous other isekai have played with these concepts, remixing them to various degrees. In some cases, it’s humorously inverted dating game tropes. In others, the result is extremely overpowered main characters who defeat foes with reckless abandon. In either case, the best isekai are more than just generic fantasy adventures, and they use these familiar trappings to explore the best parts iof gaming.

10 Sword Art Online Started the Gaming Isekai Craze

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Featuring characters who embark on epic journeys in video games, manhwa offers several must-read VVR MMORPG stories for Sword Art Online fans.

The popular Sword Art Online started the current push for isekai, and it’s many modern anime fans’ first introduction to the genre. The series is based around the eponymous online game, where the protagonist Kirito, and others are trapped in its internet-based world. From there, other games and their environments were introduced, and the series had multiple seasons based on the original light novels.

Sword Art Online isn’t without criticism, just like other controversial isekai franchises. Nevertheless, it cemented the basic tropes for the subgenre, namely in how it took popular MMO role-playing games and used them to create a familiar yet interesting world. While these elements weren’t always as developed as they could have been, Sword Art Online’s influence can’t be understated.

Sword Art Online

The series takes place in the 2020s and focuses on protagonists Kazuto “Kirito” Kirigaya and Asuna Yuuki as they play through various virtual reality MMORPG 

Created by
Reki Kawahara

First Film
Sword Art Online The Movie

First TV Show
Sword Art Online

First Episode Air Date
July 8, 2012

9 Gun Gale Expanded the World of Sword Art Online

Sword Art Online Alternative Gun Gale Online was one of multiple spinoffs for Sword Art Online. It built upon the world of the main series while focusing on a different game and characters. This showed the power and narrative strength of Sword Art Online as a brand, but Gun Gale Online took things a step further in terms of utilizing the concept.

Protagonist Karen Kohiruimaki uses the game as a way to deal with her real-life insecurities. This plays with how MMOs and similar online video games are used by players in real-life. Many gamers see these titles as almost therapeutic, allowing them to go from outcasts to powerful adventurers. Given how comparatively lighthearted Gun Gale Online is compared to Sword Art Online, it nails this concept perfectly.

Sword Art Online Alternative Gun Gale Online

Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online

A university student tries out a VR battle royale shooter and quickly establishes herself as one of the most menacing players in the competitive scene thanks to her tiny, lightning-fast avatar LLENN.

Release Date
April 8, 2018

Yōsuke Kuroda

Tomori Kusunoki , Yoko Hikasa

1 Season

Studio 3Hz

Production Company
ASCII Mediaworks, Aniplex, Bandai Namco Entertainment, Egg Firm, Genco, Straight Edge, Studio 3Hz

Number of Episodes
13 Episodes

8 Skeleton Knight Makes a Monstrous Avatar Funny

Ponta and Arc

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25 Video Games That Feel Like An Isekai Anime

Anime fans looking for video games with a touch of isekai-style storytelling will love these games full of isekai traits.

Skeleton Knight in Another World sees a gamer reborn in a medieval world based on his favorite online video game. Unfortunately, he must wear the guise of his gaming avatar: a ferocious skeleton. Despite this, he tries to make the best of his situation and live among the game’s townsfolk.

Skeleton Knight works because the protagonist is both forward-thinking and charming. He knows that his appearance might cause him turmoil among the general populace, yet he frequently engages in heroic and even funny acts. This makes for an unconventional hero, and it just so happens that he’s merely a gamer having the time of his (seemingly undead) life.

7 Uncle from Another World Is the Ultimate Reverse Isekai

Yosuke chasing Sonic in Uncle from Another World

Uncle from Another World plays with isekai/video game concepts in reverse. The protagonist returns to the normal world after being sent to a fantasy world nearly two decades beforehand. Still having his many magical powers, these abilities make his everyday reality feel like something out of a Dragon Quest video game.

The uncle is also an avid gamer, and he has fond memories of classic Sega consoles such as the Dreamcast. This makes the video game aspect integral to the series, as it touches upon nostalgia and lost time. It also makes the uncle feel like something of a throwback, albeit in an endearing way.

The cast on the official Uncle From Another World Poster

Uncle From Another World

Uncle From Another World (Isekai Ojisan) is a story about Yōsuke Shibazaki, also known as Uncle, who has recently awoken from a 17-year coma after being hit by a truck. Moving in with his nephew, Uncle has a hard time adjusting to modern society for obvious era-shifting reasons. However, he also has another reason for the culture-shock; his time spent in a coma was also spent in a fantasy world. In that world, he learned magical spells and was constantly treated as an orc for his “ugly” appearance. Now with his magic retained and returned to the real world, Uncle will work with his nephew to become a part of a new society while regaling tales of his fantasy life to others. Uncle From Another World is a Fantasy anime adapted from the manga of the same name and exclusively streams on Netflix.

Release Date
July 6, 2022


Takehito Koyasu , Jun Fukuyama , Mikako Komatsu (Japanese) , Haruka Tomatsu , Aoi Yuki , Aki Toyosaki , Kenichi Suzumura , Nobuhiko Okamoto , Hisako Kanemoto

Main Genre



Characters By

Kentarô Minegishi


Main Characters
Uncle / Yōsuke Shibazaki, Takafumi Takaoka, Sumika Fujiyama, Tsundere Elf, Mabel Laybelle, Alicia Edelsia, Edgar, Raiga, Sawae

Taiki Akasaka, Sotokawa Akihiro, Sojiro Arimizu, Aya Iizuka, Jotaro Ishigami, Shingo Kunieda, Yuichi Tada, Ken’ichi Tokumura

Production Company
Atelier Pontdarc, Kadokawa, Netflix

Story By

Hotondoshindeiru , Kenta Ihara

Number of Episodes

6 My Next Life as a Villainess Began a Female-Oriented Isekai Trend

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10 Best Reincarnation Isekai Anime, Ranked

Isekai anime are ripe for reincarnation stories, and series like Ascendance of a Bookworm, Mushoku Tensei, and My Next Life as a Villainess deliver.

My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! involves a young lady named Catarina, who realizes that she had a life before her current one. This also causes the revelation that she’s been reborn as the villain in her favorite romance game. With death or exile as her only predestined options, she tries her best to avoid her seeming fate and go against the villainous grain.

My Next Life as a Villainess began a trend of isekai based around otome (dating games). These are geared more to a female audience, and they embrace different tropes than the typical MMORPG isekai. Thus, this series is essentially the Sword Art Online of its own subgenre, and it even has a much more charming protagonist, to boot.

My Next Life as a Villainess All Routes Lead to Doom Poster

My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!

A young girl dies and is reincarnated into a video game. But when she finds out that her role is the villainess destined for doom, she takes measures to change the game and avoid that fate.

Release Date
April 4, 2020

Satoru Yamaguchi

Maaya Uchida , Tetsuya Kakihara , Shouta Aoi , Miho Okasaki


Silver Link

Number of Episodes
24 +OVA

5 Trapped in a Dating Sim Completely Upends Otome Games

A collage of the characters from Trapped In A Dating Sim.

Trapped in a Dating Sim: The World of Otome Games Is Tough for Mobs explores the otome subgenre from a male perspective. The main character is reborn in the world of his sister’s favorite game, and it happens to be a reality ruled by women. Despite this, he has a near expert knowledge of the game’s mechanics, and uses them to his advantage in order to survive as a lowly background character.

Trapped in a Dating Sim works because of how it utilizes the “overpowered” hero concept. Likewise, it also inverts elements of the worldbuilding seen in other isekai. The series’ story makes knowing about the central game into a logical “cheat,” so the actions of the protagonist and subsequent successes feel earned.

Trapped in a Dating Sim key art.

Trapped in a Dating Sim

A young man is transported into a video game world dominated by females.


Number of Seasons

Debut Date
April 3, 2022


4 How to Not Summon a Demon Lord Is Its Own Subgenre

How NOT To Summon a Demon Lord Omega Official Crunchyroll Poster

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The Best Isekai Of All Time, Ranked

The best of the best when it comes to Isekai anime have otherworldly stories, epically overpowered protagonists and remarkable adventure.

How Not to Summon a Demon Lord is many different anime genres in one. The hero is summoned to the world of an MMORPG and even bears the same appearance as his in-game character. The ladies who summoned him try to make him their slave, but due to his own buffs, this backfires and enslaves them, instead.

How Not to Summon a Demon Lord is an example of the ubiquitous “demon lord” subgenre of isekai. It also has elements of harem and similar “romance” anime. Most importantly, it shows how the mechanics of RPGs can sometimes backfire, resulting in the ultimate unintended cheat code.

Diablo and his servants in the anime How NOT to Summon a Demon Lord (2018) poster

How Not to Summon a Demon Lord

Original title: Isekai Mao to Shokan Shojo no Dorei Majutsu.
An elite player is summoned by two maidens to save a fantasy game

Release Date
July 1, 2018

Kazuyuki Fudeyasu

Masaaki Mizunaka , Yu Serizawa , Azumi Waki


Production Company
81 Produce, Ajiado, Avex Pictures, Crunchyroll, GREE, Kôdansha, Okuru to Noboru, Tezuka Productions, The Klockworx

Number of Episodes

Tsukasa and his companions unpack the mysteries of The World in .hack//Sign

.hack//Sign was part of the wider .hack franchise, which became a thing long before isekai was ubiquitous. The series looked at virtual reality through an environment known as “The World,” with the story itself not being relayed how most might expect. Instead, it’s a slow burn that played with concepts that ironically had yet to become immensely popular.

This made .hack prescient to both isekai anime and popular media in general. The series’ virtual reality aspects were front and center, adding to themes of escapism and dealing with everyday life. As a result, it was easily a cut above today’s more generic and shallow gaming isekai, with .hack being better than even Sword Art Online.

hack::SIGN (2002) anime official poster


A strange boy named Tsukasa appears in the online video game “The World”. He claims to be alive, and without a computer.

Release Date
April 3, 2002

Kazunori Itô

Megumi Toyoguchi


Production Company
Bandai Visual Company, Bee Train, Cyber Connect 2, Yomiko Advertising

Number of Episodes

Main Cast
Kazuhiro Nakata, Kaori Nazuka

2 Log Horizon Shows the Harsh (Virtual) Reality of Isekai

The Log Horizon Party of characters.

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The Best Isekai Anime Streaming On Crunchyroll, Ranked

Multiple new isekai anime come out every season, and Crunchyroll has the best of the best, including Sword Art Online and Overlord.

Log Horizon has the typical premise of gamers being trapped in an online game (in this case, a title called Elder). The difference is how it handles this concept, as it’s far from the typical isekai in terms of tone or scope. Instead of humorously waltzing through their new life or becoming overpowered savants, the heroes actually struggle with their new environment.

Log Horizon has been lauded by many for how difficult it makes things for its heroes. They have to actively try and survive their new world, and it’s not simply a matter of knowing how to play a video game. This makes it into an accurate depiction of “life” within said game, with the players actually feeling as if they’re trapped.

1 No Isekai Does “Overpowered” Better Than Overlord

Ainz Ooal Gown In Overlord

Based on a series of light novels, Overlord proves that absolute power decimates absolutely. Based around protagonist Ainz Ooal Gown, the series follows the former gamer as he operates in the world of his favorite MMORPG (that was supposedly shutting down before he was trapped there). Having seemingly no limits on his power and even fewer morals, he uses his newfound might to wreak havoc across the land.

Overlord works because, unlike shows such as Sword Art Online, it dives headfirst into the fact that the protagonist is overpowered. This makes Ainz Ooal Gown into an outright scourge who’s feared by everyone who vainly tries to fight him. Through this concept, the series explores what it’s like to play a game on “god mode,” namely through how easy it is to swat away enemies like flies. This makes it both a cathartic adventure and a terrifying reflection of psychology.

Overlord anime cover art


An office worker in a dystopian world logs onto a video game for the last time only to find out that he, along with his entire guild, has been transported to another reality.

Release Date
July 7, 2015

Satoshi Hino



Number of Episodes


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