More Like This: ‘Sword Art Online’

Graham Host
TV Anime
TV Anime

For many making their way into the anime world, Sword Art Online – commonly referred to as SAO – is the first stop. The series is set in 2022 in a VRMMO. Far removed from what is currently called VR, Sword Art Online – the game the anime is based around – replicates all five senses, intercepting signals from the brain as input. The idea of a living game is an enchanting one, and others have picked up on this. Here we look at a few anime series that use a similar idea to Sword Art Online.


Overlord anime series title card

Beginning – very briefly – as the VRMMO Yggdrasil, we see the last few minutes of the game. One of the most powerful players ever is the last one online as the servers shut down. Instead of a forced logout, Momonga and his castle are transported to a world that acts just like the game. All the NPCs in his guild come along but are suddenly alive.

Accel World

Accel World

Something of a Sword Art Online spin-off cousin, Accel World is based around a much faster game than reality. Set sometime after Sword Art Online, Accel World has cybernetic technology at the base of their skulls to allow people to experience VR reality without any external hardware and use programs with thought. The Accelerated World game allows them to experience time a thousand times faster and fight in a virtual world to gain the points that let them do so.

Log Horizon

Log Horizon Chibi Opening Cast

Possibly the anime that resembles a game the most, Log Horizon is based around a game called Elder Tale. During an expansion upgrade, thousands of players in Japan suddenly found themselves sucked into their avatar bodies. In this world, respawning takes memories of the real world as payment and abilities are voice-activated instead of keyboards. With the Elder Tale world now real, players struggle not to upset the balance of power as they search for a way to return to their world.


Dot Hack Slash Slash Sign

This one is a bit like Log Horizon but with only one person trapped inside. The game at hand – The World – is actually an attempt to create an AI by watching the players. The system that controls the game realizes that when this happens, it will be deleted, and it tries to stop it. The main character – and the rest of the players – are seeking the Key of Twilight which can bypass the system. As in Sword Art Online, the main character lives in the game while their body is in a coma in reality.

Bonus Round: Manga

The New Gate

Similar to Sword Art Online, the world of The New Gate was a VRMMO where all the players were trapped inside. The manga picks up after the game is cleared. Despite freeing the rest of the players, Shin is still trapped inside the game but now five-hundred years in the future. All limits on his skills have been released, and he searches for comrades rumored to be still in the game. Published monthly, this story is good despite being small.

World Customize Creator

Sucked into another world, Tagami Yusuke is asked what power he desires. Fresh from an unsatisfying game session, he asks for the ability to customize anything. Despite not being an actual VRMMO, World Customize Creator is similar enough in plot be included in the list. This manga is also published monthly but is several issues ahead of The New Gate.

Graham Host is a member of the Fan Contributor program. In his spare time, he enjoys the works of Terry Pratchett, DC Comics and a wide assortment of video games. Under no circumstances should he be fed after midnight.
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