Sword Art Online is one of the most popular anime of all time. Because it revolves around real characters trapped in a gaming world, it’s only natural to see various Sword Art Online games.
The SAO franchise debuted as light novels in 2009 in ASCII Media Works. The author is Reiki Kawahara, and the illustrator is “Abec.” Both are part of the official SAO games.
As you may know, the novels became manga by various illustrators, and then anime with multiple seasons, OVA, TV specials, movies, and all kinds of merchandise.
Currently, there’re seven canon Sword Art Online games plus a remaster presently available, and you may find them on the Bandai Namco official page. By canon, I mean the author supervised these games’ storyline, gameplay, and mechanics.
There’re also three relevant spin-offs, some of which with a Japan-only release. The total is eleven SAO games.
The Sword Art Online Game Series
Bandai Namco takes care of the Sword Art Online games. The first one debuted in 2013 for PlayStation Vita, and it’s based on the 5th light novel in the franchise.
The company has continued releasing the games of the Japanese series. Each game presents a part of the story, and the timeline respects the default release order of the SAO entries.
Overall, every entry features more or less the same gameplay. They often work as JRPGs that imitate MMORPG titles either online or offline. You run around with the protagonist (Kirito or an avatar), complete the main quests, complete side quests, level up, and interact with other NPCs.
The worlds are open-world, but various sections are connected with loading screens. Then, each area is brimming with enemies, so the greater time of the playthrough is combat.
So, for combat, Kirito uses a combination of melee attacks, skills, and spells. Some games offer combos, dodge mechanics, party members, and shouting orders to the party members.
However, the SAO games have evolved to add RPG, action-adventure, and dungeon-crawling elements.
Lastly, the Sword Art Online games are not part of the anime canon timeline.
Every SAO In Order of Release Date
Sword Art Online: Infinity Moment – 2013
The first Sword Art Online game was Infinity Moment, although it’s technically not available anymore.
The original title debuted in 2013 for PSP, only in Japan. Once Bandai Namco Released Re: Hollow Fragment, they bundled a remaster of Infinity Master and made the original version unavailable.
Infinity moment follows an alternate story after the first season of the anime. The protagonists are Sinon and Leafa, other recurrent anime characters. Alongside all the VRMMORPG players, the real-life people are trapped within the game even after Kirito defeats Heathcliff.
The game mode imitates an MMORPG, although it’s not online. However, players can free-roam, do side quests, complete the main quest, buy and upgrade weapons, and complete missions alongside a party.
Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment – 2014
Hollow Fragment is the first SAO game for international audiences. It debuted in 2014 for PlayStation Vita, and it introduced Kirito as the main character.
Its gameplay is about imitating the MMO world of anime and novels. It mixes RPG elements, action-based combat, and free-roam. The action includes combos, skills, dodges, and commands to their party members.
In particular, Kirito can interact with many NPCs, including romancing other “players” or adding them to your party.
The story happens after the Aincrad story arc. It’s an alternate plot where the Sword Art Online game didn’t end after Kirito defeated Heathcliff on floor 75.
Dengeki Bunko: Fighting Climax – 2014 (spin-off)
Fighting Clima debuted in 2013 for PS3, only in Japan. You can still get the foreign version, though.
Either way, this is a 2D fighting game featuring crossover heroes from various manga animes. The franchises include Dengeki Bunko, Sword Art Online, Durarara!!, Accel World, and Shakugan no Shana.
Dengeki Bunko: Fighting Climax Ignition – 2015 (spin-off)
Fighting Climax Ignition is the update for the 2D fighting game. It debuted in 2015 for PS4 and PlayStation Vita (Japan).
Notably, the theme song for the game is “ID” by LiSA. The Japanese rock artist became quite notorious after making various songs Demon Slayer Season 1.
Sword Art Online: Lost Song – 2015
The next main entry also debuted in 2015. Lost Song is an RPG for PS3, PSVita, PS4, and Windows.
Even though it takes events and characters from the Sword Art Online franchise, it explores an original storyline.
First off, the story happens in Alfheim Online, a new game universe. This is a world of magic and fairies.
Kirito is once again the protagonist. Alongside a party of friends, he’ll try to conquer Svart Alfheim, a floating land, by completing an RPG-like main quest.
However, you may choose to create a custom protagonist. If you create a custom character, other NPCs will still refer to you as Kirito nonetheless.
The gameplay is similar to before. The combat is fast-paced and features a mixture of combos, skills, and commands to party members. As a novelty, the game adds aerial combat, so players can ride beasts in 360-degrees sky battles.
Also, the game adds hundreds of weapons and three weapon types. Each one offers particular advantages and skills.
Lastly, the game has a multiplayer mode. It opens team-based PvP arenas with up to 16 players per lobby. Also, it has a co-op mode with up to four players completing special missions.
Sword Art Online Re: Hollow Fragment – 2015 (remaster)
In 2015, Hollow Fragment became available for PC and PS4 as the Sword Art Online Re: Hollow Fragment version (2015). It’s a remastered version of the older PSVita title.
The RE entry also includes a remaster of the first SAO game, Infinity Moment. The newer version carries improved HD graphics for PS4, and PC.
That said, Re is the version available on official stores, so Infinity Moment is available for all players worldwide. Meanwhile, the original Hollow Fragment game is only available for the Playstation handheld console.
Both Infinity Moment and Hollow Fragment have the same gameplay mechanics and similar storylines.
Lastly, the RE game allows you to play as Kirito or a customizable avatar. However, other NPCs will always refer to the avatar as Kirito, even if you create a female lead.
Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization – 2016
Hollow Realization debuted for PS4, PSVita, and Windows in 2016. In 2019, it became available for Nintendo Switch as well.
The title introduces a new game universe (a “VRMMORPG”) -Sword Art: Origin. It’s a familiar setting, but not quite the same as the game Kirito left behind during the anime’s season 1.
In fact, “Origin” is a restoration of the original Aincrad. The new name for the land is “Ainground,” a single large floor intended for research.
The main character is a 14-year old AI, Premiere. Alongside Kirito, they travel to Ainground to uncover the mystery behind the new game version.
That said, the newer title mixes elements from the previous entries. It has action-RPG and MMO elements, and it starts with a character creation screen.
Also, the title has about 300 NPCs, all of which are available as party members. The character can bond with any NPC to create friendships, rivalries, or romances. Creating a bond makes NPCs stronger.
The game also adds a new battle system. You have a team of four players, and you can chain combos together with your party members. There’s also a healing system and a revival system.
Lastly, the game has various multiplayer modes. As before, it brings team-based PvP battles and a co-op mode with up to 4 players completing the game.
Accel World vs. Sword Art Online: Millennium Twilight – 2017
Millennium Twilight debuted in 2017 for PS4, PSVita, and Windows. It’s a crossover between Accel World and SOA franchises by developer Artdink. Still, it’s part of the Bandai Namco official Sword Art Online game series.
Accelerated World and Svart Alfheim are merging, and Yui is lost in the chaos. Kirito has to challenge the Seven Kings from Accel to rescue her.
Then, NPC players from both VRMMORPGs come together to save Yui from Personna Babel.
Accel World is also a light novel by Reki Kawahara, if you’re unfamiliar. SAO vs. Accel World is an original story, though, not part of the canon of either universe.
The title features similar gameplay as Hollow Realization and includes some Lost Song elements. For instance, it has aerial battles and allows players to freely explore the world from the skies.
Because it has elements of both manga-anime worlds, the game covers characters from the two distinct universes. In fact, you can build a team of 3-players using characters from both franchises.
In essence, SAO heroes rely on magic, aerial combat, and utility skills; Accel characters rely on melee, speed, and special techniques.
Additionally, you can change your team members, and each character has its abilities and powers. Then, you use your team to complete the main quest of rescuing Yui.
As in previous titles, Millennium Twilight has a character progression system. In essence, you gain experience points to improve the characters. Moreover, the game’s hub (the Floating City of Ryne) has shops that offer character improvement options.
Lastly, the title has multiplayer options as well. It’s about team-based PvP battles with up to four players per lobby.
Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet – 2018
Fatal Bullet debuted in 2018 for PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and Windows. The developer is Dimps, and the publisher is Bandai Namco.
It presents another original story within a new VRMMORPG. Inside the world of Gun Gale Online, you can create an avatar to explore the story in third-person as a shooting/action RPG. Along the way, you’ll find old and new faces from the SAO universe.
Gun Gale Online offers mostly urban sci-fi scenarios. Here, players have numerous weapons, skills, abilities, and fighting styles to approach combat.
After the anime’s season 2 and the Phantom Bullet manga, Zaskar launched Gun Gale Online. Fatal Bullet opens up yet another alternative story within the SAO universe using elements from anime and manga.
The story follows a new protagonist finding a rare AI, Arfa-Sys. Alongside the humanoid, the character embarks on an adventure that decides the fate of GGO. It includes decisions that produce branching paths and multiple endings.
Unlike previous entries, Fatal Bullet offers firearms on top of advanced melee weapons. Additionally, players can unlock the ability to wield a gun and a sword simultaneously.
For traverse, the game added a zip line to move quickly between areas (Bullet Line System).
The protagonist can talk to many NPCs and add them to the party. For instance, Kirito is present as an NPC.
And as before, the title includes a multiplayer co-op mode and a 4v4 PvP mode.
Sword Art Online: Integral Factor – 2018 (Spin-Off)
Integral Factor is a mobile MMORPG by Bandai Namco. It debuted in 2017 for Android and iOS.
The plot follows the playable character as they fight across the 100 floors of the Aincrad. As they fight across the levels, characters earn experience to improve stats and skills.
Other players can join you to defeat bosses, go on dungeons, and participate in raids.
The gameplay is fast-paced and comes with various melee and ranged weapons. Players have combos, weapon skills, and potions.
Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris – 2020
Alicization Lycoris debuted in 2020 for PS4, Xbox One, and Windows. It’s the latest core game in the series.
The setting is the Underworld, and the plot is loosely based on the Human Realm segment within the Alicization Arc.
Players step in for a new JRPG experience with modern visuals. Here, Kirito is the protagonist of a non-canon story that stays faithful to season 3 of the anime.
Step into a world with the enhanced essence of JRPG visuals, and play as the protagonist Kirito. He wakes up in an unknown virtual world that yet feels familiar. The hero ventures onwards with his new friend Eugeo to discover the truth behind the new world.
The gameplay offers action-packed battles that use sacred arts, sword skills, and various SAO characters in the party.
The game adds parries with the Guarding System and potions to recover life for novelties. Other new features are ultimate attacks, team combo assaults, and a deep skill tree.
Lastly, you can team up with up to four players. Each player can have a party with three characters.
Every Sword Art Online Game in Chronological Order
- Sword Art Online: Infinity Moment – 2013
- Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment – 2014
- Dengeki Bunko: Fighting Climax – 2014 (spin-off)
- Dengeki Bunko: Fighting Climax Ignition – 2015 (spin-off)
- Sword Art Online: Lost Song – 2015
- Sword Art Online Re: Hollow Fragment – 2015 (remaster)
- Sword Art Online: Hollow Realization – 2016
- Accel World vs. Sword Art Online: Millennium Twilight – 2017
- Sword Art Online: Fatal Bullet – 2018
- Sword Art Online: Integral Factor – 2018 (spin-off)
- Sword Art Online: Alicization Lycoris – 2020
What Is a “Light Novel”?
Light Novels (wasei-eigo) are a Japanese medium. It features simple grammar, easy-to-follow stories, and drawings.
What is a “Vrmmorpg”?
VRMMORPG stands for Virtual Reality Massively Multiplayer Online Game.
In the Sword Art Online Universe, VRM games support thousands of real-life players in a virtual world. Players need an artifact (the NerveGear) to access these worlds.
In essence, technology allows humans to translate their five senses into virtual worlds.
What is “Accel World”?
Accel World is a light novel by Reki Kawahara. It’s also an ASCII Media Works publication, under the Dengeki Bunko Magazine for young audiences.
The light novel also has a manga and an anime adaptation for Sunrise studio.
The plot happens in the same universe as Sword Art Online, 24 years after the previous story. In 2046, Haru is a lone and talented VRMMORPG player getting the attention of shady gaming corporations.