If you want more like Sword Art Online (SAO) then this article is for you. We have created the best list of similar recommendations.
Since Sword Art Online has big differences between the seasons this article mainly focuses on similarities with the first season. But most of the recommendations will probably be the same for the other seasons.
Sword Art Online is an exciting and somewhat serious Isekai anime of the trapped in a VR game kind. It's set in a fantasy VRMMORPG game world with monsters, NPCs, material artist fighters, sword fighting, and some magic. They are stuck and have to do their best to survive while doing their best to complete the game so they can escape.
Most of our recommendations have some of the above-mentioned elements in common with Sword Art Online. In addition, to recommend anime shows similar to Sword Art Online, we have also recommended some books similar to it.
If your interested in more Isekai animes then check out this list with Best Isekai Anime Recommendations.
The book genre LitRPG has many similarities with Sword Art Online and the Isekai genre. If you are interested then go to LitRPG, what is it and where to start? for some recommendations.
Sword Art Online (SAO), a massive online role-playing game, is launched.
It uses "NerveGear" technology, a technology that lets players control their avatars within the game using nothing but their own thoughts.
Kazuto Kirigaya is one player among ten-thousand others that logs on to SAO as it launches. He was a beta tester for the game, so he has a leg up over most of the others.
The players soon realize they cannot log out. The game’s creator has trapped them in his new world until they complete all one hundred levels of the game.
If you want more anime like Sword Art Online then check out our following recommendations.
Momonga is a powerful wizard and master of the dark guild Ainz Ooal Gown int the popular virtual reality game Yggdrasil.
The final hour before the game shuts down for god has come and he decides to stay logged in during this event.
To his surprise, despite the clock having struck midnight, and all the servers should have been shut down, Momonga is still fully conscious inside his game character.
What's even more strange is that all the NPCs appear to suddenly have developed personalities of their own.
Surprised by this strange occurrence, Momonga decides to investigate and take control of this new world to figure out the cause and to see if there are others like him.
Is Overlord good?
I recommend this anime, but only if you like this genre. Its one of the better "trapped in RPG game world" animes.
Why is Overlord recommended?
Both Overlord and Sword Art Online are about people stuck in a game. Both game worlds are fantasy worlds with swords and magic.
The main character in Overlord is not really attempting to escape, he is going for taking control over the world. Overlord also doesn't have that many people stuck in it. The main character is interacting more with NPCs that suddenly have become more lifelike.
If you like Sword Art Online and want something similar, and better, then Overlord is an excellent choice.
MMORPG gamers find themself transported into the game they play.
Shiroe and the others in Log Horizon attempt to live their lives out in the new world they find themselves trapped in.
They form governments, deal with NPCs and other players.
Is Log Horizon good?
Log Horizon is a very good anime. It`s about more than simple fighting.
Why is Log Horizon recommended?
Log Horizon is also an anime where people get stuck in a VRMMORPG game. This one is more serious and mature. In both animes, they try to adapt and survive in this new world of theirs. They use guilds, parties, raids and other game mechanics to survive. The main character in Log Horizon is more strategic and a team player than the main character in Sword Art Online.
If you like Sword Art Online then Log Horizon is an excellent suggestion.
As Subaru Natsuki leaves the convenience store he is transported into a fantasy world. He soon gets attacked by some brutes but he is saved by the mysterious beauty named Satella. She stumbled upon him as she was pursuing a thief that stole her insignia. Subaru offers to help in her search for the thief as thanks for the rescue.
Later that night Subaru finds the thief, but unbeknownst to them, a much darker force stalks the pair from the shadows.
Just minutes after locating the insignia, Subaru and Satella are brutally murdered. However, Subaru immediately reawakens.
Subaru finds himself confronted by the same group of brutes and meeting Satella all over again. The exact same way, but they don't remember him.
Is Re: Zero - Starting Life in Another World good?
Re: Zero is darker than most anime in this genre, and the groundhog day like aspect to it also differs from the norm. Its a good and different anime in its genre.
Re: Zero is a very good anime.
Why is Re: Zero - Starting Life in Another World recommended?
RE: ZERO is and Isekai of the reborn type. It's not set in a VRMMORPG game world like Sword Art Online is. But it is a fantasy world with magic, bests, and sword fighting.
If you want something similar to Sword Art Online but with a more dark and psychological theme then RE: ZERO is a good choice. It's also a better anime and it has just as a big fan base.
Kaede Honjou reluctantly agrees to try New World Online after a friend enthusiastically invites her. New World Online is a very popular VRMMO game with thousands of players across Japan.
Kaede Honjou names her character Maple. She is a total noob and afraid of getting hurt, so she puts all her points into vitality. This makes Mapel very hard to kill, but she deals almost no damage and walks very slowly.
Min-maxing to the extent Mapel has done usually ends badly, but she lucks out by gaining powerful skills and items to bolster her playstyle.
Maple easily acquires some overpowered skills like; Total Defense, Poison Immunity, Devour, and later many more. These skills together with some overpowered items she also acquires make her an overpowered walking fortress that can kill most enemies in one hit.
After only a few days of playing Maple wins third place in an event including all players. This gains her the reputation of being both unkillable and totally overpowered.
Mapel gains infamy and is almost on a path to become a boss character her self. But Mapel is evil or power-hungry. She is kind and happy. All she wants is to play and have fun with old and new friends.
Is BOFURI: I Don’t Want to Get Hurt, so I’ll Max Out My Defense. good?
BOFURI is an ok VRMMO anime. It not the best, but if you like this type of animes then its worth checking out.
Why is BOFURI: I Don’t Want to Get Hurt, so I’ll Max Out My Defense. recommended?
BOFURI is not a story about people stuck in a VRMMORPG world, but it is a story about people playing such a game. Most of the story takes part in the game, but they are outside it a few times.
If you like Sword Art Online and want something less deadly and more lighthearted then BOFURI: I Don't Want to Get Hurt, so I'll Max Out My Defense is a decent choice.
Satoru Mikami s a typical Thirty-seven-year-old corporate worker. The only thing he misses in his life is a girlfriend, otherwise he is is perfectly content with his monotonous lifestyle in Tokyo.
During a regular encounter on the street with a coworker, Satoru is suddenly stabbed by a random assailant. While he is dying he hears a voice in his mind reciting a bunch of commands that he can make any sense of.
When Satoru awakens he discovers that he has reincarnated as a goop of slime in an unfamiliar world. It's a game-like world with skills and stats and Satoru has gained the power to devour anything and mimic its appearance and abilities.
Satoru meats the sealed Catastrophe-Level monster Storm Dragon Veldora who had been sealed away for the past 300 years. Satoru befriends him and promising to assist in destroying the seal. In return, Veldora gives Satoru the name Rimuru Tempest to grant him divine protection. In this world name has power.
Rimuru starts his journey in the world and as he grows accustomed to his new life his actions ripple throughout the world and gradually alter his fate.
Is That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime good?
That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime is a good Isakai anime.
Rimuru becomes somewhat overpowered but he is a fine central character. It a decent story where Rimuru meats interesting friends and build a community.
Why is That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime recommended?
That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime is an Isekai of the reborn type and not the VR world type. But it is set in a fantasy world with some gamelike elements.
Fans of Sword Art Online will most likely also like That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime.
Kazuma Satou is a shut-in high school student, a NEET, and he has just died on his way home from buying a game. Now he finds himself sitting before a beautiful but obnoxious goddess named Aqua.
Aqua makes Kazuma choose between going to heaven or to reincarnate in a real gamelike fantasy world. The gamer in Kazuma makes him choose the fantasy world option.
Aqua tasks Kazuma with defeating a Demon King who is terrorizing the fantasy world. Kazuma is given the option to choose one item of any kind to aid him in his quest. He chooses to take the goddess Aqua herself.
But Kazuma has made one grave mistake. Aqua is completely useless!
As if that is not enough, it turns out that actually living in a fantasy world is far different from how it is in games. Instead of going on a thrilling adventure, they must first work to pay for their living expenses.
Indeed, their misfortunes have only just begun!
Is KonoSuba: God's Blessing on This Wonderful World! good?
KonoSuba is a popular anime with a loyal fanbase.
It's not among the best animes, but it is absolutely worth watching if you like anime.
It has hilarious storylines, lovable characters, and stunning animation.
Why is KonoSuba: God's Blessing on This Wonderful World! recommended?
KonoSuba is a reborn type of Isekai and not stuck in a VR game kind. But the main character is reborn as himself into a fantasy world with strong RPG elements.
If you like Sword Art Online then you probably also will like KonoSuba.
Naofumi Iwatani is an otaku from Japan. He and three other Japanese people are summoned to another world to become The Four Cardinal Heroes.
The Four Cardinal Heroes are respectively given a sword, spear, bow, and shield. They are each called the Sword Hero, the Spear Hero, the Bow Hero, and lastly the Shield Hero.
Their task is to vanquish Waves of monsters. The Waves are monsters summoned from another plane to attack and destroy everything. They are summoned in regular waves.
Naofumi is cursed with the fate of becoming the Shield Hero.
Armed with only a measly shield, Naofumi is belittled and ridiculed by his fellow heroes and the kingdom's people due to his weak offensive capabilities. His lackluster personality does also not help his case.
They were summoned by the kingdom of Melromarc. The kingdom provides the heroes with some recourses and comrades to train with to prepare for the Waves.
The only person willing to help Naofumi, the Shield Hero, is Malty Melromarc, a princess of the kingdom. However, she soon betrays him by stealing his resources and falsy causing him of taking advantage of her.
This causes Naofumi to be discriminated against and hated by the people of Melromarc for something he didn't do.
Full of hurt and mistrust Naofumi begins his journey of strengthening himself. He buys the demi-human Raphtalia, a slave on the verge of death. He wants her to accompany him on his travels.
Raphtaliathe is the sword to Naofumis shield.
Is The Rising of the Shield Hero good?
The Rising of the Shield Hero is a good anime. It's interesting to watch the main character dealing with having everyone against him and growing stronger.
It has an interesting gamelike progression and a decent story and characters.
This anime is not a masterpiece, it's not among the best. It's only recommended if you like anime or like these kinds of Isekai/LitRPG kind of stories.
Why is The Rising of the Shield Hero recommended?
The Rising of the Shield Hero is not set in a VRMMORPG world. They are transported from our world to a real fantasy world. But they are stuck in this world, and the main character wants to get back home.
Tsukasa, a young Wavemaster, wakes up in the MMORPG called The World with amnesia.
He does do not remember what he did before waking up in the game and being unable to log out from the game. He wanders around looking for answers.
Is .hack//Sign good?
.hack//Sign is an OK anime.
I remember loving it the first time, but it was not as good the second time.
Why is .hack//Sign recommended?
.Hack//Sign is set in a VRMMORPG world. Only the main character is stuck, everyone else can logout. Its one of the earlier stuck in VR anime and it worth watching.
Two siblings with social problems and gigantic gaming addiction are selected and sent into an alternate universe.
This universe is about gaming. All conflict and problems are solved by games. No murder or violence is possible.
They set out to get enough power and influence by winning games so they can play against the god of this universe, the god of gaming.
Is No Game No Life good?
The premise of this anime sounds a little silly, but the anime turns out to be really good.
If you like anime and gaming, then this is a must-watch.
Why is No Game No Life recommended?
No Game No Life is not set in a VR game world, they are transported to a real world. But in this world, every conflict is solved by playing games.
People are thrown into a foreign land with nothing but hazy memories and the knowledge of their name. This group of strangers is given no other choice than to accept the only paying job in this game-like world, the role of a soldier in the Reserve Army.
The Reserve Army has one goal, to eliminate anything that threatens the people in the world of Grimgar.
All the strong people join together and those remaining have to band together to survive in this world.
One such group of leftovers is lead by the charismatic priest Manato. The other members are the nervous thief Haruhiro, the cheerful hunter Yume, the shy mage Shihoru, the kind warrior Mogxo, the rowdy dark knight Ranta. Together they struggle to survive this harsh world.
Despite its game-like resemblance, this is no game. There are no respawns or do-overs.
Grimgar is a kill or be killed world.
Is Grimgar: Ashes and Illusions good?
Grimgar: Ashes and Illusions is a good Isekai anime.
It's more Grim and Dark than most other anime in this genre.
It focuses more on the Mental and Emotional struggles of surviving in an RPG game-like world with no memories and having to kill goblins to survive.
Grimgar is more suited for an older audience than most other anime in this genre.
Why is Grimgar: Ashes and Illusions recommended?
Grimgar is more mature and serious than Sword Art Online. It has a more depressed and serious thone.
One day, Yukiteru discovers that his cell phone "diary" can now tell him events in the future.
The problem is, eleven others also have similar diaries, and they are all forced into a battle royale game.
Only one can win this Survival Game. The winner becomes a god. The losers: DEAD END.
Is Mirai Nikki good?
Mirai Nikki (future diary) is an OK anime. Slightly better than average, but nothing special.
If you like Battle Royale stories and regularly watch animes then it's worth watching.
If you want to read books that are similar to Sword Art Online then check out our following recommendations.
Daniel Mahan is unjustly sentenced to prison for eight years. Like most other criminals he has to serve his sentence in a full immersion chamber put in a prison work camp in the VRMMORPG game Barliona.
Barliona is a medieval-like virtual world with monsters and other players.
The game has become so popular that players now choose to spend months online at a time without returning to the real world.
In Barliona, anything goes: You can assault fellow players, level up, become a mythical hero, or just get a regular medieval job if you like. The only rule is that no player is allowed to feel actual pain.
But there's an exception to every rule.
People in Daniel Mahan's position, prisoners, feel just as much pain as they do in real life. For them, Barliona has become their personal hell.
Is Way of the Shaman good?
Way of the Shaman is one of the best LitRPG series I have read, it's also one of the first, so that might affect my judgment.
It has both well-developed characters and a good story. The LitRPG elements are also done in a very good way, which is important.
Why is Way of the Shaman recommended?
Way of the Shaman is in the LitRPG genre. LitRPG and Isekai genres have many similarities.
In the Way of the Shaman, the main character is temporarily stuck in a VRMMORPG game. He has been sentenced to serve his prison time in a VRMMORPG game.
Both the Way of the Shaman and Sword Art Online have heavy focus n game mechanics.
If you like Sword Art Online and want a book like it then the Way of the Shaman book series is a good place to start.
Joe is an army medic that had an accident at work and has become a quadriplegic with no chance of getting healthy again. When he is given the option to permanently transition his consciousness into a virtual world, a game, he takes it.
When he enters the game he is given the option of picking a special class, a ritualist. Its a class with huge potential, but it also has the drawback that if anyone discovers his class, he will be hunted down.
Is Completionist Chronicles good?
The Ritualist (Completionist Chronicles) is among the best LitRPG books I have read so far.
Joe does not have a typical fighting class, and he is not turned into a Mary Sue character. The story is interesting, and I love the game elements and character leveling in this book.
Why is Completionist Chronicles recommended?
The Completionist Chronicles is a LitRPG series set in a VRMMORPG world. The main character is not exactly stuck, he has willingly transferred his consciousness into the game.
The Completionist Chronicles has less focus on sword fighting and more focus on magic and rituals.
If you want a book similar to Sword Art Online then the Completionist Chronicles series is a good choice. It's not the most similar book series on this list, but they are among the best in its genre.
Wade Watts is a poor teen living with his aunt in the stacks, a trailer park with the trailers stacked atop each other. A place for the poor.
Wade only feels alive when he`s inside the OASIS, a popular online game that most of the world is obsessed with.
Even with the basic headgear and gloves, it's almost like you are inside the game. It gets even better for those with the money for specialized bodysuits.
The creator of OASIS, James Halliday, told everyone before he died that he had hidden an easter egg inside the game. And whoever finds it first will inherit his entire multi-billion-dollar fortune.
Wade is among the most dedicated hunters that label themselves as gunters. To find the egg they study the life of Halliday, especially his earlier days in the 80s. And gunters are really dedicated to their studies.
When Wade is the first to find the first clue thing takes a nasty turn when he discovers that people are willing to kill him in the real world to get it.
Is Ready Player One by Ernest Cline good?
This book is full of pop culture from the 80s, especially the cool nerdy stuff. Sadly I`m a little too young to have experienced the 80s pop culture, but I know some of it, and it is still cool.
It is all those references that make the book shine the most, Ready Player One would not be as good without it. Other VR themed books are better.
Why is Ready Player One by Ernest Cline recommended?
Ready Player One also is about Virtual Reality gaming. The main difference is that the story takes part in both the VR world and the real world and no one is stuck in VR. Ready Player One focuses more on 80s nerd culture and games instead of pure game mechanics and fantasy worlds.
Ready Player One has some similarities to Sword Art Online, but it's only with checking out if the description was to your liking. They are not that similar.
New Era Online, NEO, is a full immersion virtual reality game.
Oren Berman is among the most powerful and influential players. He is the guild leader of one of the most power full guilds. In NEO the first person to discover a skill gives you the exclusive right to teach others the skill. Oren has some really good exclusive right, and together with being the guild leader he easily lives of what he makes in-game.
But all these changes when he is betrayed by his own guild commanders.
They use a rare item that transforms your character into a monster, permanently. Oren ends up as a level one goblin far into the uncharted monster territory. If Oren starts a new character he will loose his exclusive skills to the guild that betrayed him. What will he do?
Is New Era Online good?
Life Reset is an excellent LitRPG book. It has interesting game mechanics and character development.
It's fascinating to follow the main character. A person that starts out among the most powerful players, but then he is betrayed, changed to a monster race, and stuck in the game.
Why is New Era Online recommended?
In New Era Online the main character has also become stuck in a VRMMORPG game. But he is the only one that is stuck, the other players are regular players. He is also not permanently dead when he dies.
New Era Online also has more focus on building a community, and the main character has become a monster race.
Both Sword Art Online and New Era Online have strong game mechanics in it and focuses on leveling and growing.
Seth Kinnaman's dream has always been to become the best fighter the world has ever seen. He has spent his entire life training to reach his dream.
In the semifinals of the world's biggest tournament, his opponent uses an illegal move that puts Seth in a coma. When Seth wakes up he discovers that he has become blind and that the dream he has worked for his entire life is now impossible.
Seth falls into a terrible depression.
Seth is introduced to the VRMMORPG Bushido Online to help out with his depression and to keep his skills sharp. The game does not need his eys to render the world for him.
Bushido Online is set in feudal Japan where players can play as ninjas, samurai, and other classes. It's a game where real-life fighting skills are helpful for in-game fighting. Something that is perfect for Seth's situation.
Is Bushido Online good?
Bushido Online is a decent LitRPG series that is set in an eastern medieval setting instead of the more typical western one.
It's not among the best LitRPGs, but its worth a try if you like this genre.
Why is Bushido Online recommended?
Bushido Online has more focus on material arts and sword fighting than other LitRPG books. It is also set in a Japanese inspired VRMMORPG game world.
If you want a book like Sword Art Online then the Bushido Online series is probably the best place to start.
Similar recommendations if you like Sword Art Online:
- Log Horizon
- Re: Zero - Starting Life in Another World
- BOFURI: I Don’t Want to Get Hurt, so I’ll Max Out My Defense.
- That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime
- KonoSuba: God's Blessing on This Wonderful World!
- The Rising of the Shield Hero
- No Game No Life
- Grimgar: Ashes and Illusions
- Mirai Nikki