Now considered to be one of A1’s masterpieces, Sword Art Online didn’t have it easy when it first aired. Several anime fans originally disliked the series. However, Sword Art Online is one of the first types of anime of its kind and paved the way for the Isekai genre.
New anime releases also caused more people to look at the series more, and now it has become one of the most-watched anime out there. Over the years, despite its flaws, Sword Art Online has proven itself to be an enjoyable anime to follow and definitely worth the watch.
If you’re interested in finding out about the anime that popularized the isekai genre, then Sword Art Online is what you should add to your watchlist. I put together a simple watch order guide to log you into Sword Art Online. I find the release order easy enough to understand. With the new movies coming in that visit the old story, I believe it’s good to grasp the series before diving into the later movies.
Sword Art Online
In this reality, logging into a game as yourself is actually possible. Sword Art Online follows the story of the players Kazuto “Kirito” Kirigaya and Asuna Yuki. Two of these players log in to a new virtual reality game called “Sword Art Online.” Unfortunately, the two of them and several other players get trapped. The beta testers later learn that they have to clear the game’s 100 floors and beat the game’s boss to get out.
While the two successfully clear the game, only Kirito has logged out. Kazuto eventually finds the whereabouts of Asuna. It looks as if Asuna is logged into another game called ALfheim Online, the spiritual successor of Sword Art Online.
In this version of the game, all the players assume the role of fairies. In order to rescue Asuna, Kazuto and his sister Suguha “Leafa” Kirigaya enter ALfheim Online.
Sword Art Online: Extra Edition
The extra edition is a single special episode after Sword Art Online episode 25. It is used to recount the story of Sword Art Online before the start of the second season.
The story is set some years after the horrifying events of Sword Art Online. Kazuto and Suguha meet up with Asuna, Rika, and Keiko at the Sword Art Online Survivor School. The girls go to the pool section of the school to swim. Meanwhile, Kirito has to attend Emergency Counseling.
It turns out the counseling is set up by Seijirou Kikuoka. He hopes to rehash the incident of Sword Art Online to determine the motives of Akihiko Kayaba.
Sword Art Online II
We follow Kirito again as the main protagonist of season 2. This time Kirito is playing a new virtual reality game called “Gun Gale Online,” where he partners up with a girl named Shino “Sinon” Asada. They both enter the tournament to investigate a player known as Death Gun. Death Gun can permanently kill the players in the real world by killing their virtual avatar in the game.
Eventually, after the Gun Gale Incident, the team returns to ALfheim Online to retrieve Excalibur to restore the city of Jotunheimr back to its former glory.
Meanwhile, Asuna encounters and befriends a girl named Yuuki Konno. Yuuki asks Asuna to join her on her quest. Unfortunately, Asuna later finds out that Yuuki has a terminal illness.
Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online
In this series, we do not follow Kirito. Due to the incident in the VR game Sword Art Online, people started to fear VR technology. In the incident, 10,000 players were trapped in the game during its launch. As a result, the VR device used for Sword Art online was recalled and destroyed.
However, the AmuSphere was then launched as the new VR tech, and soon VR gaming became popular again. The story now follows a different hero, Karen Kohiruimaki. She is a university student with a complex about her abnormal height. She eventually begins playing the VR game Gun Gale Online and is given a short, cute avatar.
LLENN, her in-game name, became widely popular, even earning the “Pink Devil.” In Gun Gale Online, she teams up with another girl called Pitohul, and both of them participate in a battle royale called Squad Jam.
Sword Art Online Movie: Ordinal Scale
It is now 2026, and new VR technology is hitting the market. Augma is a newly developed VR tech that was made to compete against the NerveGear and its successor, the Amusphere. However, unlike the previous VR devices, the Augma does not have a full-dive function.
Augma uses Augmented Reality to allow players to play the game. It is marketed as safe, user-friendly, and allows the player to remain conscious while playing the game. Asuna and the others try to convince Kirito to play Ordinal Scale; a game specially launched for the Augma.
Sword Art Online: Alicization
This takes place after the Phantom Bullet Arc in the Sword Art Online light novel. Kirito begins his new job as a tester for the new FullDrive technology called Soul Translator, where the player gets transported to a new virtual world called the Underworld.
Instead of simply transferring your consciousness over to the game, the player will experience a “New Life” to the point they cannot tell apart their own real-life anymore. When the player logs out, they have no memories of what transpired in the Underworld.
As Kirito tests the game, he experiences his new life in the Underworld, where he meets two new friends, Alice and Eugeo. Unfortunately, Alice was later captured due to a violation, and Kirito and Eugeo could not do anything about it.
When Kirito logged out of the game, he could not remember any of the events. Then, while he was with Asuna, Kirito was suddenly attacked. As he falls unconscious, he finds himself waking up in the Underworld instead, with full memory of who he is.
Sword Art Online: Alicization- War of Underworld
After Kirito manages to defeat Quinella, the pontifex of the Axiom Church, it becomes clear that the fight is not over. Upon contacting the real world, Kirito discovers that the Ocean Turtle was raided. The raiders caused a sudden short-circuit to Kirito’s fluctlight, leaving him in a comatose state.
Wanting to help, Alice decides to take Kirito back to their Underworld hometown in Rulid Village, despite no longer being allowed in the area due to an unabsolved crime. She chooses to nurse Kirito until he wakes up in a home near the village.
Her peaceful life changes when she notices the Dark Territory advancing to invade the Human Empire. She decides to reassume her alias, Alice Synthesis Thirty, as she moves to attempt to defeat the Dark Territory.
Sword Art Online: Alicization- War of the Underworld 2nd Season
While the final battle against the Dark Territory drags on, it seems Kirito isn’t waking up from his comatose state. Players from all over the world log in to the Underworld’s server causing the Human Empire to fall into chaos. Asuna and her other friends defend their new allies as much as they can, but even with strong players, their numbers are declining.
While all of this is happening, Raths attempts to restore Kirito’s damaged fluctlight. But it isn’t an easy task since intruders seem to gain control over the central control room. It looks like all hope is gone unless Kirito manages to wake up.
With the memories of his friends as a base, including Eugeno, Kirito managed to wake up. Not only did he wake up, but he woke up with a great power boost. Now, he has access to everyone’s abilities. He also can use shields and even Eugeno’s Perfect Weapon Control Art.
Sword Art Online Progressive: Aria of a Starless Night
After finishing most of Sword Art Online, you can revisit the series. This time through a different point of view. This is a retelling of the original first arc of Sword Art Online through Asuna’s eyes.
Asuna logged into Sword Art Online along with her friend Mito. The two of them are struggling to cope with the reality that they are both stuck inside the game. Asuna eventually encounters Kirito, a beta tester for the game.
Kirito decides to isolate himself from everyone since he is one of the 1000 beta testers of the game. Meaning he has knowledge of the game that the other players do not have. Asuna then tries to understand Kirito more and hopes that the two of them will be able to figure a way out of Sword Art Online.
Sword Art Online Progressive: Scherzo of a Dark Dust
This movie has yet to come out, however it was announced to hit Japan sometime this year. While not much detail is revealed about the film, I assume it’s similar to the first Progressive Movie. The title ironically refers to the arc from Volume 4 of the Light Novel, which tackles Kirito’s and Asuna’s adventure on the fifth floor. I’ll make a guess, and say it’ll also be viewed in Asuna’s eyes.