In Japan, the culture between anime and games is tightly knit. To be an Otaku, is to usually be someone who obsesses as much about one as the other. Each has in turn, influenced one another, and inspired each other in different ways. So it’s understandable that along the way, there’s been a convergence where anime has been directly adapted into a video game, and even sometimes vice-versa.
We’ve compiled a list of our 10 favourite games based on Japanese Anime. Missed off one of your all time faves? Let us know in the comments.
Sword Art Online series
You’d think having a game based on an anime centred around a fictional MMORPG in VR would at least try to create something similar in its own tie-in game. Well, not quite. Whilst we didn’t get a fully fledged Sword Art Online MMORPG game ourselves, we got something which did what the .hack series did, in trying to portray itself like an MMO, without being an MMO.
To be fair, it does a good job at pretending to be one, and the inclusion of multiplayer means that it doesn’t completely deviate from the source material. Whilst you can’t play out your fantasy of playing an MMO similar to that in the game, you can at least play a Monster Hunter style clone, wrapped in the design of one of the most popular anime in the last few years.
Robots, or mecha, have been popular in Japan since… well, pretty much since Japan was invented. Gundam, a mecha-based anime, is incredibly popular in Japan, and somehow that popularity has crept its way into the west, too.
With so many Gundam games to choose from, it really depends on what kind of genre you want in your game. You’ve got Dynasty Warriors-style Gundam games, Tekken fighter-style Gundam games, regular action third-person action Gundam games… take your pick, there’s plenty to choose from!
Attack on Titan
A recent addition to the long list of games based on anime, Attack on Titan manages to capture most of the thrills present in the anime, minus the heart-wrenching dread of taking on a titan yourself. It opts for mostly an action-based approach, as opposed to the tension the anime decided to play with, but the game does a good job at capturing the mechanics of their grapple hook thruster technology, swinging around titans and lunging for their weak spots on the back of their necks.
There’s a fan game which in my opinion allows for a much more nuanced and precise swinging system at the expense of having to practice extensively with it, but this official Attack on Titan does a good job at simplifying that mechanic to its essentials, and allowing anyone to pick up and play.
Fullmetal Alchemist series
There’s been a handful of Fullmetal Alchemist games across various platforms, but the PS2/Wii entries are probably the better examples to look at. Brawlers at heart, it takes two brothers on adventures with you squarely in control of the experience. It’s nice to place yourself in their world, filled with alchemy/magic and close quarter combat.
Yu-Gi-Oh has survived as one of the most popular trading cards games alongside Magic: The Gathering and Pokémon. There have been countless games based on the franchise over the years, but for me, it has got to be either Forbidden Memories on the PS1 (where the simplest and best version of the card game exists), or War Of The Roses on the PS2.
One Piece series
There have been so many One Piece games, it’s hard to know where to start. Pirates may not be the most conventional topic to set a Japanese anime around, but its popularity shows it clearly works. Following protagonist Luffy, there have been plenty of games of the series spanning several genres, from the more recent brawler One Piece: Burning Blood to the One Piece: Pirate Warriors RPG series, so whatever your preference, there’s likely a game to suit!
There’ve been a lot of forgettable Digimon games over the years, but there have been some great highlights too. For me, it’s got to be the original Digimon World and Digimon World 2003 on the PS1. Digimon Rumble Arena was a great attempt at emulating the success of Super Smash Bros. on the N64 too, and the later entries in that line of games were also great fun. The newest Digmon Story: Cyber Sleuth is a great return to form, and gives a good shot at the JRPG genre for the franchise.
Dragonball Z Series
The Dragonball anime is one of the most recognisable and popular in the world, if not THE most. The only anime in contention for being as recognisable is either Pokémon or Digimon, and even then it’s cutting it close. The games were all sort of 3D fighting games, that played like Street Fighter or Tekken, but allowed you to fly around and use abilities from the anime. Starting off as a traditional fighting game, they set themselves apart from other fighting games very early on, and its success continues even now.
I know what you’re thinking. Pokémon started off as a game, and then became an anime later on, right? Well yes, if I had put Pokémon as a general entry here, you’d be right to correct me and say “David, Pokémon is an anime based off a game, not the other way around”. However, Pokemon Yellow is based off the anime, and Ash’s relationship with Pikachu, so in this case, I’m taking creative liberties and placing Pokémon Yellow on the list.
Much like One Piece, the list of game titles based on Naturo is huge. There are games that cover several different genres, over almost a dozen platforms. Whilst each game has its own merit for what it did differently or in a unique way, the award easily goes to Cyber Connect’s Ultimate Ninja Storm series for the game. It was a real step forward for anime based video games, both visually and in terms of gameplay. It took the stories and characters of the anime series, and seamlessly blended your participation into the experience. Add in light RPG elements, challenges, and a massive roster of characters displayed in amazing cel-shaded graphics, and you have what I consider to be the best game based on an anime of all time.