With the long-awaited anime adaptation of The World Ends With You airing this season, we thought we’d take a look at our favorite anime that are based on video games. In some ways, this sort of adaptation is more difficult than those based on manga or light novels—gameplay elements must be integrated into the story or removed in a way that makes sense, branching paths and multiple endings can make it near impossible to tell a coherent story, and the experience an individual player has with a game is never going to match up exactly with how the anime chooses to portray it. So here’s to the video game adaptations that got it right, despite all of the obstacles that stood in their way!
5. Doubutsu no Mori (Animal Crossing)
This 2006 movie is based on the popular life simulation series Animal Crossing, specifically its Nintendo DS incarnation Animal Crossing: Wild World. Its main character Ai goes through many of the same routines as players would in a typical game: making friends with the local talking animals, decorating her house, finding fossils, and getting immediately pressganged into low-wage busywork by Tom Nook the second she arrives in town. What we love about this movie is how perfectly it captures the unique emotional experiences of Animal Crossing, particularly that gut-wrenching feeling when a beloved neighbor moves away without telling you. If you have a soft spot for this franchise, it will absolutely make you cry.
4. Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works (Fate/stay night [Unlimited Blade Works])
Fate fans used to have it pretty rough, with the only anime adaptations of their beloved visual novel being mediocre disappointments (Fate/stay night), spinoffs/prequels that don’t go over the main plot of the game (Fate/Zero and Carnival Phantasm), or severely rushed movies that barely make sense to new viewers (the original film adaptation of Unlimited Blade Works). Luckily, the full 25-episode version of Unlimited Blade Works by Studio Ufotable is a picture-perfect tribute to the game on which it’s based. Spells and fights that could only be implied by the visual novel are rendered in jaw-dropping sakuga sequences, the fantasy and slice-of-life elements work surprisingly well together, and the music and voice acting lend emotion to every scene. If only Fate/stay night could get a remake like this!
3. Tales of Symphonia the Animation
Although Tales of Symphonia is one of our favorite JRPGs of all time, its GameCube-era graphics are really starting to show their age and not everyone has time to play a 45-hour game these days. Luckily, Studio Ufotable has adapted the story into a three-part OVA series (11 episodes total) that both old and new fans can enjoy. Some subplots are cut out for time and our sweet angel Colette isn’t as proactive as she is in the game, but the production quality is fantastic and the animation style even matches the special hand-drawn cutscenes from the original. For an easily digestible and visually stunning introduction to the Tales series, you can’t do better than this!
2. Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children Complete
Final Fantasy movies haven’t always been known for their quality, but this gorgeous adaptation of/sequel to the seventh game in the series does its source material proud. Seeing all of these classic characters and their sci-fi world come to life in beautifully rendered CG is simply mind-blowing, and not just because the original game looked like off-brand LEGO figures sliding around a poorly printed cereal box playset. It’s still recommended that you play the game first to completely understand what’s going on here, but if you have a knowledgeable friend or the Final Fantasy Wiki handy, you should be fine either way. Just be sure to watch the 2009 “complete” version, which has been remastered in HD and adds 30 minutes of extra content to flesh out the story.
If you’re a fan of science fiction, and especially time travel, you owe it to yourself to watch Steins;Gate. It’s an expertly told psychological thriller about the consequences of altering history, seen through the eyes of the one unlucky man who desperately seeks a timeline where all of his friends can be happy. The anime adaptation starts a little slow and only follows the “true” route of the visual novel, but it lays out the complex plotline in a way that’s easy to understand and really makes the emotional moments hit hard. There’s a reason it’s one of the highest rated anime of all time, so check it out to truly understand why!
We also loved Persona 4: The Animation, Petite Princess Yucie (based on Princess Maker), Kirby: Right Back At Ya!, Higurashi: When They Cry, Pokémon, and of course The World Ends With You. But did we miss any of your favorite video game anime adaptations? Let us know in the comments, and thanks so much for reading!