Kaname Sudou was just an average high school student when he downloaded Darwin’s Game onto his cell phone. Shortly after downloading and opening the game, he immediately faces a life-and-death situation, loses his friend Kaname, and has to figure out the rules of the game.
The notion of willingly (or reluctantly) participating in a game where there is a low probability of surviving has been done in anime before, but that doesn’t mean they can all have their fresh takes on it. Darwin’s Game allows users of various backgrounds to participate and they’re all given a superpower. In addition to how Kaname can create weapons from out of thin air, other characters can manipulate water, and there are those that can manipulate plant life. While there are some anime that have a fight-to-the-death theme, some titles may allow participants to use powers, and there are other titles where characters must use their wits such as portrayed in King’s Game. So if you’re looking for anime where a bunch of people play to survive like in Darwin’s Game, allow us to introduce six titles you can check out!
Similar Anime to Darwin’s Game
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: April 13, 2004 – June 22, 2004
Based on the hit manga by Hiroya Oku, Gantz is an anime that takes the afterlife to such a whole new level that it could be its own religion. Kei Kurono and Masaru Katou were two well-intended teenagers who were trying to help a homeless man who fell off the train platform only to be killed by a train. The next moment, they find themselves in an empty apartment that contains a black sphere, or “Gantz.” The sphere orders those at the apartment to become its minions so they can fight an invading alien species. If a participant gets 100 points, they can either return to their normal life, receive a kick-ass weapon, or revive a participant who permanently died during a previous mission.
Just like in Darwin’s Game, Gantz has average and reluctant teenagers participating in a game to ensure their survival (though in this case, they’re technically dead). At the time of writing the purpose Darwin’s Game has yet to be revealed, but winning a lot of money seems to be involved. In the case of Gantz, not only are the characters participating to get points, it mixes some elements of John Carpenter’s “They Live” as they fight an alien force that can’t be seen by regular humans (unfortunately, Gantz doesn’t have an iconic fight scene akin to the fight between Roddy Piper and Keith David have in that cult classic film). What also makes Gantz distinguishing is that it’s reputable for having a lot of carnage and guts so if you really want something intense, Gantz is the anime for you!
2. Accel World
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: April 7, 2012 – September 22, 2012
Junior high can be a very tough time for kids that don’t fit in and the audience can see that through the eyes of Haruyuki Arita, who tends to be bullied for his weight. To deal with the bullying, he likes to play online games. While playing, he befriends Kuroyukihime, the vice-president of the student council. After getting acquainted, Kuroyukihime introduces Haruyuki to Brain Burst, an online fighting game. What’s also unique about this game is that it allows the players to boost their brainpower to the point that time stops for them. So, what’s the catch? Players must engage in fights with other players for points. With the points, players can boost their attributes in the real world. In the event a player loses all of their points, then they can no longer be part of the game!
Accel World and Darwin’s Game are obviously similar where the participating characters must collect in-game currency to buy boosts. However, Darwin’s Game and Accel World differ in where the rules apply. While the players of Darwin’s Game can use the in-game currency to purchase items for the game, as we said before, the Brain Burst allows players to become more advanced in the real world! The motivations between the characters also differ. Kaname was in the game circumstantially before he knew it, and Haruyuki is participating in the Brain Burst out of his own free will so he can thank Kuroyukihime and help her accomplish her goals.
Accel World Trailer
3. Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku (Magical Girl Raising Project)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: October 2, 2016 – December 18, 2016
A lot of people may feel that the magical girl genre has been done to death but Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku begs to differ. In the world of Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikau, or Magical Girl Raising Project, girls love to play the titular app and as it turns out, players have a 1/10,000 chance of being an actual magical girl! However, when the app feels that the city has too many magical girls, they hold a contest where if they have the least amount of magical candies—the anime’s in-game currency they can earn by doing good deeds in a week—they will lose their powers. As the contest progresses, the young ladies participating start to see that it’s not just for the sake of not losing their powers, but for their very survival.
As seen in Darwin’s Game, the world of Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku involves a game that allows players to physically participate and gain powers. Eventually, that concept takes a turn for the worse in both the game and the real world. While we don’t know about Darwin’s Game at this point with only seven episodes broadcasted by the drafting of this article, Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku’s story goes deep to the point that the very fate of the world is at stake! So if you want an anime that really brings intensity, then Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku is it!
Magical Girl Raising Project Trailer
Any Anime Like Darwin’s Game?
4. Higashi no Eden (Eden of the East)
- Episodes: 11
- Aired: April 10, 2009 – June 19, 2009
So what do some of you readers remember about November 22, 2010? Yeah, we know it was a Monday but in the world of Higashi no Eden, Japan is attacked by missiles but no one died. Three months later, Saki Morimi goes on vacation to the good old USA and outside the White House, she meets a fellow Japanese national who is naked and has lost his memories. After that, they go to an apartment containing numerous fake passports and they use them to go back to Japan with the amnesiac taking the name Akira Takizawa. While fiddling with his phone, Akira discovers he has over 8 billion yen given to him by a mysterious organization known as Selecao. What’s the money for? It’s for him to save Japan! If he uses up the money or uses it for personal gain, then he will die!
The very foundation of what makes Higashi no Eden similar to Darwin’s Game is how everything starts with a cell phone with a mysterious app forced onto it. Just like Kaname, Akira is introduced as someone who was forced into the situation but seeing that he has to participate to get out of it, he has to go with the flow and does his best to avoid violence with the people he encounters. Due to Akira being an amnesiac, he does have a childlike innocence like Kaname and only wants the best outcome for not just him, but for his friends as well
Eden of the East Trailer
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: April 8, 2018 – June 24, 2018
Based on The Caligula Effect for the PS Vita (which would later be ported to the PS4, Switch, and PC), Caligula tells the tale of Ritsu Shikishima, an average high school student. All of that changes when Mu, a vocaloid like Hatsune Miku, brings Ritsu into her world to fight a threat that not only threatens it, but the real world as well. However, Ritsu can’t face this threat alone as he must find allies to fight the evil forces of the Ositanto Musicians. So, how can they defeat them? Thanks to the Catharsis Effect, they can gain powers and weapons through their emotions!
Just like in Darwin’s Game, Caligula explores how an average high school student is trapped in a game. In addition, the participants are given unique powers when they’re a part of the world of the game. However, Caligula explores very unique themes that have yet to be explored in Darwin’s Game (as it’s still being broadcast), most notably, how we view reality. Mu is obviously that gateway to understanding those themes as vocaloids are now popular in Japan. When people begin to rely more on technology and its conveniences, can it do more harm than good if vocaloids one day replace real singers? That’s what makes Caligula uniquely enjoyable.
6. Mirai Nikki (Future Diary)
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: October 9, 2011 – April 15, 2012
Yukiteru Amano is a teenage loner who keeps a diary on his cell phone and has two imaginary friends, Deus Ex Machina (the God of Space and Time) and Muru Muru, his assistant. As it turns out, his two imaginary friends aren’t so imaginary as Deus Ex Machina turns Yukiteru’s phone into the Random Diary, which can predict the future for up to 90 days! You would think that would be the beginning of something awesome but as it turns out, there are 11 other individuals like him who also possess special diaries and they must all kill each other until there can only be one. So what is the grand prize? The winner gets to become the next God of Space and Time so they can save the world!
Just like in Darwin’s Game, we have a motley crew of people who are playing the game in their quest so they can have the power. The participants’ diaries are somewhat similar to the sigils in Darwin’s Game. Yuno’s diary allows her to know what Yukiteru is doing for the next 10 minutes, and there is another character that possesses a diary that allows him to find his next murder victim and tells him what to do with that person. Like Kaname, Yukiteru just wants to live a normal life and he finds himself teaming up with Yuno, a classmate who is obsessed with him. While Shuka in Darwin’s Game kind of serves the same role as a supporting character, at least she’s normal (Yuno’s behavior is perfectly explained in Mirai Nikki).
Future Diary Trailer
In a classic episode of Norm MacDonald’s sitcom, he attempted to counsel a boy who was delusional with the notion that he was Ash from Pokemon. He told the boy that he needs to know the difference between reality and fantasy, and his method of distinguishing between them was to think of fantasy as good, and reality as bad. If you’re thinking of taking such advice, when you watch Darwin’s Game and the six anime we’ve recommended in relation to it, it’ll most likely make you rethink whether that’s a good way to differentiate the two.
Playing video games can be fun and sometimes you wish they could be real, but when you watch Darwin’s Game and any anime similar to it, they’re a perfect example of “be careful what you wish for.” So, are you the type to think that being able to live a game would be cool? Or would you rather not do it? If an app suddenly appeared on your phone, would you open it? Or delete it? Leave a comment to tell us what you’d do!