Link, Start! Why You Should Read Sword Art Online in 2022

Not only is that date fast approaching us this year, but it’s also a date that holds special meaning for fans of Sword Art Online. In SAO’s storyline, November 6th, 2022 is the infamous date when 10,000 players log into the titular virtual reality game and are held hostage by the game’s creator – where dying in-game means dying for real!

With 2022 coming to pass in the real world, we thought this would be a great opportunity to talk about Sword Art Online and where the series currently stands. If you only watched the first or second season of the anime years ago, we’ll give you an update on all the light novels and manga that are available, and we’ll also take a look at just how close we are to seeing a real VRMMO hitting the shelves!

So put on your NerveGear and full-dive with us into the world of Sword Art Online as we celebrate the series in 2022!

Where Is SAO At Right Now?

Sword Art Online’s author Kawahara Reki maintains an incredible speed in writing and publishing light novels, churning out around four novels a year while also supervising scripts for video-game tie-ins and spin-offs. That means plenty of content for readers, but it can make the series daunting to approach!

So where is Sword Art Online currently? As of 2022, there are two main series of light novels and one spin-off series available in English. Those are:

  • Sword Art Online (currently in the Unital Ring arc)
  • Sword Art Online: Progressive
  • Sword Art Online Alternative Gun Gale Online

The Unital Ring arc of the main storyline sees multiple different MMOs merge together into a huge survival MMORPG, where your character only has a single life – and logging out leaves your avatar vulnerable and exposed!

The Progressive series of light novels follows the adventures of main characters Asuna and Kirito throughout the original ‘Aincrad’ arc, and intends to have one light novel per ‘floor’ of the original game. Considering the Aincrad arc ends on Floor 75, that’s a huge undertaking!

The Alternative Gun Gale Online spin-off is finished in Japanese at twelve novels, with ten volumes available in English. The first few volumes were adapted into an anime, and the series follows new characters in the Gun Gale Online MMO, which formed the setting for the Phantom Bullet arc of the main series.

If you’re wondering where to start with the franchise, we recommend reading the original light novels (or their manga adaptations) first, as you’ll need some context for the different characters and MMOs before picking up additional series.

There is also the Japanese-only spin-off series, Clover’s Regret, which we hope will get an English translation soon!

What Else Is Happening With Sword Art Online?

Yen Press - the publisher for Sword Art Online’s novels and manga - has embarked on a new and exciting venture via their Yen Audio brand. Each of the SAO light novels is being adapted to audiobook form, starring the English voice actors of Kirito (Bryce Papenbrook) and Asuna (Cherami Leigh) as narrators.

Listening to the novels being read by the anime voice actors is an incredible experience, and we highly recommend trying out the audiobooks if you have the opportunity. Having the prose and dialogue narrated by the English voice actors is an even better experience if you’ve watched the anime – it feels like the characters have come to life to tell their own stories!

If audiobooks aren’t your thing, all of the series we listed above have excellent manga adaptations, too. SAO can often lean into a more philosophical thought process, particularly regarding the nature of ‘reality’ and ‘virtual reality’, which isn’t explored as much in the manga adaptations. So depending on your preference, the manga and light novels will give you different experiences.

Could We Have A Real VRMMO Soon?

The world of Sword Art Online has always existed as an incredible fantasy for RPG players and video game fans in general. And now, nearly two decades after Kawahara first penned the original web version of SAO in 2002, we’re seeing more sophisticated VR technology appear that could create more immersive games than ever before.

Unfortunately, a huge multiplayer game in VR seems like a stretch right now. There’s no concept of full-diving, although various tech companies – such as Neuralink – have begun researching a Brain-Computer Interface. This technology would allow a computer to directly interface with your brain to read your thoughts and display images in your mind – just like SAO’s NerveGear!

From a pure VR perspective, Oculus Quest and Valve Index are among the leading VR kits, and each are pushing ahead with more fulfilling games, replacing the glorified tech demos of years past. Sony’s PlayStation VR 2 (PSVR 2) will feature Horizon: Call of the Mountain - a full-featured game from the Horizon Zero Dawn/Forbidden West franchise. Other games such as the recently-announced The Tale of Onogoro are also forging ahead in producing amazing first-person experiences that have a true RPG feel to them.

But - for better or worse - it doesn’t seem like we’ll be logging into Aincrad come November of this year!

Final Thoughts

Sword Art Online is a sprawling universe of different stories, games, characters, and themes. From the life-or-death stakes of Aincrad to the battle-royale Gun Gale Online, readers have been transported to many different types of games, each with powerful storylines and memorable characters.

Whether you’re a fan of the franchise or are just getting started, there’s a little something for everyone in the Sword Art Online series in 2022.

Do you think you’d play a VR MMORPG? What about a VR battle royale? Let’s talk down in the comments below, and as always, thanks for reading!

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Author: Brett Michael Orr

I'm a writer, gamer, and reviewer of manga & light novels, from Melbourne, Australia. When I'm not creating a new world, I'll be absorbed in a good JRPG, watching some anime, or reading up a storm!

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