Due to video games and anime sharing similar art styles that could easily be implemented since the days of the Famicom/NES, it was rather easy for Japan to give a good number of games the anime treatment. In the last 30 years or so, fans have been treated to a number of anime based on hit game franchises. Some have been awesome such as Sakura Taisen, and there are those that are notoriously awful such as Tekken. Despite these mixed results, it hasn’t stopped the industry from still adapting hit games into anime and that is true in 2018. So, what are some 10 fine examples of video game related anime from last year? Read our top 10 to find out!
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: April 8, 2018 – June 24, 2018
Based on Aquria’s The Caligula Effect (a clinical term for wanting to break the rules), you get a distinct title which shares some similarities to the Matrix trilogy. So, try to imagine you’re back in high school and by some algorithm, you’re stuck living that life forever. As Shinji in the dub of Evangelion once said, “What’s wrong with running away from reality if it sucks?”As it turns out, that’s the true purpose of Mobius, the virtual high school world the cast is stuck in. After finding a glitch in the system, Ritsu, the main character, discovers that they are not living in the real world and now wants out. He forms the “Kitaku-bu,” literally meaning “the go home club,” a Japanese colloquial term meaning that a student doesn’t take part in any after school activities, so they just go home. In this case, this label is used as a statement that they want to go back to the real world.
Just like in the game, the characters then discover they can use all kinds of crazy abilities akin to the Persona series, in which some of the game’s original developers actually worked on. Now that more people are becoming aware of the nature of the program’s existence, the machines send their own monsters to try to suppress the rebellion. Just like the original game, it challenges mainstream beliefs in modern Japanese society. For example, the program uses a high school setting out of how Japan feels it represents a time of when somebody can truly have fun in life. In a world of hikkikomori (or shut-ins), the themes of this anime are very relevant and the characters have understandable reasons why they want to escape into another world, but in the end, you have to find the right help in order to improve your life.
9. Grancrest Senki (Record of Grancrest War)
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: January 6, 2018 – June 23, 2018
Despite the name of the title, it has nothing to with another iconic fantasy anime, Record of Lodoss War. Originally debuting as a novel series, then as a tabletop RPG to finally getting a PS4 release, we have Grancrest Senki. Just like any other RPG, it portrays an appropriate fantasy setting of going on a journey to fight demons and other creatures of the night. Some plot elements have been done before (such as a marriage between two uniting kingdoms at war) in context to J-RPGs but brings its own spin to it. Not only is it a journey to right a wrong, but a coming of age story for its main cast.
The music appropriately captures the setting and the design and art captures that of the source material. If you want big and exciting fights, then this anime can offer it along with all the grinding.
8. Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: April 8, 2018 – July 1, 2018
Though this anime isn’t directly based on a video game, Gun Gale Online still relates to video games, most especially MMORPGs. With virtual reality finally becoming a household consumer product during the latter half of this decade, Sword Art Online is now relevant more than ever. It’s an unorthodox and yet relatable exploration on gaming and its community. This edition of SAO excellently portrays how games can have a role in society where players can be somebody they never could be in the real world and this is strongly expressed through Karen, a taller than average young lady who makes herself a cute chibi girl in the world of Gun Gale Online as Llenn.
Just wanting to escape to a different world is by no means not unhealthy, but this anime also shows that at times, people can take it too far. Not only does the anime portray how MMORPGs allow you to live out your fantasies, but they’re also a great place to meet friends…and self-entitled assholes…and that’s just part of online gaming in real life. At the end of the day, players just wish to have fun.
- Episodes: January 7, 2018 – May 19, 2018 (still ongoing as of January 2019)
- Aired: 17
Based on Bandai Namco’s Rhythm game for mobile platforms, players and viewers get a view of what it’s like to manage a Japanese boy band known as IDOLiSH7, consisting of seven teenagers with distinct talents and personalities. What’s great about this anime is that it 100% faithfully follows the original game in just about every aspect you can think of. It shows how difficult it is to succeed in the over saturated world of idols in Japanese entertainment, and how competitive it gets behind the scenes. Fans see their performance, but very little do we get to see the road it takes to get there.
Not only does it adapt the original story, the character designs are also implemented and the seiyuu cast from the game are brought back as well. So if you switch between the game and the anime, you’re almost getting the same experience. As for the music, the anime does implement some original tracks (in addition to bringing back some tracks from the game) to the surprise of both longtime fans and newbies for everyone to enjoy. The music is energetic and impacting, and when you see how the group works hard to get where they are, the songs have a more personal feel to them.
6. Layton Mystery Tanteisha: Katri no Nazotoki File
- Episodes: 50
- Aired: April 8, 2018 – March 31, 2019 (ongoing as of January 2019)
Based on the 3DS game series, this edition to the Professor Layton series centers on the titular character’s daughter, Katrielle. Just like in the original game, Professor Layton has one missing and Katrielle sets out to the solve the case! Due to the episodic presentation of the original game, it’s easy to adapt its story in anime form as well. Not only does the anime adopt the game’s plot, but its simple and cutesy art style for fans of the game are easy to identify.
The series also manages to adopt not only its cute charm, but how it can be mature and funny as well. The puzzles of the original games manage to find their own way into the anime, and also use them to relate a moral/message. Though episodic anime can be out of the norm, but in the case of Layton Mystery Tanteisha, it serves a different kind of purpose and when you get to the end (based on the game), it all comes together.
5. Gyakuten Saiban: Sono “Shinjitsu”, Igi Ari! Season 2 (Ace Attorney Season 2)
- Episodes: 13+
- Aired: October 6, 2018 - Ongoing
Based on what’s been aired upon the drafting of this list, the episodes so far adapt the third game of Capcom’s legal visual novel series. It faithfully follows the original game in terms of story, art, and the other gimmicks such as the animations, the framing of the courtroom scenes, the personalities of the characters, the poses of when characters react to certain things, etc. Portions of the music from the original games are implemented as well such as when the procedures taking out in the courtroom, and you see the characters carry out investigations just like in the game. You even get to hear the “hold its” and “objections,” major staples of the series.
However, a lot of the key gameplay elements that help makes the game distinguishing are lost since they’re hard to portray in the anime medium, and that’s understandable. What the anime can’t replicate is how you review evidence and previous testimony to contradict what the witness is saying in order to find the truth. This quality heightens the tension and it really makes you use your brain power like no other game. In the anime, everything just feels naturally convenient since it’s just right there for Phoenix to immediately address, and that internal tension is unfortunately lost. We’re not saying it’s bad, but other than that, this season gets everything right in order to make it work as an anime, and hopefully get viewers not familiar with the original game interested in trying it out.
4. High Score Girl
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: July 14, 2018 – September 28, 2018
Just like Sword Art Online, High Score Girl isn’t necessarily based on a specific game but is based on a manga that explores the magic of video game culture in the 1990s. As our mothers and we all know, the West experienced the OG console wars during that time period, but this anime educates both domestic and international audiences to the gaming scene in Japan nearly 30 years ago. Arcades are more or less dying in North America, but in Japan, they’re still thriving and this anime shows that even then, the arcades were a hit with children and adults alike in the Land of the Rising Sun. For those not familiar with Japanese arcades, the series excellently demonstrates how the cabinets differ from what you may have seen in the West (if you’re old enough to have gone to an arcade).
As opposed to cabinets that stand in the US, in Japan, they’re rather small and you get to sit down to play. In addition, two player arcade cabinets in most countries play side-by-side but in Japan, two player cabinets are back-to-back. It was a time when fighting games were starting to break out and this game uses actual footage of Street Fighter II, Fatal Fury, Samurai Shodown, Tekken, Virtua Fighter and Mortal Kombat. Even the Japanese characters wonder what the heck Raiden (or Rayden?) is saying whenever he does his flying push move.
One thing that makes this anime stand out is how it demonstrates how the PC Engine, or the Turbografx-16 in the West, was HUGE in Japan despite being a forgotten footnote outside of it. Thanks to this anime, non-Japanese viewers can get a taste of what that console was truly like and it may encourage them to hunt the console and its unique software.
3. Castlevania Season 2
- Episodes: 8
- Aired: October 26, 2018
OK, so this series is largely animated by Westerners, but considering how a large number of fans and anime sites acknowledge Netflix’s Castlevania as anime, we’re going to jump the bandwagon and say the same. Considering that its visual style is based on anime (such as Ayami Kojima’s designs, Satoshi Kon’s directing style, Cowboy Bebop and Berserk) and that the original Castlevania property is Japanese in origin, that’s a good enough case to call it an anime. Plus, some of the staff members worked on Vampire Hunter D and Berserk so considering there is first hand input from people who worked on what some people would call authentic anime from Japan, it deserves to be distinguished as an anime.
This anime adapts the third game of the Castlevania franchise, which takes place a couple of centuries before the first game! A lot of the mythos from the third game and the franchise as a whole is faithfully adapted for fans to appreciate. The series does a great job of portraying Dracula’s point of view on why he detests humanity, and how Trevor Belmont is trying to embrace his legacy as a vampire hunter. Trevor, Sofia, and Alucard have a unique chemistry and its fun to see how their relationship grows and they each contribute in their own unforgettable way. The action is superb (and yet unapologetically gory) and its frame rate, pacing, and technique obviously are taken from anime and it excellently fits the world of Castlevania. It even plays brief homage to the fact you can find roast chicken in the walls if you look hard enough!
2. Steins;Gate 0
- Episodes: 23
- Aired: April 12, 2018 – September 27, 2018
Taking place six months after the events of the previous series/game, Rintaro is dealing with the aftermath of losing Kurisu, a fellow scientist he was developing feelings for. It adapts the main basis of the story but doesn’t acknowledge how the original game has multiple endings, but finds subtle ways of demonstrating how the story can go in multiple directions depending on the choices Rintaro makes. The anime not only excellently captures the foundation to the original story, but the nature of the characters and the dark and gray visual style. Like the original game, it largely takes place in Akihabara and treats you to actual locations such as the Radio Kaikan Building outside the Southern Side to Akihabara Station’s Electric Town Exit. It also portrays how Akihabara is a hub of getting cheap tech and otaku culture, most especially with the maid cafes.
1. Persona 5: The Animation
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: April 8, 2018- September 30, 2018
Due to the style and previous use of animated cutscenes from the original PS3/PS4 game by Atlus, this is a pristine example of how you can adapt an anime. We’ll admit that the ending from last year’s series is inconclusive, but thankfully, we’re getting the true ending this year. The Persona series as a whole has always been unique in its own ways and 5 takes it to a different level. Like other anime listed here, we’ll admit this comes with its own controversies. Due to the active nature of video games and the passive nature of anime, a lot of the qualities that make Persona 5 unique are naturally lost in this transition such as its social link system where it improves your relationship with your teammates.
However, if you aren’t familiar with the game, though it may spoil the story, we recommend this as an effective gateway in convincing you to wanting to try the game. It has a strong cast of characters and it also implements the original jazz soundtrack. What’s also great about this anime is how it accurately portrays many of the trendy districts of where teenagers can hang out in Tokyo such as Shibuya. It has exciting action, a trippy art style, and it just fires up the true teenage rebel in you that wants to fight the system.
Based on some of the things we said, you’re probably thinking to yourselves that we called some of these anime glorified commercials for the games and we’d be lying if we said didn’t. Is that a bad thing? Of course not! Whether it would be Japanese or North American animation, a lot of programs are commercials for toys, games, or other merchandise. Based on what we picked, we thought they were programs that did a great job of presenting the original games as anime to the best of its ability, while also encouraging audience members to try out these games in case they haven’t. What we listed only offers the tip of the iceberg so we’re positive that these anime encouraged viewers to try the original games in case they already haven’t. As for viewers who have already seen what we listed, what’s your take on our list? Do you think there are more anime for 2018 relating to games that we missed? If so, please leave your thoughts in the comments!