What is a Game Anime? [Definition; Meaning]

Everyone has that memory of that time you either played a game way longer than you should have–and maybe you got in trouble as a consequence–or you have that feeling of looking back on a game that you played long ago, and memories come flooding back. Either way, a large part of the anime community also play games, and that includes those who are hardcore gamers and those who play casually. Thankfully too, the anime world has noticed this and made sure that throughout the years, anime fans also get game anime. While yes, some will be entirely focused on an actual game that you can play in real life like Karuta or Shogi, many very popular game anime also take games and place a twist on them. If you are new to anime or game anime in general, then this is the article for you. Today, we will be tackling anime around games and breaking down the basic concepts.

Games on Games on Games!

Game anime has tended to focus on various forms of games–shocker–across many different genres. There is always at least one form of a game that is played, but more often than not, multiple types of games are introduced. Some anime, like Sword Art Online, while set in a game, feels more like a sci-fi fantasy, than a game itself. That doesn’t make it not a game anime, but the focus is widened to show more content and genres. Game anime, as you might expect, will always feature a game of some sort, but since watching just a game is boring, it is often paired with other genres like drama, adventure, mystery, comedy, and more. Let’s take a look at some examples.

No Game No Life

  • Episodes: 12
  • Aired: April 2014 - September 2014

Sora and Shiro are shut-in NEET gamers. All they want to do is play video games all day long as a duo. Thus, they do. They are an elite combo of gamers and each day, they crush their opponents. There is a strange message that comes one day asking them to play chess. They agree, and that is where their lives change completely. Suddenly they are plunged into a new world full of fanciful colors where they meet Tet, the god of games. Tet explains to them that in this new world, everything is decided by the fate of a game. There is no war, but games. However, in order to settle anything, they need to do so by putting up something of equal value. Thus, the games are incredibly high stake. Sora and Shiro, bored with human world games, find this new setting wonderful and decide to take Tet up on their offer. If they can unite all sixteen kingdoms in this world, Tet will yield their position to them.

No Game No Life is the definition of a game anime. Games are a core theme to the anime and require the players to not only be wise in their choices, but the games are also high stakes as well. This fuels drama further and leads to the viewer being more invested in this world. Games are played constantly and we also see that even traditional games like chess, make an interesting development in this game taking on a new form. Heck, even riddles and magic appear in the form of games. No Game No Life hits the idea of what a game anime can be perfectly, and the following is also a great example.

No Game No Life Trailer

Lostorage incited WIXOSS

  • Episodes: 12
  • Aired: October 2016 - December 2016

Suzuko Homura has just moved back to her hometown in Tokyo where she grew up. Due to her father’s job, she has always moved around in life. Now that she is back home, she has but one dream, to meet up with her best friend from when she was little, Chinatsu Morikawa. Suzuko starts to attend school in Tokyo,\ but has problems fitting in. Then one day, she finds WIXOSS, a popular card game and decides to get into it. She buys a few packs and takes them home to open them and read about the game. However, this is where it all starts. She opens up the packs, and on one card, there is a speaking girl?! She is welcomed by this new girl named Ril who tells her that she is now in a different kind of game. Cards are not what is up for winning or losing, memories are. Five coins are given to Suzuko. Should she lose them all, she is free, but what will happen to her memories? Now, both Chinatsu and Suzuko are bound by this chain of darkness as it closes around them.

Lostorage incited WIXOSS is what happens when a game in an anime jumps to a more extreme mode. Yes, a real card game is being used, as you can play and purchase WIXOSS cards in real life, but it’s more extreme to pump up the drama and conflict. The villain themself in this anime also driven to not hurt someone or destroy anyone, but to create conflict and make people play. This time though, the drama and conflict are ramped up and you’re not sure who will come out on top. The anime also features prominent battling and you can even see actual battles and how they will go in real life as well… well to a certain extent.

Lostorage incited WIXOSS Trailer

Bending the Rules for Fun

Like with WIXOSS, wouldn’t it be more fun if we were able to raise the stakes of a game? Sure, being turned into a mindless zombie and losing your sanity is one way to play a game with high stakes. However, there are countless other games that can be played where more than just your life is on the line. Death is but a sweet reprieve from life, but what if you spent that life in Hell? Or what if your every step of your future was calculated and planned because you owe money? What is getting a game over meant getting a game over in real life with no option to continue? It is for these and more that we love game anime. Let’s look at a few more.

Kakegurui (Kakegurui: Compulsive Gambler)

  • Episodes: 12
  • Aired: July 2017 – September 2017

Hyakkou Private Academy is like no other school. The students are raised with the utmost skills to enable them to advance in life. Namely, they are given the tools to learn how to gamble. At this school, students don’t let things like grades or athletic ability determine social status, it’s all about how good of a gambler you are. When an eccentric and peculiar girl names Yumeko Jabami transfers in, suddenly things start to change. Those who were in power start to fall to her one by one. What madness is she going to bring to this academy.

If you want to get a good picture of what Kakegurui is before we say anything further, just go watch the ending sequence. Watched it? Good. That perfect storm of a conundrum is a good representation of what Kakegurui is all about. Gambling is like anything else, but what about being a high school student and gambling with $50,000 on the line? Suddenly, games are not so much fun as they are daring. Then too, if you lose enough, not only are you a pet and treated like trash, if your debt is severe enough, the student council can just sign your future away with a future planning plan. In a blink, your life can be hell for the next 70 years. Care to play?

Kakegurui PV

Final Thoughts

These are just some game anime that we feel are perfect for those wanting to know more about game anime or start from the basics. Game anime can be as traditional as anime like 3-gatsu no Lion, Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor, Chihayafuru, Hikaru no Go, Saki, and Ryuuou no Oshigoto! It can also be quite diverse with anime like Sword Art Online, Overlord, Log Horizon, Accel World, and Netoge no Yome wa Onnanoko Ja Nai to Omotta?. You have plenty of choices and it is just a matter of what you want to watch. We hope you have enjoyed this intro to game anime. If you have any more shows that newcomers should be privy to, be sure to leave it in the comments below. Till next time!

Shiro-No-Game-No-Life-wallpaper-2-20160724225650 What is a Game Anime? [Definition; Meaning]


Author: Nagareboshi

American by birth; international by choice. I am trying to bring attention to one of my favorite causes; me. I translate by day and write by night. Aspiring polyglot. My dream would be to be the personal translator for Amuro Namie. Other than that, my hobbies include languages, weightlifting, sleeping, karaoke, GOOD coffee and music. When I’m not doing any of the above, I am most likely laughing hysterically at Willam Belli videos or EV farming. I ain’t gunna Rupologize for it neither. Waifu are Shirai Kuroko & Euaerin.

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