Almost invincible main characters, epic boss fights, and of course, that legendary waifu, all packed into beautiful animations. Sword Art Online is definitely a dream anime for every gamer. However, for those who are not gamers or have never played online games, they can still enjoy Sword Art Online.
The series focuses on protagonists Kazuto “Kirito” Kirigaya and Asuna Yuuki as they play through various MMORPG virtual reality worlds.
When it started airing, Sword Art Online was immediately popular thanks to the adaptation of a light novel that was already a hit. At the same time, it is quite controversial. As a result, there is a polarization of opinion about the plot and characters.
I definitely recommend this anime, especially with the unforgettable Sword Art Online opening song filled with famous singers. Actually, it’s not too confusing to start watching Sword Art Online, just follow it based on the release time.
Table of Contents
Sword Art Online Release Order
SAO was originally a light novel series by Reki Kawahara and illustrated by abec. It was later adapted into an anime by Studio A-1 Pictures.
This anime series already has three seasons with a total of 86 episodes. Those are included in the main story, while recap episodes, films and spin-offs have not been counted.
Well, here’s the order of SAO’s releases and of course this is a recommendation if you want to start watching it.
1. Sword Art Online (2012)
|Title||Sword Art Online|
In 2022, virtual reality has developed rapidly, and an online role-playing game called Sword Art Online (SAO) is launched.
With the help of “NerveGear” technology, players can control their avatar in the game using only their own mind.
Kazuto Kirigaya, nicknamed “Kirito,” enters with ten thousand others into the beautiful and intricate world of Aincrad, a world full of fantastical medieval weapons and terrifying monsters.
However, then the players soon realized that they couldn’t get out. The creator of the game has trapped them in his new world until they complete a hundred levels of the game.
Worse, if they died in Aincrad, they died in real life. Kirito must adapt to his new reality, fighting for his survival.
In order to get out of Aincrad, Kirito now had to interact and cooperate with his fellow players. Here he meets Asuna Yuuki, who leads a prominent guild trying to clear the game.
The first season of Sword Art Online follows Aincrad’s story in the first half, and then moves on to the Fairy Dance arc in virtual reality Alfheim, when Kirito must save Asuna.
2. Sword Art Online EXTRA EDITION (2013)
|Title||Sword Art Online: Extra Edition|
A fanservice special, of course.
The story is set several years after the events of the first season of Sword Art Online, when Kirito and his sister Suguha meet Asuna Yuuki, Rika “Lisbeth” Shinozaki, and Keiko “Silica” Ayano at SAO Survivor School.
Kirito then attends emergency counseling, while the girls head to the swimming pool.
It turned out that the word “emergency counseling” was a pretext devised by Seijirou Kikuoka, who aimed to repeat the Sword Art Online incident in hopes of determining Akihiko Kayaba’s motives.
3. Sword Art Online II (2014)
|Title||Sword Art Online II|
A year after the Sword Art Online incident, a new incident occurs in a game called Gun Gale Online, when a player named Death Gun appears to be killing people in the real world by shooting them in-game.
Approached by a government agency to assist in investigating a murder, Kazuto Kirigaya becomes the persona of Kirito once again and enters Gun Gale Online, intent on stopping the killer.
Once inside, Kirito meets Sinon, a highly skilled sniper who is plagued with past trauma. He was immediately dragged after Death Gun, and together they entered the Bullet of Bullets, a tournamen where their target will definitely appear.
After the Gun Gale Online arc, Sword Art Online continues with the story of Calibur and Mother’s Rosario in Alfheim.
4. Sword Art Online the Movie: Ordinal Scale (2017)
|Title||Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale|
In 2026, four years after the infamous Sword Art Online incident, a revolutionary new form of technology has emerged: the Augma, a device that uses the Augmented Reality system.
Unlike NerveGear and Amusphere Virtual Reality, it is highly secure and allows players to use it while they are sober, creating an instant hit in the market.
The most popular app for Augma is the game Ordinal Scale, which immerses players in fantasy role-playing games with player ratings and rewards.
In Sword Art Online the Movie: Ordinal Scale, following a new craze, Kirito’s friends jump into the game, and despite his doubts about the system, Kirito finally joins them.
5. Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online (2018)
|Title||Sword Art Online: Gun Gale Online|
This is a spin-off series, no Kirito and Asuna.
A shy student in Tokyo, Karen Kohiruimaki is a stark contrast to the avatar in the game Gun Gale Online.
Starting game after game with hopes of manifesting as a cute character, he finally finds his ideal self in the world of Gun Gale Online.
Happy with her new persona, she devotes her time to the game as LLENN, accumulating her reputation as a legendary player killer.
He then meets Pitohui, a skilled yet eccentric woman. Quickly befriending Karen, Pitohui insists that LLENN participate in Squad Jam, a battle royale that pits teams against each other, fighting until only one remains.
6. Sword Art Online: Alicization (2018)
|Title||Sword Art Online: Aliciziation|
|Aired||Fall 2018-Winter 2019|
Soul Translator is an advanced full-dive that interacts with the user’s Fluctlight, a technology equivalent to the human soul, and is fundamentally different from the orthodox method of sending signals to the brain.
Rath’s private institute aims to perfect their creation by enlisting the help of Sword Art Online survivor Kazuto Kirigaya.
He works there as a part-time employee to test the system’s capabilities in the Underworld: the fantastic realm generated by the Soul Translator.
As per the confidentiality contract, any memories created by machines in the virtual world are erased upon returning to the real world. Kazuto could only vaguely remember one name: Alice.
When Kazuto drove Asuna Yuuki home one night, they encountered a familiar enemy. Kazuto was seriously injured and lost consciousness.
When he came to, he was already in the Underworld with apparently no way of escape. He embarks on a quest, seeking his way back to the physical world once again.
7. Sword Art Online: Alicization – War of Underworld (2019)
|Title||Sword Art Online: Alicization – War of Underworld|
After contacting the real world, Kirito learns that the Ocean Turtle, a mega-float controlled by Rath, has been infiltrated by terrorists.
Due to the sudden short circuit caused by the terrorist earlier, Kirito’s fluctlight was damaged, leaving him in a coma. Feeling insecure about the people in the Axiom Church, Alice brought the unconscious Kirito back to their hometown, Rulid Village.
Now, Alice lives an ordinary and peaceful life near the village, hoping that Kirito wakes up.
However, tragedy struck when Alice realized that the Dark Territory had begun to invade the Human Empire. Continuing her previous role, Alice Synthesis Thirty, she vows to defeat the Dark Territory to defend the world that Kirito and Eugeo protect.
8. Sword Art Online: Alicization – War of Underworld Part 2 (2020)
|Title||Sword Art Online: Alicization – War of Underworld Part 2|
The final battle against the Dark Territory continues, as players from all over the world overwhelm the Underworld servers and plunge the Human Empire into utter chaos.
Asuna Yuuki and company defended their new ally with all they had, but their numbers were dwindling. Meanwhile, Alice Zuberg heads towards the Altar of the End of the World while Gabriel “Vecta” Miller pursues her relentlessly.
Meanwhile, the Rath members devised a strategy to recover Kirito’s damaged fluctlight. However, the intruders occupying the main control room had other plans. Surrounded by death and despair, when all hope seemed lost, a voice reached out to Kirito—a familiar voice said, “I will always be by your side.”
Sword Art Online: Alicization – War of Underworld 2nd Season is the epic conclusion to Akihiko Kayaba’s dream to create artificial human intelligence.
9. Sword Art Online: Progressive – Aria of Starless Night (2021)
|Title||Sword Art Online: Progressive – Hoshinaki Yoru no Aria|
This is a new version of the Sword Art Online story that begins at the beginning of Kirito and Asuna’s epic adventure, back in the first level of the deadly world of Aincrad!
One month has passed since Akihiko Kayaba’s deadly game began, and the body count continues to increase. Two thousand players were dead.
Kirito and Asuna were two very different people, but they both wanted to fight alone. Nonetheless, they find themselves pulled together to face challenges both from within and from without.
Given that the entire virtual world they live in has now been set up as a death trap, the surviving Sword Art Online players begin to despair, and their desperation makes them dangerous to loners like Kirito and Asuna.
When it becomes clear that loneliness equals suicide, will the two be able to overcome their differences to find the strength to trust each other, and thus survive?
10. Sword Art Online the Movie -Progressive- Scherzo of Deep Night (2022)
|Title||Sword Art Online: Progressive – Kuraki Yuuyami no Scherzo|
Theatrical follow-up to previous Sword Art Online: Progressive movie.
This may be a game, but it’s not something you play.
The world’s first VRMMORPG (Sword Art Online) became a game of death. Over a month has passed since 10,000 users were trapped inside the game world. Asuna, who cleared the first floor of the floating iron castle of Aincrad, joined up with Kirito and continued her journey to reach the top floor. With the support of female Information Broker Argo, clearing the floors seemed to be progressing smoothly, but…
Conflict erupts between two major guilds who should be working together – the top player groups ALS (the Aincrad Liberation Squad) and DKB (the Dragon Knights Brigade). And meanwhile, behind the scenes exists a mysterious figure pulling the strings….
In a dangerous battle of death, there is an assault that differs from the threat, and it will involve Asuna and Kirito…!
- SAO: Sword Art Offline (2013)
- SAO: Extra Edition (2013)
- SAO: Sword Art Offline – Extra Edition (2014)
- SAO II: Debriefing (2014)
- SAO II: Sword Art Offline II (2014)
- SAO Movie: Ordinal Scale – Sword Art Offline (2017)
- SAO Fatal Bullet: The Third Episode (2018)
- SAO Alternative: Gun Gale Online – Refrain (2018)
- SAO Fatal Bullet: The Third Episode – Pilot-ban (2018)
- SAO: Alicization – War of Underworld Reflection (2018)
- SAO: Alicization – War of Underworld Recap (2020)
Sword Art Online Chronological Order and Storyline
The following is a chronology of the SAO storyline based on light novels, most of which have been adapted into anime:
- Fairy Dance
- Phantom Bullet
- Mother’s Rosary
- Early and Late
- Alicization Beginning
- Alicization Running
- Alicization Turning
- Alicization Rising
- Alicization Divide
- Alicization Uniting
- Alicization Invading
- Alicization Exploding
- Alicization Awakening
- Alicization Lasting
- Moon Cradle
- Moon Cradle
- Unital Ring I
- Kiss and Fly
- Unital Ring II
- Unital Ring III
- Unital Ring IV