The Best Sword Art Online Watch Order & Guide for Beginners

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The Best Sword Art Online Watch Order & Guide for Beginners
Credit: A-1 Pictures

Sword Art Online was a pioneer in the isekai anime genre. It heralded a new era in the anime community, dividing fans into two factions: lovers and haters. Regardless, if you're a newcomer looking for the best Sword Art Online watch order and guide, this article has you covered!

Despite the animosity directed at the anime, Sword Art Online is a very successful show that helped popularize isekai anime alongside other anime genres.

In fact, with the increasing number of show releases, Isekai anime has dominated anime seasons in recent years.

Related: The Best Isekai Manga to Read

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About Sword Art Online

The Best Sword Art Online Watch Order & Guide for Beginners -About
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Sword Art Online is based on Reki Kawahara's original light novel of the same name, with illustrations by Abec. Kawahara became well-known not only for his work on SAO, but also for his work on the 2009 sci-fi action manga series Accel World.

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Not only has the anime been a commercial success, but so has the light novel, with over 26 million copies in print worldwide. While some fans despised the series, others praised its music, animated sequences, and plot narrative.

Sword Art Online, originally a web novel published on Kawahara's website from 2002 to 2008, has been imprinted under ASCII Media Works's Dengeki Bunko since April 10, 2009.

As of this writing, the light novel has 26 volumes and 12 manga adaptations published by ASCII Media Works and Kadokawa. Yen Press has also released an English translation.

The plot follows the unusual fate of Kirito, a Sword Art Online virtual reality MMORPG player. Set in the fictional year 2022, Kirito, like thousands of other players, becomes trapped in Sword Art Online after being unable to log out.

Kirito must defeat the 100-level tower Boss in order to return to his physical body and survive. Kirito sets out to form friendships, work with guilds, and deal with his newfound friends and foes using his knowledge of the VR MMORPG world.

Sword Art Online Watch Order and Guide

The Best Sword Art Online Watch Order & Guide for Beginners -Content
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Since 2012, Sword Art Online has spawned new TV anime seasons, spin-offs, specials, and movies. Because of this, anime viewers might find the series intimidating with the number of shows it has released as of this writing.

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The good thing is that it is not as complex as you think. While it appears daunting, the series can be best enjoyed and experienced in chronological order.

This means that watching the series based on its release date can be followed for your viewing pleasure.

Here is the Sword Art Online watch order and best guide at the time of writing:

Title Year Released No. of Episodes Type Description
Sword Art Online Season 1201225TV AnimeCovers the Ainrad and Fairy Dance Arcs
Sword Art Online: Extra Edition 20131SpecialRecap episodes with brand new scenes towards the end.
Sword Art Online Season 2 201424TV AnimeCovers the Phantom, Excalibur, and Mother’s Rosario Arc
Sword Art Online Movie: Ordinal Scale20171MovieA fun and enjoyable movie about new characters and members of Kirito’s club
Sword Art Online Season 3 Part 1: Alicization201824TV AnimeCovers the Alicization Arc
Sword Art Online Season 3 Part 2: Alicization-War of the Underworld201912TV AnimeContinuation of the Alicization Arc
Sword Art Online Season 3 Part 3: Alicization-War of the Underworld 2nd Season202011TV AnimeFinal part of the Project Alicization Arc
Sword Art Online Progressive: Aria of a Starless Night 20211MovieNew version of Kirito and Asuna’s adventure in Aincrad’s first level
Sword Art Online Progressive: Scherzo of a Dark Dusk20221MovieSecond SAO Progressive movie

The series has also spawned two related side stories with their own plotlines. While Gun Gale Online takes place in the same world as Sword Art Online, Accel World takes place in a separate universe.

Title Year Released No. of Episodes Type Description
Accel World201224TV AnimeTakes place 24 years after Sword Art Online
Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online201812TV AnimeA spin off series following Karen Kohiruimaki

If you have free time to spend watching anime, you might also like to watch Sword Art Online’s specials as follows:

Title Year Released No. of Episodes Type Description
Sword Art Online: Sword Art Offline 20139SpecialComedy anime not related to the story of the series
Sword Art Online: Sword Art Offline Extra Edition20141SpecialSequel of the first special

Related: The Best Adventure Anime to Watch