Strap yourself in; it’s time to check out the best anime games of the year!
Though it’s actually a style of animation rather than a genre, anime – basically used as an all-encompassing term to describe Japanese animation – is often closely associated with science fiction, fantasy and superhero elements. This make most popular anime shows and films excellent material for video games.
Anime has risen in availability and popularity concurrently with video games too, so there’s always been a lot of games based on animated movies and TV shows that originated in Japan.
With many of the world’s leading video game developers also hailing from Japan too, it stands to reason that we’d see lots of high quality, faithful video game adaptations of anime.
But which are the greatest?
Let’s take a look at the best anime games and find out!
10. Gregory Horror Show (2003)
A very unusual and little-known PS2 title, based on an equally obscure CGI anime. Gregory Horror is an ultra-stylised stealth/horror game set in a purgatorial hotel.
Expect lots of creepy inhabitants, including the titular Gregory, the mouse who runs the hotel.
The plot sees your character surreptitiously spying on guests as they go about their nightly routines, finding the opportune moments to steal the souls they’re guarding.
Gregory Horror Show is an utterly unique experience that deserves to be played by a much wider audience than it found upon release.
Sadly, it seems ironically doomed to a purgatorial existence, much like the characters in the game. Capcom have never re-released, remastered or otherwise revisited this brilliantly compelling oddity.
Perhaps a surprising entry for our best anime games list and one that definitely deserves its place our Most Underrated PS2 Games list!
9. Dragon Ball Legends (2018)
From an obscure oddity on a home console to one of the biggest anime franchises of all time.
And, one of the most successful titles ever in terms of downloads and commercial performance.
Dragon Ball Legends takes the familiar, over the top fighting action of its source material and turns it into an addictive, strategic card battling game that perfectly suits the mobile format.
As of March 2021, Dragon Ball Legends has been downloaded by an astonishing 40 million players. It had already grossed a jaw-dropping $140 million in revenue by 2019 for crying out loud!
8. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (2004)
The original Ghost in the Shell anime was a hugely influential slice of cyberpunk fiction, philosophical and action packed.
It was one of the earliest examples – along with Akira – of an anime truly making Westerners, even serious film critics, realise the then-mostly untapped well of treasure and potential that existed in Japanese animation.
This title is based on the then-current Stand Alone Complex TV series, which placed the film’s thoughtful philosophising and kick-ass action sequences into an episodic format.
The game is a third-person shooter with robust multiplayer options and modes. Expect a compelling Story Mode in this visually faithful adaptation of the show itself.
7. Jump Force (2019)
An anime/manga fan’s dream. Jump Force is a 1-v-1 arena fighting game that brings together three popular weekly Shonen Jump manga characters.
We’re talking Dragon Ball, Naruto and One Piece.
Not only that, but it pits them against a reality-spanning, universe-threatening evil.
What’s intriguing about Jump Force is that it also does so by bringing the fantastical characters into the ‘real world’.
Though not universally well received by critics, this 50th Anniversary celebration of Shonen Jump is a satisfying, well-made fighting game. It goes out of its way to please fans and combine the strengths of each individual franchise in a way that had rarely been seen before with the Shonen Jump characters.
6. Naruto: Rise of a Ninja (2007)
This Xbox 360 exclusive was the very first Naruto game to be developed outside of Japan, with Ubisoft Montreal taking the reigns.
Despite not hailing from Japan, the game’s Canadian development team did a fine job with Naruto: Rise of a Ninja.
It features both a one-on-one fighting mode and a ‘role-playing’ mode. The latter sees players go on quests in a 3D platformer, picking up missions from a the hub world of Konoha.
Covering the first 80 episodes of the anime, this game is one that’s pretty inviting for newcomers. It also entices longer term fans, with excellent online and multiplayer options too.
The cel-shaded visuals have aged pretty gracefully too, giving it a sheen that looks very close to the series it’s based on.
5. One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 (2020)
Straw hat-wearing Luffy stars in this Dynasty Warriors-esque title.
It picks up the thread of an ongoing story from the One Piece manga, weaving its own tale with a definitive ending.
Deviating from the original story, it gives the game its own satisfying and complete narrative.
The presentation is superb with a great visual look that faithfully recreates the anime.
All in all, the game is an addictive re-implementation of the Dynasty Warriors/musou style of gameplay.
4. Dragon Ball Z: Super Butōden 2 (1993)
This one featured on our Best SNES Fighting Games list – and for good reason.
It’s a superb game that remains a great deal of fun to play today. Though Dragon Ball has moved through many incarnations, the ‘Z’ era is where it really exploded in popularity in the West.
The Super Butōden SNES games – of which there were three – were all pretty good. But this second entry in the trilogy often gets called the best.
Why? Well, largely down to its branching storyline which saw progress change depending on the player’s success.
With the crazy attacks the franchise is known for, this is an early example of an anime game getting it right when adapting the source material.
3. Attack on Titan: Wings of Freedom (2016)
One thing that impresses so much about Attack on Titan: Wings of Freedom is just how faithfully it looks like the animé it’s based on.
Still, the storyline, which follows the first major arc of the manga series that the animé itself adapts, also sticks impressively close to the source material too.
Swinging around the battlefield using Three Dimensional Maneuver Gear makes you feel just like a hero battling against impossible odds.
And the Titans of the title are just as terrifyingly gargantuan as they are in the show.
With the storyline following the first story arc of the series, it’s a great jumping on point for players unfamiliar with the original anime or the manga it’s based on.
2. Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot (2020)
Yes, it’s another Dragon Ball game!
The thing is, Dragon Ball’s premise lends itself to video games so well it’s no real surprise.
Though Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot found a less warm review from a critical point of view, it’s a real love letter to the fans.
Kakarot is a departure from the usual fighting game style that Dragon Ball games usually adopt and is instead more of an action RPG.
It has a great cast of characters and follows the events of the series incredibly closely; a game that truly rewards long-term fans.
Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot’s impact on more casual viewers or complete newbies might be lessened (as you can probably tell from its less than stellar critical reception).
Still, this is video game fan service done right and came very close to occupying the top spot of our best anime games list.
1. Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 (2016)
A 3D fighting game, Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 is a title that can be enjoyed by fans and non-fans alike.
With an astonishing 108 playable characters and some excellent features such as the ability to switch characters during a fight, it certainly keeps players on their toes.
UNS4 is provides such a strong, fully featured experience that it could even convert new fans to the long-running, perennially popular Naruto saga.
Though many games on this list baffled critics despite being lapped up by anime fans, this is not the case here. This Naruto game received praise both from journalists and fans of the Naruto series.
It’s well worth checking out and more than deserves its place atop the list of the best anime games!
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Jason – who lives in the UK – has had a lifelong interest in video games, which all started when he discovered Space Invaders in the early 80s. The first game he ever completed was Wonder Boy in Monster Land on the Sega Master System – which remains one of his proudest gaming achievements. Jason is a passionate writer – and has been writing about gaming since the late 90s. He currently runs pop culture blog midlifegamergeek.com, which he updates on a daily basis (and has written more than 700 articles on the blog alone!).
Outside of video games, Jason is a keen tabletop gamer, film buff and comic book fan.