Being an anime fan these days is pretty awesome.
Toonami still provides your usual curated lineup of dubbed shows, while popular anime streaming services such as Funimation Now, Crunchy Roll, and even Netflix provide an even larger slate of animated greats to follow. Back in the day, anime heads were forced to cop tapes with a few episodes of their favorite anime productions. There were plenty of notable video game publishers who tried their hands at getting in on the anime craze, but many of them failed spectacularly. Playable embarrassments, such as Dragon Ball GT: Final Bout, Beyblade: Metal Fusion, and Yu Yu Hakusho: Spirit Detective, point to that sad revelation.
There is still an alarming amount of lackluster anime games being released to this very day. But there’s also a strong lineup of games based on popular anime and inspired by Japan’s celebrated art style to enjoy. We combed through all the garbage to gather all the gems within the anime games spectrum. We found 20 of the top anime games that let you play with your favorite spiky-haired icons and pull off the hypest special moves in existence.
For the longest time, fans of Goku and the rest of the Z Fighters requested a 2D fighting game on par with other top-tier anime fighters. Arc System Works decided to step up and answer that request and ended up making that dream game a reality in the process.
Dragon Ball FighterZ looks the part, sounds the part, and most importantly, plays the part. The 3v3 battles allow for insane combos that call on the power of your teammates’ varied assist attacks and super moves. Finishing off a foe by kicking them right into a mountain evokes memories of the anime’s most epic clashes. And this fighter’s massive roster includes a great lineup of fan-favorite variations of classic characters. Dragon Ball FighterZ is the undisputed king of fighting games based on beloved anime characters.
The Ultimate Ninja Storm series finally came to a close with the sixth installment in the long-running franchise. And boy, did it go out with a bang. Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 brought back the beloved Ultimate Jutsu and Awakenings battle mechanics, plus it increased the game’s already high fun factor with the ability to switch between characters mid-battle. The story mode wrapped up all the closing chapters of the anime and made sure to make its biggest ninja clashes as epic as possible in boss battle form. The welcome DLC addition of Boruto’s first adventure is the cherry on top of Naruto’s finest foray into arena fighters.
There are plenty of animes that have gotten the Omega Force Musou game treatment in recent years. Mobile Suit Gundam, Berserk, Fist of the North Star, and The Heroic Legend of Arslan have all been represented by Dynasty Warriors’ button-mashing mayhem. The best out of that bunch has to be the Pirate Warriors games that take place within the swashbuckling world of One Piece.
The latest entry in the series is undoubtedly the best – it features the largest collection of playable characters, the combat is even more hectic (in a good way, though), the inclusion of original characters & brand new scenarios is pretty cool, and the wider range of special moves at your disposal allows for even more combo potential. One Piece: Pirate Warriors 4 is pure light and heavy attack button-mashing heaven.
If the combination of Fist of the North Star and SEGA’s Yakuza franchise entices you, then this open-world action RPG should be a part of your anime games library. Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise lets you wield the Hokuto Shinken martial arts mastery of Kenshiro and gets you embroiled in the conflicts centering around the city of Eden.
The anime’s most important protagonists and antagonists make special appearances, which usually lead to some of the best boss fights in the game. Just like the Yakuza games, Lost Paradise lets you hop into some awesome minigames. Playing retro arcade games, running a hostess bar, hitting baseball home runs, bartending, etc. are all a blast. And of course, making enemies’ heads explode with Kenshiro’s fists of doom never gets old.
Don’t front – as a young Dragon Ball Z fan, you most definitely drew your own spikey-haired Saiyans and wished they could be a part of the show’s beam-struggling encounters. The first Xenoverse game gave those same fans the chance to create their own characters and it was decent enough. It’s the sequel that truly helped the Xenoverse concept tap into its full potential.
The main hub world of Conton City is massive and home to all sorts of gameplay modes that will suck up all your time. Upgrading your custom Z Warrior and righting the wrongs of altered Dragon Ball Z timelines is a fun time. There’s so much to see and do in Xenoverse 2 – there’s tons of story mode content, character skills, costumes, parallel quests, and so much more to pour your energy into. Xenoverse 2 is practically the Dragon Ball Z MMORPG that fans have always dreamed of.
Development studio P-Studio released the best Persona entry to date back in 2017. The JRPG’s incredible soundtrack, charming cast of characters known as the Phantom Thieves of Hearts, and overwhelming offering of meaningful gameplay made it a hit amongst fans of the genre. In 2020, Persona 5 Royal arrived and added even more worthwhile content to a game jam-packed with it already. A new Phantom Thief member joins the stylish proceedings, plus a new Palace, new tunes, and all sorts of system adjustments/improvements shined up Persona 5 to near perfection.
Arc System Works got the chance to pit the heroes and villains of Persona 4 against each other in a quality 2D fighter with Persona 4 Arena. And like most fighters of its kind, that game got retooled and refreshed with an upgraded edition known as Persona 4 Arena Ultimax. Eight new characters were thrown into the mix, charge-up attacks opened up the battle mechanics even more, and Shadow Types offered players varied character options to master. Persona 4 Arena Ultimax retains all of the elements the Persona franchise regularly abides by while presenting them within an excellent 2D fighter package.
Once the 15th anniversary of developer CyberConnect2’s action RPG series rolled around, it was only right for it to bring back the original games in some form for modern devices. The first three titles from the .hack//G.U. story arc got remastered, plus a bonus adventure from the cult favorite franchise was thrown in for good measure.
The crisp anime visuals got even crispier, the battle mechanics/game pacing were thankfully enhanced, and brand new modes presented longtime fans with even more content to enjoy. Exploring The World within this remastered collection is the definitive way to enjoy the .hack//G.U. trilogy.
Alright, let’s keep it a stack – Dragon Ball Z: Sagas was a horrible attempt at creating an action/adventure game for the mega-popular anime. CyberConnect2 got the chance to try their hand at making a game that’s similar in fashion to that aforementioned disappointment and did a far better job.
The game it ended up delivering is Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, a fine action RPG that lets players play out each story arc’s most intense battles. Besides beating up Goku’s most heated rivals and playing as his friends, players got the chance to go fishing, soar through the skies, collect orbs (which is strangely addicting), mix it up with characters from every corner of the Dragon Ball universe, etc. Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is the ultimate way to relive the Super Saiyan adventures of Goku and company.
The initial Dragon Ball Z: Budokai games were decent at best, but it was clear that they were building up to something truly special. Those first two attempts paved the way for the third game, which took everything those titles perfected and added it onto a slate of other features worth mentioning.
The cel-shaded art style brought even more life to the game’s source material, which went a long way towards making the game’s battles look as if you’re watching the actual show. Beam struggles, character transformations, the Fusion technique, and the Dragon Rush system were just some of the added mechanics that truly opened up the series’ combat within this third entry. As for the game’s Dragon Universe mode, it gave Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 3 one of the best single-player modes ever seen in a fighting game. Budokai 3 is still worth checking out to this very day (avoid the Infinite World expansion, though).
Once the Budokai sub-series was put to rest, the Budokai Tenkaichi tournament took ahold of things. The third entry in the series strengthened the ground- and air-based combat mechanics for the better. And thank the heavens that the battle gameplay reached its apex while the roster reached over 150 playable characters.
Famous faces and even super obscure characters from Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z, and Dragon Ball GT were available to mix and match in the game’s super repayable team battle mode. On the gameplay front, Budokai Tenkaichi expanded each character’s arsenal by throwing in even more combos, a new evasion maneuver, an enhanced version of dashing, a combo finishing Ki wave, etc. Budokai Tenkaichi 3 is undoubtedly a God-tier DBZ game.
Mobile Suit Gundam aficionados finally have their dream fighting game in the form of this arcade to PS4 port. A grand total of 183 fan-favorite Mobile Suit units are at your disposal in this hyperactive arena fighter.
The battle mechanics at the heart of this mech brawler feel like a natural evolution of SEGA’s Virtual-On games, plus its wealth of single and multiplayer content makes it much more valuable than your average anime arena fighter. Once you’ve gotten acclimated to the game’s complicated control scheme, you’ll quickly become enamored with the intense Mobile Suit Gundam battles happening on your screen. Skip over Gundam Versus and give this pick on our list all your attention instead.
Arc System Works’ metal rock-infused 2D fighter has always been gorgeous. But when it decided to use Unreal Engine 3 to replace the series’ hand-drawn sprites with cel-shaded visuals, Guilty Gear reached a new plateau of visual fidelity. Guilty Gear Xrd started out good and got even better over the course of two follow-up updates.
The definitive release of Xrd came in the form of REV 2, which added a much-requested lady samurai and the coolest ninja assistant in fighting game history. A host of balance adjustments, new stages, more moves, and expanded game modes added onto REV 2’s final package. The game’s head-banging soundtrack and badass fight mechanics will bring you in and keep you as a longtime Guilty Gear fanatic.
Arc System Works is all over this list, huh? But that’s for good reason – the Japanese publisher/developer’s mastery within the anime fighting game space is unmatched. Even when Arc System Works stepped away from the Guilty Gear franchise to create something new in the form of BlazBlue, it still held up its usual level of quality.
The final version of the BlazBlue games arrived on American shores in 2016 and was the best installment yet. New battle modes were thrown in to expand the game’s already massive array of special moves, plus the expanded roster was the best form of a final thank you from its dedicated dev team. Ragna the Bloodedge’s journey concluded here in the best way possible. The Azure Saga was surely a fun and memorable one.
Yu-Gi-Oh! serves as one of the most entertaining card games ever made. Once it took hold of a young generation of avid collectors and professional players back in 2000, it quickly became the latest anime craze to capture the imagination of America as a whole. Fast forward to 2019, which is the year when fans still old enough to remember Yu-Gi-Oh’s! Golden age got its greatest video game to date.
Legacy of the Duelist: Link Evolution features a who’s who of the series’ duelists and lets you play out the climactic card clashes that erupted between them. And with a library of 10,000+ cards on deck (pun definitely intended), you’ll get hours of fun out of just mixing and matching different card sets for offline/online battles. If you’re looking for one of the best card games to enjoy on the go via a Nintendo Switch, look no further than this pick on our list.
Do you know what’s wild? The PS2 Astro Boy game pales in comparison to the one featured on a handheld platform. Treasure, the development studio behind that Game Boy Advance classic, ended up doing right by manga author/illustrator Osamu Tezuka’s beloved young robotic hero.
Astro Boy: Omega Factor is remembered fondly for featuring the type of high-octane beat ‘em up/shoot ‘em up action Treasure games are known for. Smashing goons on the ground and blasting them out of the sky remains fun throughout the entirety of this handheld gem. Astro Boy: Omega Factor looks just like the iconic anime it represents and provides an amazing Treasure experience on par with Gunstar Heroes and Guardian Heroes.
One of the more underrated fighting game development teams in the world today is none other than French Bread, the studio responsible for cult classics such as Melty Blood and Dengeki Bunko Fighting Climax. The anime fighter the studio has gained plenty of high regards these days is Under Night In-Birth. It’s incredibly fast-paced combat and reliance on complex gameplay mechanics have given it long-lasting appeal.
The most recent iteration of this game is the one you’ll want to seek out if you haven’t already. This version introduces a new system in the form of the Cross-Cast Veil Off, which gives players even cooler combo possibilities to play around with. And with the addition of the frosty mage known as Londrekia, this anime fighter’s roster reaches another plateau of excellence.
Arc System Works can seemingly make a fighting game out of anything. In 2020, it adopted the lush and vibrant world of Granblue Fantasy and transported its warriors into a beginner-friendly fighting game. Fans of the original mobile RPG were welcomed with open arms once Granblue Fantasy: Versus arrived thanks to its easy application of combos and special moves for each character.
That’s not to say that this game is a complete skip for pro-FGC players, however – Granblue Fantasy: Versus’ dynamic roster gives way to all sorts of unique combo paths and differing playstyles. Then there’s the added RPG mode, which is an awesome bonus that gives beat ‘em up fans something else to keep busy with besides local/online battles. Granblue Fantasy: Versus is easy on the eyes and easy to play, but its complexities will surprise you and keep you playing it for longer than expected.
Nintendo/Game Freak’s undisputed king of creature collecting RPGs has held that title for years. Its main competition comes in the form of the Digimon franchise, which hasn’t had the greatest of luck when it comes to delivering above-average video game adaptations.
Once those digital monsters fans adore so much got the full-fledged RPG treatment, greatness ensued. Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth and its sequel Hacker’s Memory transport players to a world full of digital mysteries surrounding cyberspace. Getting to the bottom of both games’ worldwide web capers entails collecting, raising, and Digivolving an army of Digimon that fight alongside you. The story, characters, and super addictive creature collecting RPG mechanics within this collection are endearing enough to grab your attention for hours on end.
Koei Tecmo decided to do something different when it came time to produce a video game for Fiore’s most heralded guild. Instead of throwing Natsu and gang into a Musou-inspired beat ‘em up, they handed the reins over to RPG developer Gust Co. Ltd. Thanks to its fine work on the Atelier franchise, Gust was able to produce a surprisingly good turn-based RPG based on the three most epic arcs within the Fairy Tail saga.
This final pick on our list is jam-packed with worthwhile content – there’s a satisfying amount of characters to bring into your stable, a unique battle system, catchy music, and side missions galore. Even during the closing hours of this game’s vast journey, there’s still so much to do and battle with the Fairy Tail guild. Once 2020 comes to a close, Fairy Tail will be known as one of the better RPGs of the year.