When it comes to the best anime games, you can expect to dive into sprawling adventures, try to solve puzzles, shed tears with moving stories, and maybe even dive into the realm of horror. Like manga and anime series, the best anime-inspired games vary dramatically, from thoughtful and evocative to grand and teeny, and everything in between.
Animated series are categorized into subgenres for the same reason – Dragon Ball is an unambiguous “shonen”, Neon Genesis Evangelion a “mecha”, Sailor Moon a “shojo” and so on. Whatever your tastes, you’re almost certain to find something you love in the wonderfully diverse niche of cartoon-inspired video games.
10. Doki Doki Literature Club
Available on: computer
If you are not at all familiar with Doki Doki Literature Club, you probably have a lot of questions. And I can tell you that whatever you think of it, given its name, Doki Doki Literature Club probably doesn’t look like what you’d expect. Even looking at screenshots, you’d probably imagine you’re dealing with a run-of-the-mill, anime-inspired dating sim, but you’d never guess the horrific psychological nightmare that awaits you just beneath that shiny harem surface.
Doki Doki Literature Club is a violent, genre-less psychological horror game and interactive visual novel begging to spoil you. Final Warning: Doki Doki wears cute clothes, but the plot is about terribly heavy themes and topics, including depression, suicide, madness and the grotesque. If you can take it, the Doki Doki Literature Club tells a story worth hearing, well worth the spooky journey.
9. Dragon Ball FighterZ
Available on: PS4, Xbox One, PC, Nintendo Switch
If you’ve always wanted to inhabit the mightiest heroes of the Dragon Ball universe and get revenge on one of their many enemies, Dragon ball fighterz offers this satisfying, almost cathartic experience. Of course, you can also embrace your inner villain and fight Goku as Frieza, Buu, Kid Buu, Beerus, Cell, and Captain Ginyu.
It’s hard to live up to the energy that has drawn so many viewers to Dragon Ball for over three decades, but Dragon Ball FighterZ is by far the most successful fighting game in the series universe. It’s quick, punchy, visually impressive, and most importantly, makes you feel like Goku – or Cell, depending on your moral compass.
8. Tales of Berseria
Available on: PS4, PC
If you’re looking for a traditional JRPG with a heavy, animated turn, Tales of Berseria does the trick and more. The combat, while not entirely innovative, is tough enough to engage throughout the roughly 60-hour campaign, but the real highlight is the emotionally gripping storytelling.
Against so many trends that we won’t be running out anytime soon, Tales of Berseria follows a relentlessly badass female protagonist – a first for the series – on her journey to avenge her brother’s death by killing her murderer. It sounds pretty stereotypical, but Tales of Berseria will surprise you at every turn of the story, and in between, you’ll be happy enough with its fights to see what happens next.
7. Astral chain
Available on: Nintendo Switch
If your favorite anime is the stylized, comprehensive, and awesome type, Astral chain is in your alley. And if you’re a bit familiar with PlatinumGames’ other IPs, like Bayonetta and Nier: Automata, a lot of it is already familiar to the vibe of Astral Chain.
The combat is frenetic, the visuals are brilliant and loaded, and the boss fights are brilliantly inventive. Better yet, and rather surprising for the genre, Astral Chain tells a well-crafted story that deserves attention. For a bit of everything, including cleverly designed side quests, platforms, and puzzle-solving elements, Astral Chain is your sleekest and most emphatically shonen choice.
6. Nine hours, nine people, nine doors (999)
Available on: PS4, PC, PS Vita
999 is another odd hit with a unique playthrough structured around a surprisingly gripping story. Like Catherine, the story branches out into different paths depending on your choices, although by 999 reaching the “real end” requires several parts.
Playing through the stressful and sometimes violent story requires sitting in a sort of visual novel, interrupted by puzzle-solving sequences to escape situations. The plot is nothing less than a dreadful situation; you wake up on a cruise ship with eight other captives and your objective is to find the door marked “9” before the time runs out and the ship sinks. Worse yet, disobeying the orders of the “Nonary Games” detonates a bomb placed in your stomach. Needless to say, the stakes are high in 999, and you feel the intensity of the opening streak all the way to the end.
Available on: PS4, PS Vita, Nintendo Switch
Catherine deserves more attention, but the game itself is to blame for its niche appeal – its subversive and sexually charged moralization is nearly impossible to fit perfectly into its inventive and confusing RPG format for mass appeal. Catherine tells the story of a young commitment phobe trapped by a succubus, struggling to survive the nocturnal attacks and reconcile her faith in her relationship.
The only real gameplay here is while Vincent is asleep, and it’s about moving around blocks to climb a structure and escape the giant monster that is slashing its way from below. The confusing under-pressure in Catherine’s heart is engaging enough and the story told on the day is just as gripping, ensuring you never get bored. Catherine isn’t just weird, it’s incredibly well done and deserves the attention of open-minded players, and the new and improved Catherine: Full Body is the best way to experience this wild story.
4. Fire Emblem: Three houses
Available on: Nintendo Switch
The latest iteration of the popular Fire Emblem franchise lives up to and even exceeds its name in many ways. With a large, highly explorable base hub, a compelling storyline, and dynamic characters and relationships, it’s easy to forget you’re playing a turn-based strategy game, and a slim Well.
Indeed, Fire Emblem: Three Houses is a complex class-based strategy game. It will take some time to learn full mastery of his combat, but once you do, the result is as rewarding as it gets for the turn-based strategy genre.
3. Ni No Kuni 2: Kingdom of the ghosts
Available: PS4, PC
Ni No Kuni 2: Realm of the Revenant marks more of a departure from its excellent predecessor, but stands out as an ambitious and rewarding JRPG with a massive heart at its center. Studio Ghibli wasn’t involved this time around, combat is no longer turn-based, and there’s a whole new loop of town management gameplay and skirmish battles. To my taste, the frenetic, kinetic combat is an improvement over the traditional turn-based combat of the first Ni No Kuni, but I’ve never been much for the latter.
It’s true that Ni No Kuni 2 didn’t have Studio Ghibli as the head of the art direction, but you might not know that at first glance. The characters have the same Ghibli look and the environments appear to be hand brushed, but a closer look reveals some discrepancies. Namely, Ni No Kuni 2 boasts some of the most diverse and enchanting cities I’ve explored in a video game, and that charm bleeds through the whole experience.
2. Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
Available on: PS4, PC, Nintendo Switch
Whether you are a Ghibli enthusiast or have never heard of Miyazaki’s name, Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is a must-have for fans of anime, video games, or happiness. Ni No Kuni bleeds Ghibli, from exceptionally beautiful art to emotional storytelling. As you might expect, the gameplay fits quite nicely into the JRPG mold, with an outside world for you to roam through and through towns, cutscenes, and turn-based gameplay.
Whatever genre of anime you prefer, there is an anime inspired game for you. The thing about Ni No Kuni that separates it from most JRPGs is how expertly each piece is crafted. The story is deeply moving, the exceptional art drawn by Studio Ghibli has aged wonderfully (especially with the PS4 remaster) and progressing through the story requires minimal grinding – let alone if you take side quests.
1. Dragon Quest 11
Available: PS4, PC, Nintendo Switch
The latest adventure in the veteran Dragon Quest series is exactly that, a adventure. It’s vast, colorful, ridiculously charming, at times quite touching and ultimately satisfying. GamesRadar’s review of the recent Switch port called it “one of the best RPGs of this generation.”
The anime-inspired 3D environments are lavish, evocative, and distinctly Akira Toriyama. And indeed, the famous character designer Dragon Ball and Chrono Trigger was responsible for the artistic design of Dragon Quest 11.
There are a few really heavy, if not heartbreaking, chapters, but for most of the ride, you’ll be so charmed by the world and its characters that you’ll wish they were real. And the gameplay loop is tough enough that it requires a bit of grinding, but by no means excessively. Dragon Quest 11 is a traditional JRPG in almost every way, and the fact that it stands so high among decades of genre classics says everything you need to know about it.
If you are looking for other adventures, anime or otherwise, check out our list of best visual novels.