Enjoyed Castlevania on Netflix? Read on for our picks on the top anime adaptations of video games.
If you’re a tito gamer like us at Variable, chances are that you grew up with a game console and watching anime was an important part of your day.
That description above? It fits us to a tee.
Here are our top five anime adaptations of video games. For this list, we’re looking at games that have been adapted into anime, and not the other way around—which means no Sword Art Online and Yu-Gi-Oh! for you. We’ll also cover the storyline for each series, so expect spoilers. For an extra hit of nostalgia, we’ll include series that aired on local TV—we’d like you to reminisce with us, after all.
Ragnarok the Animation
If you already knew the game, Ragnarok the Animation feels like an OVA of Ragnarok: Online. But if you’re new to the world, it’s an adventure that follows the protagonist Roan as he tries to foil the Dark Lord’s ambition to create chaos in the world.
It might look like your standard anime trope, but it’s surprisingly dark. The anime kills a lot of characters—even those we were rooting for. But one thing the anime adaptation does so well is knowing its audience. The story’s light enough, so those who aren’t familiar with the game can get hooked, but it’s faithful enough to the lore, so those in the game can’t complain.
Plus it comes with Roan and Yuufa and their will-they-or-won’t-they romance story if you’re looking for something cheesy.
It’s unfair that Monster Rancher is often compared to Pokémon. For one, Monster Rancher uses disc stones to create monsters. The player then raises these monsters to battle or combines them to make stronger monsters. If anything, the game’s more similar to interactive pet games like Tamagotchi.
It’s also worth noting that Monster Rancher was among the first isekai shown on local television, thanks to GMA-7’s anime primetime block.
Unlike other anime adaptations of video games, where the protagonist is already part of the game’s world, Monster Rancher starts with Genki Sakura being transported into the game. This is where he meets Holly and her monster Suezo, and he even gets his own with Mocchi.
.hack//Sign is part of the .hack franchise, which spans multiple games and anime adaptations. Despite being a fantasy adventure, it’s interesting to note that .hack//Sign isn’t too focused on action sequences. Instead, it builds on Tsukasa’s character and his relationship with The World.
This character-driven focus in .hack//Sign‘s storytelling is what made it compelling, even without the elaborate fight scenes. For one, it gave us a peek at who the characters were outside The World—pains, flaws and all. It also didn’t shy away from dealing with heavy themes like anxiety, escapism and isolation. (Read: Why I’ve no more time for hard games)
It also helps that .hack//Sign‘s music is from Yuki Kaijura, who also produced the music for Sword Art Online and Kimetsu no Yaiba, to name a few. If you’re familiar with her work, you’ll hear her signature sound in Key of the Twilight.
(Ed: This one’s cheating a little bit, since .hack//Sign didn’t air on local TV, but on Animax.)
Another gem from GMA’s anime primetime block, Virtua Fighter takes place before the series—just enough for those interested to get a backstory on their favorite characters in the game. It’s also one to provide a slow-motion explanation of the move the character used. On whether it’s a logical choice to teach how to do a roundhouse kick to rambunctious kids who are all eager to try it out is another story.
Admittedly, it’s a campy anime whose goal is just to get you hooked on the games, but it does it so well. As you follow Akira’s adventure to see the eight stars of heaven, you get to meet other characters—and learn more about who they are. It also helps that it’s actually a good anime with a solid plot, clearly defined characters and fast-paced action—all of which help you to realize that Kage-Maru is the best character ever.
There’s a reason why Pokémon is the most successful video game adaptation of all time. For one, it’s able to introduce a new world for every generation—titos and titas had a Gen1 Pokémon they liked in Kanto, whether it’s Lapras or Pikachu, while their children may like Gen8 Pokémon in Galar like Cinderace or Toxtricity.
The anime is also seamlessly tied into the game, so those who picked up the game after watching the anime won’t be confused about who these creatures are, thanks to an episode or two dedicated to that Pokémon. (Read: 5 Pokémon I’d want to have in real life)
It also helps that Pokémon does not pull punches when it comes to heavy themes. Most who grew up with Gen1 will often get Charmander in their games since it has the saddest episode among the three starter Pokémon. Who can’t resist running in the rain to save a soaking, and possibly dying, red lizard with a candle for a tail?
So there you have it, our top 5 anime adaptations of video games. Is your pick included in the list? Let us know in the comments!
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