Anime and games have a lot in common, with many character designers and writers working in both industries; naturally there’s a giant pile of adaptations, as well as games more broadly inspired by anime, just waiting to be played. Conveniently, we’ve put together a list of the ones you absolutely shouldn’t miss—the best anime games on PC.
Gargantuan JRPGs, absurdly over-the-top fighters, crime-solving visual novels—take your pick. If you’re looking for an interactive anime fix, read on for our faves. There’s a bit of something for everyone. Fancy reading more on the genre? Check out our feature on what makes a great anime game.
Tales of Vesperia – Definitive Edition
Bandai Namco’s Tales series has introduced us to an army of heroes with plenty of worlds for them to save over the last 25 years, but 2008’s Tales of Vesperia, originally released as an Xbox 360 exclusive, stands out for hitting a certain old school JRPG sweet spot. Its protagonists are a group of lovable misfits who for the most part just happen upon each other, the battle system is a mix between round-based and real-time, and there’s your traditional kaleidoscopic fantasy world to explore.
Tales of Vesperia features a fairly classic 2D anime design, with characters created by mangaka Kousuke Fujishima and cutscenes by popular animation studio Production I.G. But more than just the visuals, it’s the feeling of a grand adventure in faraway lands that makes this such a great anime game. From pirates to dragons and mysterious magical forces, there’s a lot going on here.
Ni no Kuni – Wrath of the White Witch
With Ni no Kuni, a game finally captured the trademark charm of Studio Ghibli, makers of beloved anime such as My Neighbour Totoro. What’s more, Studio Ghibli actually got involved by providing both character designs and cutscenes. And while Ni no Kuni wasn’t written by anyone at Ghibli, Akihiro Hino, who’s responsible for games such as Dark Cloud, Dragon Quest 8 and the Professor Layton series, managed to hit the same heart-warming notes.
Just like a Ghibli film, Ni no Kuni is something both children and adults can enjoy, a fairy tale in which young heroes gain the power to save multiple worlds—mostly by capturing weird critters, cramming loads of food into their mouths, and then sending them into perilous battles.
Dragon Ball FighterZ
No game looks like an Arc System Works game. The company has perfected the combination of 3D and 2D animation with flashy fighting games like Guilty Gear and Blazblue, but the best example is Dragon Ball FighterZ. It turns brawls into proper anime battles, making sure you always see the best angle when you pull off a ridiculous move. And that’s why it’s the absolute best anime fighting game.
Not only is it beginner-friendly, DBFZ also makes you feel as powerful as no other fighting game, thanks to the anime factor—in Dragon Ball, throwing a foe into space or hitting them hard enough to take out most of the surrounding landscape are regular occurrences. Thanks to Arc’s stunning animation, FighterZ looks just like—if not better—than the original.
Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links
Many of us grew up with the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime, which was basically just an exciting, half-hour ad for an expensive card game. The free-to-play card game Duel Links is a fun way to relive the time you duelled friends—and that time you invested all that money in pricey cards. Don’t worry, this time it isn’t a cash-grab.
The Duel Links community is a big, competitive place, with regular events, seasons, as well as a story mode making this a full-fledged game. It’s free-to-play with microtransactions, but you can earn plenty of rewards without ever having to spend money. More importantly, the presentation is really good, with simple but effective animations and the original voice actors.
Anime and anime games are popular for combat with lots of flair. From never before seen monster designs to teenagers wielding magic, Japanese games have leaned fully into the idea that more is sometimes more, and Souls-like Code Vein is a great example of that. Here, the world has fallen prey to vampire-like monsters that can emit a deadly miasma, and you are among a group of young, stylish and superpowered people trying to get the monster population under control using massive weapons.
As is so often the case with anime games, this is a very simple description of all the unusual things that happen in Code Vein, most of which don’t make sense. That’s part of its charm, and while it wants to be compared with the Souls games, it’s a lot more approachable, as well as being stylistically different to Dark Souls’ quiet, dark atmosphere. It also has the feel of a shonen anime—those anime that let their characters solve a lot of problems via fast-paced, acrobatic combat.
Zero Escape: The Nonary Games
If you want to watch teenagers fight and outwit each other in order to survive, Zero Escape is the best of the bunch. Originally handheld puzzlers, the first two games in the series were ported to PC in 2017, with the DS original getting a graphics update and some other new features.
The Nonary Games is a bundle of two of the best anime thrillers you can play; tense and tricky escape room puzzles combined with a story that ruthlessly pits protagonists against each other. A combination of visual novel and first-person puzzle, the best thing you can say about Zero Escape is that you truly won’t see what’s coming, and you should really experience it for yourself.
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy
If you like visual novels but serious thrillers aren’t quite your thing, try the opposite—Ace Attorney is the only game where the protagonist regularly saves lives by ferociously bluffing. As Phoenix Wright, it’s your job to prove your client’s innocence in the courtroom, which you’ll need to do by cross-examining witnesses and searching crime scenes for clues.
There’s drama, there’s murder, but it’s rarely grim, Ace Attorney is a game where, like in any good anime, anything is possible—things never turn out the way you expect them to. Just put on your bright blue suit and get ready to interrogate the witness’ pet parrot.
If you see Nier: Automata’s protagonist 2B out of context, you might take her for one of those sexy anime babes that give anime on the whole and its fans a bit of a bad rap (sometimes deservedly so, but that’s a different story). But how many anime babes do you know that can transform into fighter jets? How many of them efficiently hack and slash their way through hordes of enemies? (ok, that’s actually quite a few.) And how many of them are grappling with the fact they’re not human, but machines built for a never-ending war?
Nier: Automata isn’t just a hack and slash game with surprisingly difficult combat. It’s also a deep dive into what it means to have free will, about the meaning of war and whether ignorance can help us stay sane. It’s heavy stuff, masterfully showing the other side of anime—it’s not all bright colours and cute girls, sometimes it’s the horrors of war… and cute girls.
Many anime have memorable and cheerful theme songs. A blend of pop and techno has become synonymous with this anime aesthetic, and even real-life artists such as Kyary Pamyu Pamyu have adopted it. Many rhythm games, too, offer this exact style of anime cheerfulness, and Muse Dash may be the best among them.
In Muse Dash, you press buttons to the beat while your cute anime girl avatar travels through a colourful fairy tale world. The animations are beautiful, the characters are lovingly designed and most importantly, the songs are real bops. If you always wanted to find out why rhythm games are difficult to put down, this is a great place to start.
Persona 4 Golden
The Persona series is both a deep dive into the human mind and a capital A anime, where high schoolers develop supernatural powers to save people from certain death. In Persona 4, you’re the new kid in town, to make things more complicated, you discover a strange parallel TV world where the dark parts of the human psyche roam free. When not exploring this weird place, you’ve got to engage in normal daily life—go to school, meet friends, read or take a part-time job.
The disparity between leading a normal life during the day and becoming a superhero at night is at the heart of a lot of anime (and their Western counterparts) but here, teens get to have the adventures. Persona 4’s daily activities are just as much fun as monster hunting is, because they give you an opportunity to really get to know your surroundings and deepen your relationships with other characters. This system exemplifies an important theme in many anime—the time you spend with your friends is precious.