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Best Sword Art Online Anime Watch Order: Series, OVAs, and Movies (Recommended List)

Best Sword Art Online Anime Watch Order: Series, OVAs, and Movies (Recommended List)

2012 was a year of game-concept animes. Whether you are an anime fan or not, the name SAO, better known as Sword Art Online, might have slipped inside your radar– be it by word of mouth or on the internet.

SAO continues to maintain its popularity and is still being talked about today.

What’s not to love about SAO? If you are a gamer, then SAO will definitely fit your taste. SAO takes the gaming genre to another level: playing a virtual game will kill you in real life. 

It’s thrilling, the plot is good, the animation is top-notch, and the storytelling is superb. Hence, it instantly became one of the most talked about anime during its release. It’s definitely an anime that is worth watching.

If you are into action-packed animation, MMPORG style, the fight scenes are something to look forward to. It adds to the hype factor of the series, even though it’s already been 10 years since it first aired. 

Sword Art Online Watch Order By Chronological Order of Events

The best way to stream Sword Art Online is by watching it in chronological order of events. 

The plot, if watched by the release date, can be confusing. Hence, for the best experience, watching the events unfold by following their timeline would be the best.

By watching chronologically, viewers will be introduced to the main characters one by one. 

Furthermore, you will get to see different perspectives that are happening in the series.

Watch OrderTitle
1Sword Art Online Progressive: Aria of a Starless Night
2Season 1: Sword Art Online (Episodes 1-2)
3Sword Art Online Progressive: Scherzo of a Dark Dusk
4Season 1: Sword Art Online (Episodes 3-25)
5Sword Art Online: Extra Edition
6Season 2: Sword Art Online II
7Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online
8Sword Art Online Movie: Ordinal Scale
9Season 3, Part 1: Sword Art Online: Alicization
10Season 3, Part 2: Sword Art Online: Alicization – War of Underworld
11Season 3, Part 3: Sword Art Online: Alicization – War of Underworld 2nd Season

Where to Watch Sword Art Online (October 2022)

USHulu, Disney+, Netflix, Funimation
CanadaNetflix, Crunchyroll, Funimation
UKFunimation, Netflix, Crunchyroll
AustraliaFunimation, Crunchyroll

SAO can be watched on the aforementioned sites but is mainly found in Crunchyroll and Funimation. 

Not all seasons are available on Netflix. Moreover, not all seasons and movies are available on only one streaming site, so it’s better to watch on multiple platforms. 

If by chance, the series is unavailable to watch in your country, then you need to use a VPN. 

Complete Summary of Sword Art Online Anime

# of Episodes96
RuntimeApproximately 23 to 24 minutes per episode
Manga Canon Episodes1-49 (Seasons 1 and 2), 1-47 (Season 3)
Anime Canon Episodes50
Special Episodes (OVA)12
MoviesSword Art Online: Extra Edition (2013), Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale (2017), Sword Art Online Progressive: Aria of a Starless Night (2021), Sword Art Online Progressive: Scherzo of a Dark Dusk (Upcoming October 2022)

SAO, or Sword Art Online, is a Japanese light novel by author Reki Kawahara and was illustrated by Abec. 

SAO was originally only a web novel on Kawahara’s website spanning from 2002 to 2008. But then he begins to publicize his work on ASCII Media Works’s Dengeki Bunko on April 10, 2009. 

With enough source material, a manga adaptation of the SAO web novel was made. It was then serialized and published by ASCII Media Works. 

Not long after, in 2012, an anime adaptation of the series was animated by A-1 Pictures. 

The SAO franchise received immense recognition and was widely praised by the public, confirming it to be a commercial success. The light novels of the series sold 30 million copies worldwide and had relatively good reviews. 

Sword Art Online Complete Anime Synopsis

1. Sword Art Online Progressive: Aria of a Starless Night

Original ReleaseOctober 30, 2021
RuntimeApproximately 1 hr. 37 minutes
IMDb Rating7.2/10

The film starts off with an aspiring high school student named Asuna Yuuki, who is gearing up for her high school entrance examinations. Asuna has the brains and social skills to excel and ace any field. 

Moreover, she is well on her way to top her examinations. Life seems to be looking up for her, but then one fateful decision would change her life.

Asuna, in preparation for exams, had been studying hard for days on end. Her good friend Misumi Tozawa, otherwise called “Mito,” invited her to play Sword Art Online.

It is a virtual multi-player role-playing game that created buzz for its utilization of the “NerveGear,” a helmet that can help players control their characters using their minds. 

Asuna accepted the invitation. As they are playing, the game will take a turn for the worst as they are held hostage in the virtual world. 

Moreover, the only way out is to clear all one-hundred levels– without dying. If their characters die in-game, so will their bodies in the real world.  

2. Season 1: Sword Art Online (Episodes 1-2)

Original ReleaseJuly 28 – August 4, 2013
RuntimeApproximately 23 minutes per episode
IMDb Rating7.2/10

Kirigaya Kazuto, better known as Kirito (his in-game name), is a beta-tester of the virtual reality game Sword Art Online (SAO).

He quickly made friends with a fellow player named Klein, who he taught the basics of defense and offense.

After a few hours into the game, they decided to log out. However, the odd thing is the log-out option was removed, making exiting the game impossible. 

Akihiko Kayaba, an employee of Argus and the designer of SAO revealed that he deliberately removed the logout option. Furthermore, he announced that all players should participate in a life-or-death situation while in the game.

Players who die in the game will die in the real world. The NerveGear console helmet should not be removed forcefully, or it will lead to the person’s demise. 

After a month in the game, approximately 2,000 players have died. Kirito and the surviving players must figure out to win the levels in the game. They must work together to make it out alive. 

3. Sword Art Online Progressive: Scherzo of a Dark Dusk

Original ReleaseOctober 22, 2022
RuntimeApproximately 1 hr. 40 minutes
IMDb Rating7.4/10

Scherzo of a Dark Dusk is the continuation of the first SAO Progressive movie. It features the meeting between Kirito and Asuna and the circumstances that happened on the first floor of Ancriad.

It showcases Asuna’s inner struggles to adjust and cope with this new reality she was forced into. 

4. Season 1: Sword Art Online (Episodes 3-25)

Original ReleaseAugust 11, 2013 – February 16, 2014
RuntimeApproximately 23 minutes per episode
IMDb Rating7.2/10

Kirito joins Moonlit Black Cats, a guild under the leadership of a player named Keita. There he met Sachi, a fellow guild member of the Moonlit Cats who expressed her fear of dying. 

Kirito assures her that she will live through this whole ordeal. Keita separated from the group to buy a house for their guild.

On the other hand, Kirito and the others went to explore the 27th floor, where they stumbled upon a treasure chest. 

That was a big mistake, as the treasure chest is a trap set up by my monsters. Surrounded with nowhere to run, the guild members are killed off one by one, with the exception of Kirito, who managed to survive. Upon discovering his guild’s demise, Keita cannot cope and kills himself.

With that horrifying experience, Kirito is determined to beat the game.

In later events, he teamed up with Asuna and other skillful and accomplished players. Together they must overcome the obstacles as they attempt to clear the game, one floor at a time. 

5. Sword Art Online: Extra Edition

Original ReleaseDecember 31, 2013
# of Episodes1
RuntimeApproximately 1 hr. 41 minutes
IMDb Rating6.6/10

This is what we call your “every anime’s pool episode.” Asuna and the other girls are enjoying their swimming and playtime.

But instead of the refreshing waters and the fun time spent at the pool, trouble is brewing behind the scenes.  

Kirito was attending the SAO Survivor’s School’s emergency counseling while the girls were out. 

But instead of a fruitful and civilized discussion, it led to a disaster. The meeting was set up by Seijirou Kikuoka, who is dedicated to repeating what had happened in the virtual world of SAO.

6. Season 2: Sword Art Online II

Original ReleaseJuly 5 – December 20, 2014
# of Episodes24
RuntimeApproximately 23 minutes per episode
IMDb Rating7.6/10

A year has passed since the terrible incident that happened in SAO. Kazuto Kirigaya had been assimilated back into the real world and is now living his life as a normal citizen. 

That is until players of a game called Gun Gale Online are murdered one after another. A mysterious player of the game with the alias “Death Gun,” had been killing people outside the virtual world by shooting them in real life.

Law officials asked Kazuto for his assistance in investigating the killings, and he accepted.

In the game, he met player Sinon, a reputed sniper with high accuracy making her the top sniper of the game. She is soon involved in helping Kirito upon a chance encounter with the killer in the game. Together they work together to avoid any more murders from happening.

7. Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online

Original ReleaseApril 8 – July 1, 2018
# of Episodes12
RuntimeApproximately 23 minutes per episode
IMDb Rating6.8/10

Karen Kohiruimaki standing is a 6-foot-tall quiet, and introverted university student. She developed an insecurity about her height after years of teasing. When she stands out among the average crowd, she feels restless. 

As a coping mechanism for her distress, she joins the game “Gun Gale Online.” There, she created a character named “Llenn.” Her online persona mirrors her ideal self–short, cute, and loli-like. 

However, her strong persona quickly made her known as a force to be reckoned with. She gained the name “Pink Devil” for her superb performance. Not only that but her equipment and costume are also pink. 

But even the best of their craft gets bested when one of her targets manages to beat her. There she met Pitohui, and they quickly established a friendship. 

The duo then competed in a tournament called “Squad Jam,” where players are to fight each other until only one remains. Hence, naming them the best of the best.

8. Sword Art Online Movie: Ordinal Scale

Original ReleaseFebruary 18, 2017
RuntimeApproximately 1 hr. 59 minutes
IMDb Rating7.3/10

The year is 2026, and 4 years have passed since the SAO incident. Another novel piece of gaming technology called the “Augma” has been introduced to the public. 

Unlike the Nerve Gear and Amusphere consoles, Augma is said to be safe to use and is public-friendly. Moreover, players can retain their consciousness while playing the game. 

Ordinal Scale is the most popular game that utilizes the Augma console. Gamers like Kazuto and his friends definitely don’t want to miss out on the fun. Hence, they joined in on the hype by logging in to the game.

However, history repeats itself, and a sense of foreboding deja vu envelops the group as something sinister is about to happen.

9. Season 3, Part 1: Sword Art Online: Alicization

Original ReleaseOctober 7, 2018 – March 31, 2019
# of Episodes24
RuntimeApproximately 24 minutes per episode
IMDb Rating7.5/10

Kirito works as a part-timer for Underworld, a game that is under development. It is played with a console named “Soul Translator.” 

Soul Translator is a contemporary full-dive interface that engages with the player’s “soul.” Or in the game’s corresponding terminology, the “Fluctlight”. 

Rath, the company developing the game, aspires to improve what they have made. To do that, it needed the participation of Kazuto Kirigaya. 

Because of contract agreements as per stated about working in discretion, Kirito’s memories in the virtual world of the Underworld are erased. This is in order to maintain the console’s confidentiality,.

One day in the real world, when Kazuto was accompanying Asuna home, they encountered a past enemy, and he got fatally wounded.

After that, he awoke to the virtual world of the Underworld. He has to find a way to get out of the game and reunite with Asuna in the real world.

10. Season 3, Part 2: Sword Art Online: Alicization – War of Underworld

Original ReleaseOctober 13 – December 29, 2019
# of Episodes12
RuntimeApproximately 23 minutes per episode
IMDb Rating7.6/10

Although the head of the Axiom Chuch, the Quinella, was defeated, the aftermath of the tension felt in battle is still high. 

Kirito, who had managed to contact the outside world, was informed that the Ōshan Tātoru, or Ocean Turtle, was attacked. It is a mega-float located in the Pacific Ocean owned by Rath.

Because of the raid, Kirito got into a comatose state when the raiders tampered with the equipment and caused damage to his “Fluctlight.” 

Alice Zuberg took care of Kirito in his unconscious state and dedicated herself to taking care of him until he woke up. Not before long, another war was about to commence as the Dark Territory invaded the Human Empire.

It is up to Alice to protect and defend the Empire in the absence of Kirito. Once again, she took her persona as Alice Synthesis Thirty.

11. Season 3, Part 3: Sword Art Online: Alicization – War of Underworld 2nd Season

Original ReleaseJuly 12 – September 20, 2020
# of Episodes11
RuntimeApproximately 24 minutes per episode
IMDb Rating7.5/10

The war with Dark Territory continues. Asuna and the rest of her friends assisted in the battle and did their best to defend and protect the allies they had made.

But despite their best efforts of attempting to win, they are still lacking and falling behind. 

Alice is being pursued by Gabriel/Emperor Vecta as she makes her way to the World’s End Altar. 

In the real world, Rath and its personnel are doing everything they can to restore Kirito’s broken Fluctlight. However, it is proven a difficult task as the attackers have the upper hand.