It’s common for anime to be based on certain types of video games. Visual novels are a prime example and you can read all about them in my article on visual novels. In many cases, however, it works the other way around. An anime becomes so popular that they start to make games based on it. Unfortunately, just as with games based on movies, these tend to be rather shoddy. Every now and then, however, a game based on popular anime will be released that turns out to be rather good. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does you can experience a little of that universe in an interactive way instead of just being a passive watcher. Here are some examples of anime-based games done right.

Pokemon Sun and Moon

Pokémon Sun

I actually debated putting the original Pokemon Red, Blue or Yellow on here instead. However, it’s been more than 20 years now and only hardcore retro gamers are really going enjoy these classic games. So instead, here are the two best games of the modern era in the Pokemon franchise.

Is it really right to say that Pokemon games are based on anime? I think so, since the anime series for each game generation is essentially there to promote the newest Pokemon video and card games. Hey, I didn’t say the anime had to be good, right? Yes, the Pokemon anime are aimed at children, but nothing about the addictive gameplay has changed in the latest iterations.

If you don’t know how it works, there are usually two versions of each generation Pokemon game. The games themselves are turn-based monster battler RPGs. You catch these “pocket monsters” and then train them up for battle. The idea is to win all the Pokemon gym badges and finally defeat the elite four trainers of that region in order to take the title yourself. Each version of a given generation has different Pokemon and, in this case, different stories. The only way to “collect ‘em all” is to trade with other people.

This has been the base formula for Pokemon games from the start, but Sun and Moon changed a lot about the classic Pokemon formula, and mostly for the better. This is set in an islander culture, a place where the Pokemon League have not yet come to set up the formal Pokemon systems. It’s a fresh take on the series; filled with color and places to explore. I’d say anyone who has been curious about Pokemon over the years should start with Sun or Moon. The games are much deeper and more satisfying than you might expect.

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Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm

Naruto Ultimate Ninja

Just about all of the big names in shonen anime that I can think of have video game adaptations – One Piece, Bleach, and, of course, Naruto. There have been a metric ton of games set in the Naruto universe, but before Ultimate Ninja Storm none of them were really worth playing.

This game, which came out for the PS3, took Naruto games into the third dimension. In fact, the graphics are so polished that at times it feels like you’re actually watching an episode. All those amazing Ninjutsus and lavish attacks are possible in this game, and you are the one in charge of the action.

While this is basically a fighting game, it’s not bound to one 2D screen the way that Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter are. Instead, this is an arena battle game where you can run around freely from a third-person perspective. There is a story mode that I think fans of the show will really enjoy, but apart from that the combat is really fun too. Most of the Ultimate Ninja Storm games that came after this one are pretty good too. If you don’t have a PS3 anymore, picking up one of the later editions for the PS4 and Xbox One isn’t a bad idea. The developers have found a formula for Naruto games that really works and have stuck with it since.

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Dragon Ball Z Budokai Tenkaichi 3

Dragon Ball Z

Honestly, I understand why people love the Dragon Ball franchise so much, but I could never really get into it myself. I really gave it the old college try too, but after more than 50 episodes of the fan favorite Dragon Ball Z, I gave up. This is probably why I never really paid any attention to the games either, and only later learned that some of the DBZ fighting games have earned a near-permanent spot at fighting game competitions all over the world.

If you ask the average fighting-game nut which DBZ game is the best fighter, the answer is almost always Budokai Tenkaichi 3. This PS2 title seems to have done things just exactly right, not only pleasing fans of the show but exciting the types of people who dream about character move sheets and how many frames a punch takes up. This game has one of the biggest character rosters in the series, with 161 characters to choose from. There’s a lot of extra info for fans as well as a chunky story mode.

Critics didn’t actually like this particular iteration much, preferring the game that came before. Fans are, however, almost all imbued with great memories of Tenkaichi 3 and it remains near or at the top of DBZ fighting games to this day.

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Attack on Titan: Wings of Freedom

Attack on Titan

Attack on Titan is one of those mega smash hit anime that end up having quite a lot of cultural influence. Both inside and outside of Japan, this manga and anime have garnered a massive following. So in some ways it was inevitable that we’d get a game at some point.

When you think about it, the core action of this series lends itself to some potentially amazing gameplay. In the anime itself, humans battle against gigantic humanoid creatures known as “Titans”. In order to do this, they’ve developed special gear that allows them to maneuver around these beasts and attack the critical spot at the base of their necks.

Having a good concept for a game and actually making a good game are two different things entirely. For most of us, expecting so-so to terrible adaptations has been the norm for so long.

The action elements of this game, where you actually get to use the 3D maneuver gear to swing around creepy-looking giants and chop them up, are its main selling-point. If you want to have this as an introduction to the Attack on Titan story, then you are better off watching the anime first. This is not about introducing new people to the show, but to give fans of the show a way to experience the action for themselves. Best of all, this game was released on PC (gamepad seriously recommended), the PS4, AND the Vita, which means you can play it handheld. There’s also multiplayer, which is honestly how the game was meant to be played.

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Dynasty Warriors: Gundam Reborn

Dynasty Warriors

Back in 1997 Koei (today Koei Tecmo) released a game that would introduce an entirely new type of fighting game to the world – a genre now known as “Musou” games.

The title in question is Dynasty Warriors, and every iteration of the main series somehow retells parts of the Romance of Three Kingdoms, a saga from China. The characters are usually legendary historical figures from China and Japan. The first Dynasty Warriors was, however, a traditional fighting game in the vein of Soul Blade. It’s really from number two that the franchise took off. Here we had the introduction of “Musou mode”, which then became the franchise’s main campaign. You pick a character and then play through several stages that advance the story and let you get to know the character in question. At present there are nine mainline Dynasty Warrior games.

Dynasty Warriors: Gundam Reborn is not, as you probably know, a part of the Romance of Three Kingdoms saga. At least, I don’t see any mention of giant robots stomping around ancient China anywhere. Instead, it takes the engine, core gameplay, and shell of Dynasty Warriors and stuffs it with Gundam lore.

They might as well have dropped the Dynasty Warriors part, because Gundam Reborn is totally its own thing. The main campaign is broken up into six chapters and totals a staggering 20 hours. The feeling of running on the field and smashing into mobs of mecha is pretty darn awesome. Although the Gundam anime strive to portray real robots rather than super robots, Gundam Reborn tends to feel like an arcade game. This is no mech-simulator.

It is, however, a realization of the mecha fan’s fantasy – an all-out battle with high-powered robotic death machines. Whether you like Gundam in particular or not, this is one of the best mech battle games to come from Japan.

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