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.
Read more: The charming story behind Dragon Ball's first PC fangame
Release date: 2017 | Developer: Bandai Namco Studios | Steam
Tekken 7 has assists and autocombos, but enabling them takes away buttons you need for other moves. It's not real beginner-friendly. Tekken 7 expects you to learn punishes and staple combos, to pay attention to frame data. (The fact it then sells frame data display as DLC is ridiculous, of course.) It's honest about its difficulty though, treating story mode as a tutorial because it knows most people play story mode to learn how to play. Well, that and to watch over-the-top cutscenes where Heihachi kicks missiles back at the people who shot them.
Developed for PC, and with a boisterously thriving online community dedicated to the platform, Tekken 7 is a fighting game worth dedicating hours and hours of your life to. At least until Tekken 8 comes along.
Read more: EVO 2019's best story was the unstoppable rise of Pakistani Tekken player Arslan Ash
The best anime JRPGs
Tales of Vesperia – Definitive Edition
Release date: 2019 | Developer: Bandai Namco | Steam
2022 games: This year's launches
Best PC games: All-time favorites
Best free PC games: Freebie fest
Best laptop games: Low-specs
Bandai Namco's Tales series has introduced us to plenty of worlds that need saving since 1995's Tales of Phantasia, but Tales of Vesperia, originally released as an Xbox 360 exclusive in 2008, stands out thanks to the way it hits that old school JRPG sweet spot. Its protagonists are a group of lovable misfits who for the most part just happen across each other, the battle system is a mix between turn-based and real-time, and there's a traditional kaleidoscopic fantasy world to explore.
Tales of Vesperia also features fairly classic 2D visuals, with characters designed 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 complete with everything from pirates to dragons and mysterious magical forces that makes Tales of Vesperia such a great JRPG.
Read more: What makes a great anime game
Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
Release date: 2019 | Developer: Level-5 | Steam
With Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch a game finally captured the trademark charm of Studio Ghibli. The makers of such beloved movies as My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away were involved in Ni No Kuni's creation, producing its animated cutscenes. And while Ni No Kuni wasn't written by anyone at Ghibli, Akihiro Hino, who worked on games such as Dark Cloud, Dragon Quest 8 and 9, and the Professor Layton series, managed to hit the same heartwarming notes.
Ni No Kuni works for both children and adults in exactly the same way as many Studio Ghibli movies, telling fairytales in which young heroes gain the power to save multiple worlds—mostly by cramming loads of food into their mouths, capturing weird critters, and then rushing off into peril.
When you're done with Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch you can move on to Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom. Although Studio Ghibli wasn't involved in creating the sequel it retains the distinctive animation style.
Read more: I regret to inform you Ni No Kuni's cute new MMO has blockchain crap up its sleeve
Final Fantasy 7 Remake Intergrade
Release date: 2021 (PC) | Developer: Square Enix | Steam, Epic
Sure, recent years have buried us in remakes. Don't let that put you off Final Fantasy 7 Remake, though. It may look like a retelling of disc one's cyberpunk fable of a stratified city only with a more action-y combat system and some Akira-style motorbike chases thrown in, but the way it plays with your expectations and twists the story it knows you're anticipating is cleverer than you'd think. The combat's not the pure action it looks like either. The combos are just something you do to build up bars you need to cast spells and use abilities, dropping the world into slow-motion as you dig through menus for the attacks that do more than just chip damage.
Need your anime games to look their best? Here are the best gaming PCs right now.
Think of Remake more like a verb than a noun. FF7R is about a struggle to remake the city of Midgar, the slum-protecting ecoterrorists of Avalanche trying to get rid of its reliance on the planet's lifestream for power and the Shinra Corporation trying to manipulate Midgar into a war they can profit from. Meanwhile, another force is out there trying to remake the familiar plot playing out against this backdrop. It's got layers, man. Just like the city.
While you're looking at fantasy of the final variety, don't go past Final Fantasy 12: The Zodiac Age. Its gambit system gives it some of the best combat the series has ever had, and the PC remaster comes with improvements like a fast-forward button to double or even quadruple the speed to help you get through the slower bits.
Read more: Why the hell do they have mouths: a Final Fantasy 7 PC retrospective
The best open world anime games
Release date: 2017 | Developer: PlatinumGames | Steam
If you see the protagonist of Nier Automata out of context you might take her for one of the sexy body-pillow babes that give anime 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 who transform into fighter jets? How many of them efficiently hack and slash their way through hordes of enemies? OK, actually quite a few, but how many of those are also grappling with the fact they're machines built for a never-ending war?
Nier Automata isn't just a hack-and-slash. 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 colors and cute girls. Sometimes it's about the horrors of war… and cute girls.
If you want to go back to the start of the series, The 2010 original was remastered and finally released on PC as Nier Replicant ver.1.22474487139… in 2021.
Read more: Why people love Nier so damn much
Release date: 2019 | Developer: Bandai Namco Studios | Steam
Sometimes more really is more, and Bandai Namco's soulslike Code Vein is a great example of that. Its world has fallen prey to vampire-like monsters that can emit a deadly miasma, and you're among a group of young, stylish, superpowered people trying to get the monster population under control using massively oversized weapons. As is so often the case with anime games, a simple description of the things that happen doesn't make much sense. That's part of Code Vein's charm.
While it wants to be compared with the Souls games, Code Vein is a lot more approachable, as well as being different stylistically. Unlike the quiet, dark atmosphere of Dark Souls, it feels like a shonen anime—the kind where characters solve a lot of problems via fast-paced, acrobatic combat.
Read more: Code Vein is a surprisingly fun soulslike with giant anime swords
The best anime visual novels
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy
Release date: 2019 | Developer: Capcom | Steam
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. You know, like a regular lawyer definitely does.
There's drama and there's murder, but Ace Attorney is rarely grim. These are games where anything is possible—and things never turn out the way you expect them to. When you put on your bright blue suit you've got to be ready to interrogate the witness's pet parrot if it turns out to be necessary. (It will turn out to be necessary.)
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy collects the first three games in the series, while The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles bundles together two prequels set in the Victorian era starring an ancestor of Phoenix Wright who teams up with the great detective 'Herlock Sholmes'.
Read more: Why I love Miles Edgeworth in Ace Attorney
Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc
Release date: 2016 | Developer: Spike Chunsoft | Steam
If the psychics, ghosts, and sexy clowns of the Phoenix Wright games are just too staid and serious for you, Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc takes the formula and makes it even more ridiculous. The setting is a school for exceptional students where the latest intake of talented young people wake to find they've been trapped in the sealed-up academy with a talking robot bear.
Said bear explains that they're all taking part in what sounds like a social experiment, and will only be allowed to leave if they kill each other and get away with it. If one student murders another there's an investigation-by-trial, and if the killer isn't uncovered the murderer goes free while everyone else is executed. If the killer is uncovered, they're the one executed and the other students remain trapped. Until the next murder happens, when it all plays out again.
Some of the mysteries are better than others, but they're always tense thanks to a system that sees clues you gather during the investigation phase transformed into “truth bullets” to shoot at statements those clues contradict. There are other minigames involved in the trials too, and like the mysteries some are better than others. (You can always tweak the difficulty if you don't get on with them.) What elevates Danganronpa is its characters and atmosphere: exaggerated, colorful, and weird as anything.
Though it tells a standalone story, Trigger Happy Havoc has had follow-ups. They're not worth it, however, falling immediately into fanservice and cliché while leaning even more on minigames. You're better off sticking with the original.
Read more: What the hell is Danganronpa?
Zero Escape: The Nonary Games
Release date: 2017 | Developer: Spike Chunsoft | Steam
Another option for watching outrageous characters fight and outwit each other in order to survive is the Zero Escape series. Originally handheld puzzlers, the first two games in the series (Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors and Virtue's Last Reward) were combined together as Zero Escape: The Nonary Games and finally ported to PC in 2017, getting a graphical update over the DS original and some other new features.
The Nonary Games are 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, you truly won't see what’s coming, and you should really experience it for yourself.
Read more: The best visual novels on PC
The best free anime games
Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links
Release date: 2017 | Developer: Konami | Steam
This free-to-play card game is a fun way to relive the times you dueled friends—and the time you invested all that money in pricey cards. The Yu-Gi-Oh! anime was basically just an exciting, half-hour ad for an expensive card game, but don't worry, this time it won't cost you quite as much.
The Duel Links community is a big, competitive place, with regular events and seasons. There's also a story mode making this a full-fledged game. There are microtransactions, but you can earn plenty of rewards without having to spend money. More importantly, the presentation is really good, with simple but effective animations and the original voice actors.
As well as Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links, there's also Yu-Gi-Oh! Master Duel, which is a more faithful adaptation of the original card game. That means the turn times are longer and there are more counters and combos. Duel Links uses the speed duel format, and feels like the game they played when you were watching the show.
Read more: These 9 card games are better than Hearthstone
Release date: 2016 | Developer: Sad Panda | Steam, Nutaku
Crush Crush and Hush Hush, its counterpart on the masculine side, turn dating sims into idle games. (Several of the developers worked on the hugely successful AdVenture Capitalist before turning their hands to smut.) You meet a cast of cuties and win their hearts with moonlight strolls, showers of gifts, and outrageous flirting while managing a limited number of time blocks to work multiple jobs and build your skills. Those cuties include a mecha pilot, a time traveler, a holographic vocaloid, and a bear named 'Bearverley', because why not?
Read more: There's a sea of hentai junk games on Steam, and then there's Crush Crush
The best anime games with character creation
Release date: 2017 | Developer: Pearl Abyss | Steam
This popular fantasy MMO has one of the most in-depth selections of sliders around. Whether you want to adjust your hair's length or curl strength, or tamper with the intensity of your tattoos, Black Desert Online has you covered. It's easy to use too, breaking your face and body up into a topographic map of adjustable sections and letting you change your hair by clicking and dragging
You can also look through the Beauty Album to see what looks other players are creating for their corsairs, berserkers, and dark knights, then filter them by categories like Good Looks, Celebrity, and Ugly. You can either adopt someone else's character design wholesale or tweak it to your preference. Tweaking is best, because if you hit the 'Apply Most Popular' button on a female character there's a strong chance you'll end up looking like a goth clown with gigantic boobs.
Read more: Black Desert Online isn’t a great MMO, but it is a great sandbox RPG
Release date: 2022 | Developer: Smilegate RPG | Steam
Though it doesn't have quite as powerful a set of options as Black Desert, and you can only alter your face rather than your body, Lost Ark still has a lot of options for personalizing your character. For instance, it lets you alter your iris size, color, and opacity separately from your eye color and pupil shape, and then do it all differently for the other eye.
When you finally make it out of the character creator and past the typically slow opening hours almost every MMO seems required to have, it's a much better game. The over-the-top action-RPG combat is some of the best around, and the storylines get progressively stranger until you find yourself taking part in dwarf musicals in between fighting on top of colossal demons.
Read more: There is so, so much weird shit in Lost Ark
The best anime VR games
Release date: 2017 | Developer: VRChat Inc. | Steam, Oculus
In theory you can look like whoever or whatever your heart desires in the shared digital world of VRChat. In practice, there's a reason every single article about someone's experience in VRChat includes the phrase “anime girls”. Heck, even the official mascot Box Cat (a cat with a cardboard box on its head) has been sidelined in favor of a variety of big-eyed avatars in the official art.
Though it does struggle with lag, VRChat has become the place to live out your anime second life. Perhaps in the waffle house on the moon.
Read more: VRChat's surge in popularity has created a bizarre scene
Release date: 2020 | Developer: pixiv Inc. | Steam, Oculus
Of course, before moving your social life to VRChat full-time you'll need the perfect avatar. Or maybe you want to become a Vtuber without having to pay thousands of dollars? VRoid Studio is the free alternative, a suite of 3D character creation tools designed for people without 3D modeling experience. If you want more assets than the preset options provide, others are available.
Read more: The best VR games