COMPLETE Sword Art Online Watch and Read Order (EASY GUIDE)

Sword Art ONline Watch Order

Sword Art Online is a massive anime franchise, it can be said to be a gamer’s paradise… the dream for every gamer. The series that merges action, adventure, and science fiction is written by Reki Kawahara and illustrated by Abec.

At one point or another, every anime fan must have heard about Sword Art Online, it is one of the biggest anime series of the last decade. The series focuses on our amazing protagonist, Kazuto Kirigaya who is known in the game world as Kirito. In this series, we follow Kirito’s adventure with the delectable Asuna Yuuki as they navigate the world of various virtual reality ‘Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game’ (MMORPG).

kirito Narusaka Kazuto

So you might have been wondering, what is the hype about this series? How good is it? Should I watch it? After answering all these questions, you will realize that it is a very massive series with branches here and there. You certainly need a guide on how to take on this quest, this article will provide the ultimate guide on the correct watch order, and the correct read order for Sword Art Online.

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Table of Content

Sword Art Online Anime Release Order

1. Sword Art Online Season 1 (2012)

Sword Art Online Season 1 (2012)

Episodes: 25

Anime Storyline:

This 25 episode season that premiered in June 2012 is an introduction to the series. We get to meet Kirito, in beautifully animated scenes with intense action sequences. The game-themed action, adventure, fantasy romance is a slow build-up, however, this is understandable as it is the first season.

This first season is divided into two arcs, ‘The Aincrad Arc’ and ‘The Fairy Dance Arc’. The first arc is set in 2022 where Kirito along with 10,000 gamers are trapped inside the Sword Art Online game. The game is terrifying and unique because anyone who dies in the game will also die in the real world.

For any gamer to be free and be able to return to the real world, they need to clear all 100 floors of the game and defeat the final boss. The second arc takes place 2 months after the events of the first arc, it is revealed that 300 players including Asuna are still trapped in the virtual reality world, and Asuna becomes sick and frail in the actual world.

Kirito investigates and finds out that his girlfriend is being held hostage in ALfheim Online, another game world. This arc features a lot of world-building and amazing character development, the first season of the series is a must-watch.

 

2. Sword Art Online Season 2 (2014)

Sword Art Online Season 2 (2014)

Episodes: 24

Anime Storyline:

The second season of the series aired from July to December 2014, it was produced by A-1 Pictures and directed by Tomohiko Ito. Just like the first season, each episode lasts for 23 minutes and it is divided into story arcs.

This season is divided into three arcs, the ‘Phantom Bullet’ arc, the ‘Calibur’ arc, and the ‘Mother Rosario arc’. This season is highly intense as the stakes have significantly become higher, the first arc takes place one year after our beloved protagonist escaped from Sword Art Online. Now he is exposed to an abnormality happening in another game known as Gun Gale Online.

In Gun Gale Online, a mysterious player known as Death Gun is killing people in the real world by murdering their avatars in the game. Kirito is called in to investigate, and he teams up with the fantastic sniper ‘Shino Sinon Asada’ as they try to solve the crisis.

The Calibur arc takes place in ALfheim online, it is a fun arc to relax after the major events that have taken place and what is to come. It is a filler arc but packs a lot of adventure. Moving on to the ‘Mother Rosario’ arc, it adapts volume 8 of the light novel and throws more light on Asuna’s character. It is a highly emotional ride between Asuna and the expert swordsman Yuuki, also known as Zekken.

 

3. Sword Art Online Season 3, Part 1: Sword Art Online: Alicization (2018 – 2019)

Sword Art Online Season 3 Part 1 Sword Art Online Alicization (2018 2019)

Episodes: 24

Anime Storyline:

The third season is quite large and it is divided into three parts or story arcs. It begins after the events of the Ordinal Scale movie and in the first part titled Alicization, we see that Kirito now works for the government as they try to test a new machine that will bring significant change to the world.

Kirito suffered severe brain damage after being attacked and now the STL machine is the only thing keeping him alive. He finds himself in the underworld and it is now up to Kirito to survive in this new world, return to the old world and find out the real intentions of the company responsible for the STL machine.

 

4. Sword Art Online Season 3, Part 2: Sword Art Online: Alicization – War of Underworld (2019 – 2020)

Sword Art Online Season 3, Part 2 Sword Art Online Alicization – War of Underworld (2019 – 2020)

Episodes: 12

Anime Storyline:

This is the first part of the War of Underworld story arc, the world is still in turmoil, Kirito decides to contact the real world and he gets shocking news – the ocean turtle has been raided. After a series of events, Kirito is unconscious and it now falls to Alice to protect the world and save the comatose protagonist.

After Alice realizes that the dark territory has started invading the human empire, she gets in battle mode, reclaiming her name as Alice Synthesis Thirty … What follows is bloody violence filled with death, just enough to expect from Sword Art Online.

 

5. Sword Art Online Season 3, Part 3: Sword Art Online: Alicization – War of Underworld part 2 (2020)

Sword Art Online Season 3, Part 3 Sword Art Online Alicization – War of Underworld part 2 (2020)

Episodes: 11

Anime Storyline:

Premiering in the summer of 2020, it featured the final battle against the dark territory. More and more players from all over the world get into the deadly game and the result is total chaos, as Asuna keeps defending her friends, the government company tries to repair the damage to Kirito.

This part 3 concludes the season. It shows us that the world is now more than a game and with so many deaths around, Kirito, Asuna, and their allies have a lot of work to do.

 

Sword Art Online Movies Release Order

1. Sword Art Online: Extra Edition (2013)

Sword Art Online Extra Edition (2013)

Duration: 1h 41m

Movie Storyline:

The 2013 TV movie is the first movie of the Sword Art Online franchise, and it was directed by Tomohiko Ito. The story is set a few years after the events of the first season of Sword Art Online. We get to see Kirito narrate what transpired in the first season to Seijirou Kikuoka who is a high-ranking government official.

Kirito is undergoing counseling, however, there is another motive for the counseling as they plan to use it to find out Akihiko Kayaba’s true goal. On the other hand, the girls are having fun swimming, and it is beautiful to see the cast rewind and relax without the fear of death.

 

2. Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale (2017)

Sword Art Online Ordinal Scale (2017)

Duration: 1h 59m

Movie Storyline:

This movie is unique, being that it is an anime exclusive and doesn’t feature a storyline from the light novel series. It takes place after the ‘Mother Rosario’ arc of the second season, and now a new form of technology named Augma has arrived – it uses an augmented reality system.

Kirito shows no interest in the Ordinal Scale combat game, however when he finds out that boss monsters from the original Sword Art Online have infiltrated the game he decides to join. The mysteries begin to pile up as Asuna and some other players begin to lose their memories and they find out that this is more than a game.

 

3. Sword Art Online: Progressive Movie – Aria of a Starless Night (2021)

Sword Art Online Progressive Movie – Aria of a Starless Night (2021)

Duration: TBA

Movie Storyline:

This will premiere on October 30, 2021, it is dark-themed as over two thousand players have already died, just one month after the games began. Kirito and Asuna, having different personalities, try to be lone wolves in navigating this deadly battleground, nevertheless, it would be easier if they just paired together.

With the whole virtual world being set to kill players, desperation sets in and players will do anything to survive … will they survive or will they die? Welcome to the deadly world of Aincrad.

 

Sword Art Online Specials Release Order

1. Sword Art Online: Sword Art Offline (2012 - 2013)

Sword Art Online Sword Art Offline (2012 - 2013)

Episodes: 9

Special’s Storyline:

Sword Art Offline is a special consisting of 9 episodes, each running for 11 minutes. It aired from October 2012 to June 2013. There is no actual plot to this special as different episodes focus on different issues because it is meant to discuss the daily lives of the Sword Art Online characters.

For those who don’t like ‘Chibi’, look away, the anime characters take Chibi form. There is no new material here so it is not a must-watch but the humor is great.

 

2. Sword Art Online: Sword Art Offline (2014)

Sword Art Online Sword Art Offline (2014)

Episodes: 1

Special’s Storyline:

Produced by ‘I was a ballerina’ and licensed by Aniplex, the one episode special lasts for just 13 minutes. It is largely humorous and focuses on the original Sword Art Online cast.

 

3. Sword Art Online II: Debriefing (2014)

Sword Art Online II Debriefing (2014)

Episodes: 1

Special’s Storyline:

In some quarters, this is also referred to as episode 14.5 of the Sword Art Online series. It lasts for 24 minutes and features a recap of the events of the Phantom Bullet Arc from the second season of the series.

 

4. Sword Art Online II: Sword Art Offline II (2014)

Sword Art Online II Sword Art Offline II (2014)

Episodes: 9

Special’s Storyline:

Produced and licensed by Aniplex for Studio A-1 Pictures, it contains 9 episodes each running for 13 minutes each. Just like the previous Sword Art Offline special, it is a comedy series that focuses on the lives and day to day activities of the characters

 

5. Sword Art Online Movie: Ordinal Scale – Sword Art Offline (2017)

Sword Art Online Movie Ordinal Scale Sword Art Offline (2017)

Episodes: 1

Special’s Storyline:

This is a proper offline episode, and it features the fan-favorite counseling corner. It is like a recap of the movie, there are some funny and some romantic scenes but that is all there is to it, apart from the Kirito abuse.

 

6. Sword Art Online Fatal Bullet: The Third Episode (2018)

Sword Art Online Fatal Bullet The Third Episode (2018)

Episodes: 1

Special’s Storyline:

A 1 episode special that lasts for just three minutes. It is quite short but it packs a lot, there is a military and psychological theme to it, and it tries to question the nature of human bonds.

The special follows the story of a boy and a girl from the Gun Gale Online Game. The boy feels a connection to the girl, while to the girl it is nothing more than a facade … watch this to see if the bond is real or not.

 

7. Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online – Refrain (2018)

Sword Art Online Alternative Gun Gale Online – Refrain (2018)

Episodes: 1

Special’s Storyline:

The action fantasy Sci-fi is animated by Studio 3Hz and it features a military theme. The one-episode special runs for 23 minutes, it focuses on Pitohui, M, and LLENN. They review footage from the past competition to see what was missed, the animation in this special is gorgeous.

 

8. Sword Art Online: Alicization – War of Underworld Reflection (2019)

Sword Art Online Alicization – War of Underworld Reflection (2019)

Episodes: 1

Special’s Storyline:

The one-episode special runs for 24 minutes. This is a recap of the first part of Alicization, it doesn’t further the plot or does anything of such and if you haven’t seen the first part of Alicization then you have to see it, as this does not serve as a replacement.

 

10. Sword Art Online: Alicization – War of Underworld Recap (2020)

Sword Art Online Alicization – War of Underworld Recap (2020)

Episodes: 1

Special’s Storyline:

Produced by Egg firm and animated by A-1 Pictures, it is a one-episode special running for 24 minutes and it recaps the first cour of Sword Art Online: War of the Underworld, which is the climax of Alicization.

 

Sword Art Online ONA's Release Order

1. Sword Art Online Fatal Bullet: The Third Episode – Pilot Ban (2018)

Sword Art Online Fatal Bullet The Third Episode – Pilot Ban

Episodes: 1

ONA Storyline:

It is an original net animation of one episode that runs for 3 minutes. It was produced by Bandai Namco Entertainment and it was inspired by the Sword Art Online Fatal Bullet video game. If you are not familiar with the game, then this is certainly not for you.

 

Sword Art Online Spinoff's Release Order

1. Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online (2018)

Sword Art Online Alternative Gun Gale Online (2018)

Episodes: 12

Spinoff Storyline:

This is a TV anime spinoff that consists of 12 episodes, each lasting 23 minutes. The action, fantasy, and Sci-fi is produced and licensed by Aniplex while it is animated by Studio 3Hz. This spinoff series has its own cast/characters. The characters are unique and interesting as well.

It is based on the light novel by Keiichi Sigsawa and it takes place in the Gun Gale online world. The protagonist is the tall and shy college student known as Karen Kouhirimaki, she is exceptionally tall and this has led to low self-esteem, making her seek refuge in the virtual reality world.

Karen enters the game as LLENN, she gets so good at the game, gaining a reputation as the ‘Pink Devil’ who mercilessly kills other characters. After losing a battle, she meets Pitohui who encourages her to participate in the ‘Squad Jam battle royale’ – now she has to fight her way to the top alongside her allies.

Sword Art Online Chronological Order

Sword Art Online Chronological Order
1. Sword Art Online Season 1 (2012)
2. Sword Art Online: Sword Art Offline (2012 – 2013)
3. Sword Art Online: Extra Edition (2013)
4. Sword Art Online: Sword Art Offline (2014)
5. Sword Art Online Season 2 (2014)
6. Sword Art Online II: Debriefing (2014)
7. Sword Art Online II: Sword Art Offline II (2014)
8. Sword Art Online Ordinal Scale (2017)
9. Sword Art Online Movie: Ordinal Scale – Sword Art Offline (2017)
10. Sword Art Online Fatal Bullet: The Third Episode – Pilot Ban (2018)
11. Sword Art Online Fatal Bullet: The Third Episode (2018)
12. Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online (2018)
13. Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online – Refrain (2018)
14. Sword Art Online Season 3, Part 1: Sword Art Online: Alicization (2018 – 2019)
15. Sword Art Online: Alicization – War of Underworld Reflection (2019)
16. Sword Art Online Season 3, Part 2: Sword Art Online: Alicization – War of Underworld (2019 – 2020)
17. Sword Art Online: Alicization – War of Underworld Recap (2020)
18. Sword Art Online Season 3, Part 3: Sword Art Online: Alicization – War of Underworld part 2 (2020)
19. Sword Art Online: Progressive Movie – Aria of a Starless Night (2021)

 

Sword Art Online Read Order

This is a TV anime spinoff that consists of 12 episodes, each lasting 23 minutes. The action, fantasy, and Sci-fi is produced and licensed by Aniplex while it is animated by Studio 3Hz. This spinoff series has its own cast/characters. They are interesting and unique.

It is based on the light novel by Keiichi Sigsawa and it takes place in the Gun Gale online world. The protagonist is the tall and shy college student known as Karen Kouhirimaki, she is exceptionally tall and this has led to low self-esteem, making her seek refuge in the virtual reality world.

Karen enters the game as LLENN, she gets so good at the game, gaining a reputation as the ‘Pink Devil’ who mercilessly kills other characters. After losing a battle, she meets Pitohui who encourages her to participate in the ‘Squad Jam battle royale’ – now she has to fight her way to the top alongside her allies.

 

Sword Art Online Light Novel Order

Sword Art Light Novel Release Order
1. Sword Art Online Volume 1: Aincrad
2. Sword Art Online Volume 2: Aincrad
3. Sword Art Online Volume 3: Fairy Dance
4. Sword Art Online Volume 4: Fairy Dance
5. Sword Art Online Volume 5: Phantom Bullet
6. Sword Art Online Volume 6: Phantom Bullet
7. Sword Art Online Volume 7: Mother’s Rosary
8. Sword Art Online Volume 8: Early and Late
9. Sword Art Online Volume 9: Alicization Beginning
10. Sword Art Online Volume 10: Alicization Running
11. Sword Art Online Volume 11: Alicization Turning
12. Sword Art Online Volume 12: Alicization Rising
13. Sword Art Online Volume 13: Alicization Dividing
14. Sword Art Online Volume 14: Alicization Uniting
15. Sword Art Online Volume 15: Alicization Invading
16. Sword Art Online Volume 16: Alicization Exploding
17. Sword Art Online Volume 17: Alicization Awakening
18. Sword Art Online Volume 18: Alicization Lasting
19. Sword Art Online Volume 19: Moon Cradle
20. Sword Art Online Volume 20: Moon Cradle
21. Sword Art Online Volume 21: Unital Ring I
22. Sword Art Online Volume 22: Kiss and Fly
23. Sword Art Online Volume 23: Unital Ring II
24. Sword Art Online Volume 24: Unital Ring III
25. Sword Art Online Volume 25: Unital Ring IV
26. Sword Art Online Volume 26: Unital Ring V

 

Sword Art Online: Progressive Novels Order

Sword Art Online: Progressive Novels Order
1. Sword Art Online: progressive Volume 1
2. Sword Art Online: Progressive Volume 2 - Concerto of black and white
3. Sword Art Online: Progressive Volume 3 - Barcarolle of froth
4. Sword Art Online: Progressive Volume 4 – Scherzo of deep night
5. Sword Art Online: Progressive Volume 5 – Canon of the golden rule
6. Sword Art Online: Progressive Volume 6 – Canon of the golden rule II
7. Sword Art Online: Progressive Volume 7 – Rhapsody of the red blaze
8. Sword Art Online: Progressive Volume 8 – Rhapsody of the red blaze II

 

Sword Art Online: Alternative Gun Gale Order

This is a spinoff series of the original Sword Art Online, it is written by Keiichi Sigsawa and Illustrated by Kouhaku Kuroboshi. We delve into the life of Karen Kohiruimaki, the tall and shy university student who seeks solace in the virtual world of Gun Gale Online.

It focuses on a different set of characters who play the Gun Gale Online game that was introduced in the ‘Phantom Bullet’ Arc, it is set after volume 6 of the original light novel which is after the first half of the anime’s second season, it takes place before Ordinal Scale. It currently has ten volumes;

Sword Art Online: Alternative Gun Gale Online Order
1. Sword Art Online Alternative Gun Gale Online Volume 1 – Squad Jam
2. Sword Art Online Alternative Gun Gale Online Volume 2 – 2nd Squad Jam: Start
3. Sword Art Online Alternative Gun Gale Online Volume 3 – 2nd Squad Jam: Finish
4. Sword Art Online Alternative Gun Gale Online Volume 4 – 3rd Squad Jam: Betrayers’ Choice: Start
5. Sword Art Online Alternative Gun Gale Online Volume 5 - 3rd Squad Jam: Betrayers’ Choice: Finish
6. Sword Art Online Alternative Gun Gale Online Volume 6 – One Summer Day
7. Sword Art Online Alternative Gun Gale Online Volume 7 – 4th Squad Jam: Start
8. Sword Art Online Alternative Gun Gale Online Volume 8 - 4th Squad Jam: Continue
9. Sword Art Online Alternative Gun Gale Online Volume 9 - 4th Squad Jam: Finish
10. Sword Art Online Alternative Gun Gale Online Volume 10 – Five Ordeals

 

Sword Art Online Alternative: Clover's Regret Order

SAO Clover's Regret

This is a light novel spinoff series written and illustrated by Watase Souichirou and Ginta, in usual Sword Art Online fashion, it was supervised by Kawahara Reki. It focuses on a Japanese styled VRMMO (Virtual Reality Massively Multiplayer Online) Game. Nayuta and Koyomi are the main characters here in a mysterious world.

This is the game where Yuuki, Ran and other allies formed the ‘Sleeping Knights’ guild. A mysterious quest from a priest brings forth a mysterious detective and an exorbitant pay; these girls need to find a way to survive while also getting solutions to all their troubles.

The spinoff series has not been localized to English yet, so you might skip it on your read order… for now it doesn’t really matter. It currently has three volumes;

  • Sword Art Online Alternative: Clover’s Regret Volume 1
  • Sword Art Online Alternative: Clover’s Regret Volume 2
  • Sword Art Online Alternative: Clover’s Regret Volume 3

 

 

Sword Art Online Manga Release Order

The Sword Art Online manga are based on the light novel series, there are multiple manga written by Reki Kawahara and also several others written by other authors. To make the manga easier to read, I am going to divide them into Main story, Side story, Progressive, Spinoff, and Gameverse.

Main Story:

  1. SWORD ART ONLINE: AINCRAD – It consists of two volumes, the first volume is illustrated by Nakamura Tamako while the second volume is illustrated by Kimi.
  2. SWORD ART ONLINE: FAIRY DANCE – It consists of three volumes, illustrated by Hazuki Tsubasa.
  3. SWORD ART ONLINE: PHANTOM BULLET – It consists of three volumes, illustrated by Yamado Kotaro.
  4. SWORD ART ONLINE PROJECT ALICIZATION – It consists of five volumes and it is illustrated by Yamado Kotaro.

Side Story:

  1. SWORD ART ONLINE: CALIBUR – This manga has just one volume, it is illustrated by Kiya Shii.
  2. SWORD ART ONLINE: MOTHER’S ROSARIO – It has three volumes and it is illustrated by Hazuki Tsubasa.
  3. SWORD ART ONLINE: ORDINAL SCALE – It has five volumes and it is illustrated by Isll.
  4. SWORD ART ONLINE: KISS AND FLY – It has one volume, it is illustrated by Bekkou Rico.

Progressive Story:

  1. SWORD ART ONLINE: PROGRESSIVE – It consists of seven volumes, illustrated by Himura Kiseki.
  2. SWORD ART ONLINE: PROGRESSIVE: BARCAROLLE OF FROTH – It consists of two volumes and it is illustrated by Miyoshi Shiomi.
  3. SWORD ART ONLINE: PROGRESSIVE: SCHERZO OF DEEP NIGHT – It consists of two volumes, it is illustrated by Puyocha.

Spin-Offs Story:

  1. SWORD ART ONLINE: 4- KOMA – It consists of three volumes, illustrated by Minami Juusei.
  2. SWORD ART ONLINE: GIRLS OPS – It consists of eight volumes, it is illustrated by Nekobyo Neko.
  3. SWORD ART ONLINE ALTERNATIVE: GUN GALE ONLINE – It consists of four volumes, illustrated by Tamori Tadadi.

Gameverse Story:

  1. SWORD ART ONLINE: HOLLOW REALIZATION – It consists of six volumes, it is illustrated by Hirokawa Tomo.
  2. SWORD ART ONLINE: ALICIZATION LYCORIS – It consists of three volumes, illustrated by Hirokawa Tomo.
  3. SWORD ART ONLINE: AINCRAD NIGHT OF KIRITO – It consists of two volumes, illustrated by Kurogewagyuu.

Got Any Questions for us?

Sword Art Online

That’s all for our watch and read order for the Sword Art Online franchise. It is a massive franchise, nevertheless, with this guild your work has been made easier and you can now enjoy the best of the anime, movies, light novels, and manga … now your binging starts!

 

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