Robots that transform into jets, samurai-ninjas fighting spirits from another realm, space cowboys making daring escapes from criminal empires…
Have you ever watched anime and wished you could somehow join in on all the pulse-pounding action? Guess what? You can!
Pick up a joystick and read on about all the retro anime video games you can enjoy!
(Please note: The games on this list came out in the 90s or were based on anime from the 90s AND had an official western release.)
Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure (1999)
In 1998, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure first appeared in arcades. Developed by Capcom, this fighting game showcased anime-style graphics akin to the Darkstalkers series. Shortly after its arcade release, it was brought home to consoles like the PlayStation and Dreamcast.
Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure featured 14+ playable characters in one-on-one combat. It also includes “stands” for any fan of the series (basically the character’s superpowers). Reviews were mixed and often suggested renting before buying, but this could have largely been blamed on the flood of fighting games that were out during the time.
Regardless of reviews, this game hit best-seller status and gave us game mechanics that were the inspiration for many games to follow. Have you played it? There are many versions released on many different platforms. Check it out on PSONE, PS2, PS3, XBOXONE, XBOX Series S/X and Nintendo Switch.
Pokemon Gold and Silver (1999)
(Later re-released as HeartGold and SoulSilver 2009)
We’ll never forget seeing these games in the local video game store. There was something special about a popular series of games releasing two new games at once and with covers that played off each other. When displayed side-by-side the Oh-ho and the Lugia looked like they were facing off. Outstanding!
Originally released in 1999 on the massively successful Game Boy Color, the pair of cartridges were action-filled role-playing games that were played in a third-person overhead perspective. They became a critical hit before they were even released and sold 1.73 million collective copies in US stores in the first month.
The goal of Pokemon Gold and Silver was to become the best Pokemon trainer in town while fighting off the criminal elements of Team Rocket. Pretty much the same as previous installments in the series, but why mess with perfection, right?
Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver were the 2009 re-released versions for the Nintendo DS and rank as one of the top ten best-selling games for the system. We highly suggest grabbing copies of these for your DS.
U.N. Squadron a.k.a Area 88 (1991)
The Super Nintendo was a popular system in the 90s and the home of this side-scrolling shooter by Capcom. Reaching the US shores in 1991, U.N. Squadron was based on the long-running manga and OVA anime Area 88 and followed several mercenary aircraft pilots: Shin, Mickey, and Greg.
The graphics on this one were somewhat ahead of their time and the gameplay was fun with tons of different levels and amazing power-ups. Nice music and sound effects added to the overall enjoyment. On top of that, pilots earn funds to buy different planes and weapons. Pretty standard stuff to shooters/shmups fans.
ROMS for this game are easy enough to find and play on SNES emulators if you would like to relive the good old glory days.
Ghost in the Shell (1997)
She was cyberpunk, when cyberpunk wasn’t cool. Born from one of the most popular anime and manga titles by Masamune Shirow, Ghost in the Shell was released on the PlayStation back in 1997. Its graphics and music were highly regarded in this third-person shooter. But the game had some poor reviews too. People said it was too repetitive and easy. (Remember, these reviews were most likely written by people who grew up playing Ghost ‘N Goblins on NES…which was NOT easy!) (Not at all!)
You play as a character simply called “Rookie” and yes, you are one of Section 9’s rookies. You pilot a high-tech Fuchikoma tank. Its spider-like design allows you to climb walls and hang off ceilings. Expect a challenging boss fight at the end of each level.
Sadly, this one is rarely cheap. eBay has listings that sell from $60-300 depending on how complete they are.
Magic Knight Rayearth (1998)
Do you remember the Sega Saturn? It had some cool games, and one of them, in fact, one of the last ones, was Magic Knight Rayearth. Drawing from the same plot as the manga and anime, this action role-playing game follows three eighth-grade girls who are transported from the real world to a magical realm.
One of the aspects that made this game so much fun was how you would switch from one character to the other on the fly during battle. The kids call this “tag team style.” This allowed you to fight every enemy with all three girls, albeit one at a time. Typical to most action RPGs, you spent time in towns talking to the citizenry and buying upgrades before venturing forth.
Reviews for Magic Knight Rayearth were largely decent. But a lot of people missed playing this one because of its late release to the system. It’s hard to find now, and very expensive to buy.
Record of Lodoss War: Advent of Cardice (2001)
Sword and sorcery at its best! Record of Lodoss War was a popular anime in the early 1990s. It clearly copied the groundwork and style that Dungeons and Dragons built, with characters straight out of the rule books.
If you think it looks like a Diablo clone, you’re not alone. This is the feeling of most gameplayers and reviewers. But if you enjoy a good hack and slash game, with lots of customization, then who cares what it copied?
With many weapons to collect weapons, puzzles to solve, and mini-quests to complete, this game has a very high replay value. It also gives you a rare chance to fight alongside your favorites from the series…at least until 2021 (twenty years later) when Record of Lodoss War: Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth came out.
Orphen: Scion of Sorcery (2000)
Not all anime video games on our list get an average review of 7 or higher. Orphen: Scion of Sorcery, released in 2000 on the PlayStation 2, is one that did not do so well in the eyes of game reviewers regardless of having a good story and interesting characters.
Based on the fantasy adventure manga Sorcerous Stabber Orphan, this is yet another puzzle-solving action role-playing game. One big difference is that the battles in this game are fought in real-time, not in the normal turn-based style of many RPGs.
Poor voice acting and a bad synch for the dubbing really pay this game a disservice. It’s no surprise that you’ll find this one cheap online in auctions or brick-and-mortar retro game stores. Give it a try if you want a brand-new exploration of the anime storyline.
There are many options out there for retro gamers. If you are retro anime video game fans like us, you can probably add a few fun titles to our list. All gamers have different tastes in games, and we certainly celebrate that. To each their own, we say.
Still, we all can agree that an anime video game will most likely follow a successful manga and anime series. That and it can be a lot of fun to finally control the destiny of our favorite characters on screen. Enjoy!