How to watch Sword Art Online anime in order – all series, movies and recap episodes

Updated: May 20th, 2024

What is the correct way to watch Sword Art Online anime in order?

Like most people, when I started watching the Sword Art Online anime recently, I was confused as to what order the many series, movies, recaps and special episodes should be viewed.

After all, with three Sword Art Online series out already, plus a spin-off, movies and a bunch of ‘Offline’ specials, being able to watch everything in the order intended was hurting my brain.

Thankfully, I did eventually figure it out, watched the series the ‘right way’, and am now finished with the anime until the next thing gets released.

So…if you are in the same boat as I was, and still confused as to how to watch the Sword Art Online anime in order, I can now tell you how you should do that.

And yes, this article is going up years after the first series of the anime ended.

But, with it still being one of the most popular anime series ever made, you may be surprised to learn just how many people are only just now starting watching it (me, up until last month!)

Sword Art Online (first season)

Start with the first series in the anime, of course.

There are 25 episodes, and you will want to watch all of them before you move onto the next story of the sci-fi adventure series.

Sword Art Offline

A cute series of 9 mini-episodes where all the main characters are either news anchors on a news show about SAO, or are guests on the show.

Not remotely mandatory to watch, as it does not move the series’ storyline forward at all. But…if you just like the characters, and enjoy something whacky and silly, this one is definitely it.

Sword Art Online: Extra Edition (movie)

The Extra Edition movie is a weird thing — about 50% recap of the first season (so, honestly, you can fast forward through a lot of it), and 50% a new extra storyline that is quite cute.

If you hate recaps, you can skip this completely but, I liked it just for the extra storyline.

Sword Art Offline: Extra Edition

Another ‘Sword Art Offline‘ special, with this one going over some of the material from the Extra Edition movie. Again, with the main characters as news anchors or guests.

Cute. Worth a watch, but not mandatory.

Sword Art Online II

The second season of the anime, with the first half taking place in the Gun Gale Online VRMMORPG and the second half back in ALfheim, it has 24 episodes and also covers the Phantom Bullet arc.

SAO II: Debriefing (watch after episode 14)

A weird recap of episodes 1-14 and ZERO reason to watch it if you hate recaps.

That being said, if you are a completionist, then watch this one between episodes 14 and 15 of Sword Art Online II.

Sword Art Online II: Sword Art Offline II

An extra 5 episodes going over SAO II, done again in the news anchor format, and cute if you like them.

Sword Art Online Alternative — Gun Gale Online

Some lists have you watching this after episode 14 of SAO II, but that made no sense to me as it is a completely different storyline.

That’s why I watched it after Sword Art Online II, as it is 12 episodes in length and I didn’t want to go off on a tangent before I had finished watching SAO II I was already in the middle of.

Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale

The 2-hour movie that covers a new game called Ordinal Scale. And yes, once again, our favorite characters dive right in and start to play it.

Sword Art Online: Alicization

Season 3 of SAO, Alicization has 24 episodes and is the first half of a very long season 3, which continues with War of Underworld (below).

Sword Art Online: Alicization – War of Underworld

The second part of that third season is this one, with the anime being released in two parts — Alicization – War of Underworld, Part 1 and Part 2.

There are a total of 23 episodes in both parts — watch all 23, and you are done with Alicization.

Sword Art Online Progressive: Aria of a Starless Night / Scherzo of a Deep Night

Finally, finish up with the film Sword Art Online Progressive: Aria of a Starless Night / Scherzo of a Deep Night, as it is a retelling of the original Aincrad arc, but this time from Asuna’s perspective.

Finish this, and you have completely finished SAO.

And that is how you watch the Sword Art Online anime in order.


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About Michelle Topham

I'm a Brit-American journalist who spent a decade covering the anime and manga industries while living in Asia. Now based in Vienna, Austria and currently obsessed with Katsugeki Touken Ranbu, KONOSUBA, The Archdemon's Dilemma, Kaiju No. 8, and the Boys' Love danmei Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation.