Sword Art Online Watch Order for Newcomers (without fillers)

Sword Art Online has become one of the most popular isekai anime franchises of the last decade.

The sci-fi virtual reality series has captured viewers’ imaginations with its thrilling adventures, engaging characters, and thought-provoking explorations of technology and morality.

However, with multiple seasons, story arcs, and movies, the proper viewing order can get confusing for newcomers.

Our complete Sword Art Online viewing guide will break down the best way to experience this fantastic series from start to finish.

Sword Art Online Watch Order: Quick Guide

Sword Art Online Season 1 (25 Eps)

The first season of Sword Art Online has two main stories – the “Aincrad” Arc and the “Fairy Dance” Arc.

Sword Art Online watch order
Courtsey of A-1 Pictures

These introduce the main character, Kirito, who gets trapped in a virtual reality game called Sword Art Online.

Anyone who dies in the game dies for real! Kirito has to work with other players like Asuna to try and escape.

Sword Art Online: Extra Edition (Movie)

After season 1, watch the movie Sword Art Online: Extra Edition. It sums up season 1 and has some fun new adventures too.

Sword Art Online: Extra Edition movie in watch order
via A-1 Pictures

Sword Art Online II – SAO Season 2 (24 Eps)

Then watch Sword Art Online II, which has three main arcs – “Phantom Bullet,” “Calibur,” and “Mother’s Rosario.”

Sword Art Online II - SAO Season 2

Kirito goes on new missions, makes friends like Sinon, and helps Asuna who is in trouble again. Bring tissues for Mother’s Rosario!

Sword Art Online Movie: Ordinal Scale (Movie)

Next is the movie Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale. More crazy virtual reality happenings for Kirito and friends. Lots of action!

Sword Art Online Movie: Ordinal Scale (Movie)
via Crunchyroll

Sword Art Online Season 3 Alicization (24 Eps)

Finally, watch Season 3, also called “Alicization.”

This is the longest story yet! Kirito gets badly hurt and ends up trapped in another virtual world called the Underworld.

Sword Art Online Season 3 Alicization

He tries to survive while his friends try to save him. Exciting battles and a cool new world to explore.

So in order: Season 1, Extra Edition, Season 2, Ordinal Scale, then Alicization. Take breaks between seasons so it’s not too overwhelming. Have fun watching!

Where to watch Sword Art Online in order?

All seasons and movies of SAO are currently streaming on Crunchyroll, Hulu and Funimation inside the United States. English dubbed versions are also available.

If you want to know about the story of each arc then here’s our detailed guide.

Sword Art Online Watch Order: Detailed Guide

Sword Art Online Season 1: Aincrad Arc (Series, 14 Episodes, 2012)

The first season of Sword Art Online draws viewers into the VR world of Aincrad, a fantasy realm filled with monsters, magic, and medieval castles.

In the first episode, teenager Kazuto “Kirito” Kirigaya joins 10,000 other players for the launch of the highly anticipated MMORPG Sword Art Online.

But the gamers soon discover that developer Akihiko Kayaba has trapped them inside Sword Art Online. And if they die in the game, they will die in real life too.

Their only means of escape is to progress through all 100 floors of Aincrad and defeat the final boss.

With gripping life-or-death stakes, Kirito bands together with other players like Asuna to take down bosses and slowly climb towards freedom.

Along their perilous journey, bonds of friendship and even romance form. But they also experience the heartbreak of allies falling in battle.

After 14 intense episodes, Kirito finally beats Sword Art Online, freeing himself and Asuna. But a shocking revelation waits in season one’s second arc, “Fairy Dance.”

Sword Art Online Season 1: Fairy Dance Arc (Series, 11 Episodes, 2012)

The “Fairy Dance” arc picks up shortly after the liberating defeat of Sword Art Online.

But while Kirito has returned to the real world along with most of the other players, 300 SAO users remain unconscious, including his love Asuna.

When Kirito visits her hospital room, he learns Asuna and the other victims have been trapped inside another VR game called Alfheim Online. And devious reasons lurk behind their imprisonment.

Determined to rescue Asuna, Kirito dives into the new fantasy world of Alfheim, filled with magical fairies and treacherous dungeons.

But conniving schemes and powerful guardians that await in ALO might thwart his efforts. And what will he find when Kirito finally reconnects in-game with Asuna?

Sword Art Online: Extra Edition (Movie, 2013)

After the dramatic events of season one, the lighthearted movie Sword Art Online: Extra Edition provides some fun downtime.

The film features Kirito meeting up in the real world with his allies Leafa, Asuna, Silica, Lisbeth, and Sinon.

As they discuss their past adventures, Kirito is also interviewed by government official Kikuoka Seijirou.

Kirito recounts for him the entire sequence of events from season one. Interspersed with the recap, the girls decide to enjoy some summer pool bonding time.

But even a casual swim leads to a few more hijinks in the VR realm.

Extra Edition brings closure to season one while planting more seeds of future stories. It also gives Asuna and the other female characters more satisfying screen time.

Sword Art Online II

The next essential phase of the SAO storyline plays out in Sword Art Online II. The season opens one year after the infamous SAO incident with the Phantom Bullet arc.

A new VR game called Gun Gale Online, featuring gun battles in a desert wasteland, has taken the gaming scene by storm.

But when a mysterious player called Death Gun starts shooting rivals in GGO and causing their real-life deaths soon after, it draws the urgent concern of government authorities.

They recruit Kirito to enter GGO and investigate, believing his experience can uncover whether it’s coincidence or foul play at work.

Teaming up with ace sniper Sinon inside the bullet-ridden VR world, Kirito prepares for his deadliest virtual opponent yet.

After the tense action of Phantom Bullet, Calibur delivers some lighter adventures. This short arc brings Kirito and friends back to Alfheim on a quest to find a legendary weapon.

It serves as an enjoyable break before the emotional gut-punch of Mother’s Rosario.

The arc shifts focus to Asuna befriending a seemingly unbeatable ALO sword fighter named Yuuki.

Their blossoming friendship leads to a medical revelation outside VR that will leave viewers profoundly impacted. Bring tissues.

Sword Art Online the Movie: Ordinal Scale

Following the battering of emotions in season two, the movie Sword Art Online the Movie: Ordinal Scale dials excitement back up to 11.

Set after Mother’s Rosario, the film introduces the new gaming craze of augmented reality (AR).

With a high-tech device and headset called an Augma, Ordinal Scale overlays elaborate monsters and battles onto real-world arenas through dynamic 3D mapping technology.

It quickly becomes the first ARGMMORPG – an AR game fusing magic and technology.

Asuna and other SAO survivors eagerly adopt the innovative Augma system. But when glitches start occurring and SAO nightmares resurface, Kirito suspects foul play.

His investigation into the system leads him to clash with Ordinal Scale’s mysterious creators. The realities of virtual worlds and real life blur once again…

Sword Art Online Season 3: Alicization

The series then progresses to its longest and most complex arc with Sword Art Online Alicization. The story in Underworld begins when Kirito takes a job testing an experimental new FullDive machine for a shady research company.

During a system error, his mind gets trapped in Underworld, an AI-driven realm designed to cultivate artificial human souls, known as Artificial Fluctlights.

Robbed of his real-world memories, Kirito struggles to make sense of this strange new land. He befriends young residents Eugeo and Alice while piecing together his foggy identity.

But this artificial world proves nearly as dangerous as those he previously braved when corrupt forces exploit Underworld for twisted experiments. A mind-bending sci-fi saga split over two seasons, Alicization escalates SAO to bold new frontiers of virtual reality.

The War Rages On in Alicization – War of Underworld

In the suspenseful conclusion, Alicization – War of Underworld Parts 1 & 2, the experiments conducted in secret within Underworld’s virtual realm trigger calamity in Ocean Turtle, the offshore base housing the system in the real world.

When a hostile takeover leaves Kirito and his friends trapped in Underworld, they join forces with new allies to turn the tide of battle.

What began as tests of artificial souls soon erupts into a full-fledged war for the fate of humanity. Lives in and out of VR hang in the balance.

In part two, Kirito awakens but remains wheelchair-bound as he slowly rehabilitates from injuries that nearly killed him.

With the ruthless Dark Territory army marching to destroy Human Empire resistance, the their only hope rests on buying time for Kirito to regain his strength.

Epic clashes filled with magic, dragons, goblins, and other fantasy creatures wage across Underworld’s majestic landscapes.

Can Kirito recover to unlock the unique powers lying dormant within him? He’ll need every bit of strength to defeat the Dark Territory leader Gabriel in the showstopping finale.


Sword Art Online’s sprawling multi-season saga has enthralled viewers by transporting characters – and fans – through one perilous yet captivating virtual realm after another.

Its visionary ideas about technology also provoke thought about the potential future we face.

We hope our complete Sword Art Online viewing guide has charted an optimal course for newcomers to fully appreciate this anime juggernaut.

Strap on your VR headset and get ready for breathtaking adventures, pulse-pounding battles, and profoundly human stories along the way.

The possibilities waiting within artificial worlds may transform you just as they do Kirito and his ever-expanding circle of friends.

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