Our Favorite Anime-Based Video Games

Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch has inspired us to seek out other anime-flavored gaming treats, and we highlight some of the best.

Even though there isn’t an anime-based product it’s based on per se, Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch definitely has that Japanese animation flair to it.  Studio Ghibli, the team that brought you such Hayao Miyazaki classics as Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle, was responsible for the art design and dazzling cinemas behind the game, making its beauteous world worth exploring.

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It’s also made us wonder what other anime-inspired video games have come out over the years.  Some have fared better than others, but there have been plenty of diamonds in the rough, some of which you may have been completely unaware.

Join us as we dig into the annuls of video game history to find our favorite anime-based video games.  And don’t be surprised if you begin hunting them down for your personal collection…

Ranma 1/2 Hard Battle (SNES)

For the longest time, Ranma 1/2 was an import darling, a quirky yet enjoyable fighting game surrounding a group of surreal characters, including the sex-changing Ranma, the perverted Happosai and the panda-formed Genma.  Though the mechanics were hardly on the level of Street Fighter II, there was still something rather pleasant when it came to brawling with friends.  Seeing its popularity in Japan, DTMC took a chance and released it on the U.S. shores, and it’s been a cult favorite ever since.  If you’re an anime nut, this is a must for your game library – right next to your Ranma 1/2 DVD collection.

U.N. Squadron (SNES, arcade)

While U.N. Squadron may not be the most familiar title to relate to anime efforts, perhaps you’ll recognize it under its original name – Area 88.  It was originally released as a manga series that ran from 1979 to 1986, focusing on pilots at an aviation school.  Capcom released it as a side-scrolling shooter in arcades way back in 1989, eventually following up with a home release on the SNES in 1991.  Challenging and action-packed, the game featured three daring pilots to choose from (Shin Kazama, Mickey Simon and Greg Gates), each armed with different power-ups.  It’s a blast for shooter fans – here’s hoping Capcom considers releasing it for its forthcoming Arcade Cabinet collection.

Astro Boy: Omega Factor (Game Boy Advance)

While we’d rather forget about the console versions of Astro Boy (which were loosely based on the CG animated film of the same name), we will give applause for the Game Boy Advance title, Omega Factor.  Produced by the masterminds at Treasure (Gunstar Heroes, Radiant Silvergun), Astro Boy shines brightly in this game, utilizing a number of his abilities while taking on colossal bosses and fighting for justice in his fair city.  With great graphics, an entertaining soundtrack and plenty of cool weapons (including the butt blasters – relax, they’re here), Omega Factor is a rarity that’s well worth picking up, if you can find it.

Jump! Ultimate Stars (Nintendo DS)

Some anime games are so good, they never get a fair shake in the United States.  Usually it’s do to licensing or something along those lines, but we can’t help but wonder – how would this multiplayer brawler fared if it was on our market?  Licensed by comic series Shonen Jump and featuring a variety of characters from Dragon Ball Z, Naruto and One Piece, Jump! Ultimate Stars had an ideal mixture of brawling action for players of all skills, along with a decadent art style that very few anime games match, even these days.

Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All Stars (Nintendo Wii)

Though it’s likely to become a rare item now that the rights for the game have expired and Capcom has ceased production, this crossover brawler can still be found for a pretty swell price these days.  Featuring a mixture of superb Capcom characters ranging from Ryu and Frank West (from Dead Rising) and throwing them against Tatsunoko superstars like Neo-Human Casshern and Golden Warrior Gold Lightan, the game has something for everyone, and is ready to go for online action – perfect for side sessions in-between your Super Smash Bros. Brawl match-ups.

Initial D Arcade Stage (Arcade)

Sega has more than enough arcade racers to go around, but we found it interesting that they would choose an anime license to pair up with one.  Yet, that’s what we got with Initial D Arcade Stage, a fast-moving racer that’s still making the rounds in some local places here in the United States.  Produced by Sega Rosso, the game focuses more on fast racing action than story, but that’s what most fans of Initial D want anyway, complete with fast turns and a solid selection of cars, ranging from Toyota to Suzuki models.  It’s also got various modes to choose from, depending on which version (1, 2 or 3) you’re playing.  Hit the arcade and take it for a spin.

Dynasty Warriors Gundam series (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3)

Though its general action is about on the same level as the Dynasty Warriors games (beat up hundreds of robots before eventually getting to the boss encounter), there’s a certain kind of flair that comes with the Gundam-licensed games, whether it’s the use of an authentic voice cast, the stellar design of the robots (based directly on the anime) or the non-stop action.  There are plenty of bonus missions to unlock as well, even if you’re pretty much just vaporizing everyone with laser sword attacks and blasts.  Hey, that’s what Gundams do.

Golgo 13 (NES)

Finally, we have to give a nod to Golgo 13, the old-school NES shoot-em-up.  Sure, it didn’t exactly play the greatest, but it was true in tone to the Japanese manga of the same name (featuring gunman Duke Togo).  The game featured interesting side scrolling and first person shooter elements, along with a surprising amount of mature content, including scenes of blood – something Nintendo managed to overlook in the game’s U.S. approval process.  Curious Manga fans should consider snagging this one at their local game store.

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Prima Games Staff
The staff at Prima Games.