The more popular a video game is, the higher its chances of getting adapted for an anime become. That said, even the most famous games can fall out of the limelight. Fortunately, the same doesn’t always apply to their anime.
Some anime based on video games become so popular that they don’t just outlast their source material in terms of longevity and relevance, they also eclipse them in the popular consciousness.
10 Canaan Was Based On A Mostly Japan-Exclusive Visual Novel
Canaan is one of those lesser known anime that flew under the radar when it premiered, but saw second life in later years. Something people know even less than the anime’s existence is that it was actually based on the investigative game 428: Shibuya Scramble. Specifically, the series is a loose adaptation of one of the visual novel’s story routes.
Unlike its methodical source material, Canaan emphasized action and its story’s sci-fi elements. Aside from these creative additions helping the anime make a bigger impression, 428: Shibuya Scramble saw a predominantly Japan-exclusive release. Because of this, very few knew that Maria Osawa and Canaan even came from a game.
9 Gungrave’s Tragedy Worked Better In Anime Than PlayStation 2 Games
Despite some sci-fi elements, Gungrave was an otherwise bleak character study about two best friends, Harry McDowell and Brandon Heat, who became mortal enemies thanks to living in the criminal underworld. In contrast, the PlayStation 2 games Gungrave was based on were adrenaline-fueled crosses of crime pulp and sci-fi.
Gungrave took many liberties with its adaptation, dropping much of the more outlandish elements like a cyberpunk setting and superpowers, along with toning down their presence. The end result was a grounded and tragic crime saga that had more in common with the mafia classic The Godfather than RoboCop, which fans preferred over the games.
8 Monster Rancher Eclipsed A Cult Games Series
In Monster Rancher, Genki Sakura embarked on wild adventures after he was transported into his favorite video game, Monster Rancher 200X. The in-universe game’s name isn’t a coincidence, since it and the anime were based on the actual Pokémon-inspired Monster Rancher RPGs that were (in)famous for being almost impossible to beat.
Because of their challenging difficulty and rarity outside of Japan, only a handful of gamers played Monster Rancher, let alone knew of the series. The anime was many kids’ introduction to Genki’s journeys and his friends like Holly, Mocchi, Suzeo, and more, and it endured as a nostalgic Saturday morning cartoon more than a game adaptation.
7 Danganronpa Is More Classic Edgy Anime Than Classic Visual Novel
The 2010s were the golden years for edgy anime and death games, and one of the biggest names of that era was none other than Danganronpa: The Animation. Monokuma’s twisted life lessons and his victims’ ensuing mind games thrilled fans so much that they were inspired to play the games, even if the latter preceded the anime.
Danganronpa started in 2010 with the visual novel Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, though the official English translation was released in 2014. Because of this, most fans discovered Hope’s Peak Academy through the anime. Additionally, the anime’s cast remains the most iconic, even if the series added more students afterwards.
6 CLANNAD’s Drama Got More Love As An Anime Than A Visual Novel
CLANNAD first saw life as a hit visual novel in 2004, but it became a phenomenon years later when it was adapted as an anime. Sentai Filmworks’ English dub also helped bolster the anime’s popularity, as the dub for CLANNAD, CLANNAD After Story, and its adjacent specials are still regarded as some of the best ever recorded.
Beyond the top-tier production and storytelling, another factor that helped Tomoya Okazaki’s romances overtake the games was its late game release. Sekai Project released the visual novel’s translations in 2015, long after the anime aired. Before then, frustrated fans continually revisited the anime, keeping its legacy alive without the games’ help.
5 School Days’ Controversial Finale Helped It Overtake The Visual Novel
At first glance, School Days isn’t too different from other visual novel adaptations, save for the fact that it adapted the worst possible ending. The deceptively cute anime ended with its love triangle getting bloody, as Makoto Itou and Sekai Saionji died brutally. Meanwhile, Kotonoha Katsura won by killing her romantic rival and being the sole survivor.
What immortalized School Days wasn’t just the finale’s violence, but the circumstances surrounding it. Due to a real-life murder case, the final episode was pulled off the air and replaced with karaoke footage of a nice boat sailing to classical music. The anime’s fate was so notorious that it became a meme in ways the game never achieved.
4 Steins;Gate Is The Only Science Adventure Series Entry People Know Of
Originally, Steins;Gate was the second installment of the Science Adventure Series of visual novels. S;G was like many visual novels before and after, in that the game was a harem simulator with a unique sci-fi gimmick. As an anime, though, Rintaro Okabe’s nightmarish time leaps were turned into a critically acclaimed mix of character drama, conspiracies, and sci-fi.
Steins;Gate stood on its own as an episodic thriller, and it has since overtaken both the original game and the series it hailed from in relevance. In fact, none of the Science Adventure Series’ other installments fared as well as Rintaro’s original story did – including Steins;Gate 0, the adaptation of the games’ darkest ending where Kurisu Makise stayed dead.
3 Higurashi Is The Only When They Cry Adaptation People Remember
One of the biggest twists in Higurashi: When They Cry is that the story occurs in a multiverse known as the Sea Of Fragments; but this doesn’t just explain its time loops. The Sea Of Fragments expanded into the near and distant future too, bridging Higurashi to the When They Cry franchise’s other entries, its spiritual sequels Umineko and Ciconia.
The thing is, anyone watching the Great Hinamizawa Disaster doesn’t need follow-ups. When the anime first aired, the deceptively cute but ultraviolent Higurashi made such an impact that it took a life of its own, separating itself from the rest of When They Cry. The sequel’s adaptations never took of, and Higurashi was treated as its own mega-franchise.
2 The Fate Series All But Buried Its H-Game Origins
There’s no anime franchise as sprawling and successful as Fate, which started with Fate/Stay Night before exploding into a multimedia behemoth. What many forget either by accident or deliberate choice is that the Holy Grail Wars and all its spin-offs first saw life as a visual novel, specifically an adults-only game from 2004.
When the original Fate/Stay Night was exported, its pornographic scenarios were replaced with action and drama. This ratings-friendly version was a mainstream audiences’ first impression of Fate, and it worked so well that it became the series’ defining style, as seen in the initial 2006 anime and everything after. At most, a Fate anime would get into R-Rated territory while still avoiding an explicit rating.
1 The Pokémon Anime Is Its Own Phenomenon Separate From The Games
When it comes to video game anime adaptations, Pokémon is a unique case. Unlike other game-based anime, Pokémon didn’t bury its source material in obscurity, but complemented it. Basically, Pokémon became its own unstoppable pop culture juggernaut independent of the massively popular Nintendo games it’s based on.
Despite telling a new story with an anime-only protagonist in Ash Ketchum, Pokémon became the franchise’s face and a nostalgic pillar for many fans. The only thing that can rival the anime in popularity and relevance is Pokémon itself, as fans only briefly forget about Ash and his Pikachu whenever a new Pokémon game is announced.
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