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Dragon Ball FighterZ
Dragon Ball FighterZ is the one major exception to the “anime games are not technically great video games” rule. Regardless of whether or not someone likes the Dragon Ball Z franchise, Dragon Ball FighterZ is undoubtedly the single-best 2D fighter on the current gaming scene.Developer Arc System Works, which is also behind the popular 2D fighting franchises Guilty Gear and BlazBlue, went all out on FighterZ. The combat system is deeply complex, designed to facilitate hyper-fast-paced battles where life bars can be tanked by a single string of well-executed combos. The 37 (soon to be 40 with DLC) character roster is incredibly diverse, with every character’s play style feeling both distinct and true to their personality. For example, Broly plays like a gigantic powerhouse with the ability to attack through opponents’ projectiles, while Hit—the alien assassin from Dragon Ball Super—relies on speed, parries, and technical acumen. FighterZ is proof that in the hands of an expert developer, anime games can, indeed, be great games period.
Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 3
Not every anime game can be Dragon Ball Fighterz, and that’s perfectly okay. Sometimes it’s nice to relax and play a more casual fighting game where you can just screw around as your favorite character. In more casual games like these, the bigger the roster, the better.When it comes to character roster size, Dragon Ball Z Budokai Tenkaichi 3 (or Dragon Ball Z: Sparkling! Meteor) is wholly unmatched. Tenkaichi 3 features 98 characters and 161 different forms, making it one of the largest playable rosters in any fighting game ever. Finally, we can play not just as heavy hitters like Goku and Vegeta, but also as Spopovich, the muscular bald man in a unitard who was in like three episodes from the Buu Saga before being killed. On a cooler note, you can also play as Arale, the main character from Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama’s earlier work, Dr. Slump, and that kind of crossover reference is exactly why Tenkaichi 3 is such a great anime game.
Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 4
The Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm franchise is probably the best casual anime fighting game series, due to its smooth gameplay mechanics that allow you to run around 3D playing fields just like a real ninja. More importantly, though, the games feature giant boss battles against the various Tailed Beasts that are epic in scale. Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 is the culmination of all the previous titles, including a huge list of characters from throughout all of the anime’s incarnations, including Naruto, Naruto Shippuden, and Boruto. The game serves as a great capstone for Naruto and perhaps more than any other game really makes you feel like you’re playing the anime.
One Piece Pirate Warriors 3
Developed by Koei Tecmo’s Omega Force division, One Piece Pirate Warriors falls under the action game sub-genre known as Musou (literally “Unrivaled”), alongside other entries like Dynasty Warriors (inspired by China’s Three Kingdoms period) and Samurai Warriors (inspired by Japan’s Sengoku period). These games are designed to create an epic sense of scale, placing you in the role of an incredibly powerful warrior and pitting you against 1000s of foes at once. As you mow through mobs of enemies and demolish (slightly more) powerful enemy leaders, you truly feel like an all-powerful hero.One Piece’s giant world and ridiculous characters work incredibly well within this context. Notably, One Piece Pirate Warriors 4 released relatively recently, but One Piece Pirate Warriors 3 still boasts more alternate costumes, story chapters, in-game collectibles, and post-game content. If you want the ultimate Pirate Warriors experience, 3 is still definitely the way to go.
Jump Ultimate Stars
In Japan, the vast majority of popular action manga are published in Weekly Shonen Jump. This means that Shonen Jump’s publisher, Shueisha, owns the rights to a vast array of franchises from Dragon Ball to One Piece to JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, and many, many more. As such, they would be insane not to make a massive video game collaboration.Enter the Jump Stars series, which does exactly that. J-Stars Victory VS and Jump Force, the two most recent entries for home consoles, ended up being disappointing due to a weak combat systems, even by anime video game standards. Luckily, Jump Ultimate Stars, released in 2006 for Nintendo DS, still holds up. The game plays kind of like a low-res anime version of Super Smash Bros., and the character roster is sizable while maintaining the distinct feel of each character and series. Ultimate Stars is only available in Japanese, but it works perfectly on American DS systems, and everything is intuitive enough to figure out with relatively little hassle. If you’re an anime fan and want the best collab game ever made, track this one down.