Death games can be nerve-racking to watch since you’re watching your favorite characters participate in a high-stakes fight that can result in their brutal death.
Japan’s current obsession with death game stories didn’t take off until Koushun Takami’s Battle Royale was adapted into an acclaimed movie in 2000. Now, it’s a mainstay in anime. Here are some of the best death game anime if you want to stress over your favorite character’s life!
Fate/Zero is one of the most popular death game anime, which balances dramatic storytelling with stylistic action scenes.
Quick Pitch: The Fourth Holy Grail War is about to commence, and the Einzbern family will not tolerate another defeat. In a desperate move, they elect to bring the feared magus hunter Kiritsugu Emiya among their ranks and have him represent their family in the war.
Kiritsugu is torn between the love of his family and his ruthless dedication to destroying anything that threatens peace. While he is comfortable in violent situations, his greatest threat may be the priest Kirei Kotomine.
2. Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works
The series follows Shirou as he struggles with his optimistic ideals and the challenges of fighting in the Holy Grail War. Like Fate/Zero, Unlimited Blade Works pairs a dramatic story with stellar action scenes.
Episodes: 26 + 1 OVA
Quick Pitch: Shirou Emiya is an amateur magus who is dragged into the Fifth Holy Grail War. After summoning Saber, he finds himself forming a temporary alliance with his classmate Rin Tohsaka and Archer. However, Emiya finds himself on the receiving end of Archer’s hatred, whose true motivations are unknown even to his master.
3. Death Parade
Death Parade offers a novel spin on the genre; recently deceased people play a game for the right to reincarnated or having their souls condemned for eternity.
Quick Pitch: Whenever someone dies, they are sent to a mysterious bar with no memory of their past life. There, they play at a “Death Game” and are judged by an arbiter. The game slowly reveals the person’s secrets and events up to their death, upon which it will be decided if they are reincarnated or sent into the void.
4. The Future Diary (Mirai Nikki)
The Future Diary may have a weak story, but it makes up for it with an incredibly fun cast, crazy fights, and absurd twists that’ll keep you guessing.
Episodes: 26 + 1 OVA
Quick pitch: Yukiteru Amano spends his days writing a diary on his cell phone and talking to two imaginary friends, Deus Ex Machina and Murmur. Deus reveals himself as a god of space and time, and grants Yukiteru a “Random Diary.” This device shows descriptive future events to Yukiteru and he must use it to survive a deadly battle royale against 11 other people with similar diaries.
Btooom! pairs B-grade schlock with a great duo in Ryouta and Himiko. The biggest flaw is the short episode count, so fans will have to switch to manga after the end credits roll.
Quick Pitch: Ryouta is a 22-year-old NEET who leeches off his mom. Instead of looking for a job or pursuing education, he spends his time playing ‘Btooom!’ and has become one of the elite players. One day, he awakens in a tropical island with a bag filled with real-life versions of ‘Btooom!’ bombs.
After the initial shock and meeting up with fellow ‘Btooom!’ player Himiko, they discover that they have been “nominated” to play a real version of the popular video game.
Gantz combines extreme gore and nudity with a nihilistic view of humanity. At its core, it’s about people killing alien creatures in order to earn their freedom. On another level, it can be seen as the futility of human nature.
Quick Pitch: The twisted world of Gantz takes place in a universe where life doesn’t end with death. Some people take part in a futile death game, which leads to very grisly moments while examining the frail human psyche.
The story follows Kei Kurono, a young man who finds himself participating in this death game. His skills, morals, obedience, and will to survive will be tested.
7. Deadman Wonderland
Deadman Wonderland pits blood-powered warriors into deadly duels and bizarre games for entertainment. Fans enthralled with the anime’s world will have to switch to the manga to get the rest of the story.
Episodes: 12 + 1 OVA
Quick Pitch: Ganta was enjoying a normal day at school with his friends when the blood-soaked “Red Man” massacres his entire class. Even though Ganta is innocent, he is convicted and sentenced to life in Deadman Wonderland. This private prison is disguised as a theme park and hosts “Carnival Corpse” battles for the entertainment of wealthy donors.
Lovers from feuding ninja clans are thrown into a blood-soaked battle royale to win the favor of the future Shogun. Think of it as a bloodier Romeo and Juliet.
Quick Pitch: The heirs of the Kouga and Iga clans, Gennosuke and Oboro, have fallen in love. They hope their future marriage will bring peace to their clans and that mixing their bloodlines will undo the unnatural genetic damages in their kin. However, they are chosen to represent their respective clans in the upcoming battle. As the fight intensifies, the couple realizes they will have to face each other in battle.
9. Magical Girl Raising Project (Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku)
A sadistic entry into the “dark magical girl” genre that has 12 magical girls fighting in a deadly contest. Try not to get too attached to anyone!
Quick Pitch: ‘Magical Girl Raising Project’ is a popular social game that can grant players a 1-in-10,000 chance of becoming a real magical girl. Once N-City reaches 12 magical girls, a moderator calls for a deadly competition to cut the number in half. Every week, the magical girl with lowest Magical Candies score will die or they can be killed in combat.
Bokurano is great if you’re in the mood for feeling depressing! It’s a twisted game that has children piloting a mecha to defend earth against alien invaders. The anime and manga do diverge, with the manga being even more depressing.
Mangaka: Mohiro Kitoh
Quick pitch: During summer camp, 15 children discover a network of computers and electrical equipment hidden inside a grotto. The owner of this equipment is Kokopelli and claims to be a programmer working on a new game, which involves a giant robot defending Earth against 15 alien invasions. Kokopelli asks the children if they would like to test the game. All but one child agree and sign a contract, not knowing that they are about to enter a dark world.
11. Danganronpa: The Animation + Danganronpa 3 Future / Despair Arcs
An eccentric cast, pleasing art design, and murder-mystery angle have made Danganronpa a crowd favorite among anime and visual novel fans.
Quick Pitch: Hope’s Peak Academy is an elite school that only accepts students with special talents. Their entrance ceremony is interrupted by Monokuma, the school’s “principal” and psychotic bear. The 15 students are trapped unless they play a death game. One of them must successfully murder a classmate and get away with it after a trial or the murder faces execution. This game continues until only 1 survivor remains.
What are your favorite death game anime?