Anime has always been big, and may now be bigger than ever, with hits across every genre and across the world. Whether it's cult classics like Dragon Ball, movie hits like Akira or lasting legacy shows that've been running for decades like One Piece, anime is here to stay, and it's got a strong foothold in board games too.
It’s little surprise when you consider the fast-paced action, engrossing characters and stories, and incredible visual style that have become hallmarks of the genre. Many of the best anime board games showcase the elements that captured the attention and adoration of fans in the first place, as well as offering a new way to experience their worlds, characters and stories with friends.
Best anime board games
- Dragon Ball Super Card Game
- Cowboy Bebop: Space Serenade
- Naruto Boruto Card Game
- Death Note: Confrontation
- My Hero Academia: The Card Game
- Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game
- Attack on Titan: The Last Stand
- Sword Art Online Board Game: Sword of Fellows
- Pokémon Trading Card Game
Anime tabletop games are also as varied as the genre itself, ranging from head-to-head collectible card games and games packed with miniatures to social deduction games and everything in-between. We’ve picked out some of the best anime board games based on popular series below, as well as games that draw from the genre - or even allow you to create your own.
1. Dragon Ball Super Card Game
Characters from the legendary anime throw down in an intense TCG
When it comes to anime, Dragon Ball is perhaps the most iconic. Legendary for its intense battles, planet-destroying attacks and massive, glowing hairdos, it’s a series filled with characters who are both immensely powerful and just a bit goofy. (Including several named after vegetables.)
The Dragon Ball Super Card Game brings the fast-paced fights and memorable roster of Dragon Ball’s latest series to the table as a head-to-head card battler in the vein of Magic: The Gathering. Except here, the numbers are much, much bigger - get ready for a lot of “It’s over 9,000!”
Players create a deck of 50 to 60 cards filled with characters from the series - including multiple versions of fan-favourite characters such as Son Goku, Vegeta and Trunks - before pitching them in a battle to bring their opponent’s health to zero.
In keeping with Dragon Ball’s Super Saiyan and Ultra Instinct forms, the card game features the ability for the leader of a deck to awaken, gaining new power and fighting back against a tough opponent. Another unique gameplay element is the opportunity for multiple characters to perform combos, joining forces to increase their power.
With illustrations from the anime and the same thrill of watching fights play out - with you in control - it’s an excellent way of revisiting an anime that’s absolutely stood the test of time.
2. Cowboy Bebop: Space Serenade
A cut-throat deckbuilder based on the stylish series
If you’re a fan of Cowboy Bebop’s distinctive style - including its incredible soundtrack - and blending of sci-fi and western action, this board game will be music to your ears.
Space Serenade sees up to four players join the crew of the Bebop as bounty hunters Spike, Jet, Faye and Ed seeking out targets across the galaxy to earn reputation and outperform their rivals - the other players.
The game is a deckbuilder, with players adding to their personal stack of cards each round by acquiring new abilities and characters. The cards allow the players to move from planet to planet by fuelling their spaceship, moving their character miniatures between Earth, Mars and Ganymede to pursue their bounty.
After catching criminals through investigation or direct conflict, the group must attempt to capture Vicious in a final boss fight - although there’s always the chance he might escape.
With a semi-co-operate feel despite the competition between players and artwork that lives up to the punchy look of the anime, Cowboy Bebop: Space Serenade is a perfect tribute to the series for fans. See you on the table, space cowboy.
3. Naruto Boruto Card Game
Lead a clan of ninjas to victory in this combo-heavy card game
Bringing together the original Naruto, Naruto Shippuden and Naruto Boruto in a single game, this card game allows players to build their own ninja team from the anime’s cast of characters - including Team 7, the later Boruto generation and the Uchiha clan.
Powering the game’s battles is the Chrono Clash system, which allows players to push a central track back and forth by spending ‘time’ to play cards, performing impressive attacks and combos. More powerful cards cost more time, which allows their opponent to play more or more powerful cards on their turn. It means that any card can be played from the first turn, rather than having to build up resources similar to MTG’s mana, so players can dive straight into the action. Players can also summon fearsome fighters by discarding cards from the field, working their way through their opponent’s guardian cards - which are revealed and trigger effects as they take damage - to claim victory.
The card game itself is split into Shippuden and Boruto sets, which can be played individually or combined together for a full collection. The anime boxes are also compatible with other Chrono Clash games, so you can even see how Naruto, Boruto, Sasuke and more might stack up against Godzilla if your heart desires. Believe it!
4. Death Note: Confrontation
Become killer or detective in a cat-and-mouse chase between Kira and L
As a manga and anime, Death Note is a dark, twisted tale of deception, mystery and murder. It only makes sense that its board game would be equally tense as two players take on the roles of killer Kira and detective L in a cat-and-mouse chase to outwit each other.
L is trying to lure Kira toward targets to work out the killer’s location - and the true identity of the merciless murderer. Meanwhile, Kira must evade L as he works to eliminate those on his list and escape being brought to justice. If Kira earns enough victory points by writing targets’ names in the notebook before L deduces his identity and captures him, the killer wins.
Confrontation lets you actually write in a notebook during the game for an added lick of flavour, with both players secretly moving around a map during the day, choosing between potential locations, while trying to either avoid or corner their opponent.
As the game progresses, the characters are able to call upon special abilities - natural intuition in the case of the legendary detective, or the god-like power of Ryuk when Kira bribes the shinigami with apples - which keep the tensions running high through its tight half-an-hour play time.
Only playable with two people, Death Note: Confrontation lives up to its name - and subtitle - with a brilliant showdown between two genius minds. It’s an experience to kill for.
5. My Hero Academia: The Card Game
Pick the right quirks to form the mightiest hero agency in town
My Hero Academia: The Card Game follows a similar premise to the hugely popular anime, as players take control of hero agencies looking to recruit superpowered students from U.A. High School.
By choosing students with the right quicks - their powerful abilities, for those new to the series - players can then send their students on missions to earn their reputation as the best hero agency around.
By using attacks, movement and other action cards, each agency will be able to complete their mission cards and earn points, going from passing the school entrance exam and actually forming their team to taking on mighty opponents and more.
The game includes colourful visuals and screenshots from the anime itself, making it a fitting way to explore the universe and its characters in a new way. If you’re a fan of My Hero Academia and have been wondering how to continue your love of the series on the tabletop, it is fine now, because I am here!
6. Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game
A card game that started life in an anime and became its own phenomenon
Yu-Gi-Oh! has the rare distinction of being a card game that actually existed in the anime itself before becoming a real game, first appearing in the manga and TV show as Duel Monsters. The Yu-Gi-Oh! card game has arguably ended up becoming better-known than the anime, standing alongside Magic: The Gathering and Pokémon as one of the few collectible card games from the 1990s to still be going strong more than 20 years later.
That comes down to the game itself, which captures the anime’s thrill of summoning powerful monsters to do battle on the field - as well as the enduring fun of shouting “You just activated my trap card!”
Players play monsters using a variety of different summoning methods - some of which even involve sacrificing cards you already have out - and cast spells and traps to whittle their opponent’s life points down to zero. Like the anime, the numbers and monster names are all part of the appeal, with attack and defence values in the thousands and card names such as Nefarious Archfiend Eater of Nefariousness.
While the main Yu-Gi-Oh! card game continues to keep long-term fans happy by keeping up with the new summon techniques and monsters from the anime, the game has also seen some beginner-friendly spin-offs in recent years, including the five-minute Speed Duel, that makes it easy to jump into if you’re new.
7. Attack on Titan: The Last Stand
Try to topple a towering giant - or take control of it
In both the Attack on Titan manga and anime series, the titans are terrifying. They tower over humans, wreaking havoc and causing endless bloodshed.
Rather than lose some of that fearsome size in a load of flat cards and tiles, Attack on Titan: The Last Stand features a titan who actually stands up from the table, giving an impressive sense of 3D verticality to the board game’s action.
Even better, one player gets to control the titan itself as it fends off attacks from the rest of the players, who aim to bring it down before it destroys a supply depot. The titan players must choose between cards each round, which the players must match with dice rolls to avoid.
The other players don’t miss out on the 3D fun, either, with a castle on which they can tactically position familiar characters from the anime as they defend against the titan, looking to weaken and finally land a killing blow.
The Last Stand’s gameplay comes from the minds of 7 Wonders creator Antoine Bauza and Cash ‘n Guns designer Ludovic Maublanc, giving it some notable substance behind its impressive presentation, too. It’s an anime board game that stands up in every sense of the word.
8. Sword Art Online Board Game: Sword of Fellows
Survive virtual reality in this faithful anime adaptation from the creator of Love Letter
Sword Art Online is an anime about total immersion. The acclaimed series follows Kirito as he discovers the terrible secret of the virtual reality massively multiplayer online roleplaying game - or VRMMORPG, for “short” - that gives the original novels and anime its name. The disturbing revelation? If you die in the video game, you die in real life - and the only way to log off safely is to survive 100 gruelling floors of challenges and beat the game.
With SAO putting complete immersion - to the point of tragedy - at its heart, it seems right that the board game based on the anime sticks so closely to the atmosphere and drama of the story. With gameplay from Seiji Kanai, creator of beloved party game Love Letter, it’s a similarly social and high-stakes experience for anime fans.
In the co-op game, up to four players join forces and enter the virtual world of Aincrad - or a single player can venture in alone. Taking on the roles of characters from the anime, each player has a unique way of fighting they’ll need to use to defeat enemies and survive.
Players roll dice to perform attacks, pulling off combos by combining their sword skills and abilities to deal enough damage and overcome their foes. If they manage to make it to the end of the game, they’ll have to face one last final boss in order to make it out alive.
Sword of Fellows’ dice-based gameplay is easy to learn, but its challenging difficulty means that there’s plenty of room to learn how to work with your companions and use your character’s unique abilities to finally triumph. It’s a challenging, tense board game that captures the against-all-odds feel of the anime. It also only takes 30 minutes to play, meaning you can always squeeze in another run with friends - hoping to finally emerge victorious this time.
9. Pokémon Trading Card Game
Catch ‘em all and then battle rival trainers
Between Pokémon Go, Detective Pikachu and the latest video games for the Nintendo Switch, Pokémon continues to be huge. Not bad for a series that started nearly 30 years ago with a yellow electric mouse.
While the world of Pokémon started with the video games on Game Boy, its success saw it quickly turned into a long-running anime series and the Pokémon Trading Card Game, which has kept pace with the series as a whole with new sets, gameplay elements and, of course, hundreds of new Pokémon to catch (or collect).
Whether you were a fan of the TV show or the video games first, the Pokémon card game perfectly captures the excitement of forming your team of pocket monsters and facing off against rival trainers in a battle of elements, evolutions and eliminations.
The card game packs everything great about Pokémon into a single match, with players able to evolve their Pokémon, power them up with energy cards and unleash powerful moves to knock out their opponent’s own team.
If you’ve played any of the video games or seen the anime, you’ll find learning to play the Pokémon TCG very easy, with simplified rules compared to other card games such as Magic: The Gathering and the appeal of filling out your Pokédex.
Cards aren’t just limited to basic Pokémon either, with Tag Team cards pairing up Pokémon not seen in the anime of video games, Pokémon EX and GX cards featuring even more powerful variants, and new VMax cards supersizing Pokémon similar to the Gigantamax versions seen in Pokémon Sword and Shield. Or you can get in it for the trading aspect, which can add up to huge money. No seriously, HUGE money.
Best of all, you can check out the Pokémon TCG for free using its online app before you invest in starting a physical collection of cards - and with nearly 900 Pokémon out there, you’d better start sooner rather than later if you plan to catch ‘em all.
Create your own anime-inspired comics in this drawing game
We’ll admit: we’re making an exception here. While not directly based on an existing anime, Mangaka is heavily inspired by manga and anime tropes - and it’s a lot of fun, so it’s absolutely worth your attention if you’re a fan of anime.
Mangaka is a drawing game similar to Pictionary, except here everything you draw will be inspired by themes and trends inspired by manga, anime and other genres. As its name suggests, Mangaka sees players become manga artists creating their very own comic strips. Your comic might be about kaiju, robots or even baseball, and feature elements of romance, sci-fi, childhood friends, fantasy or more surprising aspects such as fine arts.
The players each get five minutes to draw their manga-style comic, trying to please their readers by including aspects matching the revealed theme and trend cards, while also trying to avoid using speech bubbles. The more elements they successfully include, the more fame they’ll earn. With each round, the artists will need to complete a greater number of panels while satisfying more revealed trends, leading to a frantic rush to complete a full comic in a matter of minutes.
What makes Mangaka special and satisfying - and especially entertaining with fans of manga and anime, but also comics and cartoons in general - is the need to present your full comic strip at the end of each round. The shared themes and trends lead to comics that are proper micro stories and jokes, instead of just random pictures. It’s also a game that clearly understands manga and anime fans, with the cards feeling genuine to the genre’s defining traits.
All of this means that Mangaka is deserving of a place among the best anime board games. While it’s not a game based on a specific manga or anime, it goes one step further and allows you to create your own memorable characters, worlds and stories. Who knows, maybe it’ll even inspire you to come up with the next hit series.