[[quoteright:300:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/SwordArtOnlineAnime_7593.jpg]]
[[caption-width-right:300:You. 9,999 other players. 100 floors. 1 life. A walk in the park... [[TheMostDangerousVideoGame Right?]]]]

->''"What's the difference between the real world and the virtual one?"''
-->--'''Asuna'''

Imagine that gaming has advanced to the point where you no longer watch from the other side of the television screen but are right there in the world, experiencing full immersion of all your senses and controlling your character as easily as your own body.

The first game to utilize this technology is ''Sword Art Online'', a fantasy [[MassivelyMultiplayerOnlineRolePlayingGame MMORPG]] created by the inventor of the very device used to play it. However, a sinister trap awaits the first ten-thousand players who log into the system: they discover that they cannot log out, effectively [[TrappedInAnotherWorld trapping them]] [[InsideAComputerSystem within the game]].

The creator of the game issues an ultimatum: beat the FinalBoss on the 100th floor, and [[WinToExit everyone will be allowed to log out]]. If, however, a player's HP should ever be reduced to zero, then the helmet used to play the game will unleash a pulse of microwave radiation to fry their brain, [[TheMostDangerousVideoGame killing them in the real world]]. The same fate awaits them if anyone in the real world attempts to remove them from the game by force.

A swordsman player named Kirito is one of the fated ten-thousand. He holds the advantage of having beta-tested the game before becoming trapped, giving him prior knowledge of the game layout and its combat systems, but he struggles to make attachments and prefers being a solo player. Now, he and every other player in ''Sword Art Online'' must fight to survive in a virtual world that has become all too real to them.

As of this writing[[note]]Summer 2014[[/note]] there are six main arcs:

[[folder:List Of Arcs]]
* ''Aincrad'': The original story, set in the world of ''Sword Art Online''.
** ''Progressive'': An {{Interquel}} to the ''Aincrad'' arc, released in 2013. It [[{{Reboot}} reboots]] some of the events of the original novel while expanding the world and characters. The first chapter of the novel, ''Aria in the Starless Night'', which describes the moment Kirito and Asuna meet for the first time, was included in the anime even before the novel was published.
* ''Fairy Dance'': Two months after the "SAO Incident," three hundred players have yet to awaken from their comatose states, including Asuna. When Kirito is sent a blurry screenshot of one of these players that looks "suspiciously like Asuna" in another MMO called "[=ALfheim=] Online," he dives into the game to free her from the virtual world once and for all.
* ''Phantom Bullet'': Set in a game called "Gun Gale Online," an MMO that focuses on guns and shooting instead of swordplay and magic, a mysterious assassin called "Death Gun" seems to be [[TheMostDangerousVideoGame murdering players by killing their virtual avatars]], and Kirito is called upon to enter the game and solve the mystery.
* ''Caliber'': Set shortly after the ''Phantom Bullet'' arc, Kirito [[PuttingTheBandBackTogether gathers many of his friends from the various games he has played]] in order to take on one of the most challenging quests in the reborn ALO: recovering the game's InfinityPlusOneSword, Excaliber [sic].
* ''Mother's Rosario'': Set after the the Phantom Bullet and Caliber arc, this one has the particularity that the main character is actually Asuna, instead of Kirito. While playing [=ALO=], Asuna encounters a mysterious swordswoman named Yuuki, whose combat skill is said to surpass even Kirito's. She is recruited to help Yuuki and her guild, the "Sleeping Knights," achieve the feat of soloing one of Aincrad's fearsome floor bosses, an achievement that would immortalise their names on the Monument of Swordsmen.
* ''Project Alicization'': Kirito awakens in an unfamiliar virtual world (called "Underworld") with no memories of how he got there. He must venture to discover the secrets behind this world and why he has been trapped within it, all while questioning whether he is the real Kirito or merely an ArtificialIntelligence in his likeness.
[[/folder]]

The first novel was written between 2001 and 2002 by Reki Kawahara with the intention of competing for the ASCII Media Works' Dengeki Game Novel Prize. However, he surpassed the page limit for the contest, so he instead published it as a web novel under the pseudonym Fumio Kunori. Over time, he added three further volumes and several short stories. Eventually, the light novel got browsing numbers exceeding 6.5 million page views recorded at the personal website. However, it wasn't until after Kawahara won the prize in 2008 with ''LightNovel/AccelWorld'' that ''Sword Art Online'' got published and spawned several adaptations:

* A manga series, all written by Kawahara himself, but illustrated by different artists depending on the storyline. So far[[note]]As of summer 2014[[/note]], the arcs ''Aincrad'', ''Fairy Dance'', ''Mother's Rosario'' and ''Caliber'' have been completed, with ''Phantom Bullet'' still ongoing. Also, July 2013 started the adaptation of ''Sword Art Online Progressive'', this time with the particularity that the narrative is from [[POVSequel Asuna's perspective]].
* The anime adaptatation started on July 7, 2012, for the [[Summer2012Anime Summer 2012]] lineup. People from many countries may watch it legally on [[http://www.crunchyroll.com/sword-art-online Crunchyroll.]] At New York Comic Con, Creator/AniplexUSA [[http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/news/2012-10-12/aniplex-usa-adds-sword-art-online-blast-of-tempest-magi-anime announced home video release for the series]] [[http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/news/2013-02-22/aniplex-usa-confirms-sword-art-online-english-dub and announced an English dub]]. The dub premiered on US television on Creator/{{Toonami}} on July 27, 2013 and premiered in Australia on Creator/{{ABC3}} on June 7, 2014. The first season covers the ''Aincrad'' and ''Fairy Dance'' arcs, which are Volumes 1-4 as well as some parts of Volume 8 (which are side-stories from Aincrad).
** In August 2013, [[http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/news/2013-11-07/sword-art-online/extra-edition-to-stream-worldwide Aniplex announced the first OVA]], titled "Sword Art Online EXTRA EDITION." It premiered in Japan on New Year's Eve 2013[[note]](i.e., just before New Year's 2014)[[/note]], and the next day in several countries via Crunchyroll and Daisuki. At the very end of the OVA, [[http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/news/2013-12-31/sword-art-online-ii-tv-anime-to-launch-in-2014 the second season of the anime, titled "Sword Art Online II," was announced]]. It premiered on [[Summer2014Anime July 5th, 2014]], and covers the ''Phantom Bullet'', ''Caliber'', and ''Mother's Rosario'' arcs, which are Volumes 5, 6, 7, and 8 (the remaining parts not covered in season 1) of the light novels. The season can be seen internationally through Crunchyroll and [[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EYvvTGnuYIo&list=PL5XBB1vj1xpj9ukLpviVy2SO5ArLOXbrH Daisuki]]. One of the most requested shows for Toonami, [[http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/news/2015-02-14/sword-art-online-ii-english-dub-to-run-on-toonami/.84458 it premiered on the block on March 28th, 2014]].
* Four games were made based on the light novels. They consist of ''Sword Art Online: Infinity Moment'' for the [=PSP=], ''Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment'' for the [=PS=] Vita and a social network game for Japanese smart phones called ''Sword Art Online: End World''. Currently, ''Hollow Fragment'' is released outside of Japan to Asia with [=PSN=] releases to the Americas, Europe and Oceania. It also includes an enhanced version of ''Infinity Moment''. The latest game is ''Sword Art Online: Lost Song'', scheduled for an Asia-wide release in English and Japanese for the Playstation 3 and Vita.
* Web Voice drama found [[http://saov.r10u.com/ here]].

The light novels have been licensed in the US by Creator/YenPress for release beginning in mid-2014.

For a similar premise, see also ''Franchise/DotHack'' and ''LightNovel/LogHorizon''. Also see ''LightNovel/AccelWorld'', penned by the same author and set in the same universe twenty years later.

'''Note that this is a long-running series, so beware of potential unmarked spoilers.'''
----
!!Tropes in "Sword Art Online" include:
* AbridgedSeries: ''WebVideo/SwordArtOnlineAbridged''.
* AbsurdlyHighStakesGame: In every arc in which he is the main character, Kirito ends up playing for more than fun one way or another.
** All SAO players are trapped there and can only escape by A) [[WinToExit Someone beating the final boss]] or B) Dying [[KilledOffForReal (for real)]].
** ALO is just fun for everyone except the 300 players from the previous game trapped there, including Asuna, and a desperate Kirito trying to rescue her.
** In GGO, Kirito's mission is to discover how people playing a supposedly harmless game [[TheMostDangerousVideoGame are being]] KilledOffForReal.
** UW is another game that starts harmless at first until Kirito is trapped there and starts fighting for his sanity.
** Even the Caliber side-story is rather serious since Cardinal has drawn on Norse mythology for this quest, and failure results in freaking ''[[ApocalypseWow Ragnarok]]'' happening, for real. [[note]] The system could roll back player data, but not field data, so it would permanently change the world map if they failed [[/note]]
* TheAce: Ignoring his moments of angst, Kirito is usually this trope, which is rare for a LightNovel protagonist.
* AcronymAndAbbreviationOverload: The series have lots of it:
** SAO for '''S'''word '''A'''rt '''O'''nline.
*** Aincrad for '''A'''n '''Inc'''arnating '''Rad'''ius.
*** Some guilds have acronyms they also go by: [=KoB=][[note]]'''K'''nights '''o'''f '''B'''lood[[/note]]; DDA[[note]]'''D'''ivine '''D'''ragon '''A'''lliance[[/note]]; ALF[[note]]'''A'''incrad '''L'''iberation '''F'''orce[[/note]]; WWFM[[note]][[TheLastOfTheseIsNotLikeTheOthers Furinkazan]]. [[SubvertedTrope It derives]] from first letters of its translation, "'''W'''ind, '''W'''oods, '''F'''ire, '''M'''ountain", although no one really calls them by their acronym.[[/note]].
** ALO for '''AL'''fheim '''O'''nline.
*** OSS for '''O'''riginal '''S'''word '''S'''kill.
** GGO for '''G'''un '''G'''ale '''O'''nline.
*** [=BoB=] for '''B'''ullet '''o'''f '''B'''ullets.
* ActionGirl: Asuna. Not only was she an idol in SAO, she also happens to be one of the strongest female characters in the game. Other girls that Kirito meets along his way are also included; e.g., Sinon in Volume 6.
* ADarkerMe: There's a group of players that go around killing other players and stealing their items. Lampshaded when Kirito remarks that online players [[{{GIFT}} act very different]] from how they would in real life.
* AdaptationDistillation: The anime has moments of this, simplifying the scenes of the light novel. For example, stripping "Aria in the Starless Night" down to the boss fight.
* AdaptationExplanationExtrication: Some in the anime, ''loads'' in the manga. Want to know how Kirito and Asuna met? Or who those people he keeps flashing back to are? Or where the term "beater" originated? [[AllThereInTheManual Read the novels or watch the anime]].
** In the anime, the titular Sword Arts are this. The book goes into detail on how they're activated, their names, and their role in gameplay. The anime just has the characters mention Sword Arts on occasion and never elaborates.
* AdultFear:
** Some FridgeHorror comes into play when you realize the amount of ''children'' that were playing the game that got trapped inside. Sure, most of them were rescued by sympathetic players, but there had to be quite a few that didn't make it. Kirito and Asuna also experience this when they witness Yui's temporary HeroicSacrifice.
** Anyone who has ever played any other massive online multiplayer game knows that some of the most infuriatingly good players are children. In a video game world, you'd expect that kids wouldn't ordinarily need the help. And it's likely that, statistically speaking, they have the same potential strength as the adults. However, in a game where dying really kills you and there's no way to leave, the context is totally different. Having the kids join the battles would essentially be making them into actual child soldiers.
** Through the ''Fairy Dance'' arc, Kirito and Asuno experience more adult fear: Kirito is constantly stressed and worried over Asuna's condition throughout the story, and nearly ''breaks'' when Sugou threatens to steal Asuna from him, while poor Asuna finds herself trapped and at the mercy of a vile man who pretends to be nice in front of her father.
* AnAesop:
** Never give up on anything that you consider to be worth fighting for.
** Always own your actions; you cannot compartmentalize who you really are.
** When people's lives are on the line, speak up, even if they'll hate you for it. Better that than spending the rest of your life knowing, "I could have saved a life that day, but I chose to look the other way."
* AnimationBump: There's a noticeable step up in animation during episode 13 of the second season during the climax of Kirito and Death Gun's duel, especially right before [[spoiler: Kirito slices Death Gun in half.]]
* AgitatedItemStomping: When Kirito initially discovers that the Holy Stone of Returning Souls only works within ten seconds, this is his reaction.
* AGodAmI: The reason why Akihiko Kayaba created Sword Art Online, with all of its "unique" features, in the first place was so that he could have his own little world where he could play God -- a game that just is not the same without power over life and death.
** Alicization: A certain character[[spoiler: Administrator]] becomes this when she basically learns all the admin commands for the Underworld. In quick order, she assumes supreme control of all of the Human Realms and sets up a bunch of Commandments for all to follow.
** Alicization: Played with when a certain character [[spoiler: Gabriel]] signs in with a superuser account as the Dark God Vector. He's not really into the whole megalomania thing, but he plays along with his role to lead the dark territory army effectively.
* AGodIAmNot: Alicization - Unlike that certain character [[spoiler: Gabriel]] above, when Asuna, Sinon, and Leafa sign on using their superuser accounts as the remaining 3 gods of the Underworld (with all their attributes and powers), they're very quick to point out they're not actually gods, just people. Not everyone believes them.
* AHouseDivided: The party that Diabel attempted to put together in Episode 2 nearly falls apart due to his friend Kibaou being very mistrustful of beta testers. After they defeat the first floor boss, the hard-earned celebration is cut short by Kibaou, who accuses Kirito of indirectly causing Diabel's death and again calls for a witch hunt of beta testers. Realizing the rift that Kibaou was causing, Kirito attempts to have them channel their hatred towards him instead and acts as the TokenEvilTeammate so as to not have the players start fighting amongst themselves.
* AIIsACrapshoot: Inverted in the Alicization arc. Scientists create a virtual world in which to grow military AIs but discover that they've developed into a utopian society where the concept of harming another is unthinkable.
* DudeLooksLikeALady: Kirito's avatar in the Gun Gale Online arc, complete with HairFlip and all.
* AlternateContinuity: The video games are this: in their continuity, the Sword Art Online, Alfheim Online, and Gun Gale Online VRMMOs all exist at the same time independently developed. ''Sword Art Online: Infinity Moment/Hollow Fragment'' starts off with Kirito killing Akihiko Kayaba but the game continues on to floor 76 and beyond. Also, Sachi never died and Sinon is also a player trapped in Sword Art Online, having migrated her character there after deciding to try a new game besides GGO. ''Lost Song'' is a sequel to ''Infinity Moment/Hollow Fragment'' and takes place in Alfheim.
* AlwaysSomeoneBetter: Possibly invoked by Yuuki, the Zekken, who even beats [[TheAce Kirito]], at least in single-wielding mode. {{Justified|Trope}} because Yuuki is the Guild Leader of the "Sleeping Knights" [[spoiler: , a group of terminally ill people,]] and specifically is the first user of the [=MediCuboid=], which lets them play for an absurd number of hours, even longer than the SAO players who were trapped for over two years straight inside of a game and are otherwise the most experienced players on the planet.
** Akihiko Kayaba was the someone better to Sugou, the BigBad of the ''Fairy Dance'' arc, which prompts him to create [=ALfheim Online=] and launch his plan.
* AMillionIsAStatistic: Downplayed. Two ''thousand'' SAO players die in the first ''month'' of the game before the front-line fighters cleared the first ''floor'', mostly due to inexperience not only with the game's mechanics but with the concept of actually ''dying'', as three hundred of them were ''experienced beta testers.'' Just to rub it in, there's a plinth where the resurrection point in the first town should be, bearing not only the names of the dead but the manner in which they died. By the time the game is cleared, only 6,147 players are left alive. SurvivorGuilt is pretty much universal.
* AmusingInjuries: The ArmorPiercingSlap Kirito receives from Sinon after he reveals his true gender to her in Episode 5 of Season 2. After said slap, the next scene shows a bright red handprint on his cheek as the two walk around the room with the other BoB contestants, although it quickly vanishes afterward.
* AnachronicOrder: Volume 1 proceeds more or less chronologically, while Volume 2 consists of sidestories that take place during the 2 years in SAO. Volumes 3 to 7 proceed chronologically, but Volume 8 adds more sidestories that take place in SAO and a week before Volume 7.
** Averted by the anime, which seems to be doing its best to proceed in a chronological order by animating the SAO sidestories in Volume 2 and Volume 8 before the rest of Volume 1.
* AnachronismStew: Played with a bit in Gun Gale Online. The game is a Cyberpunk style game set on a Post Apocalyptic Earth, (hinted at a theoretical WorldWarIII) where humanity has left the desolated planet behind in giant spaceships. The HubCity is formed from one such Star Battle Cruiser ''Glocken'', and still called SBC ''Glocken'', which for reasons not explained returned to Earth. Players even use Energy weapons regular used for hunting regular NPC mobs. But for PlayerVersusPlayer, they often use regular bullet shooting guns, all of which are based on weapons in RealLife guns that at the very least reached "working" prototype stages. And even then the stew thickens some more since the real world guns vary wildly. One player, Lion King Richie, uses a [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vickers_machine_gun Vickers machine gun]] which in the real world, has long since stopped being made since the 1960s, after about 50-some years of production. Justified though, as being an FPSMMORPG video game, using real world weapons gives a readily available catalog of weapons to make available to players.
* AnAssKickingChristmas: The Christmas event boss, Nicholas the Renegade, promises copious amounts of treasure, including an item that can revive the dead, to whomever can defeat him. This leads to Kirito taking down Nicholas single-handedly while Fuurinkazan holds off the Divine Dragon Alliance.
** The fight against the 21st Floor Boss of New Aincrad occurs on Christmas Eve. Kirito and Asuna make sure to take part in it so they can buy their old house on the 22nd Floor before anyone else gets the chance.
* AndIMustScream: After Kirito cleared [=SAO=], a few hundred players (including Asuna) remained comatose, thanks to the devs behind [=ALfheim Online=] intercepting their minds and experimenting on them in order to research mind control. Thankfully by the time it ended, those who received this treatment except Asuna did not remember the incident at all.
** Yui was created to monitor players' psychological parameters and offer them comfort. After the game began, she was not allowed to interact with the players, so for two whole years, she was forced to just watch as some of them [[DrivenToMadness went insane]] and [[DrivenToSuicide commited suicide]].
* AndYourRewardIsClothes: Possible drops from monsters.
** The [[BadassLongcoat Coat of Midnight]][[note]]from Episode 2, adapted from ''Aria in the Starless Night''[[/note]] from defeating the first floor boss.
* AnguishedDeclarationOfLove: [[spoiler:The English dub of Episode 22 has Suguha saying "I love you" towards Kirito (real name: Kazuto Kirigaya, and her brother/cousin, hence: Kiri-to) before telling him to leave her alone due to not taking well of the revelation that he and Kirito are one and the same person.]]
* AnOfferYouCantRefuse: Kirito attempts to refuse Kikuoka's offer to help him investigate the deaths of certain high-ranking GGO players in Episode 1 of Season 2, stating he doesn't want to risk getting killed after hearing about the unusual circumstances surrounding said deaths. However, Kikuoka says that if they can't get to the bottom of this and solve the mystery, the government may start to restrict access to online games, which goes against what Kayaba was hoping to promote when he gave Kirito "the seed" from season 1. Kirito reluctantly agrees to help him out by playing GGO.
* AntiHero: Kirito starts off as this, choosing to protect only himself while attempting to complete the game. He changes later.
* AnyoneCanDie: Due to the GM making that the new rule, this is in effect, and they're also [[CharacterDeath killed in the real world]] if their character's HP reaches 0.
** Even characters that you think are going to [[PlotArmor be mains]] because they appear in the opening wind up biting it.
* AppleOfDiscord: A particular guild (called, [[LampshadeHanging appropriately enough]], Golden Apple) found a rare item that granted a substantial stat boost to its wearer. Some guild members wanted to sell it for money, while others believed it would be better to keep it for themselves. The decision was put to vote, and the majority agreed it should be sold. The guild leader went off personally to sell it but died mysteriously. Because of suspicions that the murderer was a fellow guild member, the guild fell apart. [[spoiler: In a subversion, it was later discovered that the person behind the guild leader's death had a completely unrelated motive and took advantage of the rare item dispute to avoid suspicion.]]
* ArchaicWeaponForAnAdvancedAge: As the ''Phantom Bullet'' arc is set within an [[FirstPersonShooter MMOFPS]], guns are the primary weapons, with melee limited to general KnifeNut options. There's a LaserBlade JokeItem, but it's so expensive that no-one used it until Kirito waltzed into the MinigameZone and won a shitload of money from a game where ''[[TheComputerIsACheatingBastard the computer blatantly cheats]]'', combined it with his [[HadToBeSharp SAO-honed]] ImplausibleFencingPowers and realized the game mechanics permitted him to turn it into a LethalJokeWeapon by ''[[NotTheIntendedUse slicing bullets in half]]''. Afterwards, the Kagemitsu explodes in popularity as players try ([[DifficultButAwesome with limited success]]) to replicate his feats.
* ArmorPiercingQuestion:
** When Asuna's mother gets on her case about spending time with her friends and going to the SAO rehab school rather than putting all of her efforts into studying to get into a prestigious school:
--->'''Asuna:''' ''[To her mother]'' Do you still feel ashamed about your dead parents, resentful that you were born by a farmer rather than a famous house with history?
** When Sinon asks Kirito how he became strong:
---> "If that gun's bullet could kill the real-world player, and if you did not kill, then either you or someone important to you would be killed, would you pull the trigger?"
* ArmorPiercingSlap:
** After Kirito turns into a monster to save himself and Leafa in Episode 19 of the anime, she asks him what players taste like. He claims it's like [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yakiniku yakiniku]] before it's burnt, then jokingly bites her hand. She delivers one of these to him as a result, and in the next scene he has a very visible and red [[AmusingInjuries hand-print]] on his cheek. Yui tells him he totally deserved that one.
** PlayedForLaughs in episode 5 of season 2 after Sinon discovers Kirito's true gender. Not helped by the fact that Sinon was changing into her battle outfit and was just in her underwear when Kirito decided to reveal it.
* ArtifactTitle: The titular game and the struggle to clear it are merely the ''first'' story arc of the series. Justified because it was originally written as a one-shot series, with the series being continued later.
* ArtShift: The Light Novels have a more subtle art style compared to the manga, which is DarkerAndEdgier.
* AsskickingEqualsAuthority: Played straight in that great warriors are the ones making up the front-line guilds, and leaders are often picked for their fighting talent. This and AuthorityEqualsAsskicking are mixed to create some VERY powerful front-line leaders. For example, Heathcliff is the leader of the game's most powerful guild and is arguably the game's most powerful swordsman, thanks to his incredible reflexes, his impossible speed, his truly invulnerable shield, and his incredible sword. [[spoiler: Of course, [[FinalBoss he]] turns out to be [[KillerGameMaster Akihiko Kayaba]] in disguise, so that explains a lot.]] [[AvertedTrope Averted]] in that [[TheAce Kirito]], a solo player, is also arguably the game's most powerful swordsman and is not the leader of any group outside his own.
* AttackAttackAttack: Though Kirito can most certainly play things defensively well enough, it's when he starts to go on the offensive that his opponents had better watch out, especially when he's {{Dual Wield}}ing, as nothing but either their defeat or his own will stop him.
* AttemptedRape:
** [[spoiler: Suguou comes very close to raping Asuna in the virtual world. [[ForcedToWatch In front of Kirito]]. Afterwards, he plans on raping her in real life while she's comatose.]]
** [[spoiler: Kyouji tries to rape Shino after the Bullet of Bullets tournament. He did genuinely love her before the Death Gun mess went down, and Shino was even willing to reciprocate once she got over her trauma, but the combination of failing his college entrance exams and being rendered irrelevant in GGO drove him insane, prompting him to form the Death Gun conspiracy. When he comes to congratulate her on winning the Bullet of Bullets Tournament, he expects Shino to make good on her promise, but she's freaked out by his now obvious insanity, so he opts for Plan B: rape Shino and then [[MurderSuicide kill her and himself]]. Shino manages to escape by struggling and Kirito showing up.]]
* AttractiveBentGender: [[spoiler: Thor as Freya.]]
* AuthorityEqualsAsskicking: The leaders of guilds (especially front-line guilds) have the best equipment, which tends to make them more powerful (see AsskickingEqualsAuthority above). Also, the game's boss monsters seem to play this fairly straight, if you can consider them to have "Authority."
** This takes a whole new level in Alicization, since [[spoiler: "Authority" is how the strength and power of the AIs living in Underwold is measured]]
* AxCrazy:
** [[spoiler: After paralyzing Godfrey and Kirito with a poisoned drink he created, Kuradeel develops that look on his face as he [[SlasherSmile gleefully]] hacks away first at Godfrey, and then nearly kills Kirito while both were helpless.]]
** [[spoiler: Kyouji]] comes pretty close too, when his Main/EvilPlan is about to fail and [[spoiler:Shino]] is helpless.
* BackupBluff: Kirito does one of these in Episode 20 towards the commander of the Salamander army, stating that he's a Spriggan-Undine ambassador, and that attacking him and the Cait-Sith and Sylph meeting would cause four races to declare war on the Salamanders. The commander doesn't buy it but challenges Kirito to a duel anyway. [[spoiler:After Kirito defeats him,]] one of his men tells the commander that he saw Kirito the other day with an Undine. Said man was [[ChekhovsGunman the guy Kirito spared after he saved Leafa during their first encounter in Episode 17]]. The Salamander army then leave peacefully.
* {{Badass}}:
** Clearers, players dedicated to clearing SAO levels and bosses, tend to be this by necessity.
** [[spoiler: Eugeo becomes quite a badass around Volume 12 onwards of the Alicization Arc, with Kirito noting that he has even more natural skill than Kirito himself, and the only reason he's not ahead is because of Kirito's experience.]]
%%* BadassAdorable: Asuna, Sinon, and Silica all have their moments.
* BadassCrew: Many of the guilds, particularly Knights of Blood Oath and Furinkazan. Later, the Sleeping Knights defeat a boss with only seven members, and each of them are quite skilled.
%%* BadassLongcoat: Kirito gets a few.
* BadassBoast: Sinon delivers a small one in the Episode 1 of SAO II: "1500 meters? That's like tossing a wad of paper in a wastebasket." That range is within the top ten longest confirmed sniper kills.
* BadSanta: "Nicholas the Renegade" is a special event boss monster.
* BagOfSpilling: After Kirito converts his SAO character to ALO, he discovers that his SAO equipment isn't compatible and has to discard all of them. It's almost a moot point since he retains his absurdly high stats, and with ALO being a level-less game, he can still defeat most players with just his starter/store-bought equipment. He also gets to keep all the money he made in SAO, which becomes a plot point later on.
* BaitAndSwitchGunshot: SAO II episode 9 ends with a SmashToBlack and a gunshot. Episode 10 reveals what happened.
* BareFistedMonk:
** The American GGO player who won the game's first [=BoB=] tournament goes on to win the fourth tournament using this as his build; his main tactic is to use CQC to beat-down opposing players, steal their guns and use them against other players. [[spoiler: Kirito suspects he may be an actual Special Forces soldier in real life.]]
** Although it's rarely shown in action, Kirito's Unarmed skill is almost completely maxed out.
* BattleCouple: Whenever Kirito and Asuna take to the field together, this is the result. Also, in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment, Thinker and Yuriel in ALO.
* BeautyIsNeverTarnished: Justified within the game worlds, where characters of both genders recover from injuries up to and including [[OnlyAFleshWound dismemberment]] as their [[HitPoints HP]] regenerate. Subverted in reality, where [[spoiler: Kirito reawakens from two years in VR as an emaciated, atrophied husk, but he got better]]. However, played straight in reality with a certain character [[spoiler: namely, Asuna]], who looks ready to spring straight out of bed and into a fashion shoot in the same circumstances. The only nod to anything being wrong when said character wakes up is they make mention of their hearing still being shot.
** The latter is [[JustifiedTrope justified]] by [[spoiler:Asuna's]] family being [[{{Fiction500}} rich enough]] to ''buy'' Argus, the company that produced SAO and the [=NERVgear=]. After that, the physical therapy necessary to keep [[spoiler: her]] body from atrophying would be a drop in the bucket.
* BehemothBattle: The climax of the Caliber arc has the NPC [[spoiler: Freyja reclaim Mjolnir and reveal herself to be the Norse god Thor in disguise and]] promptly engage Thrym, the humanoid giant boss Kirito's party was fighting. Both the NPC and the boss are about fifteen meters tall[[spoiler: , and Thor gets to land the killing blow on Thrym]].
* BerserkButton: Kirito gets seriously pissed off when ANYONE tries to keep him from Asuna. He gets upset when high-level players abuse their experience to troll lower-level players, but he gets downright murderous when people mess with his girl, a great example being the look on his face and the way he acts inside the World Tree. If the guardians could feel fear, they'd be shitting themselves.
* {{BFS}}: Occurs only briefly, but when Yui decides to fight, she summons a flaming sword more than twice as long as she is tall.
* BigBrotherInstinct: It's mostly what drove Kirito to help Silica, who reminds him of his sister, and Leafa[[spoiler: , who IS his sister. Well, cousin, but raised as brother and sister]].
* BigDamnHeroes: These happen from time to time and usually tend to be quite awesome.
** In Volume 1, Asuna arrives on the scene as [[spoiler: Kuradeel is about to kill Kirito, and schools him completely]]. In five minutes, she covered a distance that took Kirito's party ''one hour'' to travel. See PowerOfLove below.
** In the climax of Volume 4, [[spoiler: Kirito faces Oberon]] and gets thoroughly beaten, thanks to the latter's abuse of GM powers to give himself an InfinityPlusOneSword and invulnerability. [[spoiler: Then, Kayaba's ghost speaks to Kirito and inspires him to find a way to give himself greater GM powers and turn the tables on Oberon.]]
** And on any occasion where Kirito pulls this off by himself or with his buddies. A great example is found in Volume 7, where he and Klein face off against a guild that's fifty members strong. [[spoiler: By the time the guild defeats them, their numbers are depleted, and the duo have bought Asuna and the Sleeping Knights enough time to win.]]
** Kirito pulls off an epic one when he's forced to save Asuna, Furinkazan, and the remaining party members of the Aincrad Defense Force from the level 74 boss [[spoiler: and pretty much goes toe to toe with it, trading hits with the boss, and using his unique skill of dual wielding in order to beat it. And he defeats it with just a tiny fraction of his health remaining.]]
* BigNo: The robot cowboy in Episode 4 of Season 2 does one after Kirito manages to make it to the end and win the jackpot.
* BilingualBonus: Invoked in-universe. In the Phantom Bullet arc, Kirito, in searching for Death Gun, has narrowed the list of competitors in the Bullet of Bullets tournament to three possibilities, based on Sinon not recognizing their character names. Eventually, two are eliminated as suspects. [[spoiler: The remaining one's character name is "Sterben," a German medical term for "death." This tips off Kirito that Kyouji, whom Sinon has mentioned is a doctor's kid, is suspicious.]]
* {{Bishonen}}: Kirito provides an example much more so in Volume 6 where his character kinda looks like Yuri from ''VideoGame/TalesOfVesperia''.
* BittersweetEnding: The ''Aincrad'' arc, considering the heavy losses sustained in the course of clearing the game. It's doubtful any of the survivors didn't lose any friends.
* BlackSwordsAreBetter: One of Kirito's swords in SAO, Elucidator, is pitch black. His main sword in ALO is also black. He also receives a black sword in Underworld, which took a full year to craft by a master swordsmith and its "priority" rating (read: weapon strength) is actually one higher than Eugeo's Blue Rose sword.
* BlandNameProduct: The 9-Up advertisement in Agil's bar for 7-Up.
** The first episode of Season 2 has an "iGlass" presentation given by someone who looks halfway between [[UsefulNotes/AppleMacintosh Steve Jobs]] and [[Website/{{Google}} Larry Brin]].
* BloodlessCarnage: It's a game; of course it's bloodless. Averted when it comes to real-world fights [[spoiler: like the one outside the hospital. Also averted in the VR environment, Underworld.]]
** The anime manages to get away with gore under a technicality because of this trope. The ''Phantom Bullet'' adaptation for one gets away with digital amputation, digital shotguns fired point blank into a player's face, and even a player's model getting realistically ''torn in half'' from a .50 caliber round and letting us see his '''legs fly into the distance''! But hey, there's no blood and it's only a game, so it's okay!
* BloodKnight: Kayaba must have figured some of the players were, because there's no other reason for a bonus dungeon to exist in a death game.
* BonusDungeon: Two have been featured in the anime.
** In Aincrad, one appears beneath the Black Iron Castle on the 1st floor after some of the higher floors are cleared. It features its very own BonusBoss, [[TheGrimReaper the Fatal Scythe]], which is far stronger than anything else seen in the game to that point, estimated by Kirito to have the abilities of a boss monster from the ninetieth level [[spoiler: , a full fifteen levels above where they actually end up reaching before the game is cleared]]. Fortunately enough, Kirito and Asuna end up skipping it [[spoiler: due to Yui's intervention]].
** Another one appears in ''[[OriginalVideoAnimation Extra Edition]]'' in an underwater temple located within the southern Sylph area. Kirito and company don't know it is one until they meet an old [=NPC=] who gives them a quest to retrieve an item within the dungeon. Fittingly enough, as soon as they obtain it, the dungeon's BonusBoss [[spoiler: the old man [=NPC=], Nerakk, a.k.a. Kraken the Abyss Lord]] appears to take it. Though he does give the party [[CurbStompBattle a serious beatdown]], he is interrupted [[spoiler: by ''yet another'' BonusBoss, Leviathan the Sea King]].
* BookEnds: Second episode of the anime, Kirito gives Asuna some cream to eat on the plain roll. She can't stop herself from gobbling it down. At the end of the fourth Light Novel (or first anime season/second anime arc) [[spoiler: when they ''finally'' make it back to the real world]], Asuna specializes in making food... that tastes nostalgically like Aincrad-food.
** At the end of the first anime season, [[spoiler: Kirito uses the World Seed to rebuild Aincrad and add it to ALO. He and both his SAO and ALO friends then resolve to finish what they started and clear all 100 floors. He even resets his stats so he can level them up all over again.]]
* BoomHeadshot: In season 2 episode 9, Dyne gets a wall of buckshot to the face courtesy of Pale Rider during the [=BoB=] tournament.
* BribingYourWayToVictory: How Death Gun managed to get his [[RareGuns L115A3 suppressed sniper rifle]], as opposed to Sinon, who was ''really'' lucky.
** Also at the Alicization Arc, [[spoiler: Kirito's opponent bribed the guard in charge of weapons to give him a better sword. Not that it helped.]]
* BreakableWeapons: Explained in Volume 2. When Kirito finds a blacksmith girl named Lizbeth and needs a new sword to practice on, he is given one, but when he tests it out, it breaks easily, so they go on a quest to slay a snow dragon to get the metal needed to forge a new weapon. This doubles as a CrowningMomentOfFunny because of the look on Lizbeth's face when Kirito effortlessly shatters what she considered her finest work at the time.
** All weapons in SAO, ALO, and GGO require regular maintenance. Lizbeth has a deal with Kirito and Asuna where she'll maintain their weapons for free in exchange for them endorsing and using her gear, which rivals ultra-rare quest items.
* BreakTheHaughty: Silica goes through this prior to her first meeting with Kirito. After leaving her party in a fit of pique, she gets lost, uses up all her healing items, and then her familiar Pina dies saving her. [[spoiler: Pina gets better with some help from Kirito.]]
* BreatherEpisode: [[spoiler: In Episode 10, Kirito is lured into a trap, tortured, and nearly murdered by a guildmate, but Asuna shows up to save him at the last moment. They're both very shaken up, finally admit the extent of their feelings for each other, spend the night together and decide to get married.]] In Episode 11, after a near-death experience, Kirito and Asuna take a break from frontline fighting and go on a vacation to the lower levels.
** The second season's three-episode take on the Caliber arc is this; taking place after the Death Gun case is resolved, it's just about Kirito and his friends going on a quest in ALO for a powerful sword during the holidays. No murders, mysteries, or any real danger to be had [[spoiler: save that if they fail, it kickstarts Ragnarok for the game, but even then, no one will be in any actual danger]].
* CallBack: The first episode of the first season is called "The World of Swords." The second season's first episode is "The World of Guns."
** Kirito uses the appearance of The Gleam Eyes from SAO as inspiration when using the monster-transformation spell in ALO. The reveal sequence is almost identical, and except for a different color scheme and an extra goatee, their appearances are much the same as well.
** The fact that [[spoiler: Heathcliff was actually Akihiko Kayaba]] becomes important again when it allows Kirito to one-up Sugou in terms of [[spoiler: GM privileges]] by logging in with that ID.
* CannotSpitItOut: Lizbeth to Kirito. She was about to spit it out... and then realized that he's with Asuna.
* CanonDiscontinuity: The video games treat certain elements of the Aincrad and Fairy Dance arcs as this. Yes, it's explicitly an AU, but the system interrupting Kirito's duel with Kayaba can't account for Sachi still being alive, Amusphere users being imported into the death game, or the fact that Gun Gale Online even exists at this point, let alone that Sinon was playing it.
** The English release attempts to explain this: Suguha/Leafa had managed to get her hands on a [=NerveGear=] and was actively using it when she was "imported" into Aincrad. Likewise, Sinon was supposedly taking part in a hospital test case to see if [=MediCuboids=] (whose technology derives from the [=NerveGear=]) could be used for therapy purposes.
* TheCavalry: [[spoiler: In Episode 23, the Cait-Sith and Sylph forces show up to help Kirito to break through the guardians of the world tree.]]
* CharacterLevel: It IS supposed to be an MMORPG... [[spoiler: Kirito is explicitly referred to as one of the highest-leveled characters in SAO, though he later resets his stats in ALO.]]
* ChekhovsGun:
** Subverted with the Divine Stone of the Returning Soul. After finding out that it will only work if used within ten seconds of the player's death, Kirito gives it to Klein and tells him to use it on the next person he sees die. He must have used it somewhere along the line, because it's never seen or even mentioned again, even when a powerful boss one-shots several raid members in a raid containing both Kirito and Klein.
** Hitting a programmed set-piece displays the message '''Immortal Object'''. [[spoiler: Logically, this extends to an AI, and it ''definitely'' extends to the GM]].
** The ''Phantom Bullet'' arc has a literal gun, Kirito's FN Five seveN. [[spoiler: He uses it to stop Death Gun from using his InvisibilityCloak at the end of their battle.]]
** Due to the anime placing the stories in chronological order, Kirito's mechatronics project becomes this. Kirito intended it to be a way for Yui to interact with the real world, and he shows off a prototype at the finale of the Caliber arc. [[spoiler: It's used again in the Mother's Rosario arc to give Yuuki a chance to go to school and see the real world again before she dies.]]
* ChekhovsGunman: In a sense, the Gleam Eyes when Kirito uses his illusion magic to turn into him.
* ChekhovsSkill:
** When Kirito transfers his SAO data to ALO, his stats show One-Handed Swords 1000, Unarmed 996, and Fishing 641. [[spoiler: The Unarmed skill comes in handy during the denouement of the ''Fairy Dance'' arc.]]
** After scouting the boss, Kirito mentions that to fight the level 74 boss, they'd need a couple of StoneWall characters using shields. Asuna asks him about that, and wonders why he never uses a shield despite only using a 1-handed sword. She mentions that she doesn't use one because it slows her rapier attacks down. [[spoiler: It turns out that Kirito doesn't use a shield because he learned how to dual wield, and is forced to utilize it in order to defeat the level 74 boss, which surprises all of the characters around him after he barely defeats it. When Klein asks about how he learned it, even Kirito says he's not sure how he managed to acquire the skill, mentioning it showed up in his skill set about 6 months earlier.]]
** Guns in GGO leave a bullet prediction line before they fire so that they can be dodged. [[spoiler: Sinon uses her gun to make a bullet prediction line to throw off Death Gun and give Kirito an opening he desperately needed.]]
* ChickMagnet: Kirito is one. However, he is usually better than most harem protagonists in the sense that girls will usually fall for him after a decent amount of interaction happens. Also unlike other harem protagonists, Kirito is usually seen as TheAce rather then an OrdinaryHighSchoolStudent or, worse, [[ThisLoserIsYou a loser]]. Also averts more typical [[HaremGenre harem tropes]] in that the Romantic sub plot is finished early on and other girls are not treated as [[UnwantedHarem potential rivals]] thereafter.
* CliffHanger:
** Episode 9 of season 2 ends on one, with Sinon paralyzed by Death Gun, who also fires a shot at her in order to find out if the Kirito in GGO is the same one as in SAO.
** Episode 13 of season 2, after Shino is attacked in her apartment, and Kirito storms in to knock the attacker off of her.
* ClingyJealousGirl: A few examples:
** Non-romantic example with Yui, who declares that the only ones who can hug Kirito are herself and Asuna.
** Leafa gets a bit jealous in Episode 20 when Sakuya and Alicia, the leaders of the Sylph and Cait-Sith races, get a bit too friendly with Kirito after he saves them from an ambush.
** Played straight with Lizbeth in Episode 25 after she spots Kirito and Asuna sitting together on a bench outside. Silica tells her to calm down.
* ClipShow: The first half of the OVA. Kirito talks to a government agent recalling events in the game world through his perspective. Meanwhile, the girls talk about their various interactions with Kirito, which essentially shows important parts where they interacted with him, in-between teaching Suguha how to swim.
* CodeName: Almost everyone uses one, which protects their real life identity. Averted by Asuna, who, being an MMORPG noob, used her real name as her screen name.
** Surviving SAO players tend to refer to each other by their SAO screen names.
* CoitusEnsues: [[spoiler:It is implied Kirito and Asuna cyber it up after a [[GladToBeAliveSex near-death]] experience in SAO (with some misunderstandings along the way). This is Chapter "16.5", an "extra" story the author wrote on his web site when SAO was still a web novel. It's a lemon, but it's not terrible; you can skip it without missing too much. Funnily enough, when it was originally on the author's site it was confined to a "hidden" part of his site, alongside other erotica based on his series submitted by readers, including various drawings done by Kawahara depicting some of these fan-fics.]]
** Amusingly, [[spoiler:Kirito only thought they shouldn't be apart in case of another assassination attempt[[note]]in SAO, a player can be killed inside a safe zone if someone starts a DuelToTheDeath with them and reduces their HP to 0 while they are sleeping[[/note]], but Asuna thought he meant something else.]]
--->[[spoiler:'''Asuna:''' We've already come this far, it's stupid to stop now!]]
** Even if you discount Chapter "16.5", in the original web novels, from which the officially published novels are based, [[spoiler: it's made very clear that they have sex, even without outright saying it. There's even a bit of discussion about how potentially addictive "it" is, since you only get the simulated pleasure with none of the potential drawbacks.]] These are edited out of the official novels, so YMMV whether it's canon or not.
* ColdBloodedTorture: [[spoiler: Inflicted by Kirito to Sugou: he sets the pain absorber to 0, and proceeds to cut his hand off, then cut his whole body in half, before finally [[EyeScream impaling him in the head.]]]]
* ColdSniper: Sinon at first.
** She defrosts somewhat into a FriendlySniper later on.
* CombatMedic: Asuna's ALO build, playing as an Undine Healer, but also speccing for rapier sword skills, complementing her experience from SAO. There's a reason she's nicknamed "Berserk Healer."
* {{Combos}}: There are Sword Skills that have more than one strike.
** The Mother's Rosario arc starts with players being drawn to a challenge issued by a player with a heretofore-unseen sword skill that gives an 11-hit combo, who offers to teach the sword skill to anyone who manages to defeat her.
** A plot point in Alicization arc where Kirito's Aincrad-Style is the only sword skill sect that have multi-hit attacks.
* CompetitiveBalance: In one episode Kirito mentions that while SAO is horrible, it is essentially fair to all the players and gives everyone a chance to succeed.
* ContinuityNod:
** Lizbeth, Yui, and Silica, who all appear in Volume 2 during the 2-year span of the SAO incident, make their comeback in Volume 3 and Volume 4, still retaining their jobs: Silica is still a beast tamer, Lizbeth is still a blacksmith, and Yui is still an AI. %%As Volume 2 are side stories of Asuna and Kirito's lives in SAO during that 2-year span prior to meeting each other. And note that their names never appeared in Volume 1 of the light novels. %%What? What is the point of the last two sentences?
** Thinker, leader of ALF, who was the BadassInDistress in Volume 2, appears at the end of Volume 4, along with his assistant/wife Yuriel.
* ContinuitySnarl: The video game depicts Gun Gale Online as existing during the Aincrad Arc. Problem is, GGO was developed from the Seed, which didn't exist until after the destruction of SAO.
* ContrivedCoincidence:
** Out of all the countless people he could have met, Kirito just happens to CrashIntoHello [[spoiler:his sister]] the very first time he logs into the MMORPG [=ALfheim Online=]. Not that either of them know it at the time... [[spoiler:which turns out [[SubvertedTrope not to be coincidence]]: the server registered the two different logins from the same location and thought they were the same person, so it moved Kirito to Leafa.]]
** Of all the handguns Death Gun could possibly have been wielding, he has the exact same model of gun that [[spoiler:traumatized Sinon. As with the above example, this is ''not'' a coincidence.]]
* CoolCodeOfSource[=/=]MatrixRainingCode: The anime intro scene to the ''Aincrad'' arc starts with something between these two. It's really a pretty cool effect.
* CorruptedData: Depending on how you look at it, how Kirito lost nearly all of his Aincrad items or how he kept his stats and one particularly important item when he started ALO. Also, Yui [[DiscussedTrope theorizes]] this might be why he landed where he did when starting ALO instead of in his race's hometown.
* CoolHelmet: A few GGO players sport these, like Death Gun and Pale Rider.
* ColorCodedForYourConvenience: When players commit crimes, the markers over their heads go from green to orange. One guild uses members with green markers to lure in victims.
* CosmicDeadline: In general for the ''Aincrad'' arc, the plot undergoes long time jumps in which many floors at once will be skipped, but the plot abruptly and with little forewarning leaps straight to the conclusion after the defeat of [[spoiler:Skull Reaper.]]
%%* CreatingLifeIsUnforeseen: Of the InstantAIJustAddWater variety. This AI is a crapshoot, not because it turns evil but because it practically self destructs in four or so minutes. %%What is this talking about? Yui?
* CreepyCoolCrosses: Not physically, but Death Gun crosses himself before he shoots his victims with his handgun to kill them in both GGO and the real world. [[spoiler: Kirito later theorizes that this gesture masks the fact that Death Gun is actually checking his wristwatch so he can sync up shooting the player's avatar with one of his two real-world cohorts injecting the player with a drug that stops their heart and kills them.]]
* CripplingOverspecialization: Kirito's group of friends in ALO is nearly completely devoid of magic, outside a few support spells from Asuna, Leafa and Silica. This leads to problems against physical damage-resistant/immune enemies, where they must rely on Sword Skills' elemental effects, all of which have recovery lag times. They're aware of the problem, but after going through SAO, can't [[HeroesPreferSwords conceive of fighting without their weapons]].
* CriticalExistenceFailure: Happens when a character dies in any of the games.
** The game itself [[DownplayedTrope downplays]] this -- taking too much damage may cause a player to lose a part of their body, but it's just a status effect and it's automatically healed after few minutes.
* CrossPlayer: [=VRMMORPGs=] using the [=NerveGear=] and Amusphere avert this, as the player's body is scanned into the system to form the avatar (degree of customization varies with each game). SAO's pre-alpha testing found that full immersion and genderswapping didn't really mix comfortably, and that after a significant amount of time logged in, male players began to experience anxiety over the lack of... essential equipment.
** That said, as Episode 1 and a line in the light novel show, it's still possible. It just doesn't have good longterm effects, hence why Kayaba disabled this option when kicking off the death game.
** Played with in the ''Gun Gale Online'' arc: a glitch causes Kirito's avatar to appear as an incredibly rare avatar that is mistaken for female by most players. It's actually a male avatar, but Kirito nonetheless learns to play the confusion over his gender in-game to his advantage.
* CrossReferencedTitles: The first episode of the Aincrad Arc is titled "The World of Swords." The episode in which Kirito first enters Alfheim Online is titled "The Land of Faeries." The first episode of the Phantom Bullet Arc is titled "The World of Guns."
* CurbStompBattle:
** [[spoiler: In Volume 2, Kirito vs orange guild Titan's Hand. He doesn't even bother to attack them, because he regenerates health faster than they can harm him.]]
** [[spoiler: Also in Volume 2, Asuna against a group of thugs from the Army.]]
** [[spoiler: Kirito versus Sugou after the latter has been stripped of GM powers. Combined with EyeScream and TranquilFury.]]
** Kirito easily defeats his first opponent in the Bullet of Bullets tournament qualifier round in Episode 5 of Season 2. Unfortunately this also draws the attention of Death Gun, who then asks him if he's the real deal after witnessing the fight, and seeing a "Kirito" using a sword to win the battle.
* DamnYouMuscleMemory:
** In his duel with Kayaba in Episode 14, Kirito attempts to fight without Sword Skills, because Kayaba knows all the counters to any Sword Skill he'd try to use. He accidentally triggers a Sword Skill that Kayaba easily blocks and counters.
** Kirito also gets this in Episode 15 after his sparring match with Suguha, where he tries to return his shinai to a nonexistent back scabbard. He also tried to use a Sword Skill, with [[RealityEnsues obvious results]].
** Continues into season 2. When he first buys his photon sword and tests it out, he practices with his trademark flurry of blows before trying to put it into a nonexistent back scabbard. Later, he does this after winning his first fight in the Bullet of Bullets tournament and notes [[LampshadeHanging "I did it again."]]
* DarkAndTroubledPast: Another reason why Kirito avoids guilds and playing with other people is a result of blaming himself for [[spoiler:the death of his past guild.]]
* DarkerAndEdgier: How do you make a series about a [[{{Cyberspace}} Virtual Reality]] MMORPG playing YourMindMakesItReal to its logical conclusion (i.e., TheMostDangerousVideoGame) darker after that? How about [[spoiler: making the next villain an [[CorruptCorporateExecutive insane sociopath]] who intends to [[RapeIsASpecialKindOfEvil rape the hero's girlfriend/in-game wife, who is also the former's real-life fiancée, after he's done with her mind]]]], for one, and then right after that having a protagonist [[spoiler: who shot a bank robber to death as a child and was ostracized as a result]]?
* DeadManWriting: [[spoiler: Sachi recorded a letter via crystal to Kirito to be delivered on Christmas, months after she died. A major TearJerker moment, especially when she starts humming a portion of "Rudolph, The Red Nosed Reindeer".]]
* DeathByIrony: [[spoiler: During SAO's first day in the Light Novel, Kirito unexpectedly parties with another Beta Tester named Cooper for a luck-based quest. But once Kirito gets the quest item, Cooper aggro's the monsters (Nepent) then goes into hiding. Kirito silently praises him for the MPK tactic, but finds a flaw in the plan. Some monsters also use senses other than sight, enabling the Nepents to find Cooper's hiding spot, killing him.]]
* DeathIsCheap: Played with. Death in-game is death in real life in SAO. In the other SAO-inspired [=MMOs=], though it's not FinalDeath, it is implied to be ContinuingIsPainful.
* DeathSeeker: Kirito goes through a phase of this after [[spoiler: his first guild is destroyed]].
** His actions at the end of the Aincrad arc could be interpreted this way as well. [[spoiler:When Heathcliff/Kayaba offers Kirito the chance to duel him and clear the game early, Asuna begs Kirito not to, but he goes through with it anyway. He then says what sounds a lot like LastWords to Agil and Klein, and asks Kayaba to make sure Asuna can't commit suicide if he should lose, almost as if he was expecting to die.]]
* DeclarationOfProtection:
** Kirito promises this to the new guild he joins, the Black Cats, and especially to Sachi. [[spoiler: Unfortunately when they're ambushed by a very large group of monsters, he's only able to save himself, despite his efforts to protect them.]]
** This trope kicks in again in Episode 9 after Asuna does a LeeroyJenkins to save some players from the floor 74 boss. Kirito starts to remember his previous failure, and does everything he can to keep anyone else from dying pointlessly again. The boss is [[CurbStompBattle wiping out]] members of the Army and he, Asuna, and Klein aren't enough to defeat it. Wanting to prevent another Black Cats-like incident from ever happening again, [[spoiler:he's forced to utilize his secret skill, dual wielding, and goes toe-to-toe with the boss, defeating it with only a sliver of HP left. Asuna cries on his shoulder for a long time at the thought of having almost lost him.]]
* [[spoiler:DescendedCreator: In-universe example: Akihiko Kayaba played SAO as Heathcliff.]]
* DeepImmersionGaming: The devices used allow this. Unfortunately the immersion is too deep in SAO: You die in real life once your avatar dies.
** Kirito strongly suspects that various militaries are interested in [=VRMMO=] gaming because it provides a substitute to real world training due to the immersion factor.
* DefeatMeansFriendship: After Kirito defeats [[spoiler:General Eugene in a duel, he wins his respect and Eugene decides to call off the attack on the Sylph/Cait-Sith treaty signing]]. He leaves saying that he [[WorthyOpponent would like to cross blades with Kirito again the future]].
* DemotedToExtra: An inevitability of the light novel series introducing more characters and moving the action to different games. It turned into a RunningGag when Lisbeth and Silica began a protest demanding "More Screentime!" on the back cover of Volume 10. [[http://www.crunchyroll.com/anime-news/2014/08/13/sword-art-online-more-deban-club-grows-spoiler-warning By Volume 15, Leafa and Sinon have been dragged into the club]].
* DespairEventHorizon: The leader of the guild that Kirito joins commits suicide by falling off a balcony over a very high cliff upon hearing that all of his friends were killed in an ambush. Though Kirito doesn't kill himself, the loss of the people he promised to help protect weighs heavily on him.
* DeusExMachina:
** In the Extra Edition, where Kirito retells what occurred during the first and second arc, the person he is telling the story to suspects that [[spoiler:it was the will of Kayaba that had Asuna and Kirito not die. Meaning, he might've interfered with the game's coding so as to not send a signal that they died so the [=NerveGear=] wouldn't fry their brains.]]
** The second arc has a modernized classical example. [[spoiler: Kayaba grants Kirito Super-Admin access through the Heathcliff username. Given the setting, it's similar to a god granting a hero divine power.]]
* DifficultySpike:
** [[spoiler:SAO players note that Aincrad dungeons and monsters are a ''lot'' more difficult since being ported to ALO, compared to the original SAO incarnation.]]
** In SAO, there is a massive DifficultySpike for the Floor Bosses from the 74th Floor and onwards. Not only are they a lot stronger than previous Floor Bosses, but their rooms are sealed from the outside and are [[spoiler:Crystal Traps. This means that crystals like healing and teleportation are useless, making it impossible to escape and thus obtain intel and making each fight a battle to the death. On the 75th Floor Boss, they lose so many people that Kirito takes a massive risk on testing his suspicions about Heathcliff, because there is a high chance they won't be able to make it to the 100th floor.]]
** It's speculated by the characters that [[spoiler:every 25 floors (25th,50th,75th) have a specially difficult boss that is far stronger than a "normal" boss should be.]]
* DigitalAvatar: Nearly everyone who uses the Full Dive technology, especially [=VRMMO=] players.
* DisappearsIntoLight: The death animation in SAO.
** In ALO, depending on the in-game race, different elemental effects before leaving behind a "Remain Light" which also disappears after a minute.
* DivingSave:
** Pina performs one to save Silica, [[HeroicSacrifice dying in the process]]. This kickstarts the events of "The Black Swordsman".
** Kirito does this to save [[spoiler: Asuna from Kuradeel, after his [[ISurrenderSuckers faked surrender]] catches her off-guard]].
** Later, [[spoiler: Asuna takes a mortal blow from Kayaba to protect Kirito, which eventually gives him the final push to defeat Kayaba.]]
* DoesNotLikeShoes: Yui is always barefoot, both in human form and pixie form.
* DrivenToSuicide: Happens to a few people:
** [[spoiler: The leader of the Black Cats of the Full Moon, after the guild members are annihilated and Kirito reveals he was a beta tester. Kirito, himself, contemplates this for a bit after the guild's destruction]].
** [[spoiler: Yuuki's mother nearly falls to this, after she's diagnosed with AIDS from contaminated blood.]]
* DualWielding: [[spoiler:Only Kirito gets this skill in SAO. He later recreates his style from sheer effort and virtual muscle memory in ALO.]]
* DudeLooksLikeALady: [[spoiler:Kirito in GGO]]. He accidentally (at least initially) abuses this to get help from the nearby Sinon, and later starts to use it [[ExploitedTrope deliberately]] to get help from other players.
* DuelBoss: The FinalBoss of SAO, [[spoiler: Heathcliff (AKA Akihiko Kayaba)]], is fought by Kirito and Kirito alone.
* DullEyesOfUnhappiness: Kirito displays some in Episode 3 after he manages to retrieve the rumored revival item. [[spoiler:Unfortunately it's of no use to him, and he gives it to Klein. Said item has to be used within 10 seconds of a player's death, and Sachi has been dead for months by this point]].
* DungeonBypass: When Kirito and Asuna are looking for a house on Floor 22 to buy, they stumble onto Argo and a Wizard of Oz-inspired Quest. Since their levels are miles above that floor's, the three of them use shortcuts like jumping on balconies that they aren't supposed to be able to reach.
* DungeonCrawling: A prerequisite for clearing each level of Aincrad. Each level's stairway-dungeon has 20 floors, and the final floor has the boss that must be defeated to clear the level.
* DynamicEntry:
** Kirito's crash landing when he first meets Leafa, which causes the pursuing Salamanders to halt their attempt to kill Leafa and re-target to him.
** Asuna does this in her big damn heroes moment. Kirito describes her arrival as a red and white wind.
** Kirito does one in the real world in episode 13 of season 2 after a crazed man [[spoiler:Kyouji, with a mix of CrazyJealousGuy and IfICantHaveYou]] attacks Sinon in her apartment.
* EarlyBirdCameo: From Episode 1 of the anime:
** Klein is seen from the "MMO Stream" news video covering the SAO release before meeting Kirito for the first time as described in the original novel.
** Suguha is briefly heard and seen running off to practice before Kirito enters SAO.
** Asuna, Lizbeth (before dyeing her hair pink), and Silica are seen among the players in the plaza.
* EarnYourHappyEnding: It takes four volumes, but after going through a lot of shit and never giving up, Kirito and Asuna are reunited in the real world. This is also a general theme with the various main story arcs as a whole.
* {{Expy}}: [[spoiler: Yui is an expy of ''Franchise/DotHack'''s AURA only that her creation was not intentional as she was only composed of data that somehow became sentient. In SAO she has the powers of an Admin.]]
** Kirito is an expy of Spider-Man. He works alone because of MyGreatestFailure. He has angst because ILetGwenStacyDie. He refuses to play dirty because WithGreatPowerComesGreatResponsibility. He even works as a vigilante in Aincrad, although partly because Aincrad doesn't actually have a police force. Plus, he ends up romantically with a bold red-haired lady, not unlike Mary-Jane Watson.
* EldritchAbomination: Aincrad's 75th floor boss, The Skull Reaper. ''A terrifying skeletal centipede'' '''thing''' ''[[AttackOfTheFiftyFootWhatever that's the size of a building]]'', ''[[LightningBruiser moves very fast]]'', ''[[OneHitKill hits very hard]]'', ''[[RedEyesTakeWarning and has four red eyes]]''.
* EstablishingShot: A pretty one from episode one, of the Tokyo skyline. It's also used quite often since - this series loves it's scenery porn quite a bit.
* EveryoneCanSeeIt: When Klein first meets Asuna, he catches on ''very'' quickly that she has feelings for Kirito, and asks Kirito if they're lovers. Kirito's fervent denial is greeted with knowing smiles from all of Furinkazan and Asuna.
* EvolvingCredits: In the opening for the ''Fairy Dance'' arc, there is a part where Sugou steps away from a window. After his identity in ALO is revealed you can see [[spoiler:Oberon]] in his reflection at this point.
** Happens again in the opening credits to season 2. After Death Gun [[spoiler: is revealed to have been a former member of Laughing Coffin in SAO]] the credits change from seeing the gun in his hand dissolving to [[spoiler: the just-barely visible Laughing Coffin tattoo hidden under the bandages on his arm.]] The trend continues when the Caliber arc gives way to the Mother's Rosario (which is noted in the credits), where the second opening slightly changes to include a few shots of Yuuki and the rest of the Sleeping Knights. However, the next episode after ''that'', the credits change again, to feature only Yuuki, Asuna and the rest of the Sleeping Knights in place of Kirito's group during the Excalibur quest, with Yuuki taking Kirito's place in all of the opening scenes that had featured him.
* ExcusePlot: An in-universe example: [[http://pastebin.com/8wiEj3Dz according to the author's own live commentary]], the backstory for GGO is that humanity settled other planets and eventually descended into an apocalyptic war, resulting in all the ruined cities. The monsters in-game are a product of genetic manipulation.
* EyesOfGold: Happens a few times to Kirito in the anime, usually as a means to showcase how absolutely committed he is to a task ([[spoiler:coming BackFromTheDead to kill Heathcliff, or trying to reach the top of the World Tree amidst the Guardians' attacks]]).
* FaceHeelTurn: [[spoiler: Kayaba a.k.a. Heathcliff had planned to do this on the 100th floor, but did not get the chance, thanks to Kirito's SequenceBreaking.]]
* {{Facepalm}}: Implied to be Kirito's reaction to Klein's HonorBeforeReason moment.
* FacePlant: Happens to Kirito to the point of becoming a RunningGag in the early episodes of the [=ALO=] arc, including a rather spectacular one where he falls from several hundred feet in the air and impacts the ground so hard that his head is stuck for several moments.
* {{Fanservice}}: We get to see every major female character in their undergarments one way or the other.
** There's also quite a bit of "look at the detail of that butt" shots in the episode "Crime Within The Walls".
** Suguha is a favorite target of the camera here. Boob shot while she's sleeping? In the first episode she appears. Panty shot? Check. Shot of her undressing to underwear? Check. Shots of her bathing, with CensorSteam? Check. It's no surprise that her avatar gets the same treatment, either.
** Sinon is introduced setting up an ambush while sniping from a prone position. The camera [[MaleGaze gives us a very generous view of her derrière]].
* TheFellowshipHasEnded: The Sleeping Knights plan on disbanding the guild in March 2026, and want to defeat a floor boss in Aincrad as just a party so that all their names will be inscribed on the Monument of Swordsmen as proof of their existence. [[spoiler: The real reason is because the members are all terminally ill patients, with two of their members not expected to survive past March. After they successfully defeat a floor boss and Yuuki passes away, the group disbands and its members part ways.]]
* FictionalCurrency:
** Col in SAO.
** Yurudo in ALO.
** Credits in GGO.[[note]]One can actually exchange in-game credits for real world money and vice versa. In Japan, the exchange rate is 100 credits = 1 yen. A player can pay their monthly fee by earning credits in-game.[[/note]]
* FinalBossPreview: [[spoiler:Technically, Kirito's duel with Heathcliff in the arena is this due to the latter being Akihiko Kayaba himself.]]
* FirstGirlWins: Asuna is the first girl introduced to readers of the light novels and viewers of the anime (though the situations are slightly different), and the first love interest Kirito meets.
* FiveRaces[=/=]MassiveRaceSelection: There are nine playable [[OurFairiesAreDifferent fairy]] tribes in ALO. Four of them are based on the AlchemicElementals:
** Sylphs, [[BlowYouAway wind-class]] fairies, who excel in {{flight}} and have [[SuperSenses acute hearing]].
** Salamanders, [[PlayingWithFire fire-class]] fairies, who excel in [[ProudWarriorRaceGuy fighting]].
** Undines, [[MakingASplash water-class]] fairies, who excel in [[TheMedic healing]] and underwater tactics.
** [[OurGnomesAreWeirder Gnomes]], [[DishingOutDirt earth-class]] fairies, who excel in defense and [[{{Prospector}} mining]].
** Cait-Siths, [[CatGirl cat]][[LittleBitBeastly -class]] fairies, who excel in [[TheBeastmaster beast taming]], [[SuperReflexes agility]], and intelligence.
** Spriggans, [[CastingAShadow shadow-class]] fairies, who excel in {{treasure hunt|er}}ing and [[MasterOfIllusion illusions]].
** Pucas, [[MagicMusic musical-class]] fairies, who excel in playing musical instruments and singing.
** {{Leprechaun}}s, [[TheBlacksmith blacksmith-class]] fairies, who excel in [[DesignItYourselfEquipment weapons manufacturing]] and [[ItemCrafting crafting]].
** Imps, [[CastingAShadow dark-class]] fairies, who excel in [[{{Flight}} night flight]] and [[InnateNightVision night vision]].
%%* {{Flanderization}}: Kirito had quite some genuine insecurities and redeemable qualities in the Aincrad arc, but most of them were tossed out of the window in the ALO arc, leaving only his MartyStu[=/=]GodModeSue traits behind. %%Explain?
* FlashStep: Too many times to count, usually by Kirito. Actually, the sword skill Sonic Leap may actually be Invoking this trope. Asuna uses this to travel an impossible distance in five minutes, Kirito leaves behind a ''sonic boom'' from his first attack in ALO...
* {{Flight}}: A main feature in ALO. Under the control of RECTO, there is is a limit for flight such as: height limit, cool down time to charge with sun or moonlight, and inability to fly in dungeons with the exception of Imps. The main quest at the time has the races trying to reach the top of the world tree to have an audience with Oberon to be reborn as a higher-order fairy, the Alf. After Recto sells its rights to it, all races have no time limit in flight.
* {{Foil}}:
** Sinon to Kirito: A fellow PTSD sufferer traumatized by the memory of killing in self-defense.
** Suguha to Asuna: Gets into [=VRMMORPG=]s out of curiousity and winds up fighting against a major crime with Kirito.
** Spiegal to Recon: Invites a classmate whom he has a crush on to join him in a [=VRMMORPG=] and confesses his love to said classmate after she has a messed-up encounter with Kirito.
** [[spoiler:Spiegal/Kyouji to Sugou after the climax of the Phantom Bullet Arc: Once it becomes clear that he'll never have his crush, he decides to just rape her instead.]]
** [[spoiler:Kikuoka to Sugou: Both worked on weaponizing Full Dive technology. The difference is that Kikuoka is doing this out of patriotism, whereas Sugou wants to sell it to the highest bidder.]]
** Asuna isn't truly a foil to anybody, but she serves as a foil to Sachi and Keita during the climax of the Aincrad Arc, when after they learn that the 75th Floor boss fight will be held inside an anti-crystal zone and tells Kirito that she would kill herself if she stayed out of the fight and Kirito didn't come back from it.
* {{Foreshadowing}}: The opening credits for season two at one point show Kirito trying to reach Death Gun while surrounded by a purple triangular void with three laughing silhouettes growing out of each of the three points [[spoiler: which foreshadows that "Death Gun" is actually three people, one whom controls the "Sterben" avatar in GGO itself and sets up the murders by shooting other avatars with a handgun and two others who operate in the real world, using a heart attack-inducing drug to actually kill people.]]
* ForcedToWatch: During the climax of the ''Fairy Dance'' arc, [[spoiler:Sugou rips the clothes off Asuna's avatar, pins Kirito down by impaling him with a sword, and forces him to witness poor Asuna being sexually harassed in the Virtual World. He then threatens to repeat the "performance" with her '''real (comatose) body''' later and comes very close to successfully raping her in-game before Kirito manages to free himself.]]
* ForDoomTheBellTolls: The town bell of the Starting City of the 1st floor rings when the players of SAO are forcibly teleported to its central plaza.
* ForTheEvulz: Kayaba entrapped the people playing SAO until they can finish the game by defeating the ultimate boss, [[spoiler:but in truth he wants to see a society in a different light and he's the ultimate boss.]]
* ForWantOfANail: Caliber Failure Side explores one such outcome to the Caliber sidestory. [[spoiler: Kirito convinces the party to abandon Freya (without knowing she's actually a disguised Thor). As a result, they're unable to defeat the BigBad before time runs out. Not only do they fail the quest, Kirito loses his chance to get Excaliber, and the BigBad succeeds in deploying an army massive enough to destroy Alfheim and Aincrad]].
* FourIsDeath: After a familiar dies, there is a chance it will leave behind an item that will allow the player to resurrect it. However, if the player cannot meet the requirements within four days, the item will change and the pet will be dead for good.
* FragileSpeedster: Bullet of Bullets entrant (and possible Death Gun suspect) Pale Rider appears to have built his character this way, eschewing as much gear as he can save for a single shotgun so that he can take advantage of his low encumberance to perform all sorts of fancy acrobatics that allow him to win his fight against Dyne. [[spoiler: Not so helpful when the ''real'' Death Gun hits Pale Rider with a paralyzation dart so Death Gun can get up close to kill him, both in the game and in the real world.]]
* FreezeFrameBonus: Multiple times in the "Sleeping Knights" arc. Whenever the Monument of Swordsmen is given a close-up view, you can see the names of familiar characters having cleared previous floors. Kirito, Asuna, Leafa, Klein…
* FreudianSlip: Yuuki does this twice in episode 21 in season 2. She mentions ''nee-chan'', or "sister" in Japanese, when battling the floor 27 boss with Asuna and the Sleeping Knights. Asuna initially thought it was just a term of endearment. Later she mentions it again at the wall of names of players or guilds who first defeated each floor boss. When Asuna mentions it to her, Yuuki suddenly develops an OhCrap look in her face, and quickly logs off. Asuna is given no explanation as to why this was from Yuuki or her guildmates. [[spoiler:Episode 22 reveals that Yuuki had a twin sister who had succumbed to AIDS. Yuuki herself is also dying of it, and the other members of the Sleeping Knights also have terminal illnesses and didn't want Asuna to get too attached lest she be saddened by them dying.]]
* {{Gainaxing}}: Though the anime is tame in {{Fanservice}} in relation to many others, there's still a bit of artistic mammary license seen on Sakuya and Leefa.
* {{Gamer Chick}}s: Most of the girls Kirito knows. They ''are'' trapped in a video game, after all.
** Notably not Asuna, though, until after they escape SAO. Her brother was supposed to get trapped in SAO instead of her, and SAO is actually the first game she's ever played.
* GenreSavvy: Kirito tends to be quite genre savvy about common interpersonal anime cliches, such as the CrashIntoHello.
** In Volume 8, when meeting trapped female NPC Freya, and noticing she has an HP bar, Kirito is convinced that she'll transform into a powerful EliteMook once she's released, and that she's designed to appeal to male players; he's seen this before a few times. He's also not surprised at all when Klein falls for it. [[spoiler:At the same time though… see WrongGenreSavvy.]]
* GildedCage: "Titania's" (Asuna's) prison in ALO. Quite literally.
* {{GIRL}}:
** With the exception of a one-off gag at the beginning of the anime, this trope is averted due to everyone's SAO avatars reverting to each player's true appearance. In later post-Aincrad volumes of the Light Novel, the author discusses and deconstructs parts of this trope, mentioning that wearing a [=VRMMO=] avatar of the opposite gender for extended periods of time could become very uncomfortable and psychologically distressing, as sensory input mappings for the opposite gender would be different. On the other hand, as the [=AMUsphere=] and [=NERVgear=] read your brainwaves to calibrate for gender, sometimes a person's thought patterns could be "close enough" to the opposite gender, such that they receive a "surprise" when they enter the [=VRMMO=].
** Kirito's avatar in GGO appears female. Naturally, guys hit on him in the game, and Sinon also assumes he's a girl at first. He plays along with the latter since he is lost at the time and needs directions in the game.
* GoodGuyBar: In the real world, Dicey Cafe, owned by Agil, which ends up becoming a hangout for the main cast. Agil also runs a cafe and item shop in ALO, which serves the same function.
* GoOutWithASmile: Despite the grim reality the players face, some of them do go out with a smile.
** [[spoiler: Yuuki logs into ALO as she's dying, giving Asuna her LimitBreak and saying one last farewell to her friends. The last image is of her and Asuna standing together, smiling.]]
** [[spoiler: Sachi does this in Episode 3 as well.]]
** [[spoiler: A light-hearted version. Sinon suggests to Kirito they end the Bullet of Bullets tournament in a draw. Sinon then takes a grenade, pulls the pin, and tosses it to Kirito before hugging him with a smile as it goes off. Kirito sort of does the same, but he wasn't expecting Sinon to do that.]]
* GracefulLoser: [[spoiler: Kayaba/Heathcliff. Not only does he honor his word that everyone will be able to log out once the game is cleared, but he even smiles as he watches Kirito overcome his own in-game death to run him through.]]
** Also [[spoiler: General Eugene]], who does not hold a tiniest bit of grudge after Kirito defeats him.
* GratuitousEnglish:
** English seems to be the official language of Sword Art Online, given that all the game messages are in English. Most of them are pretty good, until Episode 14, where one message reads "'''Changed''' into Immortal Object"... when it should have said '''Mortal''' Object anyway, given that [[spoiler: it was Heathcliff turning off GodMode before his duel with Kirito]]. Episode 15 also has Kirito receiving an email from Agil written in Japanese, with the subject "Look at this!!" written in English.
** In spoken dialogue, "Beta tester" and "Sword Art Online" are always said in English; the former seems to be a loanword and the latter is probably because the game's official language is English. For a straighter example, after beating the first floor's boss, Kirito says "Good job" to Asuna and Agil says "Congratulations" to Kirito, both in English.
** The robotic cowboy in the shooting game Kirito plays in Episode 4 of Season 2 is chock full of these lines, though it does speak SurprisinglyGoodEnglish with an appropriate accent (it's dressed as a cowboy and talks in a Southern drawl). Justified, since GGO, the [=VRMMO=] that Kirito is playing at the time, was made in America.
* TheGrimReaper: The Fatal Scythe boss is basically this. It lives up to its name, too[[spoiler:, [[CrowningMomentOfAwesome until]] [[BadassAdorable Yui]] takes it down]].
* GuestStarPartyMember[=/=]OptionalPartyMember: In ''Caliber'', Freyja [[spoiler:is actually Thor in disguise]]. What happens when Kirito's party chooses not to free Freyja is covered in ''Caliber SS''.
* GuideDangIt: Deconstructed and PlayedForDrama. A large number of the players end up dying, not just from inexperience, but from a lack of information about things that aren't even mentioned in the game and would be known from an outside source (such as other players). For example, The Black Cats of the Full Moon (sans Kirito) get killed because they didn't know side areas in dungeons tend to block off teleportation and make the players suffer waves of monsters that usually surpass their levels.
* GunKata: In the ''Death Bullet'' arc, Kirito is shown a gambling game where the player tries to touch an NPC while dodging bullets fired from it. He watches someone play it and the way it's described sounds very similar to this if only for the defensive aspects.
* GunPorn: Somebody working on the anime [[ShownTheirWork must be doing their research]] on the loads of guns available in GGO. There are several full screens of many guns and, at one point, an entire selection of at least ''twenty'' individual handguns, scrolling across the marketplace all accurately designed and labeled. Even Sinon goes into long bouts of her favorite guns, one of them being the famous [[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FN_Five-seven FN Five-seveN]].
* HappilyMarried:
** Kirito and Asuna in SAO, after their RelationshipUpgrade. This is also their real-world goal.
** Thinker and Yuriel, both in SAO and the real world.
** Agil and his wife; when he was trapped in SAO, she singlehandedly kept his cafe running and in the black while waiting for him to come back.
* HardWorkHardlyWorks: Averted. Kirito is able to more or less recreate his DualWielding skills through sheer hard work, and he's only able to chain one-handed sword skills after a ''lot'' of effort and failures.
** As a whole, there are no shortcuts in SAO; players who want to level up ''will'' need to put in the effort.
** Played straight during the ''Fairy Dance'' arc when Kirito first enters ALO and outside getting used to the controls, he himself knows he is a cheater in this case.
* HeelRealization: Seems to happen to Grimlock when Asuna [[spoiler: tells him that he didn't really love his wife Griselda, and killed her because he wanted to control her rather than let her be a strong, independent woman.]] As she tells him this, he seems to suffer from both MyGodWhatHaveIDone and a VillainousBreakdown.
* HeroAcademy: Kirito ends up in one along with his partner, Eugeo, during the Alicization arc.
* HeroesPreferSwords: It's noted that most SAO players who migrated to ALO tend to dump all their points into sword skills and ignore magic, because they believe their weapons are proof of their existence.
** This actually leads to two different classifications among players in ALO: "Fairies," who use magic, and "Swordsmen," who only use weapons.
* HeroicBSOD:
** Kirito suffers one when [[spoiler: Asuna performs a HeroicSacrifice.]] It debilitates him so badly that he can't bring himself to do more than slowly and feebly swing his swords at [[spoiler:Heathcliff]] for a few seconds.
** Kirito has another one when he encounters [[spoiler: Death Gun and realizes that not only is he a survivor of SAO, but also a member of Laughing Coffin. All of Kirito's repressed memories of the purge against that guild return and leave him in such a wrecked state that Sinon is worried by his nonresponsiveness.]]
** Sinon suffers one during the [=BoB=] tournament when she is confronted by Death Gun [[spoiler: who tries to kill her using the same model of gun that Sinon used in the real world five years ago to kill the robber, an event which caused her to become severely traumatized.]] After Kirito rescues her, and they are fleeing Death Gun on a buggy, Sinon suddenly finds she can't bring herself to pull the trigger on her rifle, even though Death Gun is baring down on them on a robot horse. [[spoiler: It takes Kirito offering to pull the trigger with her that allows her to fire and escape Death Gun, but even then, Sinon is still extremely shaken up by what she's gone through.]]
* HeroicResolve: Asuna and Kirito ''both'' [[RealityWarper break the ''laws of reality'']] at least once, in order [[ThePowerOfLove to rescue the other]]. Comes in as a CrowningMomentOfAwesome every single time.
* HeroicSacrifice:
** [[spoiler:Yui]] invokes her GM powers to save Kirito and Asuna from a high-level boss. Unfortunately, since she disobeyed her programming, this results in her getting flagged for deletion. Thankfully, Kirito manages to preserve her heart before she's fully deleted.
** In Episode 14, [[spoiler:Asuna overcomes complete paralysis with ThePowerOfLove to get up and take a killing blow for Kirito, dropping her own health bar to zero to save him]].
** During Kirito's second run on [=ALfheim Online=]'s Grand Quest, [[spoiler:Recon performs an extremely powerful dark magic spell that [[SuicideAttack instantly kills him while clearing a massive hole in the Guardian swarms]]. A [[DownplayedTrope downplayed]] case, though, since death in ALO won't kill you in the real world like in SAO. However, Leafa does note that [[ContinuingIsPainful the Death Penalty for Self-Destruct is rather steep]].]]
* HonorBeforeReason: Though the protagonists avoid this for the most part, this pops up from time to time:
** In Volume 2, Thinker walks into an obvious ambush ''unarmed'', because his [[TheStarscream treacherous 2nd-in-command]] said he wanted to talk privately without weapons. Yuriel and Asuna lampshade this.
** In Volume 8, Klein frees an imprisoned NPC that he and everyone agree is probably a trap and will likely turn on them, because that's his warrior code. The party can't decide if he's being an idiot or being cool. [[spoiler: Amusingly, the NPC ''is'' a trap... [[IncrediblyLamePun just not the expected kind]]. See AttractiveBentGender above.]]
** A unit of players from The Army are met by Kirito, Asuna, and Klein's guild, and their leader asks for the map for the level. Kirito agrees to it but tells him they should avoid fighting the boss, as they don't have enough players, and his troops look rather worn out. He decides to go straight towards the boss, [[spoiler: and promptly gets killed for it, forcing Asuna and Kirito to attack the boss in order to save the surviving players.]]
* HopelessSuitor: Liz, after having joined a party with Kirito to find a rare material to forge a sword with, is seemingly ready to declare her love for him since he risked his life to save hers and was a NiceGuy as well. [[spoiler: Then Asuna drops by, and Liz begins to read between the lines. You can almost see her heart get torn in two as she realizes this trope is being applied to her. She tries to brush it off with her usual GenkiGirl face, but wanders off to secretly cry.]]
** [[spoiler: Suguha/Leafa in Episode 22, when she hears Kirito mention trying to reach Asuna, and realizes that Kirito is her brother/cousin. Like Liz, she [[CryCute doesn't take this information very well]].]]
* HopeSpot: After [[spoiler:Sachi]] dies, Kirito learns of an ultra-rare item that can resurrect a dead player. It doesn't quite work out, since the item has to be used within ten seconds of the player's death, but by the time Kirito gets it [[spoiler:Sachi]] has already been dead for six months. He gives the item to Klein instead, hoping that it'll be of some use to him.
* IdiotBall: Suguo, running highly unethical human experiments on a ''public'' server -- no matter how ostensibly secretive those involved are -- which is ''still debugging'' from the transition from a previous incarnation, in which several characters get an OldSaveBonus when they transfer, was not your brightest move.
* IkeaErotica: The infamous chapter 16.5, [[https://docs.google.com/file/d/0BwyW7ZpWYsQBaThmR0Foa2ZfOG8/edit available for your perusal]] [[SchmuckBait in all its glory.]] (Warning: Supposed to be NSFW, though barely counts as such.)
* IKnowMortalKombat:
** Shino is able to load and fire a Colt M1911 (well, an airsoft copy) thanks to her experience in GGO.
** Kirito manages to match his sister in a kendo sparring match with his SAO skills (it should be noted that she's a national level competitor), dodging a blow that reportedly had never been successfully blocked by either her coaches or tournament opponents, and later beats a knife-wielding madman barehanded.
*** Another thing about the kendo match: despite it being a month after his escape from SAO, we still need to remember that it's ONLY a month, so his body is still both severely physically weakened from muscle atrophy and from malnutrition. They both pretty much come to the conclusion that had he been healthy at the time he would have won (the only real reason he lost is because his arms had atrophied so much that when he tried to block one of her strikes she just blew straight through and hit him. That, and he tried to use a [[DamnYouMuscleMemory Sword Skill with predictable results]].)
* [[IllGirl Ill Girl/Guy]]: [[spoiler:All the members of the Sleeping Knights. They're hospice care patients hooked up to modified [=NERVgears=] in an attempt to give them a better quality of life.]]
* ImpaledWithExtremePrejudice:
** One of the Salamanders ambushing Kirito and Leafa in the cave gets impaled on monster!Kirito's fingernails and hangs there in the air until he dies.
** In Episode 22 of Season 1, this happens to Kirito in a scene very, very reminiscent of Asuka's death in ''[[Anime/NeonGenesisEvangelion The End of Evangelion]]''.[[note]]He gets run through near-simultaneously by several greatswords being shot as arrows from multiple directions.[[/note]]
** Two episodes later Kirito [[spoiler: kills Sugou's Oberon avatar]] by tossing him up and letting him fall onto Kirito's sword in a pose strikingly familiar to the iconic Last Shooting scene in ''[[Anime/MobileSuitGundam Gundam]]''.
** Moments before that, [[spoiler: Sugou impales Kirito with his own sword, just after altering the pain absorber to make the experience even worse for him]].
** Kirito does this to the first opponent he fights in the Bullet of Bullets tournament in Episode 5 of Season 2 once he manages to get close enough to use his energy sword.
* ImplausibleFencingPowers: The entire skill system in SAO is based on swordsmanship. Not a single spell to be found. HandWaved as an attempt to raise immersion.
** Kirito can cut bullets in midair easily in Gun Gale Online. When he gets back to [=ALfheim Online=], he uses the same skill to cut ''magical spells''. Nobody, not even Asuna, Leafa, or Klein, who're the closest players to his skill level, can do that.
* ImpossibleTask: [[spoiler:The "Grand Quest" of ALO.]]
* ImprobableWeaponUser: Not an issue in SAO and ALO where swords are commonplace, but come Volume 5 of the light novel Kirito becomes the only character to wield a sword in a gun fight in a game that's all about shooting.
* ImprobableAimingSkills: Shino scores a headshot on The Behemoth after jumping from a skyscraper while dodging a minigun ''in midair.''
* TheInformant: [[spoiler:Kirito come Volume 5, and he's now the informant for Public Safety.]]
* InventionalWisdom: [[spoiler:Spontaneously activated self-destruct capability for ALO.]]
* InsideAComputerSystem: The "partially attached" variety. [=VRMMOs=] use the "Full Dive" system to completely immerse the player in a virtual world, controlling all five senses.
* InvertedPortrait
** Asuna in the ClosingCredits of the Aincrad arc.
** Shino in the ClosingCredits, and her in-game alter ego Sinon (along with Death Gun) in the TitleSequence, of the Phantom Bullet arc. Twice over in the former, in fact: once as her present self, then again as her 11-year­-old self, when she [[spoiler:shot and killed a would-be bank robber]].
** Leafa in the Caliber arc's ClosingCredits.
* InvisibilityCloak: Death Gun uses one. It helps him sneak around on the battlefield and is also used to spy on people when they enter their real-life details, including home addresses, in order to register for tournaments in GGO.
* IronicEcho: "[[YouShallNotPass Sorry, this area is currently off-limits.]]" Said by Kirito to a Jerkass guild member, echoing another guild member's words to the Sleeping Knights.
* ISurrenderSuckers: [[spoiler:Kuradeel]] tries this when Asuna beats him to within an inch of his life bar. He feigns asking for mercy/forgiveness, but then immediately tries to kill Asuna with a cheap shot before [[spoiler:being taken down by a recovered Kirito.]]
* {{Japanese Christian}}s: Yuuki's family, and presumably Yuuki herself.
* {{Jerkass}}: At least one in every volume.
** JerkassFacade: Kirito at the start doesn't interact with other players due to past trauma. Agil gives off the impression of being a stingy merchant, but it turns out much of the in-game currency he earns goes to support the lower-leveled players.
* JokeWeapon: The Lightsaber is considered this in Gun Gale Online, which makes a certain kind of sense as it's an MMOFPS.
** LethalJokeWeapon: Said Lightsaber becomes this in Kirito's hands. [[spoiler:After he becomes the co-winner of the third GGO in-game tournament, more players begin trying to emulate him.]]
* JustEatGilligan: A couple of them. For starters, the game would have NEVER made it to mass market if the [=NERVgear=] went through a simple independent security test (just like EVERY product EVER does). And even if it somehow did, the police could have caught Kayaba and unplugged all the players safely. But if either of those happened, we wouldn't have any story.
* KarmaHoudini: Although they were all placed in a separate building from other SAO survivors for rehab/observation purposes, none of the players who committed murder in SAO are publicly revealed nor receive justice for their actions, as all blame is placed on Akihiko Kayaba. [[spoiler:This leads to repercussions in future arcs.]]
* KickTheSonOfABitch: [[spoiler: Kayaba gives Kirito the means to defeat Sugou, a man who's even more despicable than the SAO creator (you know, the one that caused thousands of deaths for a childish dream).]]
* KillEmAll: [[spoiler:The Black Cats of the Full Moon guild ends up getting completely annihilated in a trap not a while after Kirito joins.]]
* KissingCousins: One-sided on Suguha's part. She slowly falls in love with her cousin Kirito ([[NotBloodSiblings who was raised as her brother]]); however, since he already has Asuna and Kirito isn't really into that stuff, he doesn't reciprocate.
* KissingDiscretionShot: Sometimes when Kirito and Asuna kiss.
* LadyOfWar: Sakuya, guild leader of the Sylphs, who wears a katana.
** Conceivably, Asuna counts as this, too. Comes from money, doesn't act "prissy" to any real degree but is even less considered a tomboy, uses a rapier, [[RoyalRapier a weapon most often used by royalty or those close to it in stories like this]].
* LampshadeHanging: In the Light Novels, at least, Kirito thinks that he looks like a typical manga protagonist. [[spoiler: Also, in the Light Novels, when Asuna [[HeroicWillpower breaks free]] [[RealityWarper from an unbreakable paralysis]] [[ThePowerOfLove to save Kirito]], Akihiko Kayaba points out that "This is really surprising. Isn't it just like a standalone console RPG scenario? It should have been impossible for her to recover from the paralysis... So things like this really do happen..."]]
* LaserSight: In GGO, the Ballistic Prediction Line (Bullet Line) is an inverse example, as it appears only to opposing players, though sniper rifles don't project a line until they've fired a shot (and in which case the line disappears after a minute). Normally, this gives opposing players a chance to dodge incoming gunfire, but Kirito takes it up a notch by using these lines to deflect gunfire with his light saber.
* LevelGrinding: In SAO, Kirito does a lot of this off-screen. In fact, in SAO it's not considered safe to explore a floor until you are at least 10+ levels higher. Kirito himself does a massive power leveling after [[spoiler:Sachi dies, in order to solo an event boss monster to obtain a rumored One-Time Revival item to bring her back to life.]]
* LighterAndSofter: The Fairy Dance arc in the anime is noticeably more lighthearted than the preceding Aincrad arc. Alfheim Online is less gritty than Sword Art Online due to the inclusion of fairies and magic, and it treads more along the lines of a traditional fantasy RPG. Also, players are no longer in danger of dying in real life, and if they are killed in battle, they could be revived (and unlike SAO, the game does indeed have a log off feature). Kirito even lampshades this when he checks first thing to make sure this is actually the case. He is also considerably less angsty and more laidback in this arc. Regardless, it still has its dark moments, such as [[spoiler: the drama between Kazuto and Suguha]] and Nobuyuki Suguo's strong sexual attraction to Asuna (not to mention his AxCrazy personality and AGodAmI complex).
* LightheartedRematch: The SAO survivors who migrated to ALO treat [[spoiler: the return of Aincrad as this, intending to clear all hundred levels for fun, instead of a matter of life or death.]]
* LightIsNotGood:
** [[spoiler:Kuradeel of the holy-based guild Knights of The Blood Oath turns out to be working for Laughing Coffin.]]
** [[spoiler:Heathcliff, Leader of the Knights of The Blood Oath, has light-based skills and turns out to be the BigBad Kayaba.]]
** The Guardian Knights that guard Oberon's Fortress are all clad in white and have white wings, and they're preventing Kirito from reaching Asuna.
* LightningBruiser:
** Kirito is this no matter what game he is in due to having SuperReflexes.
** Asuna is this in SAO, doing less raw damage but attacking and moving more quickly. More than once she's taken down opponents who've given Kirito trouble.
* LittleBitBeastly: The Cait-Sith, one of the nine playable races in ALO, are basically an entire nation of cat-people.
* LockAndLoadMontage: There's a short one in ''Caliber'', just before the heroes set out to challenge the quest and grab Excaliber.
* LockedRoomMystery: The short story "Murder Case in the Area" is about figuring out how someone was killed in town, in which players are normally immune to damage.
* LonersAreFreaks: Kirito and the few other solo players are seen as unusual for not joining guilds and going out to battle alone, something that is likely to get them killed. On the other hand, it's the reason Kirito is so skilled, and presumably the other solo players as well.
* LookBehindYou: In ''Intermission: Reason for the Whiskers''[[note]]previously known as ''Continuation: Aria in the Starless Night''[[/note]], Kirito says this to Kotarou and Isuke from the Fūmaningun guild who cornered both Argo and himself. They don't believe him at first, thinking it's a trick, but it isn't because a Trembling Ox just spawned behind them.
* LoopholeAbuse:
** Towns are safe zones, where players cannot be killed except in a duel. [=PKers=] discover that if you challenge someone to a duel while they're asleep, you can manually move their hand to accept, and then kill them without retaliation.
** Several people are killed in a town, without anyone seeing the duel victory symbol appearing, so everyone is confused as to how it's being done. Some of the victims think it's a ghost of vengeance, but Kirito and Asuna assume it's just a system exploit. [[spoiler:It turns out to be neither. The "victims" were faking their deaths to terrorize the man who murdered their guild leader. They took advantage of the fact that players can't be harmed in cities, but items (including armor) ''can'', and a destroyed item DisappearsIntoLight in the same way a dead player does. So they just stabbed themselves, faked being in pain, and when their armor was destroyed, teleported away.]]
* LootDrama: InUniverse example, played seriously. One early episode revolves around a younger character being bullied by a crooked guild trying to rob her of a rare item [[spoiler:that could revive her familiar]], and later in the season, several PlayerKilling incidents revolve around a guild that crumbled after a disagreement over how to use a rare ring that dropped from a mob.
* LordBritishPostulate: There are a number of areas in ALO that are locked simply by placing enough powerful enemies that no one should be able to pass. [[spoiler:The quest to enter the World Tree is this. The enemies themselves are on the low-end of the power scale, but they spawn infinitely. And if you ''do'' manage to get past them, the door will not open for anyone but a GM.]]
* LoveConfession: Recon gives an awkward one to Leafa in episode 23. She seems to reject it with a MegatonPunch, but it also seems to snap her out of her funk.
* LoveMakesYouCrazy[=/=]LoveMakesYouEvil: [[spoiler:Kyouji]]. [[StalkerWithACrush So]] [[MoralEventHorizon very]] [[IfICantHaveYou much.]]
* MagicSkirt: Averted, thanks to the physics engine which simulates gravity. Silica learns this the hard way.
* MaleGaze: Extremely frequent and made very, very squicky by its application to female characters who do not appear to have started puberty yet (Silica) or are in its beginning stages (Suguha), not to mention the unnerving focus given to Asuna's molestation and close call with tentacle rape. Small wonder people object to its being classified as a "gateway series."
** Conceivably, one could make the argument that since we are following 90% of the time either the perspective of the person being subjected to this trope or Kirito himself, who never looks anyway, the amount of attention paid is usually [[JustifiedTrope justified metaphysically]] to get the audience close to the level of disgust said person has for the action about to take place or taking place at the time. For example, when Silica is ambushed by the giant Venus Flytrap in "The Black Swordsman" episode, we don't see her underwear while she is suspended. The camera stays above her skirtline the whole time.
*** [[spoiler: A better example is when Sugou is drooling over Asuna's topless form while Kirito is impaled by his own sword and thus pinned down. By this point, it's quite clear how insane Sugou is, and while we can see parts of her bare breasts or the shape of her ass, much more attention is paid to how much Sugou is enjoying himself, and how much discomfort Asuna is in. The bastard licks her armpit, for Christ's sake. That's just fucking creepy, and makes it that much better when Kirito owns his ass at the end.]]
** Episode 2 of Season 2 has one of the male players ogling Sinon's avatar, staring at her legs and chest.
* ManlyTears: Happen from time to time, usually from [[HotBlooded Klein]].
* MarryThemAll: In the Noncanon Gaiden X2, which takes place at the end of the Underworld arc, basically all of Kirito's somewhat UnwantedHarem decide to just marry him in-game, and both [[OfficialCouple Kirito & Asuna]] agree, making the BattleHarem "official", at least for around 5 years of accelerated time. Non-canonical, especially since the Alicization arc is still being written, and [[spoiler: Ronie wasn't part of the harem (though Alice was)]].
* MassMonsterSlaughterSidequest: In ALO [[spoiler: Archduke Þjazi gives one to kill beast-type Evil Gods in order for players to receive Excaliber but in actuality the prize is Caliburn and for Jötunheimr to spread to Alfheim.]]
* MeaninglessVillainVictory: [[spoiler:During the aftermath of ''Fairy Dance'', it is discovered that even if Sugou had managed to perfect his MindControl research, it would have only worked with the (now-defunct) first-generation [=NERVgears=].]]
* MechanicalHorse: One of the modes of transportation in GGO.
* MeditationPowerup: In SAO, Meditation is a mental concentration skill that increases the rate of HP recovery and reduces the remaining time of negative statuses. However, due to its low efficiency and lame pose, not many players use it.
* MetalSlime: The Ragout Rabbit in SAO. They are very hard to find, and though it doesn't offer any extra money or EXP, they make for some of the best meals for anyone with a high enough Cooking skill to prepare it.
* MillionMookMarch: When they first reach the inside of the World Tree, it doesn't seem to be very well-guarded. However, once Kirito attempts to break through, they start showing up en masse. After Leafa and Recon try to help, the numbers grow even bigger, to the point that all you can see up there is a wall of guardians.
* TheMirrorShowsYourTrueSelf: Kayaba gives every player of SAO an item called "hand mirror", which forces the player avatars into the players' real-world appearance.
* ModestyBedsheet: [[spoiler: Asuna uses one after the RelationshipUpgrade.]]
* MoodWhiplash:
** In-universe. [[spoiler: Kirito and Asuna's RelationshipUpgrade. Asuna prepares to go all the way... and Kirito explains that he meant they should [[BackToBackBadasses stick together to watch out for assassins]]. It's a while before he can placate an embarrassed, raging Asuna, and the romantic mood is ''completely'' destroyed. [[CoitusEnsues Not that they let that stop them...]]]]
** Kirito's first meeting with Leafa and first [=ALO=] [=PvP=] encounter keeps jumping between "Laugh out Loud" and "LetsGetDangerous."
** In the first episode of the anime, OminousLatinChanting accompanies Kirito's departure from the Starting City, his mind in turmoil and anguish... and then the [[EarnYourHappyEnding hopeful determination]] of the OP kicks in.
* MookHorrorShow: Episode 19 has Kirito transforming into an appearance very similar to [[CallBack The Gleam Eyes]] and summarily wiping out a group of Salamanders pursuing him and Leafa. One gets impaled on his fingernails, one gets eaten by Kirito, one gets eaten by underwater high-level monsters when attempting to escape...
* TheMostDangerousVideoGame: This is the entire premise of the Aincrad arc [[spoiler:and, for 300 people, the Fairy Dance arc.]]
* MundaneUtility: Some players use [=VRMMO=]'s to do homework, not only because they won't get tired, but it can display a lot more screen data than would be possible at home.
* MutualKill: [[spoiler: Kayaba deals Kirito a mortal blow, but he lasts long enough to return the favor.]]
** [[spoiler: How Shino and Kirito end up as co-winners of the [=BoB=] tournament.]]
* MythologyGag: In one of the side stories, Kirito is called to test a new 4th Generation Full Dive Unit, and finds himself stuck in another virtual world battling [[LightNovel/AccelWorld Silver Crow]].
* NamesToRunAwayFromReallyFast: Arguably the Player-Killer guild "Laughing Coffin", though they're not ''that'' powerful[[note]]an alliance of all the top guilds managed to defeat them, and Kirito only had to kill two or three of them to prevent the good guys' defeat; how powerful can they be?[[/note]]. Any AI opponent whose name starts with "The" is a boss. Not something you want to try fighting alone, or even with your six best friends [[spoiler: well, unless you're Kirito]]. "The Skull Reaper" does double-time for fearsomeness, and [[ThatOneBoss more than lives up to that name in combat]]. "The Fatal Scythe" does ''[[SerialEscalation triple]]''-time [[spoiler:[[CrowningMomentOfAwesome until]] [[CurbStompBattle killed]] [[BigDamnHeroes by]] [[Characters/SwordArtOnline Yui]]]].
* NervesOfSteel: Kirito has his moments of angst but usually when it hits the fan, he's the one least visibly freaked out.
* NeverBringAKnifeToAGunfight: {{Defied|Trope}} by Kirito. In GGO, a gun-based MMO, Kirito chooses a light saber as his primary weapon despite it being viewed as useless by practically every other player because of its poor range. [[SuperReflexes He makes it work]].
** Although her [=ALfheim Online=] character is an Undine Healer, Asuna still carries her rapier, and she's only gotten better since her Sword Art Online days.
* NeverSleepAgain: It turns out some player killers [[spoiler: challenge people to duels and attack them while they're asleep]].
* NewGamePlus:
** What Kirito finds out about his avatar after he logs into ALO for the very first time. Because ALO uses a slightly earlier version of the same system as SAO, all of his skills that are common to both games and his money from SAO transfer over to his freshly-made character, though his HP, Items, and Equipment do not.
** When he later transfers from the revived SAO to GGO, he does much the same thing, though he arranges to store his items and equipment with Agil's shop so they won't have to be deleted. Because of the Seed forming the basis of all the new generation games, characters are increasingly capable of transferring from game to game, though incompatible items and such are still deleted.
* NewsTravelsFast: [[spoiler:News of Kirito's Dual Blades skill which defeated the 74th level boss.]]
** Kirito lampshades this when Argo sends him an apologetic congratulatory message, after the 1st level boss is defeated.
* NiceHat: Minor Phantom Bullet character Dyne sports a pretty awesome cowboy hat.
* NiceJobBreakingItHero: Kirito believes he did this when the Black Cats of the Full Moon was mostly wiped out.
* NoisyGuns: This trope is actually [[LampshadeHanging lampshaded]] by [[http://pastebin.com/tYmCvK58 Reki Kawahara in his live commentary of SAO II]]. The Type 54 pistol Death Gun uses, in reality, is a very tightly-fitted gun that would not be making random clicking noises when he brandishes it. Kawahara himself apologizes on behalf of any irritated viewers, as this is an [[OmnipresentTropes Omnipresent Trope]] in visual media.
* NoodleIncident: Kirito's last black longcoat was custom-made by Ashley, the renowned #1 tailor of SAO and who is very beautiful. Lisbeth suspiciously notes that Ashley will only take requests on custom-made items that interest her. Kirito nervously dodges the question, and we never do find out exactly how Kirito got Ashley to create his longcoat.
** How Kirito and Argo met and learned that each other was a beta tester.
* NormallyIWouldBeDeadNow[=/=]LastBreathBullet: [[spoiler: Kirito's health is reduced to zero during his fight with Kayaba, and the game gives him the "You are dead," message, but he uses the lag between his health hitting zero and him vanishing into light to deliver a blow to wipe out Kayaba's HP.]]
* NorseMythology: What [=ALfheim=] Online is mostly based on, with bits of other European fairy tales mixed in as well.
* NotTheIntendedUse: Outside System Skills, skills and abilities players use that are not programmed in the game. Notable ones are:
** [[SwitchOutMove Switch]]: A player switches with their partner after attacking the enemy, offsetting it, and the partner does a follow-up attack so the former can recuperate.
** [[{{Combos}} Skill Connect]]: In ALO, Kirito discovers he can chain One-Handed Sword Skills in order to compensate for not having the Dual Blades skill in the game. He uses One-Handed Sword Skills and controls his left and right arms separately. He has to be sure the timing of the next move is precise or it fails.
** Arms Blast: Kirito attacks the weakpoint of the opponent's weapon to destroy it.
** Spell Blast: In ALO, where Sword Skills also have magic attributes imbued, Kirito can cut magic spells. His inspiration comes from his slicing bullets in GGO.
* ObliviousToLove: Sorta {{Justified|Trope}} for Kirito since he already has a girlfriend so he doesn't really pay attention to other girls.
** He initially appears quite oblivious to Asuna's feelings for him, [[EveryoneCanSeeIt despite Furinkazan's knowing smiles]], but quickly wises up [[spoiler: after Kuradeel tries to kill them]].
* OfficialCouple: Yuuki Asuna and Kirigaya Kazuto (despite his [[UnwantedHarem growing list of fangirls]]).
* OffscreenMomentOfAwesome: Two are used in Episode 3 of the first season:
** The first is when Klein and his guildmates hold off some members of the Holy Dragon Alliance to buy Kirito some time so he can find a seasonal event boss. Kirito later returns to find them exhausted but victorious despite having been outnumbered.
** The second occurs shortly after the first one, when Kirito rushes towards Nicholas the Renegade. He later returns to Klein, and gives him the item he received for defeating the boss monster. What makes it fit the trope is the fact that this boss was supposed to take a group to defeat, and Kirito manages to [[OneManArmy solo]] it.
** A later example occurs during the Phantom Bullet arc's Bullet of Bullets tournament. After agreeing to work together to track down Death Gun, Kirito and Sinon split up to track down one of the two remaining Death Gun suspects, "Gunner X". However, shortly after splitting up, Sinon is paralyzed by the ''real'' Death Gun who is about to kill her. Well, fortunately, in the two or three minutes in which all of this occurs, Kirito finds "Gunner X," who is actually a female player named "Musketeer X," duels her ''and'' defeats her, and then proceeds to use her gun and smoke grenades to drive Death Gun off, saving Sinon. We're only ever treated to a shot of what Musketeer X looked like, as well as her avatar's corpse, and not the actual fight itself.
* OhCrap: Quite a few happen throughout the series:
** Kirito in Volume 1, upon realizing that he's in a CrashIntoHello situation with Asuna, and his hand has been automatically groping her, and he can't remember any of the placating statements he prepared in case he ever got into this situation.
** Kirito and Lizbeth, upon realizing that the cave they took shelter in is the nest of a high-level dragon boss... and it's coming home for breakfast (i.e., them).
** A Titan's Head player, upon realizing that the swordsman escorting the low-level Dragon Tamer they're targeting is none other than the Black Swordsman.
*** It's compounded when the guild realizes, to their terror, that not only does Kirito outlevel them by a significant degree, his healing factor counteracts all damage they do to him.
** Kirito again, when [[spoiler: Sugou attempts to knife him in the real world]].
*** And consequently, [[spoiler: Sugou when he realizes Kirito could do the same to him not a minute later.]]
** Level Bosses also tend to cause this reaction -- prominent examples are Kirito & Asuna's reaction to seeing the Level 74 boss, and when the Level 75 boss casually oneshots several clearers.
** In Episode 2 of Season 2, Sinon and her pug crew shit themselves when they realise the unknown target they'd dismissed is the well known mercenary player Behemoth, who's packing a ''[[GatlingGood minigun]].''
** Kirito once again has this look in Episode 5 of Season 2 after he wins his first match, and is approached by Death Gun. The latter, aside from looking very frightening and being [[NoSenseOfPersonalSpace way too close]] for comfort to Kirito, also asks some unusually specific questions to him, such as his name and use of a sword in his match. Kirito surmises that Death Gun is someone he knew in SAO, a fellow survivor, but isn't sure who it is. [[spoiler:Death Gun's Laughing Coffin tattoo narrows it down a little for him, but he's still not sure who that guy is.]]
** Kirito has another moment of this when he realizes one of the three Death Gun suspects in the Bullet of Bullet tournament, a guy named Pale Rider, ''isn't'' Death Gun [[spoiler: because he's about to be killed by the ''real'' Death Gun instead.]] He immediately starts yelling at Sinon to shoot before Pale Rider [[spoiler: is killed]].
* {{Ojou}}: Asuna happens to be the daughter of the [=CEO=] of [=RECTO=], which later on becomes the only producer of the improved version of [=NERVgear=] called Amusphere.
* OldSaveBonus: When he starts playing ALO, Kirito discovers that the game is a slightly earlier version of SAO, so all of his previous skills and stats that are in both games are converted over (his equipment, however, is corrupted and has to be discarded). Since he was one of the highest level players in SAO, and having nearly maxed many of his skills, he's automatically one of the strongest players in ALO and can defeat most players with just starter/NPC equipment.
** Becomes an official ability for any player, with the launch of "The World Seed". As all games run on the same software, players can transfer, and convert their characters between games, with the games calculating the equivalent stats, but have no access to any items or currency from the other game.
* OlderThanTheyLook: Perhaps not the case for Kirito, as he was a beta player for SAO, but Asuna initially assumes this is the case due to Kirito's experience in the game, only to be shocked that she is actually a year older than him.
* OneHitKill: What makes the Skull Reaper ''truly'' terrifying is its ability to do this.
* OneManArmy: All the integrity knights in Aliciazation. 50 of them can basically intimidate the entire dark kingdom, at least before [[spoiler: Vector shows up.]] Especially the higher order knights and their ultimate weapon skills, which can range from a [[spoiler: [[BeamSpam laser in the form of concentrated sunlight]] to a [[StormOfBlades storm of sword particles]]]].
** Of course, [[spoiler: Kirito and Eugeo]] in Aliciazation, whose own weapon skills are ridiculous [[AreaOfEffect AoE]] attacks. How strong are they? When [[spoiler: Kirito finally dual wields after his recovery, he [[CurbStompBattle deep freezes a 30,000 strong army in an instant!]]]]
** Special note to [[spoiler: Asuna and Leafa in Aliciazation]], both of whom [[HoldTheLine fend off thousands]] of {{mooks}} to save their respective allies.
* OverrideCommand: Occurs throughout the series,
** In the SAO arc, [[spoiler: Akihiko Kayaba, playing as the character "Heathcliff" uses his Administrator rights to be treated as an Immortal Object once he hits 50% HP. To further protect the illusion, an Auto Block trait activates, meaning no matter what, he will automatically move to position his shield perfectly to block any attack for no damage received. When his identity is revealed, Kayaba turns both off, but inflicts the paralysis status on everyone else but Kirito for a final duel.]]
** ALO: [[spoiler: Nobuyuki Sugou/Oberon uses his admin powers to use an over powered Gravity spell that was still in beta testing to prevent Asuna and Kirito from moving, then uses it to generate Excalibur, the strongest sword in the entire game and decreeing the safety levels on the pain inhibitors. Kayaba's uploaded consciousness however, doesn't take kindly to such tactics, and gives Kirito his top level Administrator access to turn the table on Sugou. This allows Kirito to enjoy having a CartharsisFactor moment, by showing just how weak Sugou really is without his false power to help, before starting a Curb-Stomp Battle with their own actual skill levels at fighting, and the pain limiter set to Zero.]]
** Yui, being a high level A.I. of the Cardinal system, likewise has unique powers at her command. As all full versions of the Cardinal systems were designed to be self-sufficient, with minimum input needed from a human game master, including fixing bugs and glitches, automatically adding quests and updates, Yui likewise has access to a number of features her self. She can override parts of the system when needed, or provide information to Kirito, Asuna, and the others as needed as to how the game is behaving.
** A number of players, especially Kirito, and Asuna, have managed to exceed normal limitations of the system. These "Outside System Skills" are often plausible, typically via using game skills [[NotTheIntendedUse in ways the devs didn't mean them to be used]], such as Kirito using Sword Arts to target an enemy's weapons or spells to destroy them, or timing their use so that he can activate multiple Sword Arts in a row with two sword, switching between them, so that while one's cooldown is in effect, he can swing with the other. Others, are using their own human abilities and skills, such as concentrating intensely to listen for someone moving through some bushes, while ignoring the normal natural sounds of the wind, or using a sword to block bullets by using a prediction line to know where to hold the sword.
*** There are other Outside System Skills though, that completely go beyond the bounds of both using loopholes in game rules, and even human ability, and completely override them. Kirito has developed an ability known as "Hypersense" that can detect a player's "killing intent" before he's even seen or heard them, allowing him to react to ambushes. Asuna has been able to break games Speed movement caps, moving faster than should be possible through any logical means, and [[spoiler: has even managed to break out of supposedly unbreakable Paralysis status effects to take a fatal blow for Kirito in game]]. How these are possible, is not quite yet fully understood, [[spoiler: though, the series introduces the theory of a Quantum Field, known as Fluctuating lights (Fluctlight for short), or more directly put, a person's consciousness or soul, if strong enough, is possibly being read by a player's [=NERVgear=] or Amusphere headset as an unusually strong mental command input, causing the game to temporarily override normal gameplay limits to comply with said input.]]
* PlayerKilling: Though very rare, it does happen. [[spoiler:There's an entire guild dedicated to it.]] Some of these incidents are due to the perpetrators not believing that killing another player would also kill them in real life, though it's noted that during the first year, despite there being around 1000 players choosing to become bandits in SAO, there was never a single incident of player killing. In later games, when players are no longer KilledOffForReal, PK becomes a core mechanic.
* PlotHole: Minor one. Shino [[spoiler: strikes Kyouji]] with a portable stereo. Not ten seconds later, it's back on the table where she grabbed it from. Considering a minor focus was made on the stereo when she went for it, you'd think they'd have paid a little more attention to its magical return to the table.
* PluckyGirl: Silica.
* PocketProtector: [[spoiler:In season 2, episode 14, Kirito narrowly avoids being poisoned by Kyouji because he hastily disconnected himself from the monitors at his Dive station and neglected to disconnect one of the electrode pads. Kyouji proceeds to inject him right on top of the pad, and although the needle has enough force to go through two layers of clothing it doesn't have enough force to go through two layers of clothing plus an electrode pad.]]
* PowerOfLove:
** Asuna's explanation for how she was able to pull her BigDamnHeroes moment, covering in five minutes a distance that took a full hour for Kirito's party. Granted, they weren't exactly sprinting, but still.
** Can also be considered during Kirito's [[spoiler:final fight with Heathcliff; his HP had already been reduced to zero, his body was disintegrating, and he still pulled out Asuna's sword and stabbed Heathcliff in the chest.]] Similarly during Kirito's fight against [[spoiler:Oberon, where he recovered from feeling the pain of swords rammed through his body without the usual pain-reducing technology and got up, gained GM privileges, proceeding to kick the ever-living daylight out of Oberon.]]
*** Same fight: [[spoiler: Asuna gets a really big moment when she [[TakingTheBullet takes a]] [[HeroicSacrifice fatal blow]] from Heathcliff to save Kirito, [[BeyondTheImpossible overcoming her paralyzed status to do so]]. Heathcliff comments that it shouldn't be possible for her to have broken out of the paralysis]] and even lampshades it.
---> '''Heathcliff''': So, things like this really do happen.
* PreexistingEncounters: In all [=VRMMOs=], although some enemies have some ways to conceal their presence in order to ambush players.
* PsychopathicManChild: [[spoiler:In his final conversation with Kirito and Asuna, Kayaba reveals that his main motivation for everything he did was to make the play world that he had always imagined as real as possible. He seems for the most part to be largely blind to the moral or ethical implications of what he has done.]]
* RainOfArrows: Sinon does this in ALO, in addition to acting like a CatGirl [[Film/LordOfTheRings Legolas]].
* RapeIsASpecialKindOfEvil: The characters who attempt it are murderers at the best.
* RealAfterAll: Episodes 5 and 6 deal with an apparently impossible murder, and players are led to believe that it was done by Griselda's ghost. Kirito and Asuna discover how it was really done, but afterwards they catch a glimpse of Griselda at her grave.
* RealIsBrown: The trope is played in a subtle way: the environments of the battlefields in GGO are all a drab brownish color. Contrast with the much more vibrant and bright colors of SAO and ALO. It's certainly an accurate reflection of the usual color schemes FPS games use in RealLife vs. [=RPGs=].
* RealityEnsues: It's a key theme in the ''Fairy Dance'' arc (Vol. 3 & 4) that the [[IKnowMortalKombat strength that Kirito gained in SAO]] doesn't really translate to the real world, because it's just a game.
** The other main theme is that virtual reality is just as real as 'real' reality. The relevant corollary is that you can't use game logic or meta-logic to get by in a [=VRMMO=]. Problems are solved by negotiation, planning, foresight, and flexibility, not hitting things until they submit.
* RecapEpisode: The [=OVA=], ''Sword Art Online EXTRA EDITION'' is a 1h 40 min. feature film. Roughly 75% of it is the characters remembering the events from the first season.
** In the second season, the fifteenth episode (though it's officially called episode 14.5), "Debriefing," is a more traditional recap episode where a voice-over from Sinon summarizes the Phantom Bullet arc over clips of recycled footage. However, it has a different opening and closing from the rest of the arc.
* RecycledInSpace: It's like ''Franchise/DotHack'' in its initial premise. Interestingly, both were written more or less around the same time, though it's only in recent years that Sword Art Online has been published.
** The ''Aincrad'' arc is basically a Sci-Fi Western in virtual reality instead of space. 10,000 people find themselves in a frontier with no means of communication to the outside world, and they must struggle to survive amid a world full of hostile beasts and outlaws. The hero is the sheriff who brings order to this frontier, relying on his strength and a small posse.
* RedBaron:
** Kirito gets titled as "The Black Swordsman," and is pretty well-known in SAO.
** Asuna is known as "The Lightning Flash," due to being one of the fastest players. In one case, she covers a distance in five minutes that took Kirito's party ''one hour'' to travel [[spoiler: to save Kirito from an AxCrazy guildmate no less]]. She's less keen on her ALO nickname, the "Berserk Healer."
** Shino is also known as "Hecate" in GGO, both after her anti-material rifle and for the Greek goddess associated with the underworld.
* RedHerring: The series leads you to believe that "Phantom Bullet" refers to Death Gun's bullet, but [[spoiler:it actually refers to Sinon's sniping ability.]]
* RedshirtArmy: The (Liberation) Army. A massive guild comprised of mostly low- to mid-level players with the intent of assisting the thousands of SAO players not on the front lines. They were influential to the game until they lost a staggering amount of their best players in the 25th floor boss battle. By the end of SAO the Army is 1/6th of the remaining players but is regarded as mostly [[PoliceAreUseless ineffectual]] and often [[DirtyCop corrupt]].
* RefugeInAudacity:
** How does Kirito prevent the leader of the [[spoiler:Salamander army]] from assassinating the leaders of the [[spoiler:Cait-Sith and Sylph factions]]? He shows up, declares himself [[spoiler:ambassador of the Spriggan-Undine Alliance, and warns the Salamander general that if he attacks, he'll be at war with four races, not just two]].
** It's also hilarious in hindsight when the reader recalls that [[spoiler:Asuna's ALO race ''is'' Undine (although at the time he said it, she wasn't). FromACertainPointOfView, Kirito ''is'' representing a Spriggan-Undine Alliance... [[BattleCouple all two members of it]]]].
** From the Material Editions, in SAO, while trying to defend Argo from two "ninja players" from the Fūmaningun gulid, Kirito claims that he is a secret agent of the government. [[spoiler: Another hilarious in hindsight due to him working with the government to investigate the "Death Gun" rumors in GGO years later.]]
** The entire concept of Death Gun.
* RoaringRampageOfRevenge: '''[[TearJerker Subverted]]''' in Episode 14. [[spoiler:After Asuna's HeroicSacrifice to save Kirito from a killing blow, she falls in Kirito's arms as her health bar hits zero and she disappears. After some despair, he slowly picks up Asuna's sword to use as his new off-hand sword, and stands up to renew his fight with Heathcliff as if he's going to get his revenge, but instead he's fallen into a HeroicBlueScreenOfDeath. His swing falls weakly, slowly, and with no technique. Kirito has no fight left in him. He is completely broken.]]
** Played mostly straight in the second arc. Although not exactly ''roaring'', [[spoiler:Kirito has no qualms about savagely killing Sugou's avatar Oberon when he sexually molests Asuna and gloats about his [[AttemptedRape intent to rape her]], both in-game and in the real world. Kirito cuts off one of his arms, then slashes him in half, and then throws his upper half in the air and lets him fall, ''[[EyeScream impaling him through the eye]]'' onto his sword--all of this with the pain absorber set to 0, which means that not only can Sugou ''feel'' all of this but also his real body is affected.]]
* RPGMechanicsVerse: Plenty of MMORPG terms are used, which makes sense since the cast ''are'' MMORPG gamers, after all. For instance, whenever characters fail at a strong effort of will, Kirito describes it as failing a saving throw.
* TheRuleOfFirstAdopters: It appears the SAO developers expected this, given that avatars are anatomically correct, and VR sex is actually possible, and practiced in-game. [[spoiler: Note CoitusEnsues in the YMMV tab.]]
* RunningGag: Kirito's general approach towards awkward male-female interpersonal relationships is to run away. [[spoiler: This includes to making his escape when Asuna invites him to stay overnight at her house... and meet her parents.]]
* SaintlyChurch: Which takes care of the younger players in SAO.
* SceneryPorn: OH YES! Several places of the game are deemed as such.
* SchmuckBait: [[spoiler:A hidden door in a dungeon leading to an empty room with a single treasure chest at the end. Sweet, free loot! Lets just ahead and open it because nothing bad could possibly happen, right?]]
* ScopeSnipe: The result of a sniper duel between [[spoiler:Death Gun]] and Sinon. [[spoiler:Luckily, Sinon moved her head to check the result of her shot, and narrowly missed Death Gun's bullet destroying her scope and where her head would have been. So did Death Gun.]]
* SecretTestOfCharacter:
** In ALO, while exploring the most dangerous region in the game where flying is impossible and raid-boss-level monsters abound, it's possible to encounter two raid-bosses fighting one another, with one boss clearly winning. Normal player behavior would be to watch and then either flee or attack and kill the bosses while they're preoccupied for their drops. However, [[spoiler:should the player(s) choose to help the losing monster, it is revealed that it's actually a secret event and will carry the player(s) to another location, where it will drop them off and stop moving. Should the player(s) actually choose to defend it against other players hunting it, it will carry them and start flying above a tower, revealing the location of legendary sword Excaliber, the most powerful sword in the game.]]
** The second part of the quest line also has several events that tests the party's character:
*** They discover a beautiful NPC woman locked in a cage begging for help. Savvy players will note that the NPC has an HP bar, and thus there is a high chance that the NPC will turn hostile and betray the party. [[spoiler:The NPC really is an ally and is necessary to successfully complete said quest.]]
*** Even after securing Excaliber, it isn't added to the player's inventory, and is incredibly heavy. [[spoiler:When the dungeon starts collapsing, the player finds that they cannot make the final jump to safety because Excaliber is too heavy, and is testing the player's greed and obsession about whether or not they're on this quest for the legendary sword or to save Alfheim.]]
* SenselessSacrifice: [[spoiler: Recon does one in Episode 23. He casts a self-destruct spell which opens up a considerable gap between the guardians in an attempt to allow Kirito to break through. Unfortunately, the gap closes itself within moments, although to be fair they had no way of knowing that.]]
* SequelHook: The anime ends [[spoiler:with Aincrad being restored in ALO and ''everyone'' from both SAO and ALO that appeared in the series flying towards it in order to try and conquer it. This scene seems all but designed to have even those who have not read the Light Novels begging for a second season.]]
* SequenceBreaking: After the battle to defeat the 75th level boss, [[spoiler:Kirito confirms his suspicion that Heathcliff, leader of the Knights of Blood, [[TheReveal is really Akihiko Kayaba]]. Kayaba notes that he eventually intended to reveal himself as the level 100 boss and decides that since the secret is out, he'll just head to the top now, but oh hey, he'll give Kirito the chance to fight him now, for all the marbles. Kirito wins, breaking the sequence, and the remaining 25 floors are never explored... until ALO!]]
* SexyDiscretionShot: Kirito and Asuna are about to have sex in chapter 16[[labelnote:*]].5[[/labelnote]] and at the end of Episode 10. The scene is cut off by a FadeToBlack in both the officially publised novels and the anime. However, there ''is'' an infamous chapter detailing the scene in graphic detail... [[IkeaErotica and with questionable quality.]]
** They make love again in [[http://www.taptaptaptaptap.net/sao-16-6/ Chapter 16.6]], the difference this time being that the author opts not to describe the scene.
* ShaggyDogStory: After [[spoiler:Sachi]] dies, Kirito learns of a resurrection item and goes through a lot of trouble to get it, with Furinkazan's help... and finds that the item has to be used within ten seconds of death. [[spoiler:Sachi]] died ''six months ago''. He ends up giving it to Klein, and resolving to never join a guild again.
* ShellShockedVeteran: Kirito, despite being good at hiding it. Not only does he still blame himself for the deaths of the Black Cats of the Full Moon, but he also harbors quite a bit of guilt over killing three Laughing Coffin members in self-defense.
* ShoutOut:
** Kikuoka apparently [[{{Anime/Pokemon}} watched an anime where]] everyone in real life suffered epilepsy around the country. This is, of course, referring to the now-banned Porygon episode.
** Towards the end of the Anime, Kirito kills [[spoiler: Oberon]] by stabbing into the sky at him in a scene very reminiscent of ''Gundam'''s [[Anime/MobileSuitGundam Last Shooting]].
*** Speaking of ''Gundam'', watch the [[spoiler:scene in which Kirito, Leafa and the Sylph/Cait-Sith alliance break through the Guardians]]. The [[spoiler:Cait-Sith's dragons]] wipe out a number of them in the same left-right pan as the [[Anime/MobileSuitGundamSEED remastered Freedom Gundam at JOSH-A]], and the [[spoiler:Sylphs']] {{Sword Beam}}s hit with the same shot composition and camera movement as the [[Anime/MobileSuitGundamSEEDDestiny Strike Freedom's dragoon-enabled Full Burst]].
** While going through a tunnel under a mountain, Kirito mentions to Leafa [[Literature/TheLordOfTheRings a book that he read]] in which the party also went under a mountain, only to be ambushed by Orcs and then meet an ancient demon. Moments later, [[spoiler:they are ambushed by a bunch of Salamanders]]. Just when [[spoiler:they're about to lose, Kirito transforms into a large demon engulfed in flame and tears apart the Salamanders, including some wizards]].
** The lightsaber in the ''Phantom Bullet'' arc is clearly intended as a ''Franchise/StarWars'' Shout Out, and Kirito is inspired to cut bullets thanks to seeing Jedi deflecting blaster bolts, though if he had read anything from said franchise's [[Franchise/StarWarsLegends expanded universe]] he probably wouldn't have tried.[[note]]Physical projectile meeting lightsaber blade equals molten super-heated remains of projectile finding themselves into the lightsaber wielder.[[/note]] The small droid that brings the item to him could also be a shout out to R2-D2 from the same series. In the anime, the photon sword even uses the same sound effects as a lightsaber.
*** The beam saber is also purple, which could be a reference to Mace Windu. This would make sense given that, just like Kirito, Mace Windu is known in his own universe for being an absolutely impossible badass at sword combat -- even by the standards of his peers.
** Mention is made of an American GGO player who won the first [=BoB=] tournament with only a pistol and a combat knife, alternating shooting with knifing -- a common build in ''[[VideoGame/ModernWarfare Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2]]'' (the leader Sinon is with in the beginning of the anime goes "[[MemeticMutation Go! Go! Go!]]"). The same player, in a later tournament, uses CQC to disarm his opponents and grab their weapons, strongly invoking the first ''VideoGame/MetalGearSolid4GunsOfThePatriots'' trailer, where Old Snake does precisely that.
** One random quest in SAO involves players hunting [[Franchise/TheTexasChainsawMassacre monsters wearing leather masks and carrying chainsaws]].
** In Episode 1 of the anime, when Klein attempts to log out, he performs [[{{Series/KamenRider}} Rider-1]]'s henshin pose.
** An extra character in episode 1 is a {{GIRL}} resembling [[VideoGame/TheIdolmaster Haruka Amami]].
** One gameplay element in GGO is a bullet path indication, where the HUD displays a green line (red in the anime) leading back to whoever is shooting at you. This was a Nanosuit option in ''VideoGame/{{Crysis}} 2''. In addition to this, the anime shows that the game accounts for wind speed, gravity, and ''humidity'', and when a player gets a shot the camera follows the bullet, all of these similar to ''VideoGame/SniperElite''.
** The wire-frame & vector shaded lead-in to each episode (or at least Episode 2) has some pretty clear allusions to ''Film/{{Tron}}''.
** Kikuoka mentions [[Film/TheTrumanShow a certain movie]] while explaining Project Alicization.
** In the anime, the entrance of the 74th floor dungeon is the same as the entrance to the place where the Holy Grail was kept in [[spoiler:''Film/IndianaJonesAndTheLastCrusade'']]; alternately, it's where the Primes were buried in [[spoiler:''Film/TransformersRevengeOfTheFallen'']] -- the ancient city of [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petra Petra]].
%%Is this the best way to protect these "reverse" spoilers? It's kind of hard to do it right. I feel like even mentioning Petra and the title could give away the plot.
** One underground dungeon in [=ALO=] strongly evokes [[VideoGame/TheElderScrollsVSkyrim Skyrim]]'s Blackreach in its environment and design.
** The green water bottles that show up occasionally in the anime (first at the table Asuna and Kirito eat at during [[spoiler: the murder investigation in Episode 5]], and again when [[spoiler: Kuradeel poisons Kirito and Godfree in episode 10]]) are dead ringers for [[VideoGame/TheElderScrollsVSkyrim Skyrim]]'s Alto Wine bottles.
** The LightNovel illustrations of Yuki's battledress show it's essentially a recolor of [[VideoGame/FateUnlimitedCodes Saber Lily's dress]].
** A chat between GGO players in the anime takes place on a live Website/NicoNicoDouga-esque stream. Among one of them is an avatar that suspiciously looks and poses like a [[Franchise/FinalFantasy Cactaur]].
** In Episode 7 of Phantom Bullet, we see a truncated list of the players in the [=BoB=] tournament. One of them is named Film/JackReacher.
*** Another one of them is named [[Anime/LupinIII JIGEN]].
** There are a lot of elements comparing this to ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyVII'':
*** Kirito is like Cloud as both are the main protagonists that have a SugarAndIcePersonality and are skilled swordsmen.
*** Asuna has comparisons with Aerith. Both are the love interests of the main character, have hints of red clothing, skilled with a blunt weapon and magic. Unlike Aerith [[spoiler:who dies by Sephiroth's hands]], Asuna [[spoiler:survives her encounter with Oberon]].
*** Suguha can be compared to Tifa as both are the [[{{Deuteragonist}} deuteragonists]] (although the former is only this in the Fairy Dance Arc), have black hair, are [[BoobsOfSteel busty]], skilled martial artists, and being related to the main character.
** In Episode 4 of Phantom Bullet, one player who is amazed by Kirito's bullet-dodging skills in the "Untouchable" mini-game looks like a grown-up [[WesternAnimation/AvatarTheLastAirbender Aang]] with dark skin.
** ''Anime/NeonGenesisEvangelion'' shout outs:
*** The gear worn to participate in the Sword Art Online experience - InUniverse - is called "Nerve Gear" (without it, there is no show); in ''Evangelion'', NERV is the name of the singular organization by which Shinji may interact with the Angels (without it, there is no show).
*** Asuna: a redhead [[SignatureStyle who wears her hair in the most peculiar way of the female cast]] and who also [[HeroesWantRedheads becomes the protagonist's primary love interest]]; finally, she's revealed to be in a coma in the second half of the first series. Compare her with Asuka -- Asuka Langley Soryu.
*** Near the end of the first season, they meet an incredibly intelligent [[spoiler: and immune]] A.I. character, who can only exist within the virtual reality of [=VRMMORPG=]: she behaves exactly like a human, but technically isn't; she pleads with Asuna and Kirito to be her surrogate parents (the former a direct shout-out, and the latter an inverse shout-out to Rei Ayanami); finally -- alongside her limited existence within artifical reality -- her name is Yui (both direct shout-outs to Yui Ikari).
*** At the end of Season 1, we learn the creator of the game is an eccentric, enigmatic man so dedicated to his work that [[Creator/HideakiAnno suicidal thoughts motivated his creative choices]], [[DrivenToSuicide to the point that he valued his work more than his life]]. [[Anime/NeonGenesisEvangelion The product of his efforts is now remembered by those who used it as a valuable, affecting experience adding to the value of real life]].
*** Episode 22 details Asuna's attempt to escape from her birdcage prison; as she attempts this, tentacle-monsters capture and [[{{Hentai}} man-handle]] her; in Episode 22 of ''Evangelion'', Asuka [[MindRape is mentally raped]] by [[EldritchAbomination an unprecedented monster]] -- the Angel Arael. Both episodes highlight the expectation of {{Fanservice}} from their {{Otaku}} audience.
*** In Episode 4 of Series II, Sinon leads Kirito through the world of Gun Gale Online, and takes him on an escalator ride that is an identical shot setup to one of the several instances Shinji and Rei travel the escalators inside NERV HQ.
*** In Phantom Bullet Episode 8, Kirito and Sinon have an UncomfortableElevatorMoment that [[http://i.imgur.com/MvtkCjq.png starts off]] looking exactly like ''Evangelion'''s infamous LeaveTheCameraRunning scene.
*** In Episode 13 of Series II, while speaking with Kirito and Sinon, [[FingerTenting Kikuoka strikes Gendo Ikari's signature pose]], complete with ScaryShinyGlasses -- they are almost identical.
*** MegumiHayashibara -- who voiced Rei Ayanami and, more importantly, Yui Ikari ([[TheProtagonist Shinji's]] mother) in ''Evangelion'' -- voices Asuna's mother, and, in keeping with ''[[SignatureStyle Evangelion's]]'' [[AllThereIsToKnowAboutTheCryingGame core emotive]], [[ParentalIssues this mother's presence immediately vexes Asuna]].
*** Ramiel -- [[MonsterOfTheWeek hostile Angel through episodes 5 and 6]] in ''Evangelion'' -- is the camera and cameraman for a group photo of the members of the "Sleeping Knights" guild in Episode 22 of Season 2.
* ShowDontTell:
** The treasure room that the Black Cats guild finds themselves in during Episode 3 of Season 1. They all find out that their teleportation crystals don't work in the room. This has implications later for when Kirito, Asuna, and Klein's guild find the Army trying to fight the level 74 boss in a room that they also can't escape from. Asuna then rushes into the room in a vain effort to try and save the surviving members, which draws Kirito and Klein into the room as well.
** The cowboy game played in Episode 4 of Season 2. Though Sinon explains the basics to Kirito, another player happens to try it out at the time, so he's able to watch said game in action. With Sinon's explanation and watching the game, Kirito is able to win it.
** In episode 9 of season 2, Pale Rider, one of the contestants in the [=BoB=] tournament, is seen getting hit with paralyzer dart by Death Gun, then suffering a hit from the latter's signature gun. The shot takes about a quarter of his health off, then he gets back up and points his shotgun at Death Gun. However, he then drops the gun and grasps his chest as if suffering a heart attack, then is disconnected from the game. Sinon then also suffers from this same attack at the end of the episode, and a gunshot is heard as the episode ends with Death Gun using her as a sacrificial lamb to find out if the Kirito in this game is the same as the Kirito from SAO by seeing if her death will launch him into an UnstoppableRage.
* ShutUpKiss: [[spoiler:Kirito does this to Asuna after his near-death experience with Kuradeel. She was in the middle of explaining why she needed to stay away from him for his sake, and this proves to be an effective counterargument.]]
* SignatureMove: In ALO, sometime after Sword Skills are implemented, Original Sword Skills are introduced where a player makes their own Sword Skill. The most notable [=OSSs=] are Salamander General Eugene's 8-hit "Volcanic Blazer," Asuna's 5-hit "Starry Tear," and Yuuki's 11-hit "Mother's Rosario."
* SingleStrokeBattle: Kirito does this to a wolf at the end of the first episode when he rushes off to the next village shortly after Kayaba tells the players they're stuck in the game. He also does this consecutively to two Salamanders right after he first arrives in [=ALfheim=] Online.
* SlasherSmile: [[spoiler: Kuradeel has one in Episode 10 as he hacks away at Godfrey and then slowly stabs Kirito in his arms and legs to prolong the suffering.]]
* SleepCute: Volume 7 opens with Yui sleeping on top of Pina, who is curled up and sleeping on top of Kirito's chest, while he's sleeping in his rocking chair. The scene is so d'aww, Asuna and every other girl in the room feels sleepy and thinks of joining them.
** Also, Asuna sleeping next to Kirito in "A Murder Case in the Area".
* SmallGirlBigGun: Sinon is described as having a doll-like avatar. She wields a [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hecate_II Hecate II]].
* SnowMeansLove: It's snowing during Kirito and Asuna's first meeting in the real world.
* SolidGoldPoop: A particular in-game dragon dropping is a rare ore used to make very good weapons.
* SomethingOnlyTheyWouldSay: Leafa/Suguha figures out Kirito is Kazuto when he finally mentions the person he's trying to save is Asuna.
* SpellMyNameWithAThe: In SAO, Boss monsters have "The" in their name.
* SpiderSense: In SAO, there is a hypothetical Outside System Skill called Hypersense, or feeling the presence of an enemy before you can actually see or hear them. It's hypothetical because since the skill is not listed in the database, no one can prove that it even exists. However, numerous characters have been shown to possess it, including Kirito, Klein, and [[spoiler:[=XaXa=].]]
* SpoilerOpening: Lots and lots of info is revealed in the anime's opening, like Kirito's Elucidator and [[spoiler: his eventual relationship with Asuna]].
** The opening for II reveals Kirito's [[DudeLooksLikeALady GGO avatar]] and his use of a beam saber and [[{{Foreshadowing}} foreshadows]] [[spoiler: Death Gun's true identity (one of them at least).]]
* {{Squee}}: Kirito's reaction to getting [[spoiler:Excaliber]], first when [[spoiler:Shino manages to trickshot it into her hands]], and then when he officially gets it as a quest reward.
* StalkerWithACrush: Asuna attracts a lot of these, all of whom are very dangerous. Shino has [[spoiler:Kyouji]].
* StandardFemaleGrabArea: [[ActionGirl Asuna]] is unfortunately subjected to this by the hands of Kuradeel. She is tougher than him, and likely could have broken free without help; Kirito simply intervened before this happened.
* StarScraper: Castle Aincrad is so big, it's essentially a world within a world (though it's actually the entire ''playable'' world of the in-universe SAO game). The largest floor is 10 kilometers in diameter, and each one is 100 meters high. Given that there are 100 floors, that makes it 10 kilometers high. But then, that's not counting the fact that it all ''floats in the sky''. The anime also depicts a massive structure extending almost as far ''down'', below the first floor.
* TheStinger:
** After the credits roll in the first episode, a list of names is shown. Some are them are gradually crossed out, while a text reads that two thousand players died in the first month alone, and floor 1 had yet to be cleared. The name under Kirito's is then crossed out.
** At the very end of ''[[CompilationMovie Extra Edition]]'', Kazuto's phone gets a call from Kikuoka, [[spoiler:[[SequelHook most likely concerning the Phantom Bullet case]].]]
* SuperPrototype: Nerve Gear is noted by former SAO players to be able to create a much more realistic virtual world than [=AmuSphere=]. This is due to the numerous safety precautions that were added to [=AmuSphere's=] design.
* SuperReflexes: Kirito has the best reflexes in SAO, which [[spoiler:Kayaba explains is why he received the [[DualWielding Dual Blades]] skill.]] This carries on into other games [[spoiler: using The Seed (SAO's engine)]]: in GGO, for example, he can dodge ''bullets''.
** Zekken Yuuki has even faster reflexes than Kirito; he suspects that if she'd been in SAO, she would have gotten the Dual Blades skill instead of him.
* SuperSpeed: Kirito can move ''very'' fast, as [[OhCrap his enemies find out]].
* SupremeChef: Asuna in SAO. She tries to replicate real world tastes in-game, since the in-game food is mostly horrible. And ''succeeds'' in taking weird ingredients and putting them together to create delicious food. In Episode 9, she mentions combining abilba seed, sagleaves, and oola fishbone to create something that tastes exactly like soy sauce. [[VideoGame/SuperRobotWars Ratsel Feinschmeker]] would approve.
* SupportingHarem: For some odd reason the number of female characters that get closer to Kirito keeps on rising volume after volume. Lampshaded by the author. Also, thanks to Kirito and Asuna being the OfficialCouple, their feelings for him remain unrequited.
* SurvivalMantra: The page quote, said by Kirito in the first episode of the anime, followed by a SkywardScream.
* SurvivorGuilt:
** [[spoiler: Kirito, the only survivor of the Black Cats of the Full Moon guild. Made worse because as a Clearer, he knew the area well enough that he could have prevented it just by warning them. The only thing that held him back was the fear of being hated for being a Beater.]]
** [[spoiler: This becomes a critical plot point when Asuna asks Kirito why he was always a solo player up until this point. He talks about the deaths he could have prevented of his previous guild, and how after that incident he felt that it was easier on his own. He does admit that he is reaching the limits of what a solo player can accomplish, so joining her guild isn't all bad for him.]]
** [[spoiler:Shiune of the Sleeping Knights ends up making a miraculous recovery and laments on being unable to keep her promise with Yuuki, Yuuki's sister, and her friends, that they will always be together.]]
* TakingYouWithMe: How Shino ends the [=BoB=] tournament in episode 13 of season 2. [[spoiler:She hands Kirito a live grenade, then hugs him so it will blow them both up. They die simultaneously and so both end up being the winners of said tournament.]]
* TeleportersAndTransporters: Crystals in SAO, which allow you to instantly return to the level's town area. Unfortunately, certain dungeons have anti-crystal fields.
* TemptingFate: Episode 3 is filled to the brim with this. [[spoiler:When talking to Sachi, Kirito keeps saying, "you'll survive," "you won't die," "you'll get out," and even when they're in the dungeon, one party member mentions how this will be a piece of cake.]] [[SarcasmMode What happened next shocked everyone, as it was totally unexpected]].
* ThanatosGambit: [[spoiler:Kayaba expected everything in the game and also that he would be defeated by the player Dual Sword Skill user, but never imagined that Kirito would catch up to his Heathcliff disguise quite so early on.]]
* TheComputerIsACheatingBastard: Well, The Admin Is A Cheating Bastard. [[spoiler:Heathcliff, a.k.a. Akihiko Kayaba]] abuses his admin powers in order to progress through the game disguised as a regular player.
* TheCakeIsALie: Supposedly, in [=ALfheim Online=], the first player to reach the city on top of The World Tree will unlock unlimited flight for their entire race. [[spoiler:The city does not exist, and the entrance gate to the top of the tree requires admin rights to open. See UnwinnableByDesign below.]]
* TheMostDangerousVideoGame: The basic premise of the Aincrad arc is that the players are trapped in a virtual world where if they die in the game, they die in real life, and they have to WinToExit.
* ThemeMusicPowerUp: Invoked any time "[[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H6NzqWI4HYU Swordland]]" or any of its remixes play.
** Asuna has her own theme in the form of "[[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQFW6BQ0y3o Luminous Sword]]", which noticeably returns (albeit remixed) in her battle against Yuuki.
** ''Sword Art Online: Extra Edition'' uses Season 2's opening theme, [[http://youtu.be/DY7EWUGq2O4 "INNOCENCE"]], as this [[spoiler: for the BigDamnHeroes moment during Kirito's second attack on the World Tree.]]
* ThereAreNoTherapists: Subverted. The AI that controls Aincrad created a program to monitor and repair the players' psychological states. However, said program was then forbidden from interacting with the players in any way. On launch day, when the creator announced that [[TheMostDangerousVideoGame they were all trapped, and anyone who died died for real]], the conflict between the program's core programming to help the players and the orders to not interfere created errors. [[spoiler:She eventually appeared in the game as a little girl named Yui, in order to become the daughter of two of the only happy players in the entire game: Asuna and Kirito]].
* ThereIsOnlyOneBed: [[spoiler: So Kirito has to sleep on the floor while Silica gets the bed.]]
** Strangely played straight AND subverted in Episode 3 with Sachi. Both of them get in the same bed, but absolutely nothing happens.
*** Kirito actually didn't know anything could happen. This was over a year before he even found out about the option to turn the Ethics Code off.
* ThereIsNoKillLikeOverkill: [[spoiler: Kirito shrugs off his wounds during his first assault on the World Tree until he gets a ''greatsword'' thrown through his chest. And then ''four more.'']]
* TheTalk: Played hilariously straight in the adorable Blu-Ray/DVD gag short ''Sword Art Offline Episode 4'', where Yui innocently asks Kirito, Asuna and Kline "Mommy said she wanted lots of children; how do you make children?" Asuna tried to be frank ("You see dear, when mommies and daddies want babies they go to the bottom of the menu and turn off the Morality-Code..."), to be bluntly stopped by Kirito ("When Mommies and Daddies get married, it unlocks a quest where the stork brings a baby from the cabbage patch"); when Yui starts crying that she's not really Kirito and Asuna's daughter, Klien dodges the bullet by telling her "Actually Yui, we're all really just cabbage people", which to the trio's relief she happily accepts.
* ThisIsUnforgivable: Kirito says this [[spoiler: when he discovers that the quest in ALO for granting unlimited flight is a lie and Leafa's/Suguha's]] dream would not come true.
* ThreePointLanding: Kirito as a Spriggan fairy in ALO, complete with BadassLongcoat, pulls one off as he assaults the World Tree for the first time as shown in the anime adaptation.
* ThreeStrikeCombo: The One-Handed Sword Skill "Savage Fulcrum", whose strikes resemble tracing the number "4"[[note]]a left horizontal slash, upper right slash, and a short-ranged high-powered downward slash[[/note]].
* TimeSkip: Between different arcs.
* TitleIn: Literally every episode (and this goes double for the opening of arcs) of the Anime contains an example of this, usually to establish the series as properly TwentyMinutesIntoTheFuture. Used explicitly with an EstablishingShot.
* TooAwesomeToUse: In the manga and light novel, everyone is shocked when Heathcliff casually uses a Corridor Crystal to open a portal to the 75th floor boss. A Corridor Crystal is an incredibly rare item that can only be found in dungeon chests or a monster drop; it's not something to be wasted. [[spoiler:This is one of the clues that Heathcliff is actually Kayaba, since as the GMPC, he can call forth any item and thus cannot understand the true value of the item he just wasted.]]
* TooDumbToLive: Corbatz. He decides to take on a boss with his exhausted army, despite being warned against it. Even while being beaten by it, he refuses to retreat. He predictably dies from his stubbornness.
** The {{Virtual Ghost}}s AI called "Fluctlights" will not kill no matter what. The project staff which created them try to induce famines and diseases in an attempt to stimulate violence and are baffled when the AIs are such PerfectPacifistPeople that they would rather [[SenselessSacrifice let entire populations die off]] than sacrifice some to save others.
* TookALevelInBadass: Well, it ''is'' an RPG, and everyone's basically fighting for their lives.
** Asuna goes from being a scared girl who hides in an inn to the second-in-command of the strongest guild in Aincrad.
** Klein starts the game as a helpless noob who can't kill the weakest in-game enemy, but over time turns into the leader of a BadassCrew.
* TrailersAlwaysSpoil: A variant. The opening shows Kirito and Asuna beating the monster they're shown fleeing in terror from in Episode 9.
* TranquilFury: [[spoiler:Kirito, once he gains administrator privileges in ''[=ALfheim Online=]'', proceeds to off on Sugou with application, remaining perfectly calm, until the very last blow.]]
* TruceZone: You can’t hurt anyone ''fatally'' in towns in SAO. This generally serves to prevent player kills, though it's still possible to knock people out if specific circumstances are met. The only exception is if both players agree to a DuelToTheDeath.
** Asuna's wooden house on level 22 of the revived Aincrad is unofficially this for ALO players. Which causes some awkwardness when the leaders of opposing factions drop in for dinner...
* TrueCompanions: Kirito and his friends became this after the SAO arc.
** The Sleeping Knights all met in the Serene Garden[[spoiler:, which is a VR hospice for terminally ill patients]], and partied together from VR game to game afterwards.
* TwentyMinutesIntoTheFuture: The series is certainly this, though when the novel was written this future was more distant - as of late 2014 virtual reality technology is steady in development, and while Full Dive technology might not be available within the next decade it's becoming infinitely more feasible - it isn't unreasonable to assume the development of technology on the timescale the show provides, granted we make a few significant breakthroughs before 2022.
* TwoGirlsAndAGuy: Kirito, Asuna, and Suguha.
* UltimateGamer386: Common for each of the story arcs, as they all take place in a virtual world. Most notable in SAO, where both Heathcliff and Kirito become this.
* UnderestimatingBadassery: This happens to Kirito a lot in Volumes 2-7, though it's justified as Volume 2 involves interactions with people who haven't heard of him, and in ALO and GGO, he doesn't have the same rep he had in SAO and is an unknown quantity. Ironically, the top-level players in ALO know who he is, but the middle to lower players have never heard of him.
* UnsettlingGenderReveal:
** [[spoiler:"Freya," to Klein. Unsettles everyone else present as well.]]
** Kirito to Sinon in episode 5 of season 2. The latter assumed he was a girl due to his very feminine appearance, until he shows her his stat info. She doesn't take it too well, as she's stripped down to underwear at the time.
* UnstoppableRage: Silica enters this momentarily after Pina's HeroicSacrifice, in the light novels. Subverted in that it turns out to be quite stoppable.
* UselessUsefulNonCombatAbilities: Many of the skills in SAO are utterly unrelated to dungeon crawling. Some of them are indirectly useful (such as creating/maintaining equipment), and others aren't. When they first meet, Kirito wonders why Asuna would waste the time needed to grind the Cooking skill to the maximum level, although he changes his tune pretty quickly after tasting her food. After [[spoiler:they marry]], he gives up the two-handed sword skill (which he probably didn't use much anyway after picking up [[spoiler:dual-wielding]]) to learn the Fishing skill.
* UnwinnableByDesign: In ALO (while it was still under control of RECTO), [[spoiler:the lore says that the first race to reach the top of the World Tree and go to the city in the sky will become Alfs (Alves?). The boss monsters that the players would have to pass/defeat have a ridiculous spawn rate and the door won't open for anyone without Admin privileges. This is because Nobuyuki Sugou and his team are using the tree to hold and experiment on the 300 minds they captured from SAO.]]
* VideoGameCaringPotential[=/=]VideoGameCrueltyPotential: Kirito, especially after his first year or so in Aincrad, deliberately invokes the former and avoids the latter. [[spoiler: Before they become friends, he even fights a duel with Asuna to protect [[NonPlayerCharacter NPCs]] from being used as distractions to the Boss in the upcoming Boss Fight.]] He {{discuss|ed Trope}}es the latter trope with Silica in Episode 4 and with Leafa in Episode 19.
* VillainBall: The villain of the second arc, from his first appearance. [[spoiler:You just looked straight at a guy who spent two years saving six thousand people and outright told him that you convinced his girlfriend's parents to exploit a legal loophole and force her to marry you while she's helpless and comatose. And you ''don't'' think this is going to blow up in your face?]]
* VillainRespect: Akihiko Kayaba is genuinely impressed that Kirito and Asuna were able to actually defy the physics of his game through [[HeroicResolve sheer force of will]]. In his mind, this essentially proves the tenacity of humans -- which was what he was trying to study all along.
** Comes up in ALO where Kirito, defeated by Sugou's GM powers, is visited by Kayaba's ghost, who is confused by how Kirito has seemingly given in to Sugou's power. He then [[SympathyForTheHero gives Kirito his admin access]] to level the playing field.
* VomitDiscretionShot: When Shino pukes during her panic attack during Season 2 Episode 3, the camera helpfully gives a view of the floor of the room she just vacated.
* TheWarSequence: The Grand Quest in [=ALfheim Online=] can be considered this; a motley crew of players (or maybe even a solo player) fighting their way through hoards of Guardian enemies. [[spoiler:Kirito fails the quest on his first attempt, but succeeds later with help from Leafa, Recon, and the Sylph/Cait-Sith alliance as backup.]]
* WhamEpisode: Sigh... Even an MMORPG anime can have it!
** Episode 1: At first this was like your typical MMORPG until the rules unexpectedly changed. [[WinToExit No logging out until you clear the entire game, which will take ''years'' even for the best player]]. [[TheMostDangerousVideoGame Also, if you die in the game, you die in real life]].
** Episode 14: [[spoiler:[[TheReveal Heathcliff is Kayaba]].]]
** Episode 17: [[spoiler:Sugou is playing ALO as Oberon the Fairy King. Sugou is the one keeping Asuna and the other 299 players prisoner. ALO is nothing more than a front for Sugou's experiment in using the Full Dive technology for mind control.]]
** Season 2, Episode 5: [[spoiler:Kirito comes face-to-face with Death Gun, and not only is he another SAO survivor, he was part of Laughing Coffin, and he has a grudge against Kirito.]]
** Season 2, Episode 11: [[spoiler: The reason Death Gun can kill is because he has an accomplice in the real world, and said accomplice has broken into Shino's apartment, ready to kill her.]]
** Season 2, Episode 13: [[spoiler: Kyouji is Death Gun's "other hand", and he's completely snapped and wants to go ahead with killing Shino anyways.]]
** Season 2, Episode 22: Asuna learns more about why Yuuki and the other Sleeping Knights suddenly tried distancing themselves from her when she attempted to join their guild. [[spoiler: The guild is made up of terminally ill people, and the reason it's disbanding is because Yuuki is dying of her terminal illness. Which is '''AIDS'''. Despite finding out the truth, Asuna still wants to spend what little time Yuuki has left to help her GoOutWithASmile.]]
* WhamLine: From Episode 23:
-->'''Yui''':[[spoiler:Players were never meant to open this door.]]
** From Season 2, Episode 18:
--->'''Lizbeth''': ''[quoting Kirito]'' "If Zekken had been in that world, then rather than me, [[spoiler:the Dual-wielding skill would have been awarded to them.]]"
** From the very first episode:
-->'''Klein''': "Huh? Where'd the log out button go?"
* WhatCouldHaveBeen: Invoked by Akihiko Kayaba [[spoiler:aka Heathcliff]] when Kirito [[spoiler:exposes his identity.]] Apparently the plan was to continue [[spoiler:leading the players]] until about 10 floors before the final floor and [[spoiler:betray them rather publicly]], revealing himself to be the final boss to await the rest of the players at the final floor. Needless to say, this doesn't happen.
** Supplemental material shows that Silica's dragon Pina would have become his mount and a sub-boss.
* WhatIf: The side story ''Caliber SS''[[note]]SS stands for Sukoshi Shippai, which translates to Slight Failure[[/note]] retells the events of ''Caliber'' but with the twist of Klein not freeing Freya. It shows how different the events unfold from their slight slip-up. [[spoiler:The BigBad wins, but there's a bit of hope: the system generates a [[GondorCallsForAid Defense of the Realm]] event, calling all players to defend ALO from the Frost Giants]].
** The video game ''Sword Art Online: Infinity Moment'': [[spoiler:What would happen when a glitch interrupts the death duel between Kirito and Heathcliff, forcing the players to continue clearing to the 100th floor while some players from ALO arrive in SAO?]]
* WhatMeasureIsANonHuman?: On the 56th floor, Asuna, Kirito, the Knights of Blood, and various other players were debating on the strategy they would use to fight the floor boss. Asuna proposed to use the nearby NPC villagers as a distraction while the players attacked the boss. Kirito refused to help, saying that the [=NPCs=] are alive and that they should choose another way. Everyone in the [=KoB=] laughed at him, but in the end, Asuna believed that he was right. This also forms the core theme in the [[spoiler:Alicization arc]].
* WhatYouAreInTheDark: In ALO, Leafa learns that [[spoiler:the Salamanders are preparing to ambush the leaders of the Sylph and Cait-Sith races at their conference place. Leafa tells Kirito that it's in his best interest to cut her down and join the Salamanders, because if they successfully kill both leaders they'll obtain so much money that they should be able to successfully start challenging the World Tree. She even tells him that she understands and won't hold any grudge against him, but thinks to herself that she will likely never play ALO again if that happens.]]
-->'''Leafa:''' This is a game after all, so anything can happen. If you want to kill, then you can kill; if there is something you want, then you can steal it.\\
'''Kirito:''' ...People who've said that, I have met too many of them. On one level, that is true, and I used to think that way too. But it isn't right. Especially in a virtual world, there are some things that you must protect, no matter how stupid you look. I was taught that by a person very important to me... [=VRMMOs=] are called games, but this is a contradiction; splitting the player and the role is not a good idea. If you take on traits in this world, your personality in the real world will reflect those changes. Players and their character are one. I like Leafa, and I want to be your friend. No matter what the reason, I will not kill you to further my own self-interests, absolutely not!
* WinToExit: Unless the final boss of SAO is defeated, players will remain trapped in the virtual world until they die one way or another.
* WorldTree: The setting of Volume 3 has one, which holds the goal of the game, called Yggdrasil. Unsurprising, since its setting heavily relies on Nordic terminology.
* WorthLivingFor: Kirito, when paralyzed and being stabbed by AxCrazy [[spoiler:Kuradeel]], thinks of Asuna and moves his hand to try to stop the blade. ''That'' doesn't work. [[spoiler:But Asuna pulls a minor RealityWarper with the PowerOfLove to [[BigDamnHeroes come in and save Kirito with an antidote/healing crystal]].]]
* WorthyOpponent: Many of Kirito's opponents, such as General Eugene, become this. Kirito usually doesn't hold any grudges, either.
* WrongGenreSavvy: In the "Caliber" sidestory in Volume 8, thanks to his experience as a gamer, Kirito fully expects [[spoiler:NPC Freya, who's conveniently locked in a cell while looking for her treasure in the Frost Giant castle, to double-cross them. Except that the quest is based on NorseMythology, specifically a legend in which Thor infiltrates the Frost Giant stronghold disguised as Freya, to retrieve the stolen Mjolnir; NPC Freya becomes party ally NPC Thor when they fight the final boss.]]
** Well, in a way he was right. Freya certainly was a [[spoiler: [[IncrediblyLamePun trap]]]].
* YamatoNadeshiko: In ''A Murder Case in the Area'' we learn the story of Griselda, a sweet HouseWife who was caught in the game alongside her husband [[spoiler: Grimlock]], then rose to the challenge of becoming a guildmaster. [[spoiler: Bad thing? Grimlock has a FreakOut due to both the stress and seeing that she was [[PluckyGirl more successful and independent]] than he thought she was, so he ''killed'' her.]]
* YearInsideHourOutside: In Volume 9, beginning the Alicization arc, Kirito has a part-time job as a beta tester for a new [=VRMMO=] that uses time acceleration: several weeks in-game are a weekend in the real world... at least at first. [[spoiler: In the non-canon sidestory after Alicization ends, Kirito and harem spend ''fifty thousand'' hours (5 years 8 months) on an in-game honeymoon, while five hours pass in the real world]].
** [[spoiler: However even those 5 years pale in comparison to the ''Two Hundred years'' Asuna and Kirito spend in the Underworld at the conclusion of Alicization, with an FLA of 5 million.]]
* YouGottaHaveBlueHair: It's mostly averted in SAO; because the [=NerveGear=] scans the player's face and body, which is loaded as the avatar, most players -- who are Japanese -- don't have the complexions to match exotic hair colors. Only a few players have exotic hair colors, and changing color requires getting dye items from a monster drop.
** Played straight in ALO and GGO, which function closer to conventional [=MMORPGs=]. Hair color is completely customizable -- Asuna and Shino have blue hair in ALO.
* YouAreTooLate:
** In the (non-canon) bonus side story ''Caliber SS'' (Failure Side), the characters follow the events of Caliber and miss an important EventFlag, which results in their being unable to stop Alfheim from being attacked by the Frost Giants. It does, however, imply they will go on to battle the BigBad before he can bring any more destruction and hopefully restore the world in the process.
** Also played tragically straight in "Red-nosed Reindeer", when Kirito tries to find a rare mob that drops an item that can revive a dead player around Christmas time. [[spoiler: He does, and manages to get it, but finds out that the item can only be used within 10 seconds of the player's death, about 6 months too late to save Sachi, who died back in June. He gives it to Klein in the hopes that he can save someone in the future.]]
*** On that note, [[spoiler: the death of Sachi and the other Black Cats of the Full Moon. Kirito is fighting through the hoard of monsters with all his might, striking them down as fast as he can, but one by one, his comrades are killed in front of him, with Kirito just out of reach to save them.]]
* YouShallNotPass: These incidents happen from time to time, and are usually awesome.
* ZergRush: The guardians of the World Tree employ this tactic. Yui later mentions after Kirito's first encounter with them that although individually they're rather weak, the sheer amount of them means they're as tough as an elite boss.
* ZeroApprovalGambit: Kirito protects the other beta testers from being ostracized by taking all the hatred on himself. A fragmented playerbase wasn't going to kill any bosses.
* ZettaiRyouiki:
** Asuna's SAO outfit.
** Silica also has this.
** Leafa's ALO outfit also sports these.
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