Due to the Loads and Loads of Characters present in Sword Art Online, it's unsurprising there have been a lot of fan favorites that have spawned over the years.
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Debuting in Aincrad
- Argo is easily considered one of the most interesting characters and one of the biggest examples of wasted potential in the series. Her presence in the light novel gives her a very colorful personality of sarcasm and greed as a Knowledge Broker. She's also loved for endlessly trolling Kirito and Asuna. The anime had her Demoted to Extra and only appearing in a brief scene for one episode. Notably, the Progressive rewrites for the Aincrad Arc went out of their way to make Argo a recurring side character and Ascended Extra, and the whole game continuity turned her into a Guest-Star Party Member and potential love interest for Kirito before being Promoted to Playable as the games went along. This finally reached its apex with her surprise reappearance at the very end of volume 21 of the light novels, with the implication of reintegrating into the main cast.
- Lisbeth and Silica. While they don't really qualify these days anymore given their status as Breakout Characters who were made into Ascended Extras. These two girls were insanely popular back in the days of Season 1, despite only having a single episode each focusing on them. These two ended up becoming two of the most heavily marketed characters of SAO, dominating merchandise and with prominent focus in video games. They eventually even gained their own spin-off in the form of "Girls Ops".
- Klein and Agil are HUGE examples. As two of the most likable characters in the series, a large amount of fans wanted THEM to have their own spin-off and even Kawahara agreed with it. Klein takes the cake for acting like such a bro to Kirito, showing genuine emotion, and being a damn good fighter and guild leader whose entire guild survived from inception to finish. While Agil is the responsible Token Adult among the kids who acts as the voice of reason and even runs a Good-Guy Bar, with just a bit of Vitriolic Best Buds with Kirito thrown in.
- Sachi, Kirito's first love who tragically lost her life. Her single episode is often hailed as the best in the Aincrad arc and virtually everyone was saddened to see her go. It's not uncommon for people to wish Kirito ended up with her instead of Asuna, with some feeling his love for Sachi was more believable. Unlike Yuuki, fans were further disappointed that Sachi was not Spared by the Adaptation in the video games.
- Kizmel from Progressive, an NPC Dark Elf who displays a very advanced AI and befriends both Kirito and Asuna. Regarded as one of the most interesting characters from Aincrad with many wishing she had appeared in the anime.
- Kayaba himself. He's deemed the most iconic villain who was responsible for the entirety of the series being possible to begin with. Many feel he was greatly underused, especially compared to his despised successor Sugou. It helps that he's one of the most sympathetic antagonists, being an Affably Evil Fair-Play Villain with he and Kirito holding mutual respect and considering each other to be Worthy Opponents.
- The two players from the pilot who are revealed to be a G.I.R.L. and an overweight male, with the G.I.R.L. wearing the female armor in all his subsequent appearances. For a pair of unnamed characters with a few scattered cameos, they get a huge amount of attention in the fandom. Their possible Relationship Upgrade was pretty well received, as is their reunion in real life where they embrace upon meeting for the first time. Integral Factor finally provides their names with the G.I.R.L. named Miyurin and the fat guy named Ulrik.
- Godfrey, who is killed off after 4 minutes of screentime is this. His bro-ness personality and appearance reminds viewers of another Ensemble Dark Horse: Rider.
- The Gleam Eyes is fondly remembered as one of, if not the most, iconic bosses of Sword Art Online. It was one of the most brutal boss fights shown, and forced Kirito to unleash his Dual Wielding unique skill to put an end to its threat, resulting in a truly spectacular visual display.
- A small niche of fans (and some non-fans, ChubbyChasers, and furries/scalies) tend to like Illfang the Kobold Lord due to his design.
Debuting in Alfheim Online
- Alicia Rue the Cait Sith Lord. A very perky girl who cheekily flirts with Kirito. Quite memorable as a character despite her limited scenes.
- Yuuki, the Deuteragonist of Mother's Rosario, is proven to be insanely popular within the fanbase, mainly due to her deep friendship with Asuna and being one of the few characters who can beat Kirito in a fair fight. This is further reinforced and lampshaded by Kirito himself, who noted that she would've been an Invincible Hero if she had learned Dual Wielding in SAO. Sadly, she's Too Cool to Live and many fans are mourning over her passing. Though she did end up being Spared by the Adaptation in the video game continuity thanks to her Popularity Power.
- Kuro/Lux from the Girls Ops spin-off manga, who is a Distaff Counterpart and Identical Stranger to Kirito. However she's much more warmly received than Kirito for her more complex personality and sympathetic backstory.
- Tonkii the elephant-jellyfish hybrid from the Calibur arc that Leafa befriends is quite loved among the fandom.
Debuting in Gun Gale Online
- While not really a true character, Kirito's feminine looking GGO avatar or "Kiriko", is extremely popular in the fanbase. Expect any AU with a genderflipped Kirito to use said appearance and even name. The amount of fanart for him/her rivals that of the standard Kirito. Some fans even jokingly claim Kiriko to be their favorite SAO girl.
- Death Gun is often considered to be one of the best villains of the series. Unlike his predecessors he isn't a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing or an Orcus on His Throne and actively serves as a constant threat throughout the arc, with the mystery of who he is and how he does what he does. There's also the sheer Creepy Awesome theatrics that's put into his character which makes him visually intimidating. Further delving into his character actually reveals a very deep and fleshed out motivation behind why he killsnote , unlike Kayaba who's motivation was never explained or Sugou who was just one-note and generic.
- Natsuki Aki, Kirito's personal nurse in charge of his rehabilitation. She was first seen in the Phantom Bullet arc where she already garnered a lot of fans. Her return in Alicization was met with joy.
- The one particularly psychotic Laughing Coffin member, seen during the Knights of the Blood Oath's raid on Laughing Coffin HQ. He manages to kill three members despite being surrounded and his HP already reduced to red. He was an especially memorable character for how brutal and batshit crazy he was, giggling madly as he stabbed others to death, with lots of viewers commenting on him and singling him out.
Debuting in Ordinal Scale
- Yuna only appears for this film, but is insanely popular among fans. In fact it's hard to find someone who doesn't like her, due to the fact she's an AI idol who has given some of the most beautiful songs seen in the series. It was saddening for many fans to see her go.
- Ain-chan. The drone that Yuna rides on while singing and serves as her mascot. It remained unnamed for an extensive period of time, where fans constantly requested for its name, before finally Miki, Itou, and Kawahara decided to name it in a Behind the Scenes interview for Ordinal Scale.
- Eiji, has quite a large fanbase. He's easily one of the most sympathetic villains in the entire franchise, with him being Driven to Villainy out of grief. He's also depicted as a dark mirror to Kirito, with the two boys having similar histories in SAO, only with Eiji having a less happier outcome. There's also those who like him just for being a pretty boy.
- The unnamed Ordinal Scale player with a Tiger avatar has a lot of attention due to how much he stands out, curiosity over how he acquired said avatar, and his fighting style of using a rocket launcher.
Debuting in Alicization
- Eugeo, despite being the deuteragonist of the first half of Alicization, many felt he was underused. He's quite possibly the most loved male character, being Kirito's answer to Asuna's Yuuki, but with such a fleshed out and sympathetic backstory along with a fair amount of Character Development. In fact polls show Eugeo might very well be the most loved Alicization character and in the running for most popular character period.
- While Alice Synthesis Thirty doesn't really count given she's permanently joined the main cast, there is the other less featured Alice Zuberg, the Childhood Friend of Kirito and Eugeo. Taken away from her home at the age of 11, she was kind hearted and bubbly, with Eugeo viewing her abduction as My Greatest Failure. She was never allowed to grow up given she was forcefully extracted by the Synthesis process and replaced with Alice Synthesis Thirty.
- Selka Zuberg who is Alice's little sister gained a lot of popularity for her cute design and a Nice Girl who looks after Kirito.
- Sortiliena "Liena" Serlut, Kirito's senpai in Swordcraft Academy during Alicization, beloved for her pretty design and being a badass Action Girl.
- Tiese and Ronye, the valets of Eugeo and Kirito respectively. These two girls garnered a tremendous following the instant they were introduced, with fans falling in love with how moe and cute they were. The amount of fanart existing of these two is staggering, to the point where someone unfamiliar with the series would mistake them for main characters. SAO merchandise is all to aware of this and has been marketing these two just as heavily as any of the other main SAO girls. Though Tiese overall has a greater number of fans by virtue that she was featured more in the story and had more time to be explored as a character.
- Cardinal. A Little Miss Badass who is Wise Beyond Her Years and the Big Good of Alicization, who is overall deeply loved by the fandom.
- Quinella is quite possibly the most loved SAO villain of all time. Adored for her complexity, the gracefulness of her villainy, her immense godlike power, and of course her attractiveness.
- Fizel and Linel. The two mischievous Token Mini-Moe Integrity Knights who are the embodiment of Cute and Psycho.
- The Central Cathedral elevator operator who's briefly seen in Episode 16. Fans hearts went out to her given she has one of the saddest and most pitiful existences in the Underworld. For 107 years, she's done nothing besides operate the elevator, eat and sleep. She's even forgotten her name and the only thing she wants to do if she's released from her Calling is fly the elevator through the sky.
- Bercouli Synthesis One is very fondly remembered for being a very kind and honorable Integrity Knight, even to his foes and acts as a Father to His Men.
Video Game Continuity
- Strea and Philia have huge fanbases for their colorful personalities and interesting backstories. Strea is beloved for being Fun Personified and her assets, while Philia is deemed to have some of the greatest amount of character growth out of the cast with her Dark and Troubled Past. Many fans wish these two will one day get introduced into canon.
- Rain and Seven endeared everyone with their sisterly love and made for a far more interesting plot in ALO than Sugou did. Proof of Seven's popularity can be seen with fans constantly requesting Seven be added to a future game whenever she isn't in the original line-up. In addition, Rain's popularity was further bolstered thanks to Memory Defrag where she's one of the biggest Crutch Characters available.
- Zero from Hollow Realization, who was derived from an AI set up on the internet who would interact with fans and learn from responses they taught her. She has a lot of amusing dialogue such as "Official waifu status will one day be mine..." or "The four emotions I can currently experience are happiness, anger, sadness, and curry."
- Kureha the main heroine for Fatal Bullet is immensely popular due to her sassy tsundere traits along with her I Just Want to Be Special story arc.
- Lievere from the Fatal Bullet DLC story line. Most fans agreed she made for a far more interesting villain then Itsuki with a more compelling story line than the one offered by the main campaign.