Fate/stay night began as an eroge visual novel developed by Type-Moon. Initially released in 2004 for Windows, the visual novel got an update titled Fate/stay night Réalta Nua, which removes the eroge scenes and adds voice acting.
Since then, Fate/stay night has gone on to become one of the biggest media franchises in Japan. The franchise has spawned manga, anime, and video games. The sheer number of releases can be intimidating for newcomers, but we are here to help! Here is a guide that can hopefully help clear up some of the confusion about where to start.
The following group of anime are based on the original Fate/stay night visual novel. Anime-only fans can watch these works to experience the main scenes from the visual novel and experience some of the lore.
Debut: October 1, 2011
Fate/Zero is a prequel that takes place 10 years prior to Fate/stay night. The series takes place during the Fourth Holy Grail War and expands on the roles of the Einzbern, Matou, and Tohsaka families during the war’s long history.
The story follows Kiritsugu Emiya, a magus killer that is chosen as the Einzbern representative in the Holy Grail War. His cold outlook and brutal methods are at odds with his servant Saber.
Fate/Zero has a lot of world building and explains most of the lore behind the series. It can be slow at times, but Fate/Zero is punctuated with intense battles and tragic outcomes.
Debut: January 6, 2006
Studio: Studio Deen
Studio Deen attempted to adapt the Fate route, which is the default story route in the visual novel, while including some story elements from Unlimited Blade Works and Heaven’s Feel.
Deen’s adaptation tries to mix action and urban-fantasy with rom-com elements to try to build up Shirou and Saber’s relationship. The anime does an okay job laying down the foundation for the Fate series, but it’s been overlooked by potential fans due to a mixed reception from visual novel readers.
Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works
Debut: October 4, 2014
Route: Unlimited Blade Works
Ufotable adapted the Unlimited Blade Works route, which is an action-oriented story route that centers around Rin and Shirou’s relationship. Shirou’s obsession with becoming a hero and protecting people puts a strain on his partnership with Saber. Archer also takes an antagonistic towards the Shirou.
Unlimited Blade Works has become the favored starting point due to its higher production values and for the story being less choppy than Deen’s adaptation.
As a note, Studio Deen did adapt Unlimited Blade Works in 2010 as a movie. Most fans can bypass the movie, since the TV series is a better adaptation.
Fate/stay night: Heaven’s Feel
Debut: October 14, 2017
Route: Heaven’s Feel
Episodes: 3 theatrical movies.
Ufotabl’s latest Fate project is an adaptation of Heaven’s Feel. The route has a darker and more dramatic story while maintaining the series’ trademark action.
Sakura is the main heroine of this route. A romantic relationship with Shirou causes Sakura’s mental restraints to collapse and awakens a dark force within her. Despite having initial protests against fighting in the Holy Grail War, Sakura becomes the war’s biggest wild card.
Debut: October 28, 2005 (Windows) / November 27, 2014 (PS Vita)
Fate/hollow ataraxia is a sequel to Fate/stay night. It currently has no anime adaptation.
Fate/hollow ataraxia takes place six months after the events of Fate/stay night. Bazett Fraga McRemitz is a member of the Mages’ Association and is their representative for the Fifth Holy Grail War. Bazett wakes up on the fourth day of the war and meets her servant Avenger, but she has no memory prior to waking up.
Meanwhile, Shirou and his friends are enjoying a peaceful life following the events of the Fifth Holy Grail War. But, a space and time experiment conducted by Rin leads her to travel to England. As a precaution, Shirou goes off to make sure no one is in danger, which leads to him meeting a strange girl named Caren Ortensia.
The meeting leads to a four-day time loop involving Shirou and Bazett that takes place during the fourth day of the Fifth Holy Grail War. Death or surviving the four days leads to a reset, with Shirou and Bazett maintaining their memories of all previous time loops.
Watch order: It’s kind of a tricky call to suggest a watch for anime-only fans since there is no one true order. Here are a few suggestions:
Fate/Zero -> Fate/stay night -> Unlimited Blade Works -> Heaven’s Feel.
You can kick things off with Fate/Zero and then work on the release order of the other routes (most fans skip Fate/stay night). Keep in mind that Fate/Zero dives into Sakura’s past, so sticklers will have some Heaven’s Feel twists spoiled.
Fate/stay night or Unlimited Blade Works -> Fate/Zero -> Heaven’s Feel.
Some fans argue that watching Fate/stay night or Unlimited Blade Works first adds to the tragic nature of Fate/Zero. This method also allows Fate/Zero to serve as a setup for Heaven’s Feel.
Fate/stay night -> Fate/Zero -> Unlimited Blade Works -> Heaven’s Feel.
This is the release order of the adaptations. It’s the “default” experience that older fans went through.
No matter what order you choose, you can take on playing Fate/hollow ataraxia as your finale.
A majority of Fate entries are alternate universes. They are standalone experiences with their own rules and systems. It is not necessary to experience the mainline franchise in order to get into these alternate takes.
Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya
Debut: July 13, 2013
Studio: Silver Link
Episodes: 42 + 2 OVAs + 1 Movie
Fate/kaleid liner Prisma Illya is a magical girl spin-off that stars Illyasviel von Einzbern, who is Berserker’s master in Fate/stay night.
Illya is an ordinary elementary school student who becomes a magical girl after being deemed worthy by Kaleidostick Ruby. Rin was Ruby’s previous master, but she must now supervise Illya during her quest in collecting the seven Class Cards.
Debut: January 10, 2015
Author: Ryohgo Narita
Fate/strange fake is an on-going light novel written by Durarara!! creator Ryohgo Narita.
An organization in the United States tries and fails to mimic the Third Holy Grail War, which is known as The False Holy Grail War. After seventy years of data collection, the city of Snowfield is used as the Sacred Land for the war.
However, every aspect of the ritual was unsuccessfully copied, which led to strange results. Summoning Rituals are vague, the definition of “hero” has been corrupted, and the false grail is unpredictable.
Debut: July 22, 2010
Fate/Extra is dungeon crawling RPG that takes place in a virtual world. Hafuno has amnesia and finds himself in the middle of a war. Each participant has a Servant and must fight to the death in order to gain possession of the Holy Grail.
Shaft is working on an anime adaptation, which will debut in 2018.
Debut: December 31, 2011
Episodes: 1 OVA
Fate/Prototype is a condensed version of Kinoko Nasu’s original vision for Fate/stay night.
Ayaka Sajyou is the sole surviving member of her family. She tries to live peacefully, but she is attacked on the eighth anniversary of her family’s death. While being pursued, Ayaka summons Saber who is tasked with being her Servant.
Debut: July 2, 2017
Studio: A-1 Pictures
The Holy Grail is removed from Fuyuki City after the Third Holy Grail War. Decades after the event, the Yggdmillennia family defects from the Mages’ Association and seeks independence. Re-writing the rules of the Holy Grail War, the Yggdmillennia family and the association sends seven mages each to fight for the Holy Grail. The Holy Grail itself has summoned a Ruler-class servant to watch over the war. For convenience sake, the two opposing factions are Black and Red.
Debut: December 31, 2016
Episodes: 1 TV Special
The Chaldea Security Organization has guaranteed humanities existence for the next century. But, they discover a future where humanity goes extinct in 2016, which is traced back to the events of Fate/stay Night. Chaldea decides to use time travel to convert agents into spirit particles so they can destroy space-time anomalies to prevent mankind’s destruction.
The anime special is based on a hit mobile game of the same name.
Debut: November 10, 2016
Fate/Extella is an action video game that takes place in the same world as Fate/Extra. Hakuno and Nero have won the Holy Grail War and are given control over the Moon Cell Automaton computer. The pair obtains the Regalia ring, which allows them to rule over former enemy servants. However, a new enemy also has a Regalia ring.
Debut: August 12, 2011
Episodes: 16 OVAs
Carnival Phantasm is a comedy spin-off created to celebrate Type-Moon’s 10th anniversary.
The Ahnenerbe pub appears among parallel worlds, and every 10 years they host an event called “The Carnival Moment.” Characters from Fate/stay night and Tsukihime are thrown into parodies and comedic situations that play up their absurd personalities.
What are your favorite Fate projects?