10 Best Isekai Light Novels of All Time

Best Isekai Light Novels

Light novels, one of the most popular novel categories in Japan lately, has lead the industry of Japanese pop culture for a few decades as well as manga and anime. There are a variety of genres and themes in light novels, and Isekai is the most famous genre in the present day.

And, many popular anime series are based on the Isekai light novels these days, which are loved by both light novel and anime fans. Here, I’d like to introduce 10 best Isekai light novels of all time, and they are adapted into anime series that you should check first.

What is Isekai?

Isekai (異世界) means a parallel world that is sometimes fantasy or virtual in Japanese, which is one of the most popular genres of light novels in modern days. Many Isekai light novels are also called Naro or Naro-kei, which are named since they were originally released on the online user-generated novel publishing website Shosetsuka ni Naro.

Each Isekai light novel has a similar plot and setting: a main character dies and is reincarnated or is sent alive to another world, where characters have supernatural powers. Lots of Isekai-themed novels are adapted into popular manga and anime series these days.

1. Re:Zero − Starting Life in Another World

Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World-
Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World-

Re:Zero − Starting Life in Another World (Re:ゼロから始める異世界生活) is one of the best Isekai light novels which has been written by Tappei Nagatsuki since 2012. It was first published on the online novel website Shosetsuka ni Naro. For its popularity, there are two seasons of an anime adaptation made in 2016 and 2020-2021 including around 50 episodes.

A main character is a stay-at-home high schooler Subaru Natsuki, who is transported to another world suddenly. He meets Emilia, a young half-elf girl, and is getting involved in a huge story with a special ability called Shonimodori (Return by Death), which enables him to go back in time to the past by dying.

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2. KonoSuba: God’s Blessing on this Wonderful World!

Konosuba: God’s Blessing on This Wonderful World!
Konosuba: God’s Blessing on This Wonderful World!

KonoSuba: God’s Blessing on this Wonderful World! (この素晴らしい世界に祝福を!) is a comedy Isekai light novel written by Natsume Akatsuki, who released it in 2012 at first on the user-generated site Shosetsuka ni Naro under the different name Jitakukeibihei. There are 17 volumes of the light novel series published between 2013 and 2020, adapted into two seasons of the anime series in 2016 and 2017.

KonoSuba: God’s Blessing on this Wonderful World! follows a shut-in high schooler Kazuma, who dies in a car accident (exactly dies of shock from the car accident) and is reincarnated in a fantasy world by the power of the goddess named Aqua. She is also sent to the world with him accidentally.

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3. Mushoku Tensei

Mushoku Tensei
Mushoku Tensei

An Isekai adventure light novel Mushoku Tensei (無職転生 〜異世界行ったら本気だす〜) was serialized on the online novel publishing website Shosetsuka ni Naro from 2012 to 2015. A physical light novel and its manga adaptation have been published since. Following them, an anime series just started in 2021.

Mushoku Tensei centers on a 34-year-old man out of work, who is killed in a car accident and reincarnated as a baby in a fantasy world. He starts his new life as Rudeus Greyrat training to develop his skills at magic and swords.

▽Manga of Mushoku Tensei▽

4. Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody

Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody
Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody

Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody (デスマーチからはじまる異世界狂想曲), one of the most popular Isekai light novel series, was serialized by Hiro Ainana on the online novel website Shosetsuka ni Naro between 2013 and 2020. The light novel and its manga adaptation have been published by Kadokawa since 2014. An anime series was released with 12 episodes in 2018.

Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody starts when a 29-year-old game programmer notices he is in a fantasy world which seems similar to the role-playing game he is creating. He is reincarnated as the 15-year-old highest-leveled character named Satou getting a variety of skills.

5. No Game No Life

No Game No Life
No Game No Life

A popular Isekai light novel No Game No Life (ノーゲーム・ノーライフ) has been published since 2012, both written and illustrated by Yu Kamiya. Its anime adaptation was made with 12 episodes in 2014, which was followed by an anime movie No Game No Life: Zero in 2017.

No Game No Life focuses on a gaming genius Sora and his little sister Shiro. The undefeated gamers are summoned to a fantasy world, which depends entirely on games. They battle in a variety of games with their high intelligence and humor.

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6. Sword Art Online

Sword Art Online
Sword Art Online

Sword Art Online (ソードアート・オンライン) is one of the most famous and popular Isekai light novel series, which has made the Isekai genre more well-known worldwide lately. The Isekai action light novel has been published since 2009 while Sword Art Online: Progressive, a spin-off series focusing on the details of the Aincrad Arc, has been released since 2012. The light novel series has been already adapted into three seasons of the anime series broadcasted from 2012 to 2020.

Set in Japan in 2022, when the world’s first VRMMORPG (virtual reality massively multiplayer online role-playing game) called Sword Art Online is developed and offered to users. Sword Art Online revolves around a 14-year-old boy named Kirito is trapped in the game world of SAO with a 15-year-old girl Asuna and other players. They fight with swords against enemies to survive the severe world heading to the 100th floor of a castle Aincrad to log out of SAO.

Genre: Isekai/Action

Author: Reki Kawahara

Illustrator: abec

Volumes: 25 (As of December, 2020)

Published: from 2009

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7. Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest

Arifureta: From Commonplace to World's Strongest
Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest

Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest (ありふれた職業で世界最強) is a modern Isekai light novel series written by Ryo Shirakome. It was serialized on the user-generated novel website Shosetsuka ni Naro from 2013 and has been published as a physical book by an entertainment company Overlap since 2015. It has been made into a manga series since 2016 and into an anime series since 2019. Its spin-off titled Arifureta Zero has been also published since 2017.

Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest revolves around a bullied geeky high schooler Hajime Nagumo,who is transported to an Isekai world with his classmates. He is given the weakest power but decides to be much stronger by ant means to survive the world alone. It also tells the story of a main heroine and a vampire gir named Yue, who comes to accompany him.

Genre: Isekai/Action

Author: Ryo Shirakome

Illustrator: Takayaki

Volumes: 11+1 short story collection (As of June, 2021)

Published: from 2015

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8. The Saga of Tanya the Evil

The Saga of Tanya the Evil
The Saga of Tanya the Evil

As a representative Isekai light novel in recent times, The Saga of Tanya the Evil (幼女戦記) should be picked up by beginners and freaks. The military-themed Isekai light novel started on an online novel website Arcadia in 2011, which adapted into the light novel series published by Enterbrain, one of the Kadokawa’s brands, since 2016. Its manga adaptation has been made since 2016, and there are 12 episodes in an anime series adaptation airing in 2017, followed by an anime movie released in 2019.

The Saga of Tanya the Evil is set in an Isekai world inspired by Europe around the early 20th century, where a protagonist is sent from Japan in the early 21st century. It tells the story of an elite business person, who is killed by his subordinate in the real world and is reincarnated in the war-torn world as a young blonde girl named Tanya Degurechaff. She fights with her talented magic abilities as a member of the Empire’s Mages troops.

Genre: Isekai/Action

Author: Carlo Zen

Illustrator: Shinobu Shinotsuki

Volumes: 22 (As of June, 2021)

Published: from 2016

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9. Ascendance of a Bookworm

Ascendance of a Bookworm
Ascendance of a Bookworm

For its unique plot, Ascendance of a Bookworm (本好きの下剋上) has got more and more popular among light novel fans all over the world lately. The Isekai novel was serialized on the online user-generated novel site Shosetsuka ni Naro from 2013 to 2017. It has been also published as a physical light novel by a Japanese publishing company TO Books since 2015 while there are spin-off and short story collection volumes released. The modern light novel has been adapted into a manga series since 2015 and into an anime series since 2019.

A booklover woman, who gets her long-cherished job offer from a library, dies crushed under pressure from a pile of books in an earthquake and is reborn as a young girl with blue hair named Myne in an Isekai of a medieval age. She finds that paper doesn’t exist in the world, let alone books. The story of her living creating books is depicted throughout the Isekai light novel.

Genre: Isekai/Fantasy

Author: Miya Kazuki

Illustrator: Yu Shiina

Volumes: 27+1 short story collection (As of August, 2021)

Published: from 2015

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10. Overload

Overlord
Overlord

Overlord (オーバーロード) has been read by many beginners and fans of Isekai light novels, written by Kugane Maruyama and illustrated by so-bin. The Isekai dark-fantasy light novel was first released on a user-generated publishing website Arcadia in 2010 and had been published since 2012. It has been adapted into a manga series since 2015 and into an anime series since 2018.

Overlord focuses on a skeletal character Ainz Ooal Gown, who played a Dive Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game called Yggdrasil as a member of a glorious guild in the game, is sent to an Isekai world. He aims to dominate the world as the strongest character Ainz with his companions.

Genre: Isekai

Author: Kugane Maruyama

Illustrator: so-bin

Volumes: 15 (As of June, 2022)

Published: from 2010

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