The Fate franchise exploded onto the anime scene in the last decade after Ufotable’s adaptation of Gen Urobuchi and Takeshi Takeuchi’s light novel, Fate/Zero in 2011. Not long after that, the Fate anime series experienced an enormous boom that spawned many, many sequels and multiple spinoffs. However, due to this very phenomenon, the Fate series has become one that is overwhelming for newcomers. Luckily, there is a determined watch order for the Fate series.
The Fate series can be tricky to begin to navigate without any prior information; however, with the right information it’s actually more straightforward than it may seem — as this guide will demonstrate. The biggest source of confusion in the series — as there are many confusing things within the franchise — mainly stems from its first installment being a terrible adaptation. However, there’s more than one method for newcomers to dive into this immensely popular series. Let’s dive into how to watch the Fate series, including the anime, shows and visual novel.
Method 1: The Anime-Only Fate Watch Order
The Fate/stay night anime is an adaptation of the visual novel of the same name. The visual novel consists of three alternative story routes called the “Fate,” “Unlimited Blade Works” and “Heaven’s Feel” route, with the narrative intent being to play each route in the given order. When Studio Deen took up the task to adapt the visual novel in 2006, the studio wasn’t sure if there would be a follow-up sequel, so instead of adapting the Fate route alone, it instead decided to create a Frankenstein’s monster of an anime that took bits and pieces from the other routes. Due to this, as well as other reasons, the resulting anime was of subpar quality.
The Fate series eventually gained redemption when Ufotable took over the rights and released Fate/Zero, which immediately garnered critical acclaim. Studio Deen also adapted the Unlimited Blade Works route into a movie, which fortunately got remade by Ufotable in 2014 as a TV series of the same name. Ufotable then followed this up with a trilogy of movies covering the Heaven’s Feel route, the third of which was released in 2020.
Unfortunately, since Ufotable — as of yet — has not remade Studio Deen’s terrible adaptation of the Fate route, anime-only fans are left with the single option of powering through the 2006 adaptation in order to experience its story. Instead, after watching the 2006 version, the next series in the Fate watch order would be 2014’s Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works, followed by the Fate/stay night: Heaven’s Feel trilogy. The brilliant Fate/Zero series, which is a prequel to the events of Fate/stay night, can be watched immediately after the 2006 adaptation, although it’s best advised to watch up until Heaven’s Feel II beforehand in order to avoid any spoilers. Lastly, it’s recommended to watch Fate/Grand Order – Absolute Demonic Front: Babylonia after Heaven’s Feel III, and the remaining Grand Order films afterwards.
Method 2: Only The Good Fate Shows Watch Order
Using this Fate watch order method allows you to skip Studio Deen’s adaptation altogether and instead start with the Fate/Zero series. Although this watch order is sure to spoil certain events from the Fate/stay night anime, it ensures fans are immediately hooked into the series instead of having to drudge through the 2006 anime, which may leave a bad taste in one’s mouth. The Fate/Zero series provides enough lore and context for Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works to make sense without having to watch the Fate route.
This watch order, however, is not the most advisable for new fans as it leads to a less content-rich experience. It is ideal, though, for those who prefer for the series to start in high gear, and are unwilling to sit through a mediocre adaptation or a lengthy visual novel. However, for those ready to consume the Fate franchise in its intended order, the next method is currently the best one possible, and it involves more than just watching the anime series.
Method 3: Start With The Visual Novel
This method is the simplest: begin your Fate journey with the visual novel wherein the Fate route is available, unadulterated. After playing the Fate route, fans can then play the remaining two routes, or they can jump into the Unlimited Blade Work anime series and Heaven’s Feel movies, before concluding the main series with Fate/Zero. After that, they can jump around and watch as many of the optional Fate spinoffs as they want in any order desired.
This method ensures viewers get the definitive experience without having to put up with any less than stellar adaptations. The visual novel itself, although devoid of the great animation that defines Ufotable’s adaptations, is miles better than the 2006 anime, and is also very good in its own right as far as visual novels are concerned.
Regardless of which method you choose, you’re sure to get hooked on the franchise — a testament to just how good the Fate series is.