Sword Art Online has become one of the most intriguing fantasy titles in recent years. The story of protagonists Kazuto “Kirito” Kirigaya and Asuna Yuuki and their adventures in various virtual reality MMORPG worlds has attracted a large fandom and made the light novel series one of the most popular modern-day series ever. In this article, we are going to tell you more about the setting and the timeline of Sword Art Online, so you’ll know when and where it takes place.
Sword Art Online (SAO) is a massively multiplayer virtual reality networked role-playing game (VRMMORPG) released in 2022: thanks to NerveGear, a helmet capable of stimulating the user’s five senses through direct manipulation of the brain, the players can impersonate and control their own character in the game directly with their mind. This means that the series takes place in 2022 and later, in the world of SAO.
The rest of this article is going to further explore the world of Sword Art Online, as we are going to introduce you to the major locations, as well as the timeline of the whole series. We are going to reveal all the necessary information about this topic, possibly some spoilers, so be wary as you proceed with your reading.
When does Sword Art Online take place?
The chronological timeline of Sword Art Online is not easy to comprehend, due to various subplots and side plots. It is all part of the same timeline, but it’s not always easy to connect all the dots. The good thing is that it follows the real-life calendar, which makes it a bit easier to comprehend. In this section, we are going to bring you an overview of the chronology of Sword Art Online:
- Kazuto is adopted into the Kirigaya family after his birth and the death of his parents (2008, IRL)
- Birth of Shino Asada.
- Birth of Konno Yuuki (May 2011, IRL)
- Konno Yuuki was infected with AIDS (May 2011, IRL)
- Kirigaya Kazuto learned of the death of his parents (2018, IRL)
- Asada Shino implicated in a heist (Sep/Oct 2020, IRL)
- Creation of the NerveGear (May 2022, IRL)
- Konno Yuuki was admitted to a hospital (Summer 2022, IRL)
- Sword Art Online Beta Test (Aug-Sep 2022)
- SAO underway (November 06, 2022)
- Volume 1 – Chapters 2 and 3 (November 06, 2022, at 17:30, SAO)
- Volume 8 – “First Day” (November 6, 2022, SAO)
- Volume 1 – Beginning of Chapter 4 (December 2, 2022, SAO)
- Gaiden – “Aria in the Starless Night” (December 2-4, 2022, SAO)
- First meeting between Asuna and Kirito (December 2, 2022, SAO)
- Aincrad Floor 2 (December 04, 2022, SAO)
- Material Edition 7 – “continuation: Aria in the Starless Night” (December 04, 2022, SAO)
- Gaiden (Material Edition 8) – “Rondo of the Transient Sword” (December 8, 2022, SAO)
- Aincrad Floor 3 (December 14, 2022, SAO)
- Material Edition 9 – “Concert Monochrome” (December 14, 2022, SAO)
- Suguha learned of the death of Kazuto’s parents (December 2022, IRL)
- Konno Yuuki started using the MediCuboid (Winter 2023, IRL)
- Kirito joined the “Black Cats of the Full Moon” (April 2023, SAO)
- Creation of AmuSphere and ALfheim Online (May 2023, IRL)
- The disappearance of the “Black Cats of the Full Moon” (June 2023, SAO)
- Kirito acquired “Dual Wielding” (October-November 2023, SAO)
- Suguha joined ALO (November 2023, ALO/IRL)
- Volume 2 – “Red-Nosed Reindeer” (December 19-23, 2023, SAO)
- Aincrad 50th Floor (Start 2024, SAO)
- Kirito acquired the sword “Elucidator” (As of 2024, SAO)
- Birth of the red guild “Laughing Coffin” (January 2024, SAO)
- Volume 2 – “Black Swordsman” (February 2024, SAO)
- Material Edition 1 – “The Progressers” (March 2024, SAO)
- Duel between Asuna and Kirito (March 2024, SAO)
- Aincrad Floor 57 (March 2024, SAO)
- Serious meeting between Asuna and Kirito (April 2024, SAO)
- Volume 8 – “A Murder Case in the Area” (22-23 April 2024, SAO)
- Volume 2 – “The Warmth of the Heart” (June 2024, SAO)
- Kirito acquired the sword “Dark Repulser” (June 2024, SAO)
- Gaiden – “Sound of Water, Sound of Hammer” (Aug 2024, SAO)
- Coalition against the “Laughing Coffin” (August 2024, SAO)
- Aincrad 74th Floor (2024, SAO)
- Material Edition 4 – “Cold hand, Warm heart” (September 2024, SAO)
- Story Pencil Board (October 1, 2024, SAO)
- Volume 3 – Start of the prologue (early days of October 2024, IRL)
- Volumes 1, 2 – Prologue (Oct 2024, SAO)
- The Fourteenth Autumn (October 3, 2024, SAO)
- Volume 1 – Chapter 1 (end of October 2024, SAO)
- Volume 1 – End of Chapter 4 (End of October 2024, SAO)
- Volume 1 – Chapters 5-12 (end of October 2024, SAO)
- Aincrad Floor 75 (end of October 2024, SAO)
- Volume 1 – Chapters 12 and 13 (end of October 2024, SAO)
- Kirito joined the “Knights of the Brotherhood of Blood” (end of October 2024, SAO)
- Volume 1 – Chapters 14-16 (end of October 2024, SAO)
- Gaiden – Chapter 16.5 (end of October 2024, SAO)
- The Day Before (October 24, 2024, SAO)
- Material Edition 10 – “16.6” (October 24, 2024, SAO)
- Material Edition 11 – “16.7” (October 25, 2024, SAO)
- Material Edition 12 – “16.8” (October 25, 2024, SAO)
- 16.8.5 (October 25, 2024, SAO)
- Material Edition 13 – “16.9” (October 25, 2024, SAO)
- Material Edition 14 – “Sugary Days 5” (October 25, 2024, SAO)
- Volume 2 – “The Girl of the Dawn Dew” (End of October 2024, SAO)
- Yui’s Appearance (Late October 2024, SAO)
- Material Edition 6 – “Algade Showdown” (End of October 2024, SAO)
- Volume 1 – Chapters 17-19 (November 2024, SAO)
- Volume 1 – Chapters 20-24 (November 7, 2024, SAO)
- SAO removed (November 7, 2024)
- The death of Kayaba Akihiko (November 7, 2024)
- Volume 1 – Chapter 25 (November 7, 2024, IRL)
- End of Aincrad Volume 3 – End of Prologue (November 7, 2024, IRL)
- HELLO Material Edition 5 – “Salvia” (January 2025, IRL)
- Volume 3 – Chapter 1 (January 19-20, 2025, ALO)
- Volumes 3-4 – Chapters 2-5 (January 2025, ALO)
- The “Holy Sword Excalibur” appears (since January 2025, ALO)
- Volume 4 – Chapters 6, 7 (January 2025, ALO)
- Volume 4 – Chapter 8 (January 2025, ALO/IRL)
- Creation of the “Seed of the World” (January 2025)
- Sugou Nobuyuki arrested (January 2025, IRL)
- ALO suspended (January 2025)
- Whereabouts Akihiko Kayaba (March 2025, IRL)
- The Celeste Fairy (April 10, 2025, IRL)
- Volume 4 – Chapter 9 (May 2025, IRL/ALO)
- End of Fairy Dance The Day After (June 2025, ALO)
- Extra Edition (July 25, 2025, IRL/ALO)
- Rainbow Bridge (July 25-26, 2025, IRL/ALO)
- GGO Gun Gale Online created (April 2025)
- Meeting between Shinkawa Kyouji and Asada Shino (June 2025, IRL)
- Shino joined GGO (June 2025, GGO)
- Shino acquired “Ultima Ratio Hecate II” (June 2025, GGO)
- First “Bullet of Bullets” (August 2025, GGO)
- Second “Bullet of Bullets” (Oct 2025, GGO)
- Volume 5 – Prologue (November 9, 2025, GGO)
- “Death Gun” Murders (November 2025, IRL)
- Volume 5 – Chapters 1, 2 (December 7, 2025, IRL)
- Volume 5 – Chapter 3 (December 11, 2025, GGO)
- Volume 5 – Chapters 4-6 (December 13, 2025, IRL/GGO)
- Third “Bullet of Bullets” (December 2025, GGO)
- Volume 5 – Chapter 7 (December 13, 2025, GGO)
- Volume 6 – Chapter 7.2 (December 14, 2025, IRL)
- Volume 6 – Chapters 8-10 (December 14, 2025, IRL/GGO)
- Volume 6 – Chapters 11 (December 14, 2025, ALO)
- Volume 6 – Chapter 12 (December 14, 2025, GGO)
- Volume 6 – Chapter 13 (December 14, 2025, ALO)
- Volume 6 – Chapters 14, 15 (December 14, 2025, GGO/IRL)
- Shinkawa brothers arrested (December 14, 2025, IRL)
- Kanemoto Atsushi Escape (December 14, 2025, IRL)
- Volume 6 – Chapter 16 (December 16, 2025, IRL)
- End of Phantom Bullet HELLO Sinon joined ALO (December 16-21, 2025, ALO)
- Volume 8 – “Caliber” (December 28, 2025, ALO)
- Kirito acquired the sword “Excalibur” (December 28, 2025, ALO)
- Klein acquired the hammer “Mjölnir” (December 28, 2025, ALO)
- HELLO Volume 7 (Jan-Apr 2026, ALO/IRL)
- End of Mother’s Rosario Material Edition 3 – “Ceramic Heart” (May 18, 2026, ALO/IRL)
- underworld Accel World Volume 10 – “Versus” (April 2026 // 2047, Brain Burst)
- Volume 9 – Alicization Beginning (June 2026, Underworld)
- Volume 10 – Alicization Running (June 2026, Underworld)
- Volume 11 – Alicization Turning (June 2026, Underworld)
- Gaiden – “Cradle of the Moon” (June 2026, UW)
- Volume 12 – Alicization Rising (July 2026, Underworld)
- Volume 13 – Alicization Dividing (July 2026, Underworld)
- Volume 14 – Alicization Uniting (July 2026, Underworld)
- Volume 15 – Alicization Invading (July 2026, Underworld)
- Gaiden – “There is But One Ultimate Way” (Aug 2026, UW)
Where does Sword Art Online take place?
If you would decide to go over all the possible locations in Sword Art Online, you could probably write a whole book, let alone one article. That is why we are going to give you an overview of the four main locations (servers or worlds, however you want to look at it) that have appeared so far, so that you know your way around the map; the smaller locations within the larger ones – we leave to you!
Location of the VRMMORPG Sword Art Online, Aincrad is a huge and fluctuating conical-shaped steel castle, developed on a hundred floors located as many meters away from each other. Each floor is home to cities, numerous hamlets, small villages, even forests, grasslands and lakes. All floors are also composed of a dungeon with its labyrinth, which, instead of unraveling under the ground, rises into one of the pillars that support the floors.
Once the boss of the floor has been found and defeated, a door appears in the room that allows the winners to reach the next floor and thus opens the teleportation portal, located in the center of the “capital” of the floor, in order to make it accessible to all the players.
Inside the capital on the first floor, the “Starting City”, there is a prison for the so-called “orange players” – those who break the laws on morality or Aincrad property – and “red players” – the player killers, mainly gathered in the Laughing Coffin guild – in addition to a huge black wall called the Resurrection Wall, where all the names of the ten thousand players that are crossed in the event of their death are transcribed, with relative date, time and cause of death.
Due to the latest update from Akihiko Kayaba, creator of Sword Art Online, NerveGear, hardware that allows immersion in the virtual world, will impose brain death on players who will lose all HP during the “game”.
Alfheim is a heterogeneous kingdom, populated by multiple races which the player can refer to when creating his own alter ego. Each race is associated with different elements, colors, and types of combat, although they all have the ability to fly in common. Each race has its own territory and its own capital, but the most important city is Aarun, which stands at the foot of the huge Yggdrasil tree, where all races coexist peacefully.
Not all races, in fact, boast a harmonious relationship – the conflict between Sylphs and Salamanders is famous – and this is due to the most demanding quest: to reach the top of the Yggdrasil tree, where the city of the Elves is located, and ask for an audience. King Oberon transforms his character into an Elf. The coveted morph gives the avatar incredible benefits, such as being able to fly without time limits.
The virtual world of ALO is controlled and managed by a system called “Cardinal”, which automatically fixes any bugs and creates new quests. In spite of SAO, in the world of ALO there is magic and there is the absence of a system of levels for the growth of the character, making the player’s ability absolutely incisive. Subsequently, the world of Aincrad is implemented within ALO via an update.
Gun Gale Online
Gun Gale Online, an American-made VR-MMO, presents a post-apocalyptic world, once again populated by survivors upon their return from a journey into space. The large spaceship now serves as the capital under the name “SBC (Space Battle Cruiser) Gurokken”. Consisting of a single floor, it is crossed by large metal beams and strewn with neon lights.
The players’ clothing is strictly military and the available arsenal is full of guns. Due to the severe climate change that took place after the great cataclysm, the sky is as marked by warm colors during the day as it is covered with blue and purple at night. The Bullet of Bullets, the tournament to elect the best GGO player, is broadcast online and is visible on the net, as well as in all VRMMORPGs.
It is divided into two stages: the first consists of direct elimination duels, while the second includes a show in which the thirty qualified perform an “all versus all” deathmatch. At the time of market launch, GGO had unified servers, later divided into “American” and “Asian” after the first Bullet of Bullets, but reunited again following the fourth.
A mysterious and gloomy location that refers to the Western Middle Ages, albeit populated by fantastic creatures, in which time flows in a very different way from the real one. The Underworld capital is Centoria and the world is divided into four empires that refer to the cardinal points: Norlangarth, Eastabarieth, Wesdarath and Southacroith. The World of Humans is ruled by these four empires and the Church of Axiom.
Outside of the Human empire is the Dark Territory ruled by Goblins, Orcs and other creatures. The people of Underworld recognize at least five gods: The goddess of creation Stacia, the main goddess of the human Empire, as well as the goddess of life and creation. According to the legends, she rules the existence of all animate and inanimate objects in the form of Life, exhibited in the Window of the Stacia, and calls those whose Life expires on her side of her.
Marriages in the human empire are promised to Stacia, who blesses the couple and allows them to have children. The sun goddess Solus (Derived from Latin “Sol” – “Sun”), the star goddess of the Underworld, Solus, who provides blessings to the world in the form of solar rays that increase the surrounding Sacred Power. Her blessings diminish during the night the Solus sets.
The Earth Goddess Terraria (Derived from the Latin “Terra” – “Earth”), the earth goddess who provides blessings to plants and protects metalworkers and craftsmen. She provides Sacred Power across the land, although this source of power is very limited in cities and above the ground. The God of Darkness Vector, the ruler of the Dark Territory and the only god worshiped there.
Vector is said to love playing pranks on humans, in the form of disease or kidnapping people and stealing their memory. Vector was also the creator of the Dark Arts. The Moon Goddess Lunaria (Derived from the Latin “Luna” – “Luna”) – is the moon goddess who controls the dreams of the Underworld inhabitants.