Anime series have different ways to showcase the powers of their characters, but one of the coolest and most memorable opportunities is to put all the characters against each other in a tournament.
These organized fight events come with rules to follow, a ladder system, and a grand prize for the winner at the end.
As with wars and other conflicts, tournaments and fight events are great for character developments, new relationships, and even heartbreaking outcomes. Sometimes, an entire anime series is based around a long-running and in-depth competition.
From fights with only pride at stake to battles for an entire universe's continued existence, here are my picks for the best tournament arcs and fight events I've seen in anime.
24. D Game (Darwin's Game)
In the series Darwin's Game, D Game (short for Darwin's Game) is an event created by Gamemaster Shidou Izaya that pits players against one another in an elimination battle of life and death.
To make things more interesting, players of D Game receive a "sigil" upon successful entry, which are superpowers they can use to survive, commit murder, and beat the game.
However, this event takes place in the real world, and despite the countless deaths it brings, D Game's purpose is to train fighters who would serve as protectors against an impending end-of-the-world event.
Kaname Sudou, the protagonist of the series, isn't a player by choice but accidentally becomes involved in the game. With his wits and his sigil that allows him to recreate weapons, he climbs the game's ladder and becomes a top player who leads his own clan, the Sunset Ravens.
23. Vaizel Fight Festival (The Seven Deadly Sins)
There are many fight scenes in The Seven Deadly Sins, but one that involves a tournament-like setting is the Vaizel Fight Festival. It's an event held annually in the Great Vaizel Rock, a huge rock that's shaped like a fighting arena.
Members of the Seven Deadly Sins participate in this event to win back Diane's Sacred Treasure: the War Hammer Gideon. It's also when we witness the friendly-yet-deadly match between Meliodas and Ban.
Later, after the revival of the Ten Commandments, Gloxinia and Drole hosted yet another fight festival, but this time they made it even more intense and interesting with some twists.
22. Great Raitai Tournament (Baki the Grappler)
Baki the Grappler features an event called the Great Raitai Tournament, a Chinese martial arts competition to which Baki and several other non-Chinese fighters are invited.
Baki, though poisoned, still fights in the tournament despite his deteriorating body. His father, Yujiro "The Ogre" Hanma, also participates in the event and showcases his inner beast—by ripping off a high-ranking martial artist's face and tossing it like a towel.
Due to the low quality of fighters produced by the current committee, Kaku Kaioh decides to change the rules of the game and make it a Chinese versus Japanese-American Alliance team competition.
21. Kengan (Kengan Ashura)
Kengan Ashura features an underground fight called Kengan matches, said to have originated way back during the Edo period. These matches are hosted by rich merchants "to solve conflicts" in their ranks.
Kengan matches involve unarmed combat between fighters who represent groups. The fights are bloody and intense, featuring various kinds of brutality and fatalities.
Later, with the Kengan Annihilation Tournament, the prize is the Kengan Association's chairmanship, which is a gamble worth fighting for.
20. Kyoto Sister-School Goodwill Event (Jujutsu Kaisen)
The Kyoto Sister-School Goodwill Event is held annually by the Jujutsu schools in Kyoto and Tokyo, with students participating in a set of competitions. Unknown to the Tokyo Campus team, the Kyoto Campus team has a hidden agenda for their participation.
Though the battles between students are badass, the interruption by the Special Grade Curses make the event more thrilling and exciting, prompting the higher authorities to make their move.
19. Ura Buto Satsujin (Flame of Recca)
After they infiltrate and rescue Yanagi Sakoshita from the mansion of Kurei and Koran Mori, Recca Hanabishi, Fuko Kirisawa, Domon Ishijima, and Tokiya Mikagami are invited to an underground tournament called Ura Buto Satsujin, organized by Koran Mori.
There, they enter as a group under the banner of Team Hokage, with Kaoru Koganei joining them sometime later in the event. They fight the teams Kuu, Uruha Maboroshi, Uruha Oto, and Uruha Ma, before they finally face Kurei's team: the Uruha Kurenai.
What's at stake? Not only the brothers' pride as Flame Masters, but also Yanagi's life (as Mori wants her healing ability to become immortal).
18. Royal Knight Selection (Black Clover)
To pick the best Magic Knights in response to the threat of the Eye of the Midnight Sun, Clover Kingdom organizes a selection tournament in which winners would be assembled to form the Royal Knights.
Mages of high caliber from various squads, including Asta and Yuno, are chosen to participate in this so-called Royal Knights Selection. The Magic Knights are then grouped into teams of three members to fight in a crystal destruction match.
17. Kill or Save Battle (Assassination Classroom)
While Class 3-E is tasked with assassinating Korosensei to save the world, they grow increasingly attached to him as he leads their class and teaches them about life. In the end, they decide to settle the score through a paintball match called Kill or Save Battle.
They're divided into two factions—the Kill team and Save team—with the winner deciding what happens to their teacher. The match features the students' honed hunting and assassination skills, including sniper accuracy and camouflage abilities.
16. Dark Tournament (Yu Yu Hakusho)
The Dark Tournament is a competition organized by rich human beings and their greed for power. At the end of the tournament, the members of the winning team are granted any wish (like the Toguro Brothers wanting to be higher-ranking demons).
Yusuke Urameshi participates in the tournament along with Kuwabara, Kurama, Hiei, and the Masked Fighter, with Koenma as their handler. In each round, the team faces down different demons who get stronger with every advancement through the tournament stages.
15. Ragnarok (Record of Ragnarok)
Ragnarok is a competition between humans and gods, with each side having 13 participants that compete in one-on-one deathmatches. It's a battle to determine the fate of mankind: whether to be extinguished (if their fighters lose) or live on for another thousand years (if they win).
Though it was created as a mere joke by the powerful gods—who know that no human can truly defeat them—the battles that take place between gods and mankind in the Valhalla Arena provide many twists and turns with all kinds of unexpected results.
14. Holy Grail War (Fate/Stay Night)
The Holy Grail War is the central theme of the Fate/Stay Night anime series and movies. It features the battle royale competition of masters and servants against other masters and servants, where they all aim to win the Holy Grail that's said to grant any wish.
Different servant classes offer their services and powers to their masters, including Sabers, Riders, Berserkers, Archers, etc. The battles in the Holy Grail War all feature intense fight scenes, all made even more badass by the top-notch animation quality.
13. The Cell Games (Dragon Ball Z)
To satisfy his craving for battle and his desire to fight the strongest opponents, Cell invites the Saiyans and other fighters to compete in his self-organized tournament called the Cell Games.
Cell, in his complete form after consuming Android 17 and 18, crafts a battle stage similar to the ones seen in real martial arts tournaments.
He makes a rule where out-of-bounds equals defeat, but later destroys the entire stage and renders that rule obsolete because he was having so much fun in his battle with Goku.
12. Winter Cup Tournament (Kuroko's Basketball)
Tournaments are common in sports anime, and the Winter Cup of Kuroko's Basketball is one of the most iconic examples.
Throughout the entire event, we see the battles between former teammates (Generation of Miracles) who are now members of different basketball teams from different schools.
With each one wanting to defeat the others, a close and intense showdown heats up every match. The Zone Mode and the aggressive gameplay both elevate each scene to new levels of sports badassery.
11. All Japan Rookie King Tournament (Hajime no Ippo)
Hajime no Ippo is a sports anime about boxing, so of course it features tons of bloody and action-packed fight scenes in its tournaments. One of them is the All Japan Rookie King Tournament, where the best of West and East Japan Rookie King Tournaments meet.
What makes this match so great is that before Ippo Makunouchi (East) and Takeshi Sendo (West) meet in the ring, they've already fought several worthy fighters who all aimed to claim the belt for themselves.
The All Japan Rookie King Tournament features the intense exchange of bouts between these heavy hitters, who are both prepared to counter their opponent's special moves and dominate in the fight.
10. Greed Island (Hunter X Hunter)
Greed Island is a game for Hunters and Nen users, in which players are brought from their current location into the game itself by using Nen on the console. The main objective is to beat the game by collecting all the cards with different rarities and in-game effects.
The inside of the game seems like any normal community, but there are NPCs who blend in with the crowd for missions, shops, and other miscellaneous elements. Though it's a card collecting game, death is still real—dying in the game is dying in the real world.
9. Corrida Colosseum (One Piece)
The Dressrosa Arc of One Piece features a gladiator-like battle event in the Corrida Colosseum, organized by the Donquixote Family and overlooked by Diamante. The winner of the event takes home the Mera Mera no Mi: the Devil Fruit of the late Portgas D. Ace.
Luffy joins the event disguised as Lucy, aiming to win his brother's Devil Fruit. Though many contestants prove themselves worthy as they display their powers, Lucy roams around as if the battleground was his playground (with a few times where he gets really serious).s
8. Heavens Arena (Hunter X Hunter)
Gon and Killua participate in the fight events of Heavens Arena, aiming to earn money while waiting for the day of their reunion with Kurapika and Leorio. This is the arc where Nen is introduced, with the fighters from the 200th floor onwards being Nen users.
Heavens Arena is a tall tower consisting of more than 200 floors, in which fighters who win on a certain floor advance to the next floor. This is where the Gon versus Hisoka battle takes place, which features the young Hunter managing to hit Hisoka and return his tag.
7. Grand Magic Games (Fairy Tail)
The Fairy Tail Guild participates in the Grand Magic Games, where representatives compete with other guilds, including the Sabertooth Guild, which ranks first in said competition.
There, Natsu and the rest of the gang showcase how powerful they are, with each of them shining in their own spotlights.
However, it's not exactly easy for them as there are also powerful mages like the Twin Dragons of the Sabertooth: Sting the White Dragon Slayer and Rogue the Shadow Dragon Slayer.
While the event is meant to be friendly, it still feels like an all-out war as the players surpass their limits (like when Natsu faces Sting and Rogue alone, who are already in their Dragon Force mode).
6. Battle of the Squad Captains (Black Clover)
Another entry from the Black Clover series is the Battle of the Squad Captains. To regain the people's trust after a tragic incident, Magic Emperor Julius Novachrono pits the Magic Knight Squad Captains against each other in a crystal destruction match.
They're divided into two groups and must protect their respective crystals while trying to destroy the opposing team's crystal. Unlike the Royal Knight Selection, the Squad Captains Battle is on a higher level that features wide-scale assaults and full-power attacks.
5. Tournament of Power (Dragon Ball Super)
Beerus and Champa, the Gods of Destruction, organize a tournament that pits the best fighters of Universe 6 and 7. But with the appearance of Omni King Zeno on stage, a new and more intense tournament is decided—one that involves several other universes.
The Tournament of Power may sound entertaining with all the powerful opponents, but the stakes are too high for fun. When all the players of a universe are eliminated, their universe is also wiped from existence—including their Kais and Gods of Destruction.
4. Chunin Exam (Naruto)
To be promoted to a Chunin, a Genin must pass the Chunin Exam, which is a set of tests that evaluate a young ninja's abilities. Different Hidden Villages participate in the Chunin Exam, with their respective Kages watching their performances.
From the written exam to the Forest of Death to the final tournament bracket, Genins showcase their different techniques and unique jutsus. Throughout the entire Chunin Exam Arc, there are many twists and developments that involve hidden plots and surprising deaths.
3. UA Sports Festival (My Hero Academia)
The UA Sports Festival is an annual event held at the UA High School and is one of the most anticipated events by both students and audiences. In this event, students from different grades and courses compete against each other to showcase their talents.
The UA Sports Festival includes the Cavalry Battle, where participants form a group of four and try to grab headbands from each other to accumulate points while protecting their own. Other events include a race on a landmine-filled track and one-on-one battles.
From endurance tests to team battles, this event shows how students utilize their Quirks and use them in various situations.
2. Glory Professional Alliance (The King's Avatar)
Esports is pure fun, which is why many people today can relate to Ye Xiu and the players of Glory who participate in the competitive professional esports tournament called the Glory Professional Alliance.
Like many tournaments, the Glory Professional Alliance is played by esports teams in individual, group, and team battles to earn points. Ye Xiu's team, the Happy, starts off as rookies but rise up to be capable of fighting elite and professional teams.
Unlike other anime series with game-like settings, this tournament is fought with avatar/game characters and doesn't involve any sort of VRMMORPG element where one's actual life is at stake.
1. Davy Back Fight (One Piece)
For seasoned One Piece fans, the series just isn't complete if you skip the Long Ring Long Land Arc. This arc follows the story of the Straw Hat Pirates and their encounter with the Foxy Pirates, led by Foxy Fox, who challenges them in a Davy Back Fight.
The Davy Back Fight is a traditional competition between pirates, and what's at stake are the flag and crew members. Knowing Luffy, these are things that he'd easily risk his life for.
From the Run Roller Around to the Hit and Dead Ball games, this arc is a lot of fun to watch, especially because we can see that Luffy and the rest of his crew are dead serious about the results.