This anime series features a virtual reality massively multiplayer online role-playing game, which shares its name with the show's title (abbreviated SAO), that is released in 2022. The game allows people to control their in-game characters with their minds when using a Nerve Gear helmet. One day, upon logging into SAO, the players discover they cannot log out and learn from the game's creator that they must defeat the final boss. If a player's avatar dies in the game, though, their body also dies in the real world. One player, Kirito, sets out to beat the game on his own, progressing through the game over two years, during which time he befriends a female player, Asuna, with whom he falls in love. The duo eventually confronts the in-game avatar of SAO's creator, hoping to free themselves and other players from the game. Over time, Kirito realizes that the situation is a conspiracy that runs deeper than just SAO and has penetrated other games.