Okay so I have started watching the .Hacks again and I know how confusing they can be since if not watched in order it is easy to get lost in the anime. Especially since the characters do refer back to previous .hacks. Below is the chronological order in which the events take place in the anime.
- Released: April, 2002
- Set in the year 2007
About: Tsukasa is unable to log out, effectively trapping him in the game. All he can remember is waking up in dungeon and a cat. The players who know he is unable to logo out are driven by questions like what happened to Tsukasa in the real world, who he really is and why he is unable to log out fuel their desire to help him. During their quest for answers strange things begin to happen bringing up more questions than answers. Tsukasa is led to a hidden area where he meets Morganna, depicted as a voice without physical appearance, and Aura, who appears as a young girl clad entirely in white, floating asleep above a bed.
- Released:June, 2002
- Set in the year 2007
About: This story takes place fully in the real world during the same time as the .hack//sign anime. So their story lines run parallel to one another. The story begins with Tokuoka being ‘fired’ from the C.C. Corp and two teenagers loosing consciousness due to playing ‘The World‘. When one of them wakes up, Mai, she is determined to help her boyfriend also wake up. Tokuoka and Mai team up and work together to figure out what C.C. Corp is up to and how to wake up all the victims that have fallen into coma due to ‘The World’.
3 .hack//Legend of the Twilight
- Released: January, 2003
- Set in the year 2014/5
About: After winning a contest the twins Shugo and Rena are finally able to see each other again in virtual reality in the game, ‘The World’. Shugo is given the Twilight bracelet by a mysterious AI named Aura.The bracelet both helps and hinders him. Together the twins start off on an adventure to find Aura and unravel the mystery of the Twilight Bracelet. However Rena falls victim to the game and ends up in a coma in real life. Desperate to save his sister, Shugo and the friends they have made work together to solve the mystery behind the comas.
The legendary characters come from the actual game .hack and not an anime series.
- Released: April, 2003
About: Orca is found dead and with Balmung being the first player on the scene he is accused of being the killer. The entire episode revolves around the characters racing to get to the Twilight Hot Springs to which they have been invited to by Helba. While the others race, Balmung tries to clear his name by finding Orca’s true killer.
- Released: April, 2006
- Set in the year 2016/7
About: Haseo, a black ‘Adept Rogue’ has just started playing ‘The World’. The first time he logs into the game he falls prey to player killers (PK’s). He gets revived by Ovan a mysterious character who wants him to join the Twilight Brigade. Other members of the Brigade are Sakisaka, Tabby and Shino. They are looking for the Legend of the Twilight which is thought not to exist. While on a mission Ovan is captured and while wating for his return the brigade loose hope. Eventually they are disbanded. Soon afterwards Shino is attacked by Tri-edge. This sends Haseo over the edge as he does all that he can to find Tri-edge so that he can learn how to help Shino regain consciousness.
6 .hack//G.U Trilogy
- Released: January 2007
- Set in the year 2017
About: Haseo desires to becomes stronger while looking for Tri-Edge. He wants to be stronger so that he can fight him and awaken Shino who has fallen into a coma after she was killed by Tri-Edge. Haseo meets a girl named Atoli who befriends him despite his attitude towards her. Atoli reminds him of Shino due to her character design. He forms new alliances so that he can discover the mystery behind the comas of players who have been killed by Tri-Edge and the entities known as AIDA.
This one definitely needs to be watched after .hack//Roots. Roots explains a lot of what has happened up until the beginning point of this movie. It continues the .hack//roots story.
- Released: January, 2007
- Set in the year 2017
About: A short follow up video and the conclusion to .hack//Roots. It tells the story about the characters of .hack//G.U. in one last adventure. Thus finally concluding the .hack//Roots story.
- Released:December 2010
- Set in the year 2022
About: Sakuya, Tobias, and Mary are friends in real life as well as in the game ‘The World’. Sakuya’s character is clumsy and she has a habit of picking up everything she sees. While the party are on a quest she accidentally ruins a massive plan to defeat a boss. While running from players trying to catch her due to the bounty put on her head she meets a cat player character (PC).
9 .hack//Beyond The World
- Released: January 2012
- Set in the year 2024
About: This is an official .hack//movie. In the year 2024 nearly every teenager plays ‘The World’. Technology has advanced to the stage where they can play off of their cell phones. However 14 year old Sora has never played ‘The World’ and doesn’t really want to. Until curiosity leads her to playing the game. Once she is online she really starts to enjoy herself and meets up with her friends. However not all is well within ‘The World’ and Aura needs Sora’s help.
There are plenty answers to the question of what order to watch these series in. The above is my order that I would advise. However you can watch them in any order you want, for instance you can watch Roots, G.U and Returner before you watch the Legend of the Twilight branch of stories. My only advice with not going according to a chronological timeline would be to just make sure you watch the character stories in order. It won’t help to watch .hack//Returner first of the three part story since it would make no sense and probably will put you off of all off the .hacks.