The Sailor Moon franchise has generated well beyond $13 billion in merchandising revenue alone. It is one of the most iconic and recognizable manga or anime IP to ever leave Japan. It is the rare property that caters to both men and women across a wide age range. Its enduring popularity since the 1990s resulted in a new Toei anime, Sailor Moon Crystal, which received a two-part movie just last year. So it all begs the question: Where the heck are the Sailor Moon video games?
There was briefly a match-3 mobile game that publisher Bandai Namco ultimately shut down, but beyond that, it’s been years since there’s been a Sailor Moon game of any note. This complete absence of Sailor Moon video games is nothing short of baffling, especially compared to how many video games other popular anime are receiving.
Just look at Dragon Ball, the other iconic anime that exploded in international popularity in the 1990s. Since 2015 alone, the franchise has launched Dragon Ball Xenoverse, Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2, Dragon Ball FighterZ, Super Dragon Ball Heroes: World Mission, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, and Dragon Ball: The Breakers. That includes a traditional fighting game, two 3D fighting games, an action RPG, a (completely terrible) card game, and a (wildly underrated) asymmetrical survival game.
Granted, it’s well established that anime always seem to get fighting game adaptations, whether anybody wants them or not. But remove the fighting games from the equation and Dragon Ball is still offering a diverse lineup of games. Likewise, One Piece has a whole series of Musou games, in addition to a highly anticipated upcoming RPG. Regardless, the point is that massive, active anime franchises typically have no trouble getting video game adaptations into development. It makes the case of Sailor Moon into an even bigger mystery.
It seems unlikely that Sailor Moon creator Naoko Takeuchi has a personal aversion to video games, since Sailor Moon games existed in abundance in Japan in the ‘90s. (An arcade also featured prominently in the story.) There were fighting games, brawlers, puzzlers, and even a full-blown RPG (which would eventually get a fan translation). Rather, it seems the present lack of Sailor Moon games comes down to corporate apathy. Theodore Jefferson once laid out a depressing case for why Toei just may not care about making Sailor Moon games.
Indeed, even Bandai Namco only gave a vague explanation back in 2015 about why there are no games, offering, “It really comes down to us being able to develop a compelling game that treats the Sailor Moon franchise the right way(,) and we’d want to know that fans would support the game.” In other words, the game would have to be good (a stipulation that has never stopped most anime games from existing), and the financial demand for it would have to be clear. However, it’s difficult for the fandom to express enthusiasm for something that never exists, short of starting a petition (and probably writing it in English and Japanese for good measure).
It’s especially frustrating because the Sailor Moon IP lends itself abnormally well to almost every genre of game. It can of course be a fighting game, like Dragon Ball FighterZ or even Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid. It can be a cutesy puzzle game. It can be a Mega Man-esque platformer / sidescroller. It can be a rhythm game, with all its memorable music. It can be a rather sophisticated dating sim! It can be a straight-up school life sim, like Persona 5 but with all the combat taken out. It can be a full-on story-intensive RPG, like Persona 5 with the combat put back in again.
In the most grandiose AAA scenario, Sailor Moon could become a co-op open-world action adventure set across a stylized Tokyo, draped in the mesmerizing pastel color palette of the ‘90s anime. A project with this type of budget isn’t likely to see the light of day anytime soon, but it should probably be one of the end goals for the fandom. It’s worth noting that Saban actually pitched a game almost exactly like this for the Power Rangers IP back in 2016, but it never progressed beyond the “exploration” phase due to the budget it would have required and due to other projects taking up resources. However, one could argue that Sailor Moon attracts broader demographics than Power Rangers. (Although, both franchises have inspired imitators as video games.)
So what can fans do if they want new Sailor Moon video games? Firstly, they have to be outspoken, politely suggesting the idea in relevant social media channels and at conventions. Secondly, they have to be realistic. Don’t demand a game the size of Grand Theft Auto. If, horror of horrors, Bandai Namco digs up another mobile game as the next Sailor Moon project, you should probably just play the thing and offer (polite) feedback accordingly. Likewise, try to financially support anything that might be video game-adjacent, like if Sailor Moon cosmetics appear in another game you play.
If corporate apathy really is the reason why there are no Sailor Moon games, then the impetus is on fans internationally to let Japan know that they are ready and eager to spend money on such games (presuming they’re good games, of course). The alternative is that things simply continue as they have, with the likes of Toei and Bandai Namco leaving money on the table and fans continuing to have to use the create-a-character feature in other games to pretend that they’re Sailor Jupiter or Tuxedo Mask.