So you’re interested in getting into the Fate Franchise, but are confused about where it all starts eh? Well fret no more, I’m here to make it more confusing and not really answer that question! Let’s start at the beginning of everything. Or scroll to the bottom for the TLDR.
The first installment in the Fate franchise was a Visual Novel, titled “Fate/Stay Night” back in the mid-2000s. In that VN, there are three separate routes that can be taken, and are done in the following order: Fate -> Unlimited Blade Works -> Heaven’s Feel. The bad news is that you can’t get this visual novel in the US. It’s not available, and even if you import it from Japan, (which will cost you in the $100-$200 range) there isn’t an official translation available. It’s also “eroge” which means it’s got handfuls of sexual content. If you somehow find a fan-translation, get ready for 100+ hours of reading to finish all 3 routes. To make things more confusing, the routes aren’t chronological, just alternate ways the story could go.
The Fate route had an anime adaptation that was really, REALLY bad according to everyone. From the few clips I’ve seen, I agree. Poor animation quality, horrifically spoilery with “artistic liberties,” and not nearly as gripping as other adaptations (the music is great though). The second route, Unlimited Blade Works, has a movie adaptation by the same studio that made the bad Fate route, so skip that, because there’s a GOOD anime adaptation of Unlimited Blade Works by the studio ufotable, same one that made Fate/Zero (don’t worry, what little relevant content there is in the Fate route you get in the Unlimited Blade Works anime, so you aren’t missing anything). The third route (and arguably best, according to everyone), Heaven’s Feel, has a trilogy of movies by Studio ufotable. Two of them have been released, with the 2nd movie coming to BR/DVD in August, and the third movie in Spring of 2020.
While this is all well and good, why did I review Fate/Zero first? Fate/Zero is a prequel to the Fate/Stay Night routes and is also the first adaptation that Studio ufotable did. Because of this, they reference it in UBW. Meaning if you watch UBW first, it will spoil the ending and pretty much all of Fate/Zero. The problem is, there are some things in Fate/Stay Night (specifically Heaven’s Feel) that get spoiled in Fate/Zero. So they kind of spoil each other because in Japan they assumed everyone’s read the original 3 routes of the VN before watching any of the anime. For us US folks, we just have to bite the bullet and get Heaven’s Feel somewhat spoiled (not that big of a deal IMO) and start with Fate/Zero.
-Fate/ Grand Order-
Hoo boy. So a few years back, a mobile game of the same name came out which basically serves as a platform to flood unlimited unending Fate content into the hands of weebs worldwide. A prequel movie, “Fate/Grand Order: First Order” that sets the stage has been released, and a series “Fate/Grand Order – Absolute Demonic Front: Babylonia” is airing Fall of 2019, with another movie and another series both planned for 2020.
TLDR: I repeat, start with Fate/Zero. Then move to UBW, then Heaven’s Feel. If you’re fine waiting for the third movie before proceeding, that would probably be best, but if not, it’s not too big a deal. The rest of the Fate installments are in their own alternate timeline/universes for the most part, so the order doesn’t matter much after you’ve watched these main installments. After watching Zero, UBW, and however much of Heaven’s Feel, go ahead and pick up Fate/Apocrypha and Fate/Extra – Last Encore. For a change of pace there’s a cooking centered spin-off using the Stay Night characters called “Today’s Menu for the Emiya Family” that is pure wholesome happy goodness. There’s a brand new mystery/detective spinoff “Lord El-Melloi II’s Case Files: Rail Zeppelin Grace Note” that finishes airing its first season come Fall 2019, and a lolicon magical girl spin-off series “Fate/Kaleid Liner Prisma Ilya” of which I could not stomach more than one episode (that lolicon bit is a big turnoff).
And of course, the unfurling web of Grand Order that’s ever evolving. Scientists will have a cure for the common cold faster than I’ll be able to update with Grand Order information so I’m not really going to try.
Gigguk actually gives a pretty concise summary in this video, so give it a watch: