What exactly is a LitRPG or a GameLit book? There are numerous definitions all over the web, all with one common underlying theme…it’s a book of a game. Still unclear? Understandable as that was a sh*t explanation. To expand it further, it’s a book:
(a) written similar to the way a game is played, i.e has stats and skill trees, and/or
(b) happens inside a game usually a VRMMO-RPG (Virtual Reality Massive Multiplayer Online RPG) where a character enters a game through Virtual Reality gear
Now these aren’t all inclusive criterias, but will serve to cover majority of the genre and this article in particular.
It’s really a niche genre which hides under broad spectrum of mainstream fantasy, but has it’s own hardcore following.
Disclaimer: There are some popular series like The Land by Aleron Kong that might be missing, and that’s just because I’ haven’t gotten to reading them yet. They will hopefully make be list in next edition. Now let’s kick off the list..
…in no particular order!
Awaken Online – Travis Bagwell
Frustrated and alone, Jason’s one escape has always been video games. In-game, he can feel the type of power and freedom he lacks in his day-to-day life. Once he begins playing the latest VRMMORPG game, Jason quickly finds himself on the path to becoming the game’s villain. In the process, he also starts to suspect that there is something unusual going on within the game.
If you’ve loved playing as Necromancer in any games, you’ll be sure to love this book. Epic battles with zombies, death knights, bone lords and other whatnots of undead make this a cracking read.
The story starts off with a story that seems to be laden in clichés, but quickly morphs in to a cracking rollercoaster ride to hell. The book switches between game world and real world and manages to keep you guessing as to how the story progress in both. Despite the classic game setting, there is a underlying human theme, dealing in kids growing up in dysfunctional families to AI sentience. Rather the just concentrating on the protagonist, subsequent books delve into the supporting characters and each have their own side-quest books to develop into well fleshed out characters. They are not there just for color, but have individuality and play brilliant roles of their own.
The underlying theme of how a real world person might use a game to work out their frustrations and desired…and in turn how in-game actions might impact their players real world personality is done to perfection.
System Apocalypse – Tao Wong
All John wanted to do was get away for his life in Kluane National Park for a weekend. Hike, camp and chill. Instead, the world comes to an end in a series of blue boxes, animals start evolving and monsters start spawning. Now, he has to survive the apocalypse, get back to civilization and not lose his mind.
A book that not only covers the usual LitRPG stuff, but also manages to delve into the societal impact of humans having to live with and fight against aliens and monsters, which is something I haven’t seen in other books of this genre.
What separates this book from others is the protagonist, John. He is a character we’ve all seen in our everyday lives. Has numerous flaws including anger and trust issues, difficulty in making friends (and girlfriends), well-intentioned but yet prone to instinctual knee jerk actions. I hated him in earlier books (and still don’t like him in later books) but still highly vested in his him as he tries to first survive and then protect earth and finally trying to unravel what caused the whole change. The action escalaltes quickly as stakes keep getting higher. The setting changes with every novel so we are always offered something new that keeps the story refreshing through multiple books.
Ascend Online – Luke Chmilenko
Diving into a revolutionary new video game, Marcus and his friends escape a stagnant society, entering into a world that defies their wildest imaginations. But from the moment that he logs in, Marcus is swept up into a whirlwind of beginning with goblin raids to more darker threats lurking around the corner.
This is more of a standard entry to this genre, set apart by the brilliant storytelling and worldbuilding. Marcus and his gane set up to play the new game and chaos strikes from get go. Marcus gets separated for his own adventures The author has a flow to his writing and it is immersive bringing the reader to the world. The worldbuilding is fascinating and the intrigue set in from get go. The plot unfolds organically as the protagonists are led into a series of every growing quests that open up the world smoothly and keeps readers interest up all through. Enough action sequences to amp up the adrenalin and doesn’t get too bogged up in skillsheets and stat trees.
Ten Realms – Michael Chatfield
For a retired combat medic and Marine Recon sniper, the Ten Realms offer a clear challenge and sense of purpose that they had only found on the battlefield.How much trouble can you get into in a new realm?
Now, this is literal definition of a opera.
Eric and Rugrat get transported into a different realm which has game aspects and they use their ingenuity and our world knowledge to navigate a grand adventure! It’s a rambling far reaching and all-encompassing opera of a read. I really love the way crafts like blacksmithing, alchemy, healing etc have been given importance and love the detailed mechanics behind those. Makes for a hell of a refreshing change from the getting plots that focus solely on quest/level ups (not that I hate those btw!). Book 1 was heavy in village Building, Book 2 was Crafting, Book 3 was Alchemy, Book 4 was warfare and so on, so we get a change of pace throughout the series. If you really like to have details on the crafts side along with a cracking overall plot, this is a must read in the genre.
Way of the Shaman – Vasily Mahanenko
Barliona: a virtual world jam-packed with monsters, battles-and, predictably, players. Millions of them come to Barliona, looking forward to the things they can’t get in real life: elves and magic, dragons and princesses, and unforgettable combat. The game has become so popular that players now choose to spend months online without returning home. In Barliona, anything goes: You can assault fellow players, level up, become a mythical hero, a wizard, or a legendary thief. The only rule that attempted to regulate the game demanded that no player be allowed to feel actual pain. But there’s an exception to every rule. For a certain bunch of players, Barliona has become their personal hell. They are criminals sent to Barliona to serve their time. They aren’t in it for the dragons’ gold or the abundant loot. All they want is to survive the virtual inferno. They face the ultimate survival quest,
An utterly binge readable series that starts off as a standard trope and the plot just keeps expanding to become a opera-esque series. There’s a lot to like in this as the role of Shaman is intriguing on its own.
What I loved is the interaction between real and virtual worlds. In this series the virtual world has become so popular that they have decided to merge the economies. Real World prisoners are consigned to VR modules to contribute to Game economy which then is used to boost real world economy. The game starts off a bit tropey but the intrigue keeps on building to a crescendo till the finale in last book. We get an ever expanding world and creatures plus the politics of game clans with their real life implications is something I’ve rarely seen replicated or done better in this genre. Another aspect I really appreciated is the ‘human’ element for the characters both in their actions and reactions which are both realistic and flawed giving them complete realistic feel.
Now, due to translation or other issues, there are some issues regarding language and timelines, but these are not major and do not affect the plot in any major way. The story telling is excellent as we just want to keep reading book after book till we reach the end.
God of Gnomes – Demi Harper
What kind of god would you be?
Deep beneath the earth, Corey finds himself reborn as a God Core – a sentient crystal with unusual powers. His new worshipers? A colony of incompetent gnomes, scratching out an existence in their underground grotto.
If that wasn’t bad enough, Corey soon realizes that his gnome denizens are about to become extinct. They are threatened by groups of blundering adventurers, and abducted by raiding kobolds to be sacrificed to their own dark god: an ancient, mysterious foe who does not take kindly to Corey’s arrival.
With the aid of his helper sprite and a menagerie of newly evolved creatures, Corey must protect and guide his gnomes until they can stand on their own two feet. But the kobold army is on the march, led by his new rival’s powerful avatar.
It’s a hard rock life, being a God Core
It’s a Dungeon Core book, where the protagonist is a piece of rock who has to influence his “citizens” (gnomes, in this case) to develop and mature in order to survive and overcome obstacles.
OMG! Probably the best writing and prose in this genre. Author just has the gift of words and the prose just drags you into the plot with unerring precision. The battle scenes especially deserve special attention. The only reason this has not made my top 5 is due to the expansive nature (due to multiple books) of the series above.
Book 2: Exodus of Gnomes was released recently in March 2021.
Completionist Chronicles – Dakota Krout
A game that puts all others to shame. Magic that has been banned from the world. A man willing to learn no matter the cost.
The decision to start a new life is never an easy one, but for Joe the transition was far from figurative. Becoming a permanent addition to a game world, it doesn’t take long to learn that people with his abilities are actively hunted. In fact, if the wrong people gained knowledge of what he was capable of, assassins would appear in droves.
In his pursuit of power, Joe fights alongside his team, completes quests, and delves into the mysteries of his class, which he quickly discovers can only be practiced in secret. Ultimately, his goal is to complete every mission, master every ability, and learn all of the world’s secrets.
All he has to do is survive long enough to make that happen.
A well-received series going by public opinions. I won’t be surprised if lots of people have this in their Top 5 and I’ve seen it make similar lists quite regularly. I’ve only read first 2 books and they have been excellent. Once I finish the rest of the books, we can see if this manages to dislodge any of the Top 5 above!
It features a new class of “Ritualist” which is something I have not seen in other games/books before. Unique and refreshing to see use of magical rituals in gameplay. The plot starts of as standard level up, but then expands quickly till a conclusion that I confess, I didn’t see coming!
Crystal Shards Online – Rick Scott
“There’s only one rule…don’t get hit.” Ryan’s life sucks. His brother is a jerk, his mom is sick, and his legs are next to useless thanks to a neurological disorder. Plus the world ended two centuries ago from nuclear war. Now, what’s left of humanity live below ground, with the only escape from reality being the massive VR world of Crystal Shards Online.
But even ingame, Ryan’s life sucks. Unable to play a combat class due to his condition, he works as a miner, earning barely enough to get by and not nearly enough to afford the operation that will save his mom’s life. When Ryan discovers an item that grants the ability to dodge any attack, however, he has the chance to become one of the game world’s most elite and sought after players: a Dodge Tank. But for someone who’s never played a combat class, success isn’t so easily had.
To save his mom, Ryan will have to overcome his disability and level his way to the top. But the real-world consequences are more far reaching than he ever could have imagined and the fate of not just his mother, but humanity itself, may be resting in his hands…
An absolutely fantastic series that is set in a world with game elements. All 4 books have different settings and despite starting off as a very trope-y book, both the world and game elements sets itself as special. We move from spells and swords to cars and guns smoothly all the while not feeling the transition.
Every book feels unique and has a different setting in a series of escalating plot line making this one of the most intriguing and most fun reads in this list.
Towers of Heaven – Milan Cameron
One day, six towers appear on Earth. Each one stands hundreds of stories tall, and are invulnerable to all attacks. At the base of each tower is a portal, welcoming in all who dare enter it.
All sorts of magical monsters can be found inside the towers. Even treasure, magic and superhuman strength can be acquired. The problem is that the towers aren’t a friendly place. Even worse, the towers sometimes release waves of monsters to attack Earth.
In the year 2083, there are only a hundred survivors. In one last attempt, they challenge the final floor without regard for their lives. By some miracle, they manage to beat the floor at the cost of their lives, leaving only one survivor.
As a reward for clearing the tower, he is granted one wish. He decides to go back in time to before the towers arrived. His goal is simple: prevent humanity from being wiped out.
Reborn Apocalypse – LM Kerr
If you could turn back the clock and fix all the mistakes you ever made, would you? Humanity has fallen, killed by stronger races of beings after being warped away to a new reality, the mystical 7 Layers. Humanity’s goal had been simple. Make it through all 7 Layers and reach Heaven.
Humanity failed. Humanity died.
Micheal Care’s memories have been transported back into his past self thanks to a magical Artifact he found by chance. He is no chosen savior. He is no divinely picked hero. Can he change the future? Can he catch up to the mightiest warriors of humanity and surpass them?
Now I’m probably doing an injustice by clubbing these two together as they are both are some of my personal favorites in this series. Both of they are time travel type series where the MC managed to avoid a apocalypse by traveling back in time and now has an opportunity to save humanity. Will they succeed? With really cool magic systems and plethora of cool powers and abilities, they are packed full of action and pure fun to read!