With not much “standard” sub-genres in this genre, I’ve went with my own! If you are new to the genre, here’s something that may help you make sense and pick up books to your liking.
What the heck do these sub-genres indicate?
GameLit is in general books which have elements which you might have seen or played in a game e.g skill trees, stat sheets etc. These elements may feature to varying extents, but present they will be! Now there are various permutations and combinations on how this will occur in a game and I’ll try to elaborate on some here
LitRPG is a sub-genre of GamLit and probably the catch all. Technically it is to capture books which feature the Role Playing (RPG) elements, but in practical use, LitRPG and GameLit are being used interchangeably.
But then, genres and titles are what we deem it to be. So pay less attention to the classifications and let’s get down to the books themselves.
Now, this is my favourite sub-genre! As the name indicates, books in this sub-genre takes place in relatively modern Earth. In most books, Earth has been assimilated into a bigger multi-planet universe is ruled by a “system” that implements game elements on all acquired worlds. Now this assimilation is mostly a forced takeover which usually results in death of vast swaths of humanity with the rest forced to adapt and fight for survival. Though the books start off with a ‘apocalypse’, being end of earth as we know now, the stories are post-apocalyptic survival in new Earth.
These are sweeping books which span over multiple geographies of current Earth and often venture out to space and include alien planets and species as Earth-people come to grasp with the macro “System”. It’s closest to epic fantasy and one which would include multiple game genres. You get the RPG elements of MC being forced into a leader of survivors leading them to salvation, RTS elements of MC forced to re-build towns/cities which were destroyed by the apocalypse and First Person Action elements where MC leads the fight against the ‘minions’ one vs one!
- Defiance of the Fall by Thefirstdefier – 9.5/10
- Dungeon Crawler Carl by Matt Dinniman – 9.5/10
- System Apocalypse by Tao Wong – 8.0/10
- Shadow Sun by Dave Willmarth – 8.0/10
- Phase Shift by Kyle Johnson – 8.0/10
- The Legend of Randidly Ghosthound – 7.5/10
- Primal Hunter by Zogarth – 7.5/10
- Advent Red Mage by Xander Boyce – 7.0/10
Set in Game World
These are books where
– Much of the plot happens in a world that has game elements, and/or
– Where the MC is from Earth but are transported to the above said magical world having game elements where they have their adventures, trials and tribunals.
Now, these are a [very] close second favourite of mine as they might have many of the features listed in earlier sub-genre, i.e. having RPG elements of MC being forced into a leader leading them to safety, RTS elements of MC forced to re-build towns/cities and First Person Action elements of MC leads the fight against the ‘minions’ one vs one!
- He who Fights with Monsters by Shirtaloon – 9.5/10
- Azarinth Healer by Rhaegar – 8.5/10
- How to Defeat a Demon King in Ten Easy Steps by Andrew Rowe – 8.0/10
- Dragon Mage Saga by Rohan Vider – 8.0/10
- This Trilogy is Broken by J.P. Valentine – 7.5/10
- Portal to Nova Roma by J.R. Mathews – 7.5/10
- Ten Realms by Michael Chatfield – 7.5/10
- [Books 1-4 are a must read and 9/10 brilliant]
- Crystal Shards Online by Rick Scott – 7.5/10
- [All books are unique and different. Last book is nowhere in sight]
- Drone Ensign by Kyle Johnson – 7.0/10
Other notable series:
Chaos Seeds by Aleron Kong
Virtual Reality Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games [VRMMORPG]
This is a set ins current/post-modern earth Earth where MC has access to ‘Total Immersion’ Virtual reality modules which connect directly to MC body/brain and provide a fully real life experience but in-game.
I love this because this not only has full fantasy world experience, but may also include a side story of the game AI trying to gain sentience through in-game experiences, which adds a whole new dimension to the story.
- Awaken Online by Travis Bagwell – 8.0/10
- Ascend Online by Luke Chmilenko – 8.0/10
- Way of the Shaman by Vasily Mahanenko – 8.0/10
- The Completionist Chronicles by Dakota Krout – 7.0/10
Other Notable series:
Good Guys by Eric Ugland
The Gam3 by Cosimo Yap
Limitless Lands by Dean Hengar
New Era Online by Shemer Kuznits
Ripple System by Kyle Kirrin
Progression & Cultivation Fantasy
Straight from the words of Andrew Rowe:
“Progression Fantasy is a fantasy subgenre term for the purpose of describing a category of fiction that focuses on characters increasing in power and skill over time. These are stories where characters are often seen training to learn new techniques, finding ways to improve their existing skills, analyzing the skills of opponents, and/or gaining literal or figurative “levels” of power.
Progression in the subgenre title specifically refers to character power progression, not other types of progression (e.g. increasing wealth, noble rank, etc.) that occur in stories.”
You’d ideally see defined power levels that a character will have to progress as he travels to his objective.
- Cradle by Will Wight – 9.5/10
- Mark of the Fool by J M Clarke – 9.25/10
- Warformed Stormweaver by Luke Chmilenko and Bryce O’connor – 9.0/10
- Immortal Great Souls by Phil Tucker – 8.0/10
- Arcane Ascension by Andrew Rowe – 8.0/10
- Mage Errant by John Bierce – 8.0/10 *
- The Weirkey Chronicles by Sarah Lin – 7.0/10
* Mage Errant in my humble opinion is more of mainstream fantasy rather than Progression, but is often listed in here.
- The Way of Etherforging by R.J. Shoke – 9.5/10
Cultivation Books is very similar to Progression, but we see higher degree of influence of Martial Arts where characters progressively get stronger by “cultivating” their own body. Most books are based on or have inspirations from concepts from Wuxia, Xianxia etc, though there are good books which port the same into a western Setting.
- Desolate Era by Wo Chi Xi Hong Shi – 9.0/10 *
- A Will Eternal by Er Gen – 9.0/10 *
- Coiling Dragon by Wo Chi Xi Hong Shi – 8.5/10 *
- I Shall Seal The Heavens by Er Gen – 8.5/10 *
- A Thousand Li by Tao Wong – 8.0/10
- Street Cultivation by Sarah Lin – 8.0/10
- Forge of Destiny by Yrsillar – 8.0/10
- Quantum Cultivation by Jace Kang – 7.5/10
- The Weirkey Chronicles by Sarah Lin – 7/10
* The books are translated from Chinese and available for free at freewebnovel.com. It certainly is a good translation, but there may be slight awkwardness to the prose, dialogue and naming conventions which takes some getting used to. But give it time and get past it and you’ll get treated to a the ultimate OP MC + epic battles progression fantasy of all time!
Slice of Life Fantasy
Books in this genre are set in a fantasy world and may have added elements of fantasy, GameLit, Progression or Cultivation but the focus is on a contemporary skill/job. e.g. the MC is a farmer or a cook and the plot focus is one day-to-day aspects of the job spiced up with game/fantasy elements. It’s a loveable niche genre that is the epitome of comfort reads guaranteed to put you in a blissful state of mind!
- Morcster Chef by Actus – 8.5/10
- Beware of Chicken by casualfarmer – 8.5/10
- Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree – 8.0/10
- Battle Mage Farmer by Seth Ring – 8.0/10
GameLit – Time Travel / Tower Ascension
I’m actually clubbing two distinct sub-genres in here. Most of these books involve either time travel and/or climbing a tower with levels of different difficulty to achieve a objective. Each level features varying challenges and difficulty, making this close the game but very interesting nevertheless!
- Reborn Apocalypse by LM Kerr – 8.0/10
- Towers of Heaven by Cameron Milan – 8.0/10
GameLit – Dungeon Core
This sub-genre has books where the MC has become/reincarnated as a core controlling a dungeon and has to protect it’s inhabitants against people who want to invade/clear it. Fascinating sub-genre as we have a MC who’s a Dungeon Core and can’t interact with his subjects through normal means and provides a completely different perspective to people-management.
- God of Gnomes by Demi Harper – 8.0/10
- Divine Dungeon by Dakota Krout – 8.0/10
Other Notable Series
- Derelict by Dean Hengar
Special shout-out to God of Gnomes to it’s scintillating prose making it one of the best in genre!
GameLit – Crafting Based
Now these are books purely focused on rafting elements. These are people who create stuff and not directly involved in fights like most other genres. This is a niche genre as these elements are usually included partly in other genres described above, but for enthusiasts, below are books which concentrate purely on crafting and intrigue associated with that (believe me, they are interesting!)
- Fair Quest by Kit Falbo – 8.0/10
- [Book 2 goes on a tangent, but Book 1 is a class self contained read]
Kind of surprised you missed Fayroll on here, since it is (imo) the major contemporary of Way of the Shaman.
Oh, I haven’t read that yet. Will add to my TBR. Thanks.
*Legend of the Arch Magus
*The Beginning After The End
*WIEDERGEBURT: Legend of the Reincarnated Warrior (Explicit)
* Master Hunter K
* Reincarnation of the Strongest Sword God
* Tower of Damnation
* Second Chance Swordsman
* Arise: Alpha
These are just a very few of the books that I’ve found very interesting or fun to read. A lot of them involve reincarnation or cultivation or gamelit but almost all of them have an over powered main character
Missed the Ripple System series by Kyle Kirrin! It’s a VR one. Really fun, and the third one is just about to come out.
I did read book 1 but wasn’t too impressed. However will add to list now. Thanks!
Why no mention of Aleron Kong’s wildly popular ”The Land” series?
I have not read it yet and heard it drops off significantly after book 6 or so.
Robert Mammone says
Kinda thinking the Gary Gygax penned 80s fantasy books series based on the character Gord the Rogue may be the earliest example of what we call progression fantasy? He goes from being a street urchin to going toe to toe with demonic entities on transdimensional planes. Thoughts, anyone?
Surprised to see Defiance of the Fall over Dungeon Crawler Carl. However I only read the first book of the former. I kind of lost interest. Does it get that much better?
Yes. Book 1 is mostly an intro and scene setter. It gets more and more epic after that. Currently on book 6 and it’s way bigger in scope and plot than book 1. I’d recommend giving couple more books a go.
glenn molitor says
I was just looking to find a digital version of this series! I have all of the paperbacks , but I’ve become a full convert to digital books I can blow up to read as I age. I was just thinking about how Gord fit into this genre. I believe you are correct, but I haven’t reread the series in years (I’m going to break out the paperbacks because I haven’t found a digital replacement)
I love this series!
glenn molitor says
btw ,Gary Gygax created Dungeons & Dragons. He created dynamic fantasy worlds that you could actually create characters and play in the worlds he created. I would definitely say progression. I mean, you could create your own characters and progress in the world of Greyhawk.
Great list, thank you for compiling and sharing! Would love to see scifi progression added to the list. Like Bobiverse and Children of Time. I stubbled on here wondering if there were other similar series worth checking out. Cheers.
David Whight says
You haven’t scored the Good Guys by Eric Ugland. I was not aware of this genre and came across “One More Last Time by accident when looking for a book which my grandson could read. He is unfortunately like me dyslexic. I learnt to read because I became enamoured of Edgar Rice Burroughs and so learnt to read. That is Tarzan, Princess of Mars etc. btw. The book lacks depth but is easy to read, sets up a world in my head where I can play, I am trying to decide whether to read the series or to try one you have rated as 9.5/10 for comparison. At 85 I suspect I am not the usual reader on here.
G. N. says
The list by itself is awesome and it pretty much covers a wide swath of pretty great books, the author has a done a good job. I thing you should definitely finish the Good guys series it is worth the read, that said my personal recommendation would be to try out Cradle by Will Wight it is one of the books that got me hooked. I think it is pretty great that you still have the passion to explore new genres, I hope I can keep that fire burning when I get to your age.
Cheers and have a great day!
I’m a HUGE fan of Cradle and has read every book out till now. It’s already on the list too.