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 are GameLit and/or LitRPG?
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.
Note 1: This doesn’t include Web Serials (Royal Road) and adapted books. They are fantastic, so check them out!
Note 2: I’ve include some ‘notable’ series that I haven’t read yet.
Note 3: There may be overlaps between book I classed into sub-genres.
GameLit – Post/Apocalyptic Earth
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 8.5/10
- Dungeon Crawler Carl by Matt Dinniman 8.5/10
- System Apocalypse by Tao Wong 8/10
- Shadow Sun by Dave Willmarth 8/10
- Phase Shift by Kyle Johnson 8/10
- Advent Red Mage by Xander Boyce 7.5/10
GameLit – Set in Game World
These are books which much of the plot happens in a world that has game elements. These also include books 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 9.0/10
- Ten Realms by Michael Chatfield 8.5/10
- How to Defeat a Demon King in Ten Easy Steps by Andrew Rowe 8/10
- Arcane Ascension by Andrew Rowe 8/10
- Dragon Mage by Rohan Vider 7.5/10
- Crystal Shards Online by Rick Scott 7.5/10
- Bastion by Phil tucker 7.5/10
- Drone Ensign by Kyle Johnson 7/10
Other notable series:
Chaos Seeds by Aleron Kong
GameLit – 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 8.5/10
- Ascend Online by Luke Chmilenko 8.0/10
- Way of the Shaman by Vasily Mahanenko 8/10
- The Completionist Chronicles by Dakota Krout 7.5/10
Other Notable series:
Good Guys by Eric Ugland
The Gam3 by Cosimo Yap
Limitless Lands by Dean Hengar
New Era Online by Shemer Kuznits
Reality Benders by Michael Atamanov
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 8.5/10
- Towers of Heaven by Cameron Milan 8/10
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!)
- Crafting of Chess by Kit Falbo 8.0/10
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
- Warformed: Stormweaver by Luke Chmilenko and Bryce O’connor 9/10
- Arcane Ascension by Andrew Rowe 8/10
- Mage Errant by John Bierce * 7.5/10
* Mage Errant in my humble opinion is more of mainstream fantasy rather than Progression, but is often listed in here.
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.
- A Thousand Li by Tao Wong 8.0/10
- Street Cultivation by Sarah Lin 8.0/10
- Quantum Cultivation by Jace Kang 7.5/10
- The Weirkey Chronicles by Sarah Lin 7/10