Gamelit and LitRPG stories are diverse. There are hundreds of them (thousands?), and they run the gamut from high fantasy to grim-dark to military sci-fi. It’s hard to know where to start.
By no means am I an expert on the genre, but I have read my share of it. So below are some books I recommend you start with if you’re interested in this type of storytelling. And by the way, if you’re curious to learn more about what Gamelit and LitRPG are all about, check out my post explaining them here.
A Call for Patience
This may be a controversial thing to note, but it’s important, I feel. Many LitRPG and Gamelit authors are new to writing, and they are often self-published. What this means in practice is, the level of writing quality varies a lot, to where some people find it hard to get through many of these LitRPG stories.
That said, grand adventures and refreshingly unique story situations await those who brave these new creative waters. The avid fans of Gamelit and LitRPG look past the writing quality to the ideas and game mechanics being presented. It’s not for everyone, but if it’s for you, there’s a universe of options to dig into.
A Few LitRPG Stories I’ve Read
Okay so this is a well-known story and more Gamelit than LitRPG. But damn, was it well done. Great place to ease your way in to the broader genre of Gamelit and see the potential of Full Immersion VR. Definitely check out the novel over the movie (it is SO much better). And I recommend you get the audiobook, voiced by Will Wheeaaaton!
A world at stake. A quest for the ultimate prize. Are you ready?
In the year 2045, reality is an ugly place. The only time Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the OASIS, a vast virtual world where most of humanity spends their days.
When the eccentric creator of the OASIS dies, he leaves behind a series of fiendish puzzles, based on his obsession with the pop culture of decades past. Whoever is first to solve them will inherit his vast fortune—and control of the OASIS itself.
Then Wade cracks the first clue. Suddenly he’s beset by rivals who’ll kill to take this prize. The race is on—and the only way to survive is to win.
Another influential book to ease your way into the genre. I’m more of a VR Litrpg story fan, so this novel was right up my alley. It was well written, and included a clear character arc for the main character. Really had me rooting for him as a sort of anti-hero in the game. Really interesting elements with the AI and what its plans are that kept me reading and wanting to know more.
A spellbinding adventure perfect for fans of Ready Player One.
Jason logs into Awaken Online fed-up with reality. He’s in desperate need of an escape, and this game is his ticket to finally feeling the type of power and freedom that are so sorely lacking in his real life.
Awaken Online is a brand new virtual reality game that just hit the market, promising an unprecedented level of immersion. Yet Jason quickly finds himself pushed down a path he didn’t expect. In this game, he isn’t the hero. There are no damsels to save. There are no bad guys to vanquish.
In fact, he might just be the villain.
I’m a big fan of world building, and this story had tons of it. We’re introduced to so many unique concepts like the NOED and more. And we’re not immediately told what each thing is… the reader figures it out via context much of the time, which is something good writing does. Great stuff!
Reidon Ward will become a god.
He doesn’t know it yet, of course. Reidon was born weak, sickly and small. Afflicted with a painful disease and abandoned by his parents because of it, he has had to fight tooth and nail for every minor advantage life has allowed him.
His perseverance has not gone unnoticed, however, and when the most powerful artificial intelligence in human history takes an interest in him, things began to change quickly. Granted a CAD—a Combat Assistance Device—with awful specs but an infinite potential for growth, Reidon finds himself at the bottom of his class at the Galens Institute, one of the top military academies in the Collective. Along with his best friend, Viviana Arada, Reidon will have to start his long climb through the school rankings, and on to the combat tournament circuits that have become humanity’s greatest source of excitement and entertainment.
So begins the rise of a god. So begins the ascent of the Stormweaver.
This one starts off with action and pulls you in. Then you’re hit with some pretty big questions that amp up the intrigue and it just keeps going from there. I like the class shifting aspect b/c it introduces a unique way to keep the MC off balance, and therefore the story interesting. Plus, we get to see several different classes all in one story, which was refreshing.
If Tim is to survive his new world; he’ll have to combine the skills of his shifting classes.
Whether it be the heroes of legends or the characters in games, few things are more defining than Class. Except maybe Class isn’t always static. Tank, DPS, healer, and more. They are all just different sides of fate’s die.
Taken from life as an office drone by a trickster god, Tim finds himself in the magical world of Iocusinte, where change is his only constant.It grants him great potential, enough to be sought out by different factions looking to use him for their own ends.
That potential, however, is mercurial. His Class and very appearance change at random even as his Skills and Stats progress. He’ll have to solve the riddle of his nature and learn to master the uncontrollable if he hopes to survive.
A lesser known title, and I appreciate its sci-fi take on Gamelit. The upgrade mechanic was unique and interesting… like a motivation for the main character to stay alive by better managing his resources. Other than that, the story had lots of action and a quirky dynamic between John and the AI. Fun read!
After spending months on an alien world for work, all John Espinoza just wants to do is get home to his wife and daughter. Unfortunately, the transport ship he chose is attacked by pirates and he ends up stranded on an unknown planet where the very air is toxic to him.
Now John has to team up with the ship’s AI and the two have to survive on this hostile alien world and figure out some way to get off the planet or get a message out for help.
Can they overcome their dwindling resources, alien life forms, and hostile space forces? Or will they die together, planet bound?
When I was younger, I loved portal fantasy books where someone stumbled on some ancient artifact and got whisked off to another world. Delvers LLC captured some of that nostalgia for me. The two main characters, while they make questionable decisions sometimes (hey, they are tossed onto an alien planet after all), are relatable and I like their friendship. Using the little orbs to create the magic system was different and refreshing, too.
Henry and Jason were two regular guys before being transported to Ludus, a dangerous fantasy world. Luckily, they have at least a few useful skills, and more importantly, can learn to use magic.
Now they will need to survive a world where nothing is familiar, where monsters roam the wilderness and alien people populate the cities. The two friends will need to dig deep, discovering who they are and what it means to be human.
Unfortunately, making money will also be important, and working as fantasy adventurers in real life…isn’t always fun.
I mean… from the beginning, we know where we’re going, which is up that tower, so that lends a sort of propulsive thrust to the narrative. Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest were big parts of my childhood (the OG NES versions, mind you), so I really jived with the tone of this book. I also like that Corin isn’t a badass from the start. He kinda barely gets by at points, which is great for his character progression as he improves. One of the better written (from a technical standpoint) LitRPG/Gamelit stories out there.
Five years ago, Corin Cadence’s brother entered the Serpent Spire — a colossal tower with ever-shifting rooms, traps, and monsters. Those who survive the spire’s trials return home with an attunement: a mark granting the bearer magical powers. According to legend, those few who reach the top of the tower will be granted a boon by the spire’s goddess.
He never returned.
Now, it’s Corin’s turn. He’s headed to the top floor, on a mission to meet the goddess.
If he can survive the trials, Corin will earn an attunement, but that won’t be sufficient to survive the dangers on the upper levels. For that, he’s going to need training, allies, and a lot of ingenuity.
The journey won’t be easy, but Corin won’t stop until he gets his brother back.
Unique take on the “stuck in a VR game” trope. Keeps it fresh and adds real world stakes to those who are fighting to survive in this unjust system. I love how determined the MC is. Makes you root for him the whole way as he gives the finger to his oppressors.
An original LitRPG fantasy from one of the fathers of LitRPG! #1 bestseller in audiobooks. Translated into English, German, Polish, Czech and Korean languages.
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 was 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.
What Are Your Favorite LitRPG Stories?
There’s obviously a ton more great LitRPG and Gamelit books out there I didn’t mention, so maybe I’ll do a part 2 and 3 at some point. What about you? Read any Gamelit or LitRPG stories? What are your favorites? Let me know in the comments!
Image by Lubos Houska