The best LitRPG books, graphic novels, and light novels

Kevin Murphy Author Of First Login
By Kevin Murphy

The Books I Picked & Why

Ready Player One

By Ernest Cline

Book cover of Ready Player One

Why this book?

Ready Player One is one of two books that changed my path in life.

The book and movie couldn’t be any more different. They’re almost like parodies of one another.

The book leans much harder into nerdy subculture and really embraces life in a VR space. It exalts retro videogames, tabletop RPGs, anime, music, and cinema all while establishing a vast and incredible world to escape to.

The story’s physical world is a dystopian, classist nightmare. The main character is fully aware. All he really wants to do is save what he loves and live freely.

LitRPG would not be what it is today without Ready Player One, and you can blame the book for my desire to hide easter eggs in works of my own.

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The Dragon’s Wrath: A Virtual Dream

By Brent Roth

Book cover of The Dragon’s Wrath: A Virtual Dream

Why this book?

A Virtual Dream is a LitRPG that’s achieved legendary status. The story does so many things right. It establishes a compelling base-building story, gives meaning to NPCs, and pulls us to root for the oddball protagonist, whether or not we agree with him.

Mysteriously, books one and two of The Dragon’s Wrath haven’t been for sale online in years. Nonetheless, the demand for this series continues today and copies of each book still circulate the web, prized like treasures.

This book helped me realize how much more can be done with the LitRPG genre, and even though its story remains unfinished, the third book gives a considerable amount of resolution while leaving you hungry for more.

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The Moonlight Sculptor: The Birth of A Dark Gamer (Book 1)

By Heesung Nam

Book cover of The Moonlight Sculptor: The Birth of A Dark Gamer (Book 1)

Why this book?

Did you know that LitRPG was originally forged in the east? The Moonlight Sculptor (or Legendary Moonlight Sculptor, LMS, as most know it) was so popular that its ravenous fans spread it to the rest of the world. The series sets up a number of important tropes for the genre going forward. Many consider LMS to be required reading, but you should know going in that it has a very spotty translation. It’s a massive body of work, too, spanning 57 published volumes.

In it, a hardworking miser pseudonymously known as Weed overprepares and over-delivers time and time again. Watching Weed grow and affect his world is exciting and addictive. LMS is really engaging. It’s an excellent, albeit silly read. If you only read one Korean LitRPG, read this one.

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Solo Leveling, Vol. 1

By Chugong

Book cover of Solo Leveling, Vol. 1

Why this book?

Solo Leveling (or Only I Level Up), in its webtoon form, is one of the peaks of LitRPG storytelling. The scenes are beautifully drawn, elevating the story beyond its original text-only format. You will be hard-pressed to find a more engaging read than this. The webtoon maintains tension incredibly well, and knows how to constantly supply its readers with little dopamine bombs along the way.

Solo Leveling plays with the formula of LitRPG, taking it off the rails by containing the game system inside the main character for much of the story, allowing him to grow stronger. Reading Solo Leveling is an absolute treat—perhaps doubly so for me as several of the niche ideas used in the story are also used in my books.

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AlterWorld: Play to Live

By D. Rus

Book cover of AlterWorld: Play to Live

Why this book?

A Russian novel with a top-notch translation, Alterworld is a controversial series, but one that is etched into LitRPG history and is legitimately worth reading.

The story’s terminally ill protagonist cheats death by uploading his consciousness to a game world, trapping himself in-game, and unlocking a whole slew of issues to overcome. Be forewarned: the series is mired in controversy for several reasons, not least of which being the author’s mercurial political stance. Initially hyper-critical of government, the author becomes famous and suddenly changes his tune. If you binge read the series, this jump to pro-national propaganda will stick out like a sore thumb, but it’s a bit like a trainwreck that’s difficult to look away from. It’s odd and serves to make the series that much more interesting.

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