What if real life suddenly worked like a video game? That’s the question posed by the wildly popular manhwa The Gamer (hosted on Webtoon) by author Sung Sang-Yoing. The Gamer shows us a world that runs on the same rules as a role playing game, or RPG. If you want to get good at something in this world, you have to grind for experience points until you “level up.” Whether they’re all time classics or brand-new works adapted from Japanese “light novels,” they all take their inspiration from good old video games. So without further ado, and in no certain order, here’s a list of manhwa and manga like The Gamer to check out if you can’t get enough of this popular manhwa.
Manhwa and Manga Like The Gamer
So I’m a Spider, So What? By Okina Baba
What if, one day, you woke up to find yourself transformed into a giant insect? No, this isn’t Kafka, though the mysterious author Okina Baba may be equally reclusive. Relatively little is known about Okina Baba, in fact nothing is known other than their pen name. But that doesn’t stop readers from enjoying their phenomenal work.
A great magical battle bursts into our world and erupts in a Japanese classroom, killing everyone. However, instead of being truly dead, the students find themselves reincarnated into the alternate world. Our protagonist finds herself reincarnated into a spider, a lowly spider, the kind of spider you use for target practice in level one of Dragon Age. She has to not only survive, but grind her way up.
So I’m a Spider, So What? was originally a web serial novel adapted into a light novel, then to a manga, and now soon to be an anime. This only speaks to its popularity and charm. I liked it for the fact that it’s an unexpected premise delivered in a clever way that is honestly adorable.
My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom by Satoru Yamaguchi and Nami Hidaka
It’s not all about RPGs. Otome or “Maiden” games, very popular in Japan, allow players to find romance with handsome anime boys. So when an ordinary high school girl finds herself sucked into the world of the Otome game “Fortune Lover”, you’d think it was a dream come true. But there’s one big problem.
Our protagonist, Catarina Claes, is not the pure, perfect heroine of “Fortune Lover,” but the heroine’s mean girl romantic rival. To make matters worse, almost every “good” ending to the game has Catarina banished or killed as punishment for her crimes.
Forced into the role of a cartoonish video game villain, Catarina can only think of one way to turn things around: just be nice.
My Next Life as a Villainess was also a web novel that became a light novel series. Its manga adaption is ongoing, and it was just greenlit for the anime’s second season.
The Hero is Overpowered But Overly Cautious By Light Tuchihi, Saori Toyota, and Koyuki
Have you ever wondered who’s in charge of dragging all these humans into alternate worlds? Well, look no further: Ristarte is a goddess-in-training who has to protect a world way above her own level. When looking for a hero, she finds Seiya’s file, and he’s so overpowered she doesn’t bother finishing his file. As the title tells you however, while he might be overpowered, he’s also…overly cautious. He grinds for weeks even when he doesn’t need to, he uses his most powerful spells on weaklings. In fact, he is asked to leave a town because his over cautiousness in making sure an enemy is dead, burns the town down.
But perhaps this duo is guaranteed for success? Find out! This is another light novel turned manga turned anime.
Seconds By Bryan Lee O’Malley
I had to stifle the urge to put Scott Pilgrim on this list, because, face it, we’ve all already read or watched Scott Pilgrim. Thankfully, Bryan Lee O’Malley has written another video game inspired novel, Seconds, a graphic novel about Katie Clay, who is given a magical mushroom (a clear nod to Mario’s One-Up mushroom) by her house spirit. The house spirit tells her that if she writes her mistakes down, eats the mushroom, and sleeps, she’ll awaken anew with the errors washed away.
Of course, Katie maybe uses it too often, and finds herself caught in a web of even more blunders.
This is a single volume work. No big commitment needed.
Saving 80,000 Gold in Another World for My Retirement by FUNA, Keisuke Motoe, Edited by Taylor Fonzone, Translated by Lukas Ruplys
FUNA is a pseudonym for an incredibly prolific and highly rated Japanese female author. This manga stands out amongst her catalogue of work because it breaks the boundaries of the genre. This breaking is done by having the character go back and forth from the alternate universe to her own.
After falling off a cliff and into another world (think medieval England) orphan girl Yamano decides to live in both worlds and goes back and forth with a goal in mind. Armed with three handguns (that’s right, she’s packing heat) she decides to collect 80,000 gold coins so she can have financial security for the rest of her life.
She tells us the rules, which are that while she will try to not let strange things from her world come into this other world, she will also not hold back if it makes things easier for her.
Didn’t I Say To Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?! by FUNA and Nekomint
Kurihara is an exceptional girl. So exceptional in fact, that she is exceptionally lonely. When she throws herself in front of a car to save a child’s life, she is granted a wish in her reincarnation. Her wish? To be average. However, average is calculated by adding the power of the most powerful creature and the weakest creature together…and then dividing by two. Now Kurihara is back in a new magical world, as a new person, and with half the power of the strongest dragon in the world.
Will she still end up being exceptionally lonely? Or will she make friends despite being 6,800 times more powerful than any other person on the planet?
That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime by FUSE and Taiki Kawakami
If you can’t tell already, there’s a huge genre in Japanese light novels surrounding reincarnation into different worlds and as odd objects. This one is about a salaryman who valiantly sacrifices himself for his coworker. Like Kurihara before him, this selfless act earns him a chance at reincarnation.
He is reborn in a Dragon Quest style RPG world, but instead of a valiant knight, he’s a lowly slime enemy. He may be a pathetic little blob, but he makes the most of his abilities [predator] and [great sage], and becomes an adventurer anyway.
The manga was extremely popular and spawned a bunch of spin-offs. So if the adventures of this little slime sound like your cup of tea, you’ll have plenty of material to check out.
Ascendance of a Book Worm by Miya Kazuki, Suzuka, Translated by Quof
Though perhaps not overtly video game related, it is clear that it is video game inspired. Myne is an adult librarian in our world, whose dying wish is that she can keep on reading books (and can’t we all understand that?).
In a cruel twist she is reincarnated as a poor and sickly child in the medieval period (still with all her memories).
If there aren’t any books available to her, she’ll just have to make some! There is a catch though: if she dies in this world, she dies forever.
Knights of Rayearth by CLAMP, Adapted by by Jamie S. Rich, Translated by Anita Sengupta
Out of all of the aforementioned works, this one is the only one that actually has a real video game, which was a cult classic on the Sega Saturn. Though an old classic, I figured it really deserved a spot on the list. The creators, CLAMP, are an association of female anime authors who also brought us Cardcaptor Sakura and Angelic Layer.
Once schoolgirls suddenly whisked away from modern day society, Hikaru, Fuu and Umi are now magical knights in the land of Cephiro. The reason for their summoning? To save Princess Emeraude. Based on RPG rules, the girls must explore the land in order to find weapons, upgrades, and spells. All while learning the true power of friendship, of course.
The Devil Is a Part-Timer by Satoshi Wagahara and Akio Hiiragi
This is a reversal of every manga I just listed and for that I’ve waited to put it last because it’s such a great premise. In an alternate world where a Hero and the Demon King are at war, the demon king escapes the armies of the Hero in the last moment and is sucked through a portal with his general, but before the portal closes the Hero jumps through as well. Now they live totally powerless and magicless in modern day Japan. Months later, the great demon lord is working part time at a fast food restaurant, and our heroic knight is working at a tech support call center.
But the villainous demon lord isn’t done scheming. With time and dedication, he may one day become a full-time fast food worker! Maybe even the regional manager!