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Solo-Character Run

A variation of the Self-Imposed Challenge restricted to games with multiple controllable characters, like RPGs or strategy games. The player selects one character from the roster and completes the game using only that character, with all the others being restricted to a support role, perpetually dead, constantly blocking, or just ignored.

The difficulty level for this kind of run can vary wildly, depending on the character and the game. For example, RPGs frequently divide the experience gained from fights evenly among the surviving characters, which means that a solo character can gain levels very quickly early on, thereby breezing through the early game. However, later on, exponential requirements for gaining levels mean that the character is not nearly so relatively powerful compared to a full-on party. There are also many cases where enemies can induce deadly status effects on party members (such as zombie, stone, or instant death), which can be easily rectified in normal playthroughs by having other party members heal the afflicted character, but in solo challenges are as good as a Game Over.

For some games, this is not strictly possible because the character is either not in the party or not able to perform a technique required to advance the plot at certain points in the game. For these games, the variation is to use only that character in all situations where the game allows it, and use the bare minimum skills from the other characters when compelled to by the plot.

Not to be confused with Solo Sequence, in which single-character play is temporarily enforced. A character class (supposedly) designed to facilitate this kind of play is a Solo Class.

Examples:

Action Adventure

  • This is a fairly popular challenge in the Thrill Tower/ScareScraper mode of Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon, where the higher difficulty levels are pretty much explicitly designed for groups of players yet the option to try them solo always remains. Some popular examples including beating 25 floors of Expert Mode on your own (which is extremely hard due to the high amount of enemies and their high amounts of health) and attempting to beat much more than in Endless Mode (some people have somehow managed over a HUNDRED floors on their own despite all the psychotic ghosts needing to be defeated on each one).

First-Person Shooter
  • This is more or less the preferred method of playing the game Daikatana, as the AI for your companions is buggy at best. The death of either one of them ends the level just the same as though you had died. Typically, the best option is to order them to stay put in some safe corner and go out and kill everything yourself.
  • Through the use of console commands, people have tried solo runs in Left 4 Dead by kicking bots from the game and had various levels of success. Valve seemed to have noticed and introduced a mutation for Left 4 Dead 2 called Last Man on Earth, where you play alone against only special infected and can only be knocked down once before true death applies.

Hack and Slash

MMORPGs
  • A player known by the handle "Sydney Prime" is attempting to play RuneScape - an MMORPG, of all things - solo. RuneScape has no convenient permalink system, but inputting Sydney Prime into the RuneScape forum thread search will suffice.
  • In Dungeon Fighter Online this can be pretty common. You can either do solo, or in a party. Most of the time things are much easier in parties, but you can still solo all dungeons. This becomes harder later on, as some monster gimmicks, such as the ability to prevent you moving but not attacking, make it harder, but by no means is it impossible, plus you don't have to share any found loot.
  • In World of Warcraft, to get players to revisit some older raids, Blizzard has been tweaking the pre-Mists of Pandaria raids so that they can be soloed, albeit by players who have far outleveled the content, as well as removing the restriction that a player has to be in a group to even enter one.

Platformers
  • Trine 2 has an achievement for completing a level using just a single character of the trio.

Roguelike
  • FTL: Faster Than Light has the Engi B cruiser, which starts with only one crew member, unlike other ships which begin with 2-4 starting crew. It is possible, though exceptionally difficult, to complete the game with only this crew member. (Should any crew members be recruited due to events, they can be discarded by dumping them in an oxygen-deprived room until they run out of HP.)

Role-Playing Game
  • The Tales games are popular among elite players for, as a cursory glance in YouTube will tell you, demonstrating your pimp combo skills by soloing powerful bosses. Many of these vids are also No Damage Runs.
  • There is a version for Breath of Fire III, but it can be something of a hassle, as the game automatically revives slain party members after battle; thus you must keep killing them at the start of each fight...
  • In Chrono Trigger, it is possible to skip straight to the final boss fight with only your main character. However, you can only do this at the very beginning of the game, and only by starting a New Game+, with data from an existing file.
    • It is also possible, though less difficult, to defeat the system defenses in Lucca's Dimensional Vortex solo. Ayla's confusion as she tries to figure it out is particularly amusing.
  • Rogue Galaxy allows for a solo character run of sorts, by setting the AI on "keep away", under which circumstances they won't help you fight at all, and won't heal themselves so they can be left dead. Party members auto-revive with 1 HP if Only Mostly Dead at the end of a fight, but they'll die again in short order if not healed, making their momentary livelihood mostly meaningless.
    • And due to the sheer stupidity of the AI, you're probably better off doing this even if you're playing the game the straight way.
  • Many of the Exile/Avernum games from Spiderweb Software are arguably easier in some respects with a solo character, as that character gets all the good loot (of which there is a strictly limited supply), all of the experience (a high-level character is much harder for monsters to kill than an equivalently-leveled character), and only a fourth of the available target space. The big problems come in figuring out your skill distribution.
    • Singletons, as they are called in Avernum, are also extremely vulnerable to being wrapped in web by giant spiders. If the spiders continue spinning webs (and they will. They always do), a single character will get no turns at all, getting stuck in a zero-AP loop. Cue either an impossibly long death process or a Ctrl-Alt-Delete.
    • Actually, skill distribution isn't that much of a problem since you'll be getting a whole party's experience worth for just one guy early on, and later on you can buy potions that award skill points. The real problem is inventory space: in Exile it's often a good idea to give up armor and helmets after a certain point so as to be able to carry more loot.
  • This, or simply using a much smaller party than the maximum, is a popular challenge in Baldur's Gate. The sequel is absurdly easy with this method if one has the expansion pack installed, since the solo character gains access to abilities that would normally only be acquired in the expansion and are many, many times more powerful than the standard skillset.
    • Better Infinity Engine games to try this trope with are the Icewind Dale series. Trying it in the sequel is lunacy (doable, mind you, but still lunacy), because the Challenge Rating system ensures that you'll soon end up gaining as much XP solo as you would with a full party, although backup characters at level 1 (lowering the average level) who do no fighting can mitigate this to some degree.
    • This is not, on the other hand, very common among Planescape: Torment players. This is possibly because dying is easy for the lead character, but staying dead is hard; or because after the initial roughness of going it alone, even dying becomes hard; or because so much of the game is character interaction, including with party members, and there are so few mandatory fights that you're missing the point of the game if you try a Solo-Character Run.
  • Both Final Fantasy Legend II and III revive dead characters after every battle. How do you deal with that? By using codes to petrify most of your team, and any fifth characters to boot! Just be prepared to deal with extreme difficulty, even compared to other solos.note 
  • Final Fantasy:
    • This is very popular in Final Fantasy I. A solo Fighter is regarded as easiest. Black Belt is not difficult when massively overleveled, Red Mage has both good offense and defense plus multi-targeting black magic, White Mage has the advantage of the RUSE (Blink) spell, and Black Mage has multi-targeting black magic starting from the third town. By far the hardest, Thief has to grind halfway to the level cap (with poor offense and defense the whole time) before being able to have a CHANCE to defeat the fourth mini-boss. Nobody has ever gotten past the fifth one.
    • Final Fantasy IV has seen a number of attempts using Cecil (the only possible one, as the party is far more fluid than later Final Fantasy games). The usual strategy is using Bacchus (an item that causes Berserk) to get through boss fights. The Demon Wall is the usual choke point.
      • Only Cecil is possible, unless of course one uses patch codes of one form or another. It's quite possible, though mages will have a rough time. As, in some versions, bosses that are fought without a magic user in the party, such as Valvalius and the Dark Imp, are totally immune to spells.
    • Final Fantasy VI has a variation, with people only following this as long the required character is around, meaning someone that joins early and rejoins early like the Figaro twins is the "closest" to the feel of the challenge. Umaro is considered to be the only one that can't win it, for obvious reasons.
      • One specific variation is to use Celes, Edgar, and Setzer (the only three characters forced back into your party in the second half of the game) and have them each do a solo run through the final dungeon, which requires splitting into three parties.
    • This can be done in Final Fantasy VII except when plot-necessary (Cloud is incapacitated for a period, and there are some boss fights that must be fought with specific characters). It's somewhat trivial if you use Cloud, since the Yoshiyuki sword you pick up in Rocket Town powers up if you have dead people in your party. It's balanced out by a couple bosses that have attacks that trap your character and require intervention from your dead party members, netting you an instant game over. The first, Reno can be taken out if you power level early, usually getting Cloud to unlock Meteorain long before you would otherwise get it. The other, Carry Armor, can quickly become That One Boss, since it will often open the battle with Arm Grab, ending the fight before it can even begin. Save Scumming can be considered mandatory for him. That said, the Bonus Boss Ruby WEAPON is easiest with one character, as it cannot use Whirlsand if only one character is alive.
    • SCRs are ridiculously easy in Final Fantasy VIII, thanks to the ease of pulling off LimitBreaks. Lionheart, "Armageddon Fist," Acid, Invincible Moon...it's all good.
      • Another reason is that there is no limit to the number of Guardian Forces you can assign to a single character...thus, it is entirely possible to have a level 10 Squall with 9999 HP that hits for thousands damage about one third into the game.
    • Accomplished with most of the cast from Final Fantasy X, even to the point of a solo Yuna playthrough with no Summons.
      • Note that there is one boss fight exception if you use Yuna for this challenge, unless you are absolutely insane. (You'd have to be pretty insane to play Yuna Only, No Summons, No Sphere Grid, etc. anyways. It's been done, though.)
      • A solo run is made slightly easier in this game by the way the level and skill system works. With enough grinding, any character can learn anything they would need by traveling into the Sphere Grid sections belonging to other party members. The only thing that can't be learned by everyone is Yuna's summoning ability.
    • Compared to the above, solo runs in Final Fantasy XII are insultingly easy. Every character has access to every weapon and ability; the characters are all relatively balanced in terms of stats, so picking one will not give you a huge disadvantage over picking another; the Zodiac Spear is just as easy to get and will break the game all the way to Giruvegan; and once you get the Reverse spell, which converts all damage to hit points (and all healing spells to damage) you are invincible. Combinine this with a low-level run or a No License Board run, however, and suddenly it becomes a real challenge.
  • Soloing with the main character in Lufia: The Ruins of Lore quickly makes the early game a breeze and allows you to learn the various game-breaking class skills that much quicker. Who needs a party when you can deal random amounts of damage for cheap (Chance Hit), heal yourself fully for free (Sacrifice), skip most normal fights (Tear Gas), and attack all enemies for free (Rapidfire)? In addition, the Ancient Cave bonus dungeon only allows the main character (and a pet monster) in, so you'd be able to get the essential survival skills (including Absorb and Mirror) that much sooner.
  • Prior to generation V, Pokémon is actually easier on a Solo Pokemon Run, since an over-leveled starter with a sufficiently versatile move set can overwhelm pretty much anything. Type disadvantages cease to matter when you're thirty levels higher than anything else. The only hitch is that you'll probably need a few PP-restoring items for the Elite Four, and a second Pokémon whose only purpose is to hold mandatory HM moves (no starter Pokemon can learn all the required ones anyway). With the new, Anti-Grinding experience system in Generation V (which reduces the experience gained by a set amount if your Mon is at 140% of the enemy's level), a solo-mon run has become quite a bit more frustrating to achieve.
  • A popular method of establishing exactly how broken the Arcane Warrior class is in Dragon Age: Origins. It's also possible, but more difficult, with a stealth-based Rogue.
  • Extremely common in the Fallout series, especially Fallout 1. This is mostly because party NPCs in the first game did not level up and were liabilities due to friendly fire and obstructing doors or corridors. In fact, it is actually EASIER to complete the original games without help since "companions" had a notorious tendecy of shooting you accidentally, screwing up quest triggers, and dying for no inexplicable reason. Dogmeat was especially bad, as it was a challenge to get his limited AI to avoid being fried by door lasers.
  • Also easier in Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura, owing to the quicker and higher leveling potential of a solo PC. Even an unarmed build can solo more effectively than a full group that requires weapon maintenance and healing.
  • Geneforge is a rare case where this is neither beneficial nor negative, simply a different style of play suited to a different class. (If you're wondering how that could work, it's a Mons game—and the classes that are best with mons are the worst fighters when cornered.)
    • This is only a Self-Imposed Challenge for the Shaper class, and later Lifecrafter class, because Shaping skills are their specialty. Without creating mons, the benefits of Shaping specialization can be focused on healing and defensive buffing, but the build doesn't leave much in the way of direct damage ability.
    • In fact, with the Agent class, this is actually a BETTER idea, because it means you don't have to share experience with creations that really won't do you any favours. Generally Agents only make creations for large scale battles where they can benefit from Meat Shields. Not having any creations also means a bigger essence pool, so it becomes much easier to use essence-gobbling spells like Augmentation, Essence Blade, or Aura of Flames.
  • The Dungeon Siege series, having a bad rep for essentially playing themselves, become reasonably challenging when this is attempted.
  • Try playing any of the Wizardry games with only one character. Goddamn hard - but can be done.
  • This is actually fairly popular in Persona 3 and Persona 4 for certain bosses due to the modular party system. (You can go into Tartarus or the Midnight Channel alone if you like). Persona 3 Portable even has a Tactics Command that orders your party to leave for the duration of the fight. The problem is that unless you set your party on Stand By or have them block every turn, you don't have access to All-Out Attacks, lowering your damage output considerably. Interestingly enough, some bosses are actually -easier- solo, because your ability to change Personae allows you to exploit Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors without having to worry about your party giving the enemy a free turn.
  • Ultima VII will allow you to do this if you tell all your party members to "go home". It also means you don't have to keep listening to them whinge about wanting food all the time.
  • In Baten Kaitos Origins, creating a deck gives you the option to lock characters out of it, meaning they can't participate in battle. Depending on who you choose to lock out, this can make the game quite a bit harder.
  • It is not unusually difficult to play through Shadowrun for the Genesis with no other party members most of the time. None of the story missions are exceedingly difficult to do solo...save the last one. A highly cybered Body stat and awesome armor will keep you alive through everything until the last boss, whose magic pierces armor and has ludicrous amounts of attack dice. He attacks slowly, but he will almost always kill party members in one hit. This is easily cured by other party members using a Medkit, but turns a solo run into an aggravating Luck-Based Mission, even with the best stats and equipment.

Third-Person Shooter
  • Alien Swarm requires a console command, (normally requires 2 players minimum) but it is entirely possible to play every level solo. Including ones where you need to stop and protect the tech while he hacks a door or computer.

Turn-Based Strategy
  • Extremely common among the Fire Emblem community. The series is well-suited to solos because a powerful character can dominate the battlefield, so if the player can get the character out of his early vulnerable levels intact, it's usually smooth sailing from there on out. The generally accepted rule is that only the selected character can deal damage — other characters are allowed to open chests and doors, rescue, seize, or recruit as the player sees fit. Difficulty level ranges from the relatively easy (Ike solo in Path of Radiance) to the mind-bogglingly difficult (Colm solo in Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones).
    • The final bosses of Genealogy of the Holy War and Blazing Sword almost entirely rule out this challenge for those titles because of their high stats and/or weapon properties. Likewise, a Crutch Character solo run in any game (save The Sacred Stones) is unlikely to succeed.
      • There is a tactic that allows Genealogy of the Holy War to be soloable (by sword users, anyway), that utilises the Berserk status and a lot of luck.
      • Eleventh Hour Superpower characters are usually considered acceptable workarounds in such cases.
    • Thracia 776 is borderline impossible to solo for two reasons: the Fatigue system note , and enemy staff users note . Leaf is immune to fatigue, mind you, but his relatively low stats and late promotion ensure that you are going to get a lot of game overs.
  • The Final Fantasy Tactics series. This also applies to a similar challenge, whereby a player is allowed to use a full party of five characters, but they all have to be the same class. A large part of the difficulty arises as most classes are incapable of healing themselves, and a dead character who is not revived after three turns is dead for good. This has also been combined where only the main character is played and he must remain as a single class.
    • To this day, a five-man party straight class challenge has been completed for all playable classes, including Calculators not using math skill ever. Solo straight class challenge has also been completed for all classes except mime and true calculator, as well as many other game-shark only classes or even monsters.
  • Because Disgaea doesn't give Leaked Experience, it can be simpler to power level one of the main characters and stomp the rest of the game rather than try to balance levels across a party of ten characters. This is almost a requirement in the post-game, because leveling and appropriately equipping just one character takes an absurd amount of time, even if you aren't trying for perfection. This restricts the options to using one horribly overleveled character and nine decoys or abusing the base-panel combat mechanics and Enemy Level Up Geo-Effects to create a team of poorly equipped Lv. 9999 monsters.
  • This is what a large part of the community says the easiest way to beat the original Front Mission.
  • Entirely possible, and in some ways required, in Der Langrisser. The only two characters who will be in your party on every path are Elwin (the main character) and Hein. It's almost preferable to concentrate on building those two and only those two, using the other characters as decoys and/or meat shields barring an Escort Mission.

Turn-Based Tactics
  • You want a really hard one of these? Try the original X-COM, sending only 1 soldier to each battlescape. Also, an achievement in XCOM: Enemy Unknown requires you to clear a UFO crash site with only one soldier... on Classic or Impossible difficulty. Yeah.

Other Media
  • Occasionally crops up in media about video games as well. Accel World references this in a couple of different ways. The Blue King in known as Legend Slayer for doing a solo-run against a Legendary class monster and its something of right of passage for characters who reach Level 7 to do one of these against lower ranked monsters in the Unlimited Field.

Pacifist RunVideo Game CultureSpeedrun
Pacifist RunSelf-Imposed ChallengeSpeedrun
Monster CompendiumImageSource/Video GamesToo Awesome to Use

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