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Forced Level-Grinding

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"Dragon Quest is like a vibrantly-colored, jingle-spewing pachinko machine in which you insert minutes and hours instead of coins."
Pat R., SMPS

Forced Level Grinding is a mechanic in RPGs that, at one point, makes the player need to Level Grind to successfully continue the game. This usually comes in one of three varieties:

The solution to this problem is to return to an earlier area and spend several hours/days/months/years there. After that, you can kick the offenders' asses like they kicked yours before. Required length of the Level Grinding depends on several factors. Basically, the later the point of forced level grinding comes in the game, the longer. Also, in situations of the first type, it tends to be far shorter than in those of the third type.

Sometimes comes in the form of, not necessarily level-grinding, but money-making. Instead of a powerful boss requiring lots of experience points, it's a quest requiring a large amount of cash. Additionally, when arriving in a new town, the first priority is usually to purchase all the best equipment at the shops which wasn't available at any of the previous towns.

In some games, it may take the form of finding some ultimate weapon which you can acquire by levelling up your crafting, sports, or breeding skills and doing something unusual. This will usually take longer than levelling up normally by killing Mooks.

This is usually subjective, but there are outrageous examples of this played completely straight. Doesn't happen in Tabletop RPGs unless your GM is inept or sadistic.

Compare Level Grinding, Beef Gate, Cash Gate, Fake Longevity, and Fake Difficulty. Contrast Anti-Grinding, Low-Level Run.


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    Eastern RPG
  • The 7th Saga:
    • How much grinding is necessary differs from character to character (you can choose several beginning PCs), but gaining a few levels from town to town is absolutely necessary. In some areas it's possible to find monsters that one-shot you, leading to grinding 5 to 10 levels just to stand a chance.
    • In a case of Difficulty by Region, the English version has lower stat growths than Elnard, the Japanese version. Elnard provides a increase to base stat gains for every tenth level; e.g. a character who gains +3 to a stat per level will gain +4 per level from 11-20, +5 from 21-30, and so on. The 7th Saga sticks to base stat gains forever; a level 20 character has all stats 10 less than they should be, level 30 is 30 points under par, level 40 is 60 points under par, and so on...
    • The 7th Saga ALSO increases the stats of random encounters compared to Elnard. The localizers were deliberate about their Difficulty by Region.
    • The game's story has you and 6 other Apprentices all competing at a common goal. Depending on the circumstances you may have to fight one of the others, and they employ Level Scaling. The problem here is that enemy Apprentices keep their Elnard stat growths. The more you level grind, the harder they become. Anti-Grinding and Forced Level-Grinding in the same game! It's often said that The Medic Valsu becomes impossible to defeat at too high a level, but fortunately this is a myth. His ally version learns a Game-Breaker spell called Elixir that full-heals both HP and MP, but his enemy version can never cast this. That said, the lack of Elixir will not stop the Badass Preacher from murdering you with his other healing, buffs, and ice magic.
    • Lastly, there's a certain story event that throws you into a completely different area with stronger random encounters than you've ever seen before. Once you cross the Point of No Return, these enemies are the weakest you'll be seeing from that point on. In other words, you have to know this is coming and grind in advance. Otherwise, you're stuck in an area where you're too underleveled to kill anything, but that means you can't gain levels to get strong enough to kill things. In a word: Unwinnable.
  • Afterimage: Renee may need to be at least in a specific level to unlock further upgrades on her Talent tree. The "Radiance" sidequest subtly needs a high level as well; one of the triggers to progress the quest requires the player to have accumulated or spent a lot of points in the Talent tree.
  • Arc the Lad: The final boss in part 2 is so strong that, unless you have a powered up Choko in your party, you're going to have to level grind a ton if you want to even be able to scratch him. It's not recommended to take him on with a party below level 100. You can also expend 2-3 hours of real time constantly buffing Elc and Gruga over and over before taking a single swing each at him and then running back out of range to repeat the process until he dies.
  • In Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean, Level Grinding isn't particularly useful, since your decks matter more than your level...but then you have to grind for magnus drops to improve your decks, so it's the same effect. And if you want the best healing items, then you have to grind recipes. Baten Kaitos Origins averts this.
  • Breath of Fire I has ridiculously hard boss battles at some points of the game, depending on whether or not you use Money Grinding to buy guaranteed critical items. Problem? Every time someone new joins the group, XP gained from monsters drops. At the end of the game, you have 8 people in your party and the best fight in the game gives 3600 XP. It takes several hundred thousand to gain a level once you got to the 30s-40s. Trying to finish the game at the Lv30-40 range is not pretty as some of the later bosses can chew you up.
  • Breath of Fire II starts with two of your main characters as children. After a short sequence, you begin the meat of the game with those same characters as adults. However, the lazy bastards didn't see fit to level at all in the intervening years, so you start the game still at level 1. The first area you have to visit outside of your hometown is full of monsters that are really much better handled at level 5 and above. It only takes 30 minutes or so of grinding to get high enough to be comfortable in that area, but it seems like it would be offputting to a casual gamer to have to spent your very first hour in the game bringing your party up to speed with chapter 1.
    • Not to mention, how much Money Grinding is required to buy the equipment from the first town. 1 Defense is 1 Defense, and it is necessary otherwise you will get your butt handed to you after the first 'plot event' that leaves your main character alone. Thankfully, going fishing is the fastest way to build up said money. Catching Fish means buying all of that equipment in 30 minutes instead of 2+ hours.
  • Chrono Trigger:
    • You can fight the final boss very early in the game; but you have virtually no chance of winning unless you play the rest of the game in order to grind up enough levels. This essentially makes the whole rest of the game a giant series of Side Quests, which is much more fun than random mob farming.
    • The DS remake adds a few new sidequests. One of them comes before the final boss, and takes a very long time with many battles. Completing it will make you powerful enough to curbstomp the entire final dungeon and boss.
    • The game itself largely actually averts the need for grinding; stat boosts gained from weapons and equipment vastly outweigh those obtained from simple intrinsic stat grinds, although you probably still need to grind out for Tech Points.
    • Its sequel, Chrono Cross, also averts it. You don't gain stars (levels in this game) on anything else other than boss battles. The maximum per playthrough? 46.
  • In the NES version of Crystalis, you cannot damage enemies or bosses if you aren't a high enough level. The GBC version removes the forced aspect, but the boss battles will be difficult if you are underleveled.
  • Digimon:
    • Digimon World 3 would probably win the award for Forced Grinding. And the blasted critters give so little EXP compared to the effort spent in killing them. Want a hint? Fight Numemons.
    • Digimon World 4. You'll need specific weapon types to get through areas. Didn't use the type for your first run through the area, or regularly switch your weapons? Prepare to spend a very, very long time beating the shit out of things to get enough skill to use anything decent. It takes an ANNOYINGLY long time to get any skill for a while — at least your technique goes up very fast after it gets past a certain point. You'll still spend hours at a time beating up the respawning enemies even then, though.
    • Digimon World Dawn/Dusk for Nintendo DS require huge amounts of level grinding in order to tackle some bosses (ironically, once you take down the boss, the battles in the area you were grinding will have more and stronger enemies so you can get way more Exp.) Also, after the last story boss, you can accept a mission to take several bosses in a row, and even if your Digimon were strong enough to beat the story boss without much trouble, you'll be unable to scratch the two later bosses unless you spend a few hours grinding in the new area. There is a trick to bypass this though. Sidequest/non-story quests normally can only be done once, and during said quest, usually there is a boss in the mission which basically is a slightly boosted mook with higher EXP. There is a trick to abuse this. The game identifies a quest being completed when you have finished the task, and reported to the client. To do this, after facing the mission boss, simply return to the city and cancel the quest (since you technically haven't completed it yet) and retake the quest. This is especially useful in the post-game since there is a boss that gives 10,000 Holy EXP and fairly easy, making getting Seraphimon (need 77777+ Holy EXP) and leveling easier.
  • Most Dragon Ball Z RPGs for the NES are like this, but none as bad as the first one. You start the game with Goku and Piccolo at around 400 BP (Power Level) and you're going to fight the first boss Raditz at 1500 BP. First of all, this game takes the power levels seriously, meaning that an army of characters at 800 BP wouldn't even be able to touch him. Second of all, unlike other instances of this battle there won't be any miracles, penetrating Special Beam Cannons or Gohans around to save your hide, so unless your BP is around 1500 you don't stand a chance. The fastest way to increase your BP is by splitting up in two and fighting yourself in a normal battle, each netting you around 10 BP. Meaning that in order to stand a chance against the first boss, you need to fight 100 battles, 200 if you want Piccolo to become strong as well. And when you've beaten Radtiz? You lose both characters, get 5 new ones that you have to train all over for the next, even stronger boss. And if you know the original, you know that it NEVER GETS ANY EASIER.
    • The second DBZ game actually does a complete turnaround, and makes you spend most of the game with a 5-man party of powerful characters who are nearly guaranteed to win any given battle. The only point in the game where you're really at a risk is the part where Krillin needs to travel to the Eldest alone, at which point NOT running from every battle will get you killed extremely fast. After running from the 3 or so battles you end up entering, he gains a massive powerup, and you're back to dominating everything you see again. Balance is not the strong point of these games (there's also the training stages where Goku plays blackjack with his gravity machine and gets a game over if he loses, but these are pure luck and don't really count. And you can't grind to increase your chances of winning either).
    • Dragon Ball Z's Legacy of Goku RPG trilogy for Gameboy Advance did this several times. The first game is the worst offender, as not only is the level cap absurdly high (requiring you to go out of your way to grind at several points to reach the cap), but that reaching the cap is required to stand a chance to beat the Final Boss. The later two games smooth things out significantly, as while it still has gates that require you to reach a certain level with a specific character to open them, these are closer to plot-gates, keeping you out of an area until both the story needs you there and you have a character at the requisite level to actually survive there — the game doesn't even ever require you to open the gates for reaching a character's level cap except for 100% Completion.
  • Dragon Quest:
    • In Dragon Quest:
      • The final boss, the Dragonlord, was long believed to be impossible to defeat without grinding to at least level 17, or 18 if you didn't know his entire moveset and were lucky. (A tool-assisted Speed Run does it at level 7 with the aid of very heavy luck manipulation. It has also been achieved without tools, but level 7 is the absolute lowest level because you must have the Sleep spell) The Dragonlord's final form (both his melee attacks and his fire breath) does more damage per turn than any curative item can heal, and there are no magic-restoring items, so the only way to beat him is to hit him until you run low on life, then casting your best cure spell (Healmore). The battle is completely decided by whether or not you'll knock off all his HP before running out of MP, which again is decided by which level you're on.
      • Also, in order to survive in the Grave of Garin, you have to grind to about level 13 (damn Wraith Knights in the lower levels). Then, there's the swamps south of Hauksness, home to the strongest overworld enemies in the game, including the dreaded Star Wyverns, Green Dragons, Demon Knights, and Wizards. Not to mention the even more demonic enemies in the Final Dungeon.
      • Just plain a lot of it. If you didn't have to level grind, the game would be about 30 minutes long.
    • In Dragon Quest II, even the enemies near the first town will beat you if you don't level up around the starting castle first. At least you get the Copper Sword at the beginning of the game — the Player Character of the previous game didn't even have that; he had to buy a club and spend some while earning enough gold to work his way up to the Copper Sword.
    • Dragon Quest III:
      • It's almost as bad in this respect. Try challenging some of the bosses at lower levels. Unless you get extremely lucky, you're going to be curb-stomped. Orochi in particular requires quite a bit after getting the ship to beat — and you have to fight the prick twice in a row. (The latter part is, however, mitigated by the fact that you actually can rest at the inn outside town before the second fight.)
      • And if you didn't get smeared by Orochi (The boss isn't too bad with specific party compositions), Baramos most certainly will. If your team's levels aren't at least LV27-LV30 each, then you can forget about even surviving the trek to his throne, let alone fighting him. And even if you do make it, Baramos has a very good chance of wiping out the party if he decides to use Explodet and his dreaded breath attack.
      • It doesn't help that the bosses (and a few other tough monsters) secretly regenerate large amounts of HP every turn, so you really need to keep up a sustained attack for the duration of the battle if you want to win.
      • There's also a few big difficulty spikes. The starter dungeon you can complete without too much trouble, but the Cave of Enticement is much more difficult, and even if you manage to crawl your way through there, you'll find that you'll need to spend a few hours grinding around Romaly so you can buy some decent gear (or gambling...)
    • Dragon Quest IV doesn't lighten up in this regard. In fact, the first five chapters start you off with Level 1 heroes, whom you can expect to spend at least twenty minutes each to toughen up enough to venture to the second town. Especially so for Meena and Maya, who are both Squishy Wizards.
    • Dragon Quest VIII. You start at level one. If you aren't at least level five when you enter the very first dungeon, you'll die a horrible death before even making it to the entrance. It continues from there.
    • Dragon Quest IX:
      • The main storyline can be beaten with no grinding, but then as soon as the postgame starts, everyone goes cuckoo for Treasure Maps. If you do a spot of exploring with your new Global Airship, it won't take you long to find an easy quest that gives you an interestingly-named Treasure Map. Hm, wonder who this Baramos fellow is, and why his name is on this map...and the false sense of security combined with the total lack of in-game warning (apart from the name alone, for Dragon Quest vets) might lead you to believe that this couldn't possibly be that hard. Also, the difficulty levels of the "normal" Treasure Map grottoes are fond of spiking.
      • However, because you reset to level 1 whenever you switch jobs, there is a gargantuan amount of grinding needed to get yourself back up to scratch when you switch jobs, which is especially punishing if you're higher than level 30. Perhaps the most cruel example is the very powerful Sage job, which you can only obtain in the final dungeon. You have to wonder if it's really worth it when you have to grind all the way up when you're in the The Very Definitely Final Dungeon. If you're the type who changes your mind frequently, grinding can become absolute hell in this game.
    • In Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker, when you have to deal with quadrilinear synthesis in order to Catch em' All, you'll have to do a ton of grinding to raise and synthesize the ridiculous requirements, many of which require high-end metallic Slimes (which in turn require you to get a lot of the very difficult and annoying to get lower end Metal Slimes). Thankfully, in Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2, it's been made somewhat easier. The English release gets Meddle Slimes, which are incredibly easy to catch post-game and turn into Metal Slimes when caught (allowing you to catch many of them without them becoming harder to scout). Not to mention that post-game, an entire, easy-to-access area composed of almost entirely Liquid Metal Slimes and Metal King Slimes is available, speeding up level grinding much faster.
  • Dual Orb 2 does this in the worst possible way. Grinding is obligatory, but too much grinding makes the game boring. You can't beat even the first boss — you're too weak, and don't have money to buy enough potions. But if you spend an hour (or better, two) fighting the monsters around the starting town (just hold A with a rubber band and press the arrows to move), the party becomes unstoppable until the mid-game. Another hour of grinding in the middle, and there's nothing to fear until the end. Coupled with an Excuse Plot, this makes the game very forgettable despite the fairly novel outset.
  • The final areas in EarthBound Beginnings are brutal about this. Forget grinding and just run from every battle until you reach the final boss.
    • When you get your uber-strong helper EVE, though, the place is MUCH easier. Unfortunately, EVE dies as soon as you get to the end.
    • Earlier in the game, you are literally forced to level-grind, as you cannot wake up the sleeping Dragon who holds one of the Eight Melodies without being Level 25 or higher.
    • Thankfully, the other games in the series avert this, for the most part. As long as you don't actively avoid enemies, there's only a few places early on where grinding is really necessary.
  • Grinding is all the random encounters are for in Endless Frontier. The game is loaded with bosses, some you'll even encounter a short hallway apart from each other; the normal enemies don't pose any threat, but are needed to stand a chance against the next boss. Also, it takes a long time to grind as it is, and bosses are always around thirty minutes each, so have fun.
  • Eternal Sonata has an extreme example in Mysterious Unison, more related to money-making. In order to obtain one piece of Claves' soul, you have to raise 99,999,999 gold to buy it from a spirit that found it. Although you can obtain it a little easier by fighting the dungeon's tougher creatures, which drop 600,000-1,500,000 gold each, keep in mind that these are some of the toughest monsters in the game.
  • The Final Fantasy series started in 1987 and there are currently fifteen games in the main series alone. Due to its long history, the series is all over the map on this trope, with some games practically requiring grinding and others actively discouraging it.
    • The epilogue stage in the GBA remake of Final Fantasy II, starring all the game's dead characters, is made up of two dungeons, an Optional Boss, and a final boss. Needless to say, since the characters are nowhere near as strong as the main heroes were at the end, you have to do a lot of grinding to be able to even get near the boss, let alone beat him.
    • Final Fantasy III has this in certain dungeons, but special mention must be made for Garuda, whose intended tactic involves four Dragoons — all of whom must be raised to workable job levels. In the DS remake, the best jobs were nerfed, and the bosses (and most late-game Random Encounters) are granted double — sometimes triple! — turns. Even a properly-ground-out party can be demolished by a Back Attack in the World of Darkness before a single command actually goes off. Although equipping the lowly thief with double Dark Knifes and sitting him in the front row results in hitting the damage cap at level 35. As long as you've ground your job level high enough by stealing from absolutely everything. Even in a heavily-optimized Speed Run of the NES version, grinds in the Hidden Road; Ancient Ruins; outside of the Ancient's Labyrinth and Cave of Bahamut are needed to survive.
    • In Final Fantasy IV it's usually possible to keep up to pace without grinding, but completing the Cave of Eidolons is impossible without grinding Rosa to level 36 (40 in the DS remake), at which point she learns the spell necessary to defeat the Puzzle Boss there. The DS remake, on the other hand, is a bit less merciful to players who've been working their way straight through. Some of the monsters-in-a-box which were easy enough in the original now provide one-shot kills to a non-ground party, and heaven help you if you haven't built up at least 10 levels before you're able to survive fights at all on the Lunar Surface. This especially holds true for the Lair of the Father, where the average enemies tend to eat you for breakfast. Strangely, the Optional Boss is pretty easy, with the right strategy. On the other hand, the accelerated rate at which you gain levels in the DS version means that Rosa reaches level 40, and learns the spell noted above, well before reaching that part of the game. Also worth noting is a bit of forced gil grinding in FFIV — specifically, grinding to buy armor that Cecil can wear post-class change so he doesn't have to fight naked anymore (it's a bad idea to fight like that when one is the Stone Wall, after all). There's only one armorer in the one town available, and the only wares he's got on offer cost about 15,700 gil for the whole offering — roughly four times the amount required to buy the bundle in the last town. And the monsters in the few areas available to you? Conspicuously not Money Spiders — as in, it doesn't really make a difference that you just went through a dungeon, the best encounters there gave double-digit gil tops. While this can be partially alleviated by selling the old armor that Cecil can't use anymore, because Karl Marx Hates Your Guts, it won't be anywhere near enough to cover the cost of the new armor on its own.
    • And the sequel to that, Final Fantasy IV: The After Years, gives you a choice: You can grind at the end of each chapter/Tale, to take on the utterly murderous Challenge Dungeons for items and equipment, and hopefully reach the level cap for that chapter (generally level 40-50ish). Or, if you are impatient to advance the plot, you can import data for the first Point of No Returnnote , and play through the first part, collecting party members, etc... and then, you will reach another Point of No Return. Where you will be stuck on the moon, where even the easiest monsters will eat a party under level 40 for breakfast. If you weren't grinding for bonuses and 100% Completion before, you get to grind for survival now.
    • Final Fantasy VI is a veritable grind-fest. There are very tough enemies in Zozo, so you need to grind a bit before going there. Then, immediately afterward, you face the Opera House. By this point you probably haven't leveled since getting the espers, so good luck trying to fight Ultros without magic! If you ever want have Gau be a useful contributing member of the party, you need to spend an awful lot of time grinding in the Veldt, where, unfortunately, you don't receive any experience in battle (but you do get magic AP at least).
    • Final Fantasy VIII has Anti-Grinding instead, making monsters level up at the same rate as the player's party. Too much level grinding will actually make some bosses harder. However, like the previous three, you still need to take time to grind for ability points on your GFs. You need to grind for one ability card mod. After that, well... not so much. The bosses and random encounters give you more than enough AP to keep very much ahead of the enemies, if you avoid leveling up. The formula for an enemy's health is (for all enemies, barring omega weapon) x*level+y. x is a number between 100 and 4000, which increases as the story progresses. You may need to grind, but if you do, it'll only be to overcome your own leveling, and the enhanced health it brings foes. It's a very forgiving game. The grinding is more about the Magic which can be Junctioned to your stats. So you will be spending a lot of time drawing magic from enemies (who have a limitless supply) and draw points or refining cards to make magic/items.
    • Final Fantasy IX also de-emphasizes level grinding, but instead requires you to learn abilities from equipped gear, maxing out their AP before a character can use the skill without the item equipped. The system is not conducive to level grinding in this way, as you have to hold off on equipping the strongest new equipment so that you can first master the skills from your old stuff, or just equip items whenever you need their related skills.
    • Final Fantasy X, more than anything else, averts this. With a bit of good planning, you can beat the game with completely undeveloped characters. There's only one point at which doing so requires you to go out of your way (to obtain a certain item), which takes maybe half an hour tops.
    • In Final Fantasy XII, if you do not level grind, you will be killed by the random encounters. It's very annoying, particularly as the quests already take long enough that you can forget what your objective is before you've reached it. And you'll need to grind for Gil and License Points as well (though there are accessories that make the latter much easier to acquire). Still, since you don't get the Global Airship until very late in the game, you might as well take advantage of the long walks to grind.
    • Once you reach Gran Pulse in Final Fantasy XIII, you can technically go to your next destination right away... you just really don't want to. This is one of the very few cases, though, where this actually feels like a good thing. You see, the entire game up until now was No Sidepaths, No Exploration, No Freedom, so being able to actually explore and do sidequests for once feels immensely satisfying.
    • Final Fantasy Tactics forces you to grind levels in most early stages. The fourth scripted fight in the game (Dorter Trade City) is an especially big offender. Egregious because you have precisely one grinding spot available prior to it, and despite this, many players won't attempt it until they've got at least one character to a terminal class.
    • In Final Fantasy Tactics A2 grinding is necessary to be able to take on certain bosses. Thankfully, since they have levels just like you do, you'll always know what range you should shoot for. There's long grinding periods before any fight with Illua, for example. To even take on the five kings or the Brightmon Tor, you'll have to level grind up the ass. Luckily, some repeatable dispatch missions give enough EXP to level up units and is quicker this way instead of fighting. The worst part is 100% Completion though. Beating the game is doable at about level 60. Most of the endgame challenges involve powerful level 99 opponents.
    • Squeenix is so in love with this concept that they even wedged it into their Mascot Fighter Gaiden Game, Dissidia Final Fantasy! While Level Grinding does make it easier to get around some bosses, the simple fact is that if you play each character's "Destiny Odyssey", you'll get them up to around Lv. 12 or 15. To attempt the next step in the campaign, "Shade Impulse", you'll want them to be more like Lv. 50. Considering it takes about four hours to get a character to level 100 on Bonus Experience day (a good chunk of that from level 1 to 30, which takes a while because of the way XP earned is determined), it's really not as bad as it seems. Level grinding isn't enough, though, you also have to grind AP to get all of the character's abilities. Then you have the equipment grind, which is subject to Randomly Drops. The sequel also adds KP, which is the only currency the Moogles that sell unique items will take and the only way to get it is to beat gates without being over the Bonus Line (ie. level cap) and chaining together as many enemies as possible while fulfilling a battle-specific requirement: without an equipment setup that lets you kill enemies on lv1 with little effort, you'll probably get 30-50 KP per gate at most, and that's assuming you chain together as many battles as possible, while the cheapest worthwhile items cost somewhere around 100 KP each and just go up from there.
  • Fire Emblem: Awakening does this with the second generation characters. Their starting levels are fixed; and at the point in which they join your first generation units will probably be far higher and maybe even promoted.
  • Fire Emblem Fates zig-zags this:
    • Some characters are, by design, underleveled compared to the point in the story where you are, resulting in you having to level-grind them before they can catch up. Mozu and Charlotte are the most standout examples - Mozu joins at level one (when your characters are nearing level ten) and with stats to match, whereas Charlotte joins a whole five levels lower than her companion, Benny. However, if you take the time to grind them, you are rewarded quite well. It's also worth noting that the trope is actually downplayed here. Firstly, as with Pokemon Black and White, underlevelled units gain experience and levels faster. Secondly, because Attack Stance in this game allows adjacent units to attack enemies alongside the main player/allied unit, both Mozu and Charlotte have more opportunities to safely participate in battles and gain levels without risking being retaliated by the enemy.
    • In Revelation, the majority of the characters join much later than they did in other routes - only a fraction join in a relatively timely matter compared to their Birthright or Conquest joining spots. Unfortunately, their starting levels and stats weren't adjusted to their new joining points - resulting in many characters being almost dangerously underleveled. It's a good thing that Revelation allows you to to scout the map for experience punching bags, as a lot of the cast requires a bit of babying to allow them to survive their joining maps.
    • Averted with the second generation characters, whose levels scale with your relative progress in the story. If you wait long enough, they will actually join with a promotion item that boosts them to a promoted class and level fitting your progress in the story, allowing them to be used immediately.
  • The Great Gaias: There are over 16 characters, but the inactive party members won't gain any Leaked Experience. Since some events will force you to use certain party members or prevent you from using specific ones, it's necessary to grind everyone sufficiently.
  • Some of the doors in Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories require a card — or multiple cards — with a specific color and number in order to go through. Trouble is, a player who hasn't been stocking up will often find that out of ALL the Map Cards they have, the only they need is the ONLY one they don't have. Cue numerous battles as the player searches for that one stinking card.
  • Nippon Ichi's strategy RPGs from La Pucelle forward use this heavily, especially when optional bosses are included. There is usually some sort of bottomless dungeon full of monsters of increasing power available to help. Because facing a boss with HP and stats in the hundreds of thousands (or possibly millions) is just not done in a low level game.
    • This is even lampshaded in Disgaea 3, where Mao complains about the loss of his 4 million hour save file (a little over 456.6 years) of gameplay necessary to challenge "Level 9999 Baal" when his console and memory card are accidentally crushed.
    • However, in the case of the Disgaea titles, there are usually certain facilites around to make the grinding go by much faster (Thank you, Item World and Statiticians}.
    • Disgaea usually has a point in the game where you can with stronger enemy bills through the dark assembly (or Cheat Shop in Disgaea D2) modify enemy levels to 99, which thanks to a quirk with the exp formula they give as much exp as killing a level 320 unit. the level this usually occurs on also has exp-modifying Geo Effects which further boosts the exp the enemies give. From here you can quickly enough get to a level where you can easily run roughshod through the rest of the main story, or take a bit of extra time and grind up to take on the bonus dungeon and prep for the post game bonus bosses.
  • Legend of Legaia is this the entire way through the game. The bosses (especially Berserker, Xain, and Gaza) do NOT pull any punches, and will likely murder you in the first few rounds if you even THINK of fighting them under the recommended levels. The fact that equipment is expensive and that normal enemies don't give a lot of experience OR money doesn't help matters either. The Berserker in particular is a combination of That One Boss and a Wake-Up Call Boss that shows that level grinding alone won't cut it, requiring both grinding and solid strategy (or using an Outside-the-Box Tactic via Nighto abuse) to proceed.
  • In Legaia II: Duel Saga, there's a particular Beef Gate that you need to reach a certain level to pass. Elfin is relatively easy to beat — if you've reached Level 9, gained a fourth Art Block, and know at least one four-hit Art. If you don't, then there's just no way to pump out enough damage to kill Elfin before she kills you.
  • Lightning Warrior Raidy has this in spades. First, every new level of the dungeon has much tougher monsters. Second, you have to battle and/or beat sadistic puzzles to find new, better gear (with a literal Infinity +1 Sword needed to go further). Oh, and don't get us started on third or fourth level monsters with sure hit attacks — to even think about fighting them for long, you have to return to the previous level and grind for healing potions, a rare drop. Without grinding, you can progress as much as about ~1/3 of the game, then you'll hit a brick wall.
  • Used interestingly in Lost Odyssey, you can only level up as much as the game allows you to in a given area. Once you hit the level cap for the area, any further grinding becomes multitudes more tedious, as the exp gains bottom out to one or two points per fight, even if those same enemies were giving out hundreds of points one level prior, making your party perfectly leveled throughout so long as you keep hitting those caps. What you can grind is getting your immortals to learn skills, much like the aforementioned Final Fantasy IX.
  • While the later games in the Lufia games weren't heavy on grinding, you'll need to build up levels early in Lufia & The Fortress of Doom to get the Hero's healing spell and to survive Those First Three Bosses. The need to grind lightens up further on, especially if you manage to take down a lot of Metal Slimes in the Arus Cave.
    • At one point, you'll need to go to the fifth level of the Old Cave to find someone. You can only access the fifth level if you're at least Level 25. Your party would likely be past Level 25 at that point, but if you're doing a Low-Level Run...
  • The first Mega Man Battle Network game has one spot where, to earn the passcodes to enter the next section of the Net, you're required to have MegaMan at a certain level and have a certain number of chips in your library. This is the only instance of this in the main story, but in the post-game areas for all the games, it's not uncommon to run into a barrier with a certain condition required to beat it.
  • Mind Zero can hit you with this if you don't use the right characters at a certain point. Decided to use only one (or even worse, neither) of the first two party members that join you? Hope you're on the easiest difficulty setting, because you can't use any other characters due to the urgency of the situation. Even if you leave the dungeon to visit where they'd normally be at. Even more frustratingly, finishing that chapter automatically puts everyone at the same level of your strongest character, showing that there wasn't any need to do this to begin with.
  • Neptunia games after the second are this by design, due to the devs expecting you to use the dungeon editing system to beat a single dungeon multiple times before moving on with the game. While you can get away with avoiding grinding too much in the remake of the second game, the other ones will quickly destroy you no matter how defensively you play if you don't grind at least a little.
  • Octopath Traveler: Since there is no Leaked Experience system in the game, you'll probably have to do at least some level grinding in order to keep the party members that you don't use as much strong enough for what you're facing. In addition, every few Chapters, the monsters in the surrounding paths to each location will increase in level, forcing even more grinding just to avoid getting crushed on the way to the other Chapters. This is definitely true in the endgame, as the True Final Boss requires you to use all eight of your party members, four for the first phase and the other four for the second.
  • Phantasy Star:
    • Phantasy Star I started the trend for the series, especially at the beginning when even the most basic Mooks could easily kill Alis until you went up a few levels and earned enough money to upgrade her equipment. Although the character levels eventually capped at 30, there was still a lot of very expensive stuff like the Landrover, Hovercraft, and Ice Digger that you had no choice but to grind for the money needed to buy them in order to proceed.
    • Phantasy Star II has loads of forced level grinding. To survive the first dungeon you'll probably have to grind at least 10 levels, as well as buy new weapons and armor. Not to mention that whenever a new character joins up, they start at level 1, so you have to grind if you actually want to use them. It's worse after you lose Nei because it's likely you'll have to train someone else up from scratch to fill the fourth party space, who will more than likely get killed over and over by robots while you're leveling him/her.
    • Phantasy Star III had it worst in the first and third generations. In the first generation, you start with only one character out of an eventual party of five, and although you can pick up the second character fairly soon, it'll be hours later before you get the rest, and since the random encounters are not balanced for a smaller party, you'd better hope to have the best equipment available for those two and a few levels under your belt just to survive. The next two generations both start off with at least three characters already in the roster, but most of the end-game equipment is ludicrously expensive, and you're really going to need it.
    • Phantasy Star IV largely averts this for the first time in the core series. Doing the side-quests and optional areas when they become available and not running away from battles usually provided enough money and experience to carry you through each new area. There is one point about 30 to 60 minutes into the game where you could spend a bit of time doing some easy grinding while abusing the temporary aid of much higher-level character, but that's hardly arduous and entirely un-forced.
  • The Pokémon franchise can be quite notorious for this:
    • In Diamond and Pearl you could beat the last Gym Leader, get to and through Victory Road, and challenge the Elite Four pretty easily without having gone out of your way to grind prior to that. But beating the Elite Four/Champion is much different from challenging them; you might have to spend a couple nights grinding in Victory Road before you could actually do anything effectual against the Elite Four. Note, however, that 80% of the Elite Four's Pokemon have a weakness to either the Flying or Fighting type. The Starly family, who are among the most common Pokemon in the game, just happen to learn powerful attacks of both elements. They can nearly single-handedly wipe out the entire Elite Four when underleveled. Let's just hope you bothered to train one. Platinum fixed this by lowering the levels of the Elite Four and made their teams less unpredictable, but at the same time increased the overall leveling curve, making the game simultaneously easier and harder than the originals.
    • Generation II is arguably the easiest generation... until you get to Silver Cave. The strongest trainer prior to this is Blue, with his highest-level Pokémon being level 58. But then, we've got Red whose LOWEST-level Pokémon is level 73! If you are playing with a 6-Pokémon team, this part of the game is a nightmare even if you caught the Level-70 legendary (Lugia in Gold, Ho-Oh in Silver; both of them in Crystal, provided you get the wings from Pewter City) to save time. Not to mention that the highest-level Pokémon you can powerlevel against repeatedly are level 50, so the exp. yield is not awesome.
      • In the remakes, Red is in the upper eighties with all his mons. However, the pain is somewhat eased by the rematch system, where, not only can you rematch Kanto trainers, you can also battle former Gym Leaders with buffed-up teams, so there's not as much grinding on mons 20+ levels below you. Plus, you can always transfer high level mons you may have from other Gen IV games or use Pal Park to bring them up from GBA games.
      • Gen II in general are rather infamous for their awkward level curve, even outside of Red. After you defeat Morty and gain the ability to use Surf outside of battle, the region opens up and you can challenge Chuck, Jasmine, and Pryce in any order. However, the consequence of this open-ended approach to the mid-game is that their Pokemon are generally in the high 20's-mid 30's range. Morty's Pokemon are mostly level 20 with his ace being Level 25, and by the time you reach Mahogony Town, your team is still probably going to be in the low-20's, with Chuck's weakest Pokemon being Level 28.
    • Pokémon Colosseum. Only, there's just ONE spot that requires forced grinding - the final two bosses, which are quite a leap over the best level Pokémon you can get before that. Other than that, you can avoid any sort of level grinding by just using Pokémon as you catch them, since they're actually at a level that can fight off the opponents of the area! Oh, and if you thought you could just import your Level 100 mons from Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald, that option isn't unlocked until after you beat said final bosses.
    • Keep in mind, however, that while playing the game, your enemies will (generally) be using mons that you can obtain over the course of the game and that their stats have to (again, generally) match up. Further, you can catch 'mons with significantly better stat distributions, with usually one core legendary before the Elite Four and Champion. In order to replicate Health/Damage Asymmetry, your opponent's levels are much higher (for greater HP) and usually cursed with Poor, Predictable Rock (so that your attacks hit harder via Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors); it's not impossible to take down a high-level enemy team so long as your team is naturally leveled and you can abuse type advantages. The exception to this rule is Red from Gold/Silver/Crystal, and their remakes, who has insanely high-leveled mons that nothing else in the games come close to.
      • Even then, it's entirely possible to bring Red down with your team still in the low 50's and eligible for Stadium 2 Poké Cup (at least in Gen 2 — HG/SS made him considerably more powerful, but level is no longer a barrier to tournament entry). The key is that most of his team is quite slow, and the ones that aren't have moves that can be negated entirely. Even in the remakes, it is possible to beat Red with a party all at level 50, or even a party that has never gained any levels, ever.
    • Basically, you know you need to grind when you run into a boss with one guy that is faster than everyone in your party, and KO's each one in a single hit, including the one that resists his attack. Even then, later generations can give some sort of workaround, usually involving the Focus Sash or Choice Scarf, and a properly-placed Reflect/Light Screen.
    • In the fifth generation, the Elite Four only have four Pokemon each, the highest being only level 50. The champion replacement battle pits you against two tough battles in a row with the Pokemon around level 55, including a Legendary and a pseudo-legendary ten levels below the evolution threshold. Besides this, all the trainers right after the E4 have Pokemon starting at level 65, though most of these said Pokemon are unevolved.
      • The sequels are kinder on this. The highest leveled mon in the Pokemon League is level 59, that belonging to Iris. The rest of them average 56 to 58 (on normal mode), and they still only have four mons apiece on normal mode (except Iris, who has six). And there's no trick battles afterwards. But much like before, the postgame trainers' Pokemon start in the 60s. Thankfully, there are plenty of places to help train up your team; there are the stadiums in Nimbasa City that have daily trainer battles, and there's also the Black Tower and White Treehollow, which are great places to grind up (provided you can beat all the levels, of course).
    • Utterly averted in Gen VI. If you don't turn off the Exp. Share after you get it (it defaults to on), by the time, you're halfway into the game you're done facing serious challenges. By the time you hit the Elite Four, your starter will outlevel them by around twenty levels. Interestingly, the opposite is true as well: if you decide you do want to turn off the Exp. Share, the game ends up becoming one of the hardest in the series.
    • The optional rival battle against Blue on Route 22 in Red and Blue basically requires you to grind. He has two Pokémon at Level 9 and Level 8, which is pretty high for that early in the game. If you want to obtain the 5 Poké Balls from Oak, you'll have to beat him without buying any Poké Balls, forcing you to use your lone starter. Good luck!
  • Rakenzarn Tales pre-version 4 has one significant instance of this early on, in the first forest. You have little in the way of new armor and no new weapons, so you need to grind up from level 3 to somewhere around level 8 in order to get past the bosses at the end. Past there, new gear starts becoming available, which means you can build your levels at a more reasonable pace from then. Thankfully, this is no longer an issue in Version 4.
  • The Record of Lodoss War game for the Dreamcast. If you proceed to the Big Bad's lair as soon as it opens, you will be unable to cause any damage to him at all. You're supposed to run around killing dragons to build up your levels and equipment first.
  • Riviera: The Promised Land has the training mode, which is purely used for grinding weapons and items usage as learning abilities from them is the main way to gain stats. Thanksfully, your items won't break and you won't get a game over during a training, proving it less annoying aside from the fact that you'll have to waste loads and loads of time doing it whenever you get a new item in a very limited inventory.
    • However, slimes will eat uses with their unique attacks. This means that one use weapon that gives amazing bonuses? Gone before seeing use in a real battle.
  • Sailor Moon: Another Story, especially since stat changes between levels are so huge and the enemies are very strong as the game progresses.
  • Secret of Mana for the SNES, though arguably this is more or less weapon/spell grinding. You can ignore spell/weapon grinding entirely for most of the game. Any enemy can be beaten with melee attacks and a knowledge of how to dodge. But the exception, the final boss of the game can only be beaten if both mages in your party cast mana sword on the main character. You got this spell about 15 minutes before the final boss fight if you didn't grind. Spells you just acquired start at level 0, and last about 10 seconds. So either you have to go through a whole final dungeon and a Boss Rush without using any spells, so you have every single available MP for the final boss, or you need to grind out levels for that last spell set. This is not as bad as it initially appears: using the Mana spell to unlock the Mana Sword requires that both spell-casting characters synchronize their casting so that the second spell hits while the first spell is still active. While the effects of the Mana spell only last for a few seconds at level zero (reducing the time available to synchronize), once they successfully synchronize, the Mana Sword sticks around for a couple of minutes, more than enough time to land several hits on the final boss. Combined with the relatively low cost of the Mana spell itself, and the fact that the final boss is functionally immune to any form of damage that's not the Mana Sword, and the fact that the previous boss fully heals you after victory, means this battle doesn't require level grinding, though that does make it easier.
  • Septerra Core does this after you get Lobo's ship.
  • Depends on the game, but mostly averted with Shin Megami Tensei. You could just grind to hell; however, it's much better to simply fuse an Elite Tweak to beat whatever boss.
    • The game that spawned the series, Megami Tensei, plays this trope very straight. The gameplay can be summed up as "dungeon crawl, get destroyed by the area boss, grind for hours until you can beat him, repeat." Demons don't level up this early in the series, so you're forced to raise the MC's level to fuse strong enough Demons to stand a chance.
    • All the Superbosses play it painfully straight, however. Don't even think about entering a Superboss fight in a Shin Megami Tensei game without a party of 99ers.
    • Level Grinding in general is not as fruitful as properly customizing your team's skill set and resistances to beat your next challenge. Demons and Personas take a long time to level up, so the length to which you want to push a demon depends on what skill you're aiming for. As for the protagonist, their level determines the highest level of demon they can fuse or recruit, so sometimes you may find yourself grinding so that you can get to fuse the next demon that will be fantastic for the upcoming challenges.
    • In Shin Megami Tensei IV and Shin Megami Tensei IV: Apocalypse, leveling a demon up until it learns all its skills triggers a Demon Whisper event where you can copy their skill set onto the protagonist — any skills they know that the protagonist has already learnt gets powered up by a stage instead. Newly summoned demons from the Compendium who have already learned their whole skill set will trigger their Whisper event at the next level-up. If you want to pump a late-game skill all the way to maximum efficiency on the protagonist, it's going to be a lot of back-and-forth fusing and grinding. Innate Leaked Experience to your entire reserve roster does help the process a little, at least.
    • In the Digital Devil Saga duology, especially the second game, characters frequently leave your party, and often don't return for a long time. Characters who aren't in your active party gain new abilities less quickly, and characters who aren't in the party at all get almost nothing. Being as this is the usual Nintendo Hard Mega Ten game, in which specific abilities (especially elemental blocks) are all but necessary to win certain fights, expect to spend a lot of time bringing characters up to speed. Unless you play through the game with three specific characters Serph, Gale, and Cielo out of six, you'll spend anything from five to ten hours grinding on top of the amount of time you already spent grinding. It's about as fun as it sounds.
    • Shin Megami Tensei V is nice about this... for the first three regions of the game. It's relatively smooth sailing to level 55 for the Nahobino, and while demons tend to require much more EXP to level once they have all their innate skills, fusing them can help keep your roster both uncluttered and up-to-date. Unfortunately, the instant you enter the fourth region after a level 55 boss, you'll find that you have demons in the 60s and low 70s in every direction not far from your arrival point, and the next trio of bosses are all 72. This is the point you either buckle down and grind, or kiss all your Gospels goodbye. Or both. And in this game, the Elite Tweak that is the usual way out of high level enounters won't work due to an agressive level scaling system making grinding even more necessarry. And you might as well kiss your Gospels goodbye anyway if you're aiming for the secret ending, since you have to kill the game's non-DLC superboss to unlock it, a boss which is even stronger than the True Final Boss.
  • The last dungeon in SoulBlazer requires you to use the best weapon and armor of the game, since without them, you can't use the the spell necessary to defeat the Big Bad. However, since the game has level requirements for using weapons and armor, it's possible, your level is too low to wear them and you're stuck at the boss without a way to damage him.
  • The Star Ocean series generally requires little if any grinding for the main game; for the most part, keeping your equipment up-to-date is much more important. However, even if you use the proper strategies and equipment against the bonus bosses, if you're not at max level they will end you. On the normal difficulty setting. And even when you are at max level, said bonus bosses still tend to be pretty damn hard.
    • The grinding is played straight for the Skill points to level up in battle skills (Motormouth (Faster spellcasting), parry, etc) or item creation skills (Cooking, Crafting, Metalworking, etc). Battle skills make some of the bosses more bearable as you can parry certain attacks and do damage more quickly/increase medicine efficacy to heal more HP and MP, and item creation allows for better items and weapons one cannot normally get to increase your odds of survival.
  • Theia - The Crimson Eclipse: The Extremordeal has barriers that require a specific party in order to cross. However, all extra characters join at level 50, except for Neval at Mishra, who will likely have their levels in the 60s and 50s respectively. This means that for some barriers, the player will have to grind those extra characters to catch up with the main party.
  • Undertale requires you to level grind to a certain point in order to continue the No Mercy path. If your level, or LV, is not high enough before you reach each area's boss, you end up permanently resuming the standard route. Fortunately, after the first area, using a save point tells you exactly how many enemies you need to kill to reach optimum LV to continue the path.
  • Averted in Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume. There are a set amount of enemies in the game, and same with experience, with a small number of optional battles... but you can get more experience if you manage to rapidly attack the enemy while they're in the air or stunned so they drop gems that increase the amount of experience you get by up to 100%.
  • Vay more or less requires the player to take time out to level grind between every single dungeon. This despite the game's comparatively high encounter rate - the enemies generally don't give much EXP, at least compared to the amount needed to advance a level at the stage in the game when you start fighting them.
  • Grinding is the entire backbone of the gameplay in Widenyo. Thankfully it's made much less annoying since you manually distribute the XP among your characters.
  • This can happen in The World Ends with You. The majority of enemy encounters are player-initiated, and you can play through the story without refining your combat skills, making the Final Boss and the final Final Boss (not to mention the Superboss) fights almost impossible to win. The game encourages grinding, but it also rewards players with evolved items for not playing the game.
    • Leveling up only increases (and restores) your HP, but your attack, defence, and bravery stats remain static. The only way to increase those is by "feeding" your characters, who digest the food by fighting battles. One item requires the bravery stat to be maxed at 999 points, which would seem to be this trope but for the fact that by the time you acquire said item, you've already unlocked numerous boosters (e.g., you can eat something that boosts the bravery stat by 50 points). Pin value also operates independently from player level, so you can avoid leveling up and still have access to the game's equivalent of the instant death bullet, which makes battle-grinding a breeze.
    • You can beat story mode with zero grinding. However, post-game is all about the grinding. Arguably intentional, given the nature of the game — you're required to beat bosses on "hard" difficulty or higher in order to unlock the "secret reports," which is the game's All There in the Manual. If the first playthrough is about the story, then the New Game Plus is all about mastering combat mechanics — in order to finish the story.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles 1 does this via having enemies gain a bonus to all of their parameters for every level higher they are then you, though it applies to you, as well. If something is more then two levels higher, it'll be difficult, but beatable, but for anything five levels or above, you're not likely going to win unless you resort to specific tactics note  or have extremely good gear to compensate for the level difference (Which is only really available in the endgame).
  • Yakuza: Like a Dragon for the most part Averts it, but there are two egregious points where it's played straight. The first is in chapter 12, which is followed by the average Mooks being about 8 levels higher than they were in the previous chapter and That One Boss in the form of Majima and Saejima; the game recommends you go into the Sotenbori Underground Arena to strengthen yourself, but it's much more of a necessity than the game makes it out to be. After that, in the Post End Game, there's the Millennium Tower Challenge which requires at a minimum that your characters be at the level cap and job level cap (both 99)— the game can be beaten on normal difficulty around level 60 and job level 30-35, with grinding otherwise only necessary at the previous example.
  • Happens a lot in the Ys series, especially with boss battles, making these a form of Beef Gate; eg the giant bee that guards the Bell in Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim will annihilate you the first time you can reach it. And you need a ton of level grinding to beat Zava, the guardian at the entance to the Belltower in Ys II: Ancient Ys Vanished – The Final Chapter. Perhaps the worst offender is the SNES version of Ys III: Wanderers from Ys, where you often have to run around grinding for about half an hour before you even have a chance at beating a boss, even the early ones in Tigray Quarry. To add insult to injury, the enemy's EXP values decrease with each level, like many other games in the series. A typical Ys strategy: can't quite beat the boss? Level up one or two times. The next time you fight it you'll do a lot better. Apparently, this was unintentional in the first game. It evidently doesn't have a level cap, and Internet walkthroughs for it recommend reaching level 40 before the final boss fight. In the remake, you're capped at level 24, leading to one long final boss fight.

    Western RPG
  • Diablo II can be beaten without any level grinding at all. On the first difficulty setting. But if you haven't been, then good luck with Hell.
  • Dragon Age: Inquisition has a form of this, most of the major story quests have a fixed level cap and require you to complete some sidequests to accumulate enough Power to even start them... which will probably also provide enough experience for your party to be within the recommended level range.
  • The Elder Scrolls
    • Morrowind has a couple of parts that can indeed be difficult if you just speed through the main quest. Luckily, your quest giver generally tells you that you're about to head into a particularly dangerous situation and recommends training and/or buying new equipment to compensate, so these are easy to see coming.
    • Oblivion overcompensates in fixing the issue from Morrowind by adding strict Level Scaling. Here, Empty Levels are a much more significant issue as enemies level-up at the same rate you do.
    • Requiem - The Roleplaying Overhaul is a Game Mod for Skyrim that removes Level Scaling. It also significantly reworks the gameplay, and many of the overhauled gameplay features make the player character initially weaker than in Vanilla. The combination of those two changes makes wandering Skyrim far more dangerous upon low levels. Bleak Falls Barrow, which is one of the dungeons encountered very early in the main quest, has been made to be far more difficult.
  • Fallout 3, particularly on Very Hard mode, requires you to build up your skills for many parts of the main quest line, where the concentration and power of the enemies is liable to obliterate you if you haven't leveled up by doing sidequests. Luckily, higher difficulty levels give more experience points. Fallout: New Vegas plays this even straighter due to the many Skill Check dialogues and beef gates, and adjusting the difficulty no longer affects the experience points earned.
  • Grinding becomes more necessary from the middle of Nightmare difficulty in Hellgate: London, as the greater the level difference to opponents, the higher the penalty to damage and resistance; the level gains slow to a crawl. Since engame opponents are all higher than your max level, hours of grind become crucial to win. Because level difference also reduces experience gain, you gain most efficiently by replaying the same level range of maps, over and over.
  • Nethack requires your character level to be at least 14 to do the role-specific Quest to obtain one of the Invocation Artifacts, required to enter the lowest dungeon level and obtain the Amulet of Yendor. While you aren't required to do the Quest immediately (and for some roles like the Monk, waiting until you're prepared is far more advised), and doing other areas may provide enough experience points to allow you to enter when you want to, some characters will need to grind (or find potions of gain level), and it's one of the few areas of the game that cannot be skipped in any way.
  • Shadowrun for the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive is another game where the whole point is level grinding, or to be specific, money grinding. All the good upgrades cost tons of money. This is especially egregious in Matrix runs, which are the most profitable runs in the game, the reason being that cyberdeck upgrades will cost you an arm and a leg. To actually beat the game though, it's not necessary to upgrade everything because the main plot quest isn't that difficult and the final boss is a pushover. (More specifically, the final boss can be defeated by your allied shadowrunners with you not doing much of anything.) That said, karma grinding is important if you're specializing in Acquisitions and want to run Renraku.
  • In Ultima I, the granddaddy of them all, grinding is almost the entire point of playing. Reaching the level cap is in fact a requirement for finishing the game. Later games in the series de-emphasized that aspect of play.
  • Seeing as you are forced to murder every enemy to satisfy the kill count in Undertale's Genocide run, the entire run fits here.
  • Wizardry VII, right at the beginning. You have to get up a level or two just to get to next area, be it the first town, local dungeon or the beach where you find the map system.

  • Atlantica Online: New mercenaries always start out at Level 1 (with the exception of a few base classes that can be hired from wandering NPCs), even if the questline to get them (and the main character level requirement) is 100. There are other ways to get Exp than only in battle, but most of them translate to grinding in one or another form.
  • In Billy vs. SNAKEMAN, prior to the addition of the r00t plotline, it was possible to attain 100% Completion by Season 5, even reasonable (barring the deeply Luck Based Runed Gear and Party House rares). The game's creator has gone on record as saying that he doubts anyone would be able to beat r00t before Season 15. To put the amount of grinding needed here into perspective, completing a Season takes a week of grinding, more if you're looking for runes or focusing on money rather than speeding through Seasons.
    • "Completing" a Season is a misleading phrase. Doing everything that can be done in a particular Season takes months to accomplish, as there are six major sections to the game (r00t is the seventh), each with its own subplots, to do. "Speedlooping" is finishing the Ninja (Naruto) section as fast as possible, and takes roughly a week- less if you abuse some game mechanics. A normal game involves finishing everything you can reach in the first three seasons, partially completing S4 and S5, speedlooping to S20 or so, and completing everything, including r00t, when you get there.
  • Used to be an issue in City of Heroes in the higher levels of the game. Often players would run out of missions around level 38, their contacts would dry up and they wouldn't get new ones until level 40. This was eventually fixed by first adding a infinite random mission generator in the form of a Police Scanner, and then by adjusting the XP curve so that missions in the late 30's would give more XP to make this problem less likely to occur in the first place.
    • And these days since the Mission Architect and additional 35-50 content, grinding is pretty much history.
    • And now there's Oroboros, which allows you to go back in time and do quests you thought you missed, so you don't run out of missions either.
  • DC Universe Online very much averts this. Beating up endless hordes of Mooks, while fun, only gets rewards of some cash, items, and a pittance of XP. Doing all of the missions and sidequests, however, will keep you appropriately leveled for each phase of the game, hitting the Cap of 30 just before the last of the non-postgame content.
  • Elsword has no less than THREE instances of forced level grinding. First, you need to be a certain level to enter each city (starting low at only needing to be level 6 to enter Elder, but increasing as you go), then you need to have a certain average armor level to enter dungeons (meaning you need to grind to get to a high enough level to wear better equipment), and if you're doing the story, some quests will be locked until you reach a certain level. While this isn't bad for the first half or so of the game, you'll want to do every side quest and repeat quest you find.
  • In Final Fantasy XI there is a "level correction" effect: a player fighting a mob that is higher level than the player will have their accuracy, attack, magical accuracy, magical attack, and evasion reduced, and fighting mobs equal to or lower than the player will have the player's stats increased to reflect the level difference. This means that a task that required an alliance of players to do at level 50 can be soloed at level 75. NA players can tell stories of the horrors of hunting coffer keys for Artifact Armors or Limit Cap items in alliances when they were level 50, compared to how easy it is to do the same mobs at level 75+. (Not to mention how they increased the drop rates for these items, damn whippersnappers.) Even the level cap increase from 75 to 80 makes existing content like Dynamis much easier to do with smaller groups or amazingly productive with normal-sized groups. If you want to do anything in FFXI efficiently, you need to be max level (although Level Grinding is much easier with the advent of Abyssea). Level correction did not apply to notorious monsters, however. If you wanted that rare item you may often have found yourself one shot by a powerful spell unleashed by a mob 10 levels lower than you.
    • Final Fantasy XIV uses a similar level-correction system, at least against enemies above your level, to discourage attacking them since your attacks will miss more often even if your stats are technically comparable, and applies a similar mechanic to FATEs (your actual contribution to its completion will be lessened if you're not at its intended level, even when the actual targets tend to be a couple levels below that). The game doesn't otherwise force much grinding for the most part - at worst is one part of the 2.0 main story where a level 46 quest suddenly leads into a level 49 one, which especially nowadays isn't too bad a stretch (especially if you have various trinkets and bonuses to gain extra experience from inviting new players or playing on a "preferred" server) - and in fact works against it for dungeons, scripted battles, FATEs and leves, since if you're noticeably above the intended level for them you get a penalty to your reward (leves) or automatically level-synced down to be within the intended level range (everything else). However, the main story does run into it towards both the original level cap and the ones in the expansions, where the game is naturally designed to assume you're at the level cap, but experience rewards were not modified afterwards to account for the increased caps brought on by expansions. It's not that bad, though, since while you're not going to be gaining more than one or two levels just from the main story in the stretch of content between, say, the end of the 2.0 quests and the start of the Heavensward quests, the opening of each expansion's content only requires you to be at the old level cap before that expansion (e.g. Heavensward quests require you to be at level 50, which you already got to just from beating the original 2.0 story), and they removed the need to level several classes at once to gain access to basic mechanics like role actions (you get them individually on each class now, rather than having to unlock them with one specific class) or upgrading your class into a full Job (which used to require you to level an unrelated class to level 15). The worst you'll have of it is the start of Heavensward if you decide to switch over to one of the classes introduced with that expansion, since you have to actually reach the expansion's content before you can unlock its classes, but they start out 20 levels too low to immediately jump back into the story with them (later expansion classes avoid that issue by being unlockable as soon as you hit their starting level with another class).
  • New characters in Ragnarok Online used to have to grind up a few levels by killing eggs before being able to fight even the weakest monsters. It has since gone far to enable new characters to kill things, where it gives them 'novice' gear instead of a knife. The rest of the game is still a grindfest, though.
    • At Least with Renewal, the grinding has been drastically reduced to a some sort of Anti-Grinding: You are forced to move and level with mob of your same or a little more level, but mob of your level is weaker to the point that you can pretty much solo most of the game, until you get to level 96 or so.
  • This hit Star Trek Online twice and it infuriated the player base:
    • When the game first hit, the Klingon Defense Force was an unlockable faction that started off at Level 20... but held nothing else of value except for the missions that both sides could play and they were late game. It was initially lessened with the appearance of a set of KDF-centered missions and the Duty Officer System, but it wouldn't be fully fixed until the first Expansion Pack, Legacy of Romulus.
    • When the second Expansion Pack, Delta Rising, was being tested, players discovered that Cryptic pulled this stunt again, but for everybody! Cryptic's idea was to prevent what happened with Legacy of Romulus, where players tore through all the missions and had nothing else to do, by upping the amount of XP needed to earn to level up incredibly, with Cryptic telling players to not rush through the missions - play other things while you level up! Sadly, playing missions over again gave pittance in terms of XP gains, Duty Officer System missions rewarded pathetically and the PVE missions were made so much harder that players refused to go into them! A stopgap was discovered by players when one of the Sector Blocks had an unintended XP Boost and players grinded there, only for it to be taken away when too many people took advantage of it. Ultimately, it would be a change of hands with the Executive Producer to get things fixed with the leveling.
  • Warhammer Online plays with this in that the mobs themselves are distributed to roughly match your level, and the quests that take you to new places also tend to give you gear and boosts enough to handle them. The real grind is in PVP RvR, where to have any chance at all you need to grind either the actual zones to earn enough influence to get the best gear for that tier, or grind scenarios to gather enough emblems to purchase the best weapons.
  • World of Warcraft really works at averting this. Questing is much more effective than plain grinding for leveling purposes (though the nature of the quests incorporates some grinding), and if you don't want to do that, PVP'ing and running dungeons also give good XP, so you can pretty much do what you like in order to level. And the various factions have Daily Quests instead of a plain reputation point grind. The old content was pretty bad, though; one particular grind (the Ahn'Qiraj War Effort) required the player to kill fourty thousand Mooks in addition to having the entire server's population grind-crafting ingredients to open a pair of new dungeons.

    Other Genres 
Action-Adventure Games
  • Dark Cloud has weapon grinding, which is necessary if you don't want using a particular character to be painful. What makes this irritating is the fact that leveling up without the proper attachments on your weapons does virtually nothing, with some attachments being hard to come by. You also have to level up the weapons of six characters individually — characters who start out with their weapons at rock bottom each time you meet one. note 
  • Demon Hunter: The Return of the Wings: The end-game contains almost no side-quests, yet enemies a several levels higher in each area, so you have to find a room to spend a few hours in if you want to do any damage to bosses.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • Zelda games often have forced rupee grinding, like in the Triforce chart quest in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. In most Zelda games you only have to grind for rupees once. Money eventually becomes a complete afterthought.
    • However, aside from the first game, most of the games give you so much money, and have so little to spend it on, that you shouldn't need any grinding. It may even be a relief to spend it so you're no longer stuck at the rupee cap.
    • Hyrule Warriors: This is one of the downfalls of Ganon's Fury mode: Ganon can't use the bazaar, can't get stronger weapons, is a huge target, and many enemies do a ton of damage to him per hit because he starts at level 1, so the only real way to deal with some of the harder levels is to level him up beforehand.
  • Downplayed in Psychonauts. The Cobweb Duster, necessary to get through certain areas later in the game, costs 800 arrowheads and becomes available at rank 20. However, it is very easy to reach that rank long before the Duster is needed, and the arrowheads can be collected in about 15 minutes with the Dowsing Rod. Additionally, the Pyrokinesis, Telekinesis, and Invisibility powers are all necessary to beat the game, and unlock at ranks 10, 20, and 30 respectively. Again, it's easy to reach rank 30 before any of these powers are necessary, as long as you're good at collecting figments and PSI cards.
  • Scarface: The World Is Yours is not explicitly a RPG, but has this in that you need to build up Tony's Reputation to a certain amount to open new plot missions. Furthermore, past a certain point you will need to farm Balls to raise Tony's health maximum or expect to die quite fast.
  • The American version of The Twisted Tales of Spike McFang increases the defense of most enemies. This means that while in the Japanese version you have to level grind to make bosses easier, in the American version you must level grind to do more than Cherry Tapping to them.
  • Willow for the NES requires you to be at least level 13 to transform Fin Raziel so she can power up the Cane of Plot Advancement, giving you a chance against Bavmorda. And at level 13 (level 16 is the maximum), it's still not a very good chance.

Idle Games

  • Part of the premise in many Idle Games is that difficulty increases at an exponential rate or the player undergoes Diminishing Returns for Balance, meaning that the player will eventually reach a brick wall stage. Usually, they will have to prestige and use the prestige points obtained to improve their stats so that they can get past their ceiling/max stage.
  • You often need to reach a certain level in Idle Empire 2 before proceeding to the next location as part of a set of three quests, with it usually being the longest.

Miscellaneous Games

  • Chuck E. Cheese's Party Games requires the golden chest in order to beat the game. The chest costs a whopping 30,000 tickets and the games you play you only win roughly 5 to 100 tokens which can take several days or even weeks to claim the chest. This is even worse when the games can get repetitive and boring and when you're out of tokens, you're forced to do pizzas in Pasqually's Pizza Parlor.
    • To put this things even worse to the extreme, there's an optional achievement that requires you to claim the chest ten times with each character which in total is 300,000 tickets. With nine characters in total could accumulate 2,700,000 tickets. It could even take months or even years just to get that achievement.
  • Half-Minute Hero puts a new spin on this by combining Forced Level Grinding with Anti-Grinding and giving a player only 30 seconds to grind as much as possible to become powerful enough to face the boss.
    • That said, you're forced to level grind for a fair amount of time to beat the Dark Lord in Hero 30. This is easier than it sounds, since you still level up fairly fast and can bribe the goddess to reset your timer for some gold. However, beating the Dark Lord does not beat the level, as you're supposed to stop him with a different method. But you do get a cool title and a bit of dialogue.
  • Idol Manager: Two of the consecutive objectives from Chapter 1 of story mode are getting into the top five of the sales chart and getting to the very top of the sales chart. The Player Character's rival's group, which needs to be beaten in practice to get at the top of the charts, will consistently have sales a little south of 200,000. The sales of a single all happen upon its release and are a portion of the number of fans. Getting half-way through the promotion-related objectives will allow the player to get around 1000 new fans per day on which they choose to do a promotion drive, but, on any given day, promotion drives are mutually exclusive with both making money via performing (which nets no new fans) and taking the idols to the spa when stamina restoration via the break and medical rooms isn't enough. Side gigs for idols bring in two-to-three digit numbers of new fans, while the number of new fans generated by a new single will become a smaller proportion of the existing number over time. Hitting the top five on the sales chart has a very good chance of happening while sales are still in the four digits and unlocks a single story event. Considering all those factors, it's easy to have a long period of halted plot progress during which gameplay is entirely dedicated to looping through tasks meant to increase the number of fans all while keeping the agency sustainable.
  • Pony Island parodies this with the Pony Wings upgrade. You need the wings to clear an otherwise impossible jump. You unlock the wings at level 2. You need 100 experience points to level up, and clearing the EXP Beach level grants 1 experience point. Fortunately, you can hack the game to skip all the grinding.

Platformer Game

  • Contra: Returns: The game locks missions behind an experience wall. Because the game can be surprisingly generous, your heroes will likely have far more than enough firepower and special abilities to speed through the upcoming mission without grinding. However because of the lock, you'll have to go and grind a lot of experience first.


  • Stern Pinball's Transformers is often criticized for feeling very long and repetitious, largely due to the requirement to make an arbitrary number of shots to complete a character. Since the modes are timed, most players have to enable and play each one several times before completing it.
  • This is also a major criticism of Zen Studios's virtual pinball tables: Their obsession with the Spelling Bonus means that to start any modes, you have to shoot something specific a certain number of times. On tables like Guardians of the Galaxy or Portal, this means everything at the start is locked away and it'll take a long time for things to start happening. This is worse on earlier ones like Spider-Man or Fantastic Four, where multiple modes can't run simultaneously, meaning there's a lot of nothing going on with one thing happening from time to time.

Real-Time Strategy

  • Bizarrely, Command & Conquer 4: Tiberian Twilight. New units are rewarded for XP, and you'll probably only get about a quarter of the way to unlocking everything by completing the single player campaigns (and that's assuming you can complete the single player without grinding anyway).
  • Defense of the Ancients, where the first seven levels generally have to be ground up by staying in lane or the jungle before any effective team fighting can occur. There is the occasional Hero that can gank from level one, but that requires both personal skill and good, cooperative teammates. For carry Heroes, especially the hard carry lategamers, farming becomes nearly all of the game, which has made them less popular in recent versions where the Metagame has shifted to disadvantage them.
  • The Total War series rewards experienced units with stat buffs. In battle, tactics and a superior infrastructure can beat better stats, in most games in the series, your agents in the 4X strategic section of the game will be murdered willy-nilly by enemy agents if they don't raise their stats. If you want to use intrigue, whether it's metsuke in Shogun or merchants in Medieval, you better start training them early and keep the XP flowing. Additionally, well-trained leaders can be a huge boon, but generally require you to keep them busy doing whatever you want them to get good at.
    • More pronounced in Total War: Warhammer where all your heroes and all your lords have separate skill trees, and if you don't level up your lords, you'll likely miss some very important unlocks for them that make a huge difference when the fighting gets serious.
    • In Medieval 2, if you play a Catholic faction, grind, grind, grind away at raising and training priests or be prepared for the Pope to be your personal devil. However, with enough grinding, your priests will become bishops and cardinals and you can ensure the Pope is always from your nation or an ally, thus saving yourself some headaches. Factions following Islam and Eastern Orthodoxy don't really have this problem.

Turn-Based Strategy

  • XCOM: Enemy Unknown: to end the game, you are required to activate the Gollop chamber thus making available the final mission. The device can be activated only by a psionic soldier with enough stats. Psychic abilities must be discovered by testing a promising candidate in the psi labs (which are available after research), then, if the candidate is positive, he or she needs to level up and master the new abilities before being able to use the Gollop chamber.

Rhythm Games

  • DJMAX Portable Clazziquai Edition's unlocks are like this. You need to have a high enough rank to enter each club, and you increase your rank by defeating opponents in Mission Clubs. In Mission Clubs, you need to be less than 30 ranks away from a particular opponent to be able to challenge them. The rank requirement for club entry usually isn't bad so much as the requirement for opponent challenging. More often not, you only need to defeat a small fraction of opponents to clear the club...and you end up having to go back there and defeat the remaining opponents because the opponents in a later club are too high-ranked for you to be allowed to challenge them. This becomes quite a problem in the 6th area's Mission Club, "Maximum", where in order to be able to challenge and defeat enough of the 21 opponents to clear it, you more or less have to defeat every opponent in the Mission Clubs prior to this one (unless you like grinding already-defeated opponents for 1 rank per clear as opposed to 2-5 for a yet-not-defeated one).
  • Rock Band Blitz has the coin system, in which you need to play songs, Rock Band World challenges, and Score Wars to be able to buy power-ups.

Simulation Games

  • War Thunder:
    • To complete daily tasks or event challenges you require to use at least a rank III vehicle. Justified, to prevent veterans going to rank I to sealclub new players and easily farming the tasks without an effort (considering the business model of the game, it's probably more for the second reason).
      • Sometimes downplayed when the requirement is not specifically to only use a rank III or better, but to deploy one at a certain point (except in realistic air battles where you can use only one aircraft). Since the battle rating of a vehicle is not always inferior to that of vehicles of a superior rank, you can create a line-up with one rank III that has a relatively low battle rating along with rank I Is with comparable strength.
      • Sometimes averted as certain events allow you to use rank II or even Rank I vehicles, provided they were rewards of past editions.
    • Before you can get free access to helicopters you need to unlock rank V in either aircraft or ground forces for that said nation. If you don't want to wait, you can only purchase a premium pack.
    • Israel is available only if you reach rank V in any category of the nations that won ww2 (USA, UK, USSR, France, China). Again, if you don't want to wait, you can purchase a premium pack.

Wide Open Sandbox

  • The Godfather the game for Xbox. Intentional or not, you'll have to simply wait for game-time to pass to earn enough protection money to buy the Infinity Plus One machine gun to clear out the last nest of bad guys.
  • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. At one point, sooner or later, you're going to have to swim like a doofus here and there and everywhere to be able to swim enough to take on a swimming level. Swimming! Anywho, thank goodness the Chinese Triads and the 'bad guys' will wait however long it takes for you to practice swimming (Protip: Bring a rocket launcher, which will oddly enough, not weigh you down). You'll also have to grind for muscle or fat build up when it comes to certain girlfriends so that they'll start dating you.
  • Saints Row 2 required you to build up Respect by completing challenges, doing stunts, and customizing your cribs in order to unlock story missions.