Follow TV Tropes


Low-Level Run

Go To
To be fair, Nike and Kukuri didn't do too much fighting unless it's necessary. This is the final battle, by the way.

Variation of the Self-Imposed Challenge. Restricted to RPGs and games with RPG Elements, particularly experience and levels. The goal is to complete the game with your characters' levels being as low as possible. The player avoids or flees as many Random Encounters as possible (while reducing the amount of experience he is forced to gain, if that option is available) while still defeating the required enemies and winning the game. The challenge can be expressed in terms of aggregate levels (all characters' total levels, added up), average character level, or the level of the character with the lowest level, depending on the game.

This challenge is just impossible in some games, but others are well-suited for it. These include games where tactics or reaction time outweighs raw power, as well as games where characters' statistics can be raised to a competitive level without Level Grinding. Occasionally, staying at low level would actually provide you advantages.


Most Speedruns of RPGs end up being this, since they often involve skipping parts of the game, and thus skipping many occasions to level up. Exceptions tend to go to the opposite extreme, using glitches to ridiculously overlevel the player characters.

Compare Minimalist Run, where the objective is to finish the game using as little equipment as possible. Compare Weak, but Skilled, which is what your character will need to be to get through the game with such comparably low stats and resources. Frequently overlaps with Pacifist Run in games that lack the ability to manipulate EXP gain.



  • Chrono Trigger is well suited for Low Level Runs: characters gain no experience while knocked out, and the battle system is designed in such a way that statistical bonuses gained from equipment far outstrip those gained from Level Grinding. It's possible to beat the game with the main character's level being as low as 1note 
    • Mind you, just because a low-level game is easily set up does not mean it is easily beaten. In a low-level game, the final boss can ONLY be beaten with a SPECIFIC party (Specifically, judicious application of Crono, Marle, and Robo's "Lifeline" Triple Tech, the ONLY way you'll survive.).
  • Tales of Symphonia features a special mode where experience gained is determined by the quality of the Combos the player uses. This is intended to reward players who are good at the battle system, but it can be used to keep the characters' levels low by deliberately performing poorly. Since the game is an action-RPG, a good player can avoid all damage, and keep enemies locked in infinite-Combos regardless of the characters' levels. There are videos of low-level parties, with Colette and Raine (the game's healer and defensive mage) leading the battle, defeating Abyssion — the single toughest enemy in the game by poisoning him and dodging attacks for several minutes.
    • There is a title for Lloyd obtained by getting to a certain point in the game with a party level total below a certain number.
    • The New Game+ gives you an option to halve the amount of experience gained, useful for these kinds of runs.
  • Super Mario RPG: There is, in fact, a walkthrough available on GameFAQs detailing steps to complete the game without having Mario advance beyond Level 3. The Level 3 Run is possible mostly because it is possible to turn Mario's standard 3 FP Jump attack into a Disc-One Nuke. For later portions of the game, usage of some hard to find items such as the Star Egg and Lazy Shell is necessary to turn Bowser into a Stone Wall. However, many portions of this challenge become a Luck-Based Mission, since any battle where you must abuse the "Lucky" effect has two conditions: you have to get the egg that modifies EXP, then guess the wrong egg and nullify the EXP gain. Without emulation exploits, this is generally a 1/6 chance, meaning you may have to beat that boss several times to keep your levels low. There are also two bosses that you must fight back-to-back, and you have to get both eggs wrong in a row to lose all the EXP. Hope you have a lot of patience...
  • It is possible to go through the Paper Mario games with the starting stats of 10HP and 5FP. Level-ups are given to the Badge Points (which do nothing except equip badges, which can modify attack, defense, etc.) What makes it difficult is that enemies have high attack power late to post-game. Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, for example, has a late-game boss that can do 10 Attack in one move if you're not prepared, and the final boss can do 7 attack three times. These are very high stats for these games.
    • It's also possible to cut Mario's Max HP from 10 to 5 - but this is used as part of a Game-Breaker build called Danger Mario. Once Mario drops to 5 HP or lower, he'll be in "Danger" during a battle; cutting his max HP to 5 ensures that Mario is always in Danger. There are many badges that increase Mario's attack power or give him a small chance to dodge enemy attacks that only work if he's in Danger. You can buy as many as you want and they stack, turning Mario into an unstoppable powerhouse than can do tens of damage per hit while dodging almost every attack thrown at him.
  • Every Final Fantasy game has had someone do this, including the ones that don't actually use levels:
    • It can be done in Final Fantasy V as bosses don't give experience and there are very few forced encounters, yet one can still gain job levels from enemies that run away.
    • Performing a Low-Level Run for much of Final Fantasy VI is essential to those looking to max out their stats as much as possible, keeping levels as low as possible (by avoiding battles, juggling characters when you have to fight, and manipulating when characters rejoin the group) until the player has the right espers, which each grant a different stat boost when the character holding them levels up. The endeavor is helped by a few Good Bad Bugs such as the Vanish-Doom Game-Breaker and isn't a strict low level run, as it still allows free Level Grinding of Guest Star Party Members and (at certain times) characters who can't equip espers to gain strength and money. Incidentally, bosses give no EXP in FFVI.
      • A true low level game can be achieved by careful manipulation of the game mechanics. Due to the way the game averages the levels of your entire party at certain points, there is a strategy that involves having Gau take large amounts of forced experience and then jumping him off into the Veldt so that it doesn't count. By doing this, the game can be beaten using only level 6 characters.
    • Of the Final Fantasy games, Final Fantasy VIII is most suited to low-level runs. Most of your combat power derives from junctioned Guardian Forces and Magic, not level-grinding, and your enemies' Dynamic Difficulty is scaled according to your characters' level - not by what you have junctioned. Thus, a low-level run is actually the easiest way to beat the game. Not that it tells you this, of course. (You'll also need to grind monsters to get Ability Points, in order to teach your GFs the various Item Crafting and Magic Crafting abilities that will give you high-level magic.)
      • Conversely, a high-level but no-Junctioning game is the hardest self-imposed challenge in the entire series. It's impossible. Early in the game, if you stock up on Water spells, you can get 60 Strength; at maximum level, unjunctioned, your character has 50. No items, no magic, no summons, and no card games either, without a junction.
      • Ironically, Final Fantasy VIII is the only game that makes it easy to get through the game without earning Experience Points. Bosses don't provide EXP, and most random-encounter monsters can be turned into cards for the game's Card Battle Game, which likewise doesn't provide EXP. Using this method, it is possible to beat VIII without earning a single level.
    • The level 1 challenge in Final Fantasy IX. Yes, you can beat the whole game this way note  and even take out Ozma, the hidden superboss. Not for the faint of heart or patience.
    • Final Fantasy X is incredible for this, as winning battles doesn't automatically increase your stats, but merely gives you points to spend on stat increases. Because of this, No Sphere Grid (i.e. no stat increase) runs are merely the tip of the iceberg, and there is a whole slew of other challenges combining that restriction with other restrictions such as No Items, No Escapes, No Overdrives, etc. The peak of it all is what's called a NSGNSNCNONENNENBB challenge — that is, No Sphere Grid, No Summoning, No Customizing, No Overdrives, No Escape, No "No Encounters", and No Blitzball. Purportedly, the closest anyone has ever gotten to completing this challenge is getting the final boss down to about half health.
      • It has since been achieved, with a lot of luck (and undoubtedly skill, to even reach the final boss): observe.
    • A Low-Level Run of Final Fantasy XII is nicknamed a 122333 run, because the lowest your party's levels can be is Vaan at level 1, Fran and Balthier at level 2, and the other three at level 3. The International version of FFXII also has a New Game+ variation where all characters are locked at level 1.
    • At least one person has attempted to get as far as they could in Final Fantasy XIII without using the Crystarium. Turns out you can get to the last boss of Chapter 9 before it becomes (nearly?) impossible to progress.
      • It's now been proven possible to beat not only the normal game, but also 62 of the 64 optional missions without using the Crystarium. With the additional restriction of not upgrading equipment, players have made it as far as the final boss in chapter 11.
  • Bravely Default and Bravely Second allow the player to turn off the acquisition of experience, job points, or pg at any time. A player with celestial patience is free to play either game with no one in their party having double-digit levels. note 
  • Fire Emblem games do everything in their power to make a Low-Level Run impossible, with the specter of permanent character death always looming and untrained characters becoming increasingly (and mathematically) unable to stand up to enemies the more you neglect them. However, each game usually gives you several pre-promoted powerhouse units to recruit that are weaker over the long run, but ensure that you won't become completely stuck.
    • This guy has many videos that demonstrate the next best thing to a Low-Level Run in Fire Emblem: the games are hacked to reduce all stat growths to 0% (stats never increase except from stat boosters and promotion), while usually recruiting all characters, keeping everyone alive, and to really drive the point home, does all of this on the hardest difficulty settings. Suddenly those pre-promotes (and a few unpromoted units as well!) are a whole lot more valuable to your survival when they're the only people you've got with decent stats. Finishing maps quickly also becomes paramount to avoid having to fight strong reinforcements. The only game in which he lets a unit die is Shadow Dragon so that he could revive her (A staff in the game is able to revive units similar to the one found in Genealogy and Fates) and 2HKO the final boss.
  • Legend of Mana provides experience as crystals dropped on the ground by enemies, which must be picked up in order to gain levels. More significantly, the player affect enemy levels by planning his or her path through the game. As a result, it is quite possible to fight a level 40 final boss at level 1 the first time through the game, and in New Game+ mode encounter level 99 bosses with a level 1 character. As Legend of Mana is an action-RPG, such a challenge is possible, but takes a lot of skill and blacksmithing.
  • Castlevania
    • Castlevania II: Simon's Quest can in fact be beaten without gaining any levels. The trick is to immediately go LEFT from the first town and get to the Morning Star with your original 50 hearts plus every small heart you can get. However, you will find that Dracula can actually kill you in a single hit, making him a much greater challenge. Have fun!
    • Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin has a mode where you can stop your characters from gaining more levels after a certain point. This even allows you to stay at Level 1 the entire game. Since this can only be activated when playing the hardest difficulty level of the game, it can make for an almost impossible challenge when playing as certain characters.
    • But noticeably and notably easy for the main characters, even with the Level 1 restriction, because the money you can grind for, and the variety of vital sub-weapons that can be developed to maximum power, makes all the difference in one's survivability; for example, stock up on lots of potions each time you make a little progress and (ab)use them all together in the same boss fight to take down many earlier bosses. The hardest boss would be Death at around halfway because after that point, start fighting Old Axe Armor enemies until they drop a suit of armor named Ancient Armor, which causes any attack that hits you to only decrease your HP by 10%. The rest of the mode becomes cake among Low Level Runs.
      • The most difficult challenge in the game is to beat Hard mode with a level 1 restriction with the Old Axe Armor. You can't use any of the items you'd normally be able to use with the main characters and you're less powerful than Richter and Maria. Dracula takes forever to beat, but it's possible.
    • Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia has level caps in its Hard Mode as well. Presumably, this would be fairly simple for Shanoa (as simple as that game can get) thanks to the Villager sidequests, but may the Ruinous Powers help you if you try it on Albus Mode.
  • In Diablo II, high-level characters could go to the last Waypoint of each act and send a Town Portal to be used by low-level players in their party. This allowed n00bs to gain access to certain areas without completing the prerequisite quests: for example, getting to the Canyon of the Magi without killing the Summoner, or to the Durance of Hate without ever assembling Khalim's Will. This was nerfed in the 1.10 patch.
    • An allegedly popular set of challenges in Diablo II are the 1@17, 2@20, 3@30 Diablo kills — basically, killing the final boss on a difficulty setting at the earliest possible level. To use the Hell entrance in Normal difficulty requires a character level of 17, to access Nightmare difficulty requires a level of 20, and Hell difficulty is accessible at 30. Each challenge is to be attempted solo, though you are not required to attempt or complete any of the earlier challenges to attempt the coveted 3@30.
    • There's also the literal lowest-level-possible challenge, which can be attempted only using outdated patches. And we have the Ironman challenges of various difficulty, the impossible no-items-no-skills-no-stats challenge, and of course any build or item choice less than optimal will be challenging at least to defend against hecklers.
  • Star Ocean: Till the End of Time actually rewards the player for this. The game features battle trophies which are awards for various feats in battle. Three of these (one for each possible difficulty) are awarded for defeating the final boss with a level 1 party, and on higher difficulties up to level 10 is allowed.
  • Star Control II is the most extreme example of this. Although there's no such thing as levels, you can play through the entire game without ever visiting the Rebel Base at Earth. From there you have no upgrades to your flagship, a very short supply of fuel, very few combat ships (gained via alliance pacts, which are rare in themselves) and to top it all off, a new enemy appears every day (about five seconds in real time) headed right at you. You are screwed. The worst part is that even if you can consistently fight off the enemies with 0 damage, each battle resets your ships direction, and due to lack of upgrades, you're forced to travel everywhere with the slowest possible rotation rate and ship speed. Did I mention there's a time limit in the game?
    • This was discovered more than ten years after the game was released, and was not an intended feature. Unfortunately, playing the game like this made it crash immediately before The Very Definitely Final Dungeon (where, in the normal course of things, there's a sequence involving the Rebel Base). Fortunately, by the time it was discovered, the game was already open source and the bug could be fixed easily.
  • The City of Heroes version is to create a 1st level character and race numerous other first levelers through three increasingly dangerous zones. It is an exercise in aggro management, where any villain could kill you with a sneeze and drawing attention is instant death.
  • The first Knights of the Old Republic has a variation of this, as many players will attempt to survive the Taris section of the game on as few levels as possible. This is not to increase the challenge, but rather so they can maximize the number of Jedi levels they can take.
    • Not really much of a challenge because this only applies to your main created character. Feel free to powerlevel your two lackeys to your heart's content. Not to mention grenades can carry you through Taris pretty easily.
  • Speaking of BioWare, Baldur's Gate has had a couple of interesting games. At least two people have played through the first game without gaining XP at all, via a combination of stealth and using enemies against each other. The second game requires you to kill enemies, but minimal XP runs have been completed, with only a few thousand XP gained (the cap being 8 million).
  • Neverwinter Nights, also a Bioware game, is also beatable at a much lower level than you're expected to be.
  • In Kingdom Hearts, several games in the series have a low level run built right into the highest difficulty options with an optional ability known as EXP Zero or No Experience, if playing on Critical mode (Proud in Kingdom Hearts Final Mix) wasn't hard enough. Nearly every enemy will one or two shot you easily. The amending factor for this is that boss fights or even story battles of significance usually give players stat boosts separately of level ups so the player isn't entirely left out in the dry, combined with Critical Mode actually boosting player damage compared to the usual Hard difficulty of Proud Mode.
  • The closest thing you can do in Pokémon to a more conventional low-level run is the "No Evolutions" run. It isn't quite as difficult as you still earn experience (Twitch Plays Pokémon even pulled it off in Black), but most players couple this with a "(Enter Species Here) Only Run". Observe.
    • It is possible, in the original Red and Blue, to beat the Elite Four with only a level 7 Mew, though the video demonstrating this is no longer available. Of course, the Elite Four gives so much experience to a battler that it's hardly a low-level run by the end. That said, doing so requires incredible amounts of luck, as Lorelei's first Pokémon has to do nothing but non-damaging moves for the first seven turns while you set up.
    • Cynthia has now been beaten by a team of Level 1s, a level 1 Bidoof with improbably low stats, and a single Cottonee. Ever since the original low-level Cynthia victory was recorded, it's practically become a game in and of itself to one-up previous attempts.
    • To prevent people from downloading Black and White, a "no experience" security patch was added. A lot of people actually use said patch to challenge themselves.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • Morrowind has an extreme example, as the alchemy process is considered a Game-Breaker: Because the game is paused when the player brews potions, a player can brew an Intelligence boosting potion that lasts a short time, drink it, and then immediately brew another potion that provides an even greater bonus (as the Alchemy skill bonuses are affected by your Intelligence attribute), and it would stack to absurd levels until you can create a potion which restores your entire health pool many times over each second for a real-world hour. This then allows the player to wield the Tools of Kagrenac, Keening and Sunder, without Wraithguard, the protective gauntlet needed to use them. (Otherwise, the tools quickly drain the health of the wielder.) By doing this, it's possible to complete the game's main quest in under 10 minutes.
    • Since you only gain a level in Oblivion when you gain 10 points in your major skills and then sleep, it's relatively simple to acquire very high skill levels while remaining at experience level 1. And since the game's difficulty scales with your level, this is arguably easier than gaining levels the traditional way. Your attributes and equipment will suffer, though. In order to beat the main quest, you must complete at least one of the Daedric artifact quests, each of which has a minimum level, although some are as low as two. It's still possible to complete the game at level 1, but this requires killing an NPC who is about as powerful as the game engine will allow, then giving up her Infinity +1 Sword to short-circuit the quest's level requirement. Alternatively, if you're willing to gain just one level, you can complete the easiest Daedric artifact quest in the game instead.
    • Skyrim's leveling system requires players to access a leveling window to pick stat allocation (simplified to picking a health, magicka, or stamina boost per level) as well as perks. By deliberately ignoring this window, it is possible to play as a level 1 character for most of the game, albeit at a cost of not using perks or advanced skills.
    • It also is possible to play through the game without leveling up any skills at all, which requires only fighting with things that do not cause you to level up.
  • World of Warcraft has two different forms of this; Level 1 Gnome (or Tauren) races often end in an opposing faction's capital, and making your way through is an exercise in aggro management and sheer patience. On the other hand, it's possible to enter many raid dungeons five levels before you are supposed to (the game simply refuses anyone of lower level than that).
    • There are videos of people solo-ing 25-man raid bosses using just the right combination of exploits. Iin particular, someone figured out that a warlock could kite one of the bosses in Serpentshrine Caverns by throwing instant-speed dots and running up and down stairs a lot.
      • This kind of thing is considered an exploit by Blizzard and can easily get your account banned. However in Final Fantasy XI quite a few Ninja (and other jobs) have soloed Jailer of Fortitude without any crying foul from Square Enix. Anyone who has played the game even a little knows just how good Red Mages are at soloing mobs that would normally take six to eighteen players.
    • Not to mention various people succeeding in getting a bunch of level one Gnomes to kill Hogger. Needless to say, they are an amusing spectacle.
      • The Warcraft Hunters Union downed Ysondre (balanced for 40 level 60s) with level 2 hunters, as well as Gnomeregan with a party of level 19 hunters.
    • There are also other interesting challenges, such as trying to get "The Explorer" title at the lowest level possible, which requires visiting a majority of Azeroth. There are also reported cases of "Level 1 Twinks", which (like normal twinks), have incredibly high quality gear, but are forbidden to level past 1 (which can be done just by exploring a bit)
    • A recent addition promoted Low Level Runs to officially-endorsed status by allowing players to disable experience gain altogether
  • There are people crazy enough to take on God Hand on Hard Mode, with only the starting moves, while still keeping their Kick-Me Sign on. By the end of the game, your starting moves are practically Scratch Damage. Hard Mode locks the Dynamic Difficulty on its highest level, "Level Die". The Kick-Me Sign falls off if you use either the God Hand or God Reels. People have beaten the game this way.
  • Many a Speed Run in RPGs can result, inadvertently or deliberately, in a Low-Level Run. For example, winning Fallout 2 in less than half an hour is possible, but even with the amount of XP granted from some of the late-game area quests being insane for a low-level character, you will likely finish the game severely underleveled compared to what most players would feel safe doing.
  • This is easy to do in Beyond Oasis (aka The Story of Thor), since your character's level is determined by the number of hearts he collects (which also, predictably, increase maximum HP), rather than EXP gained by kills. Furthermore, hearts are rigged to only drop from enemies if you're getting your ass kicked, when you would logically need them. Thus, the game's difficulty rather ingeniously scales itself depending on your skill... or, you can simply go macho and ignore hearts altogether.
  • The introduction of "instanced" areas, where difficulty is determined by a given player's level, has made joining groups with a much lower-level player into a viable tactic in Gaia Online MMO zOMG! The low-level player is sent in first to set the difficulty of the enemies, and then his high-level buddies come in, walk all over the enemies, and revive their sacrificial victim if necessary. Side effects may include situations where the low man is the last person standing against Queen Lorelei... and wins.
  • All of the games in the Mario & Luigi series let you avoid all damage from every attack if you're good enough with action commands. There are very few exceptions, meaning that perfect skill can result in beating a game with minimal levels. But due to the dependence of damage upon level, it will probably take a very long time to succeed in one of these challenges.
    • The combat system in Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time involves having the player actively dodge or redirect enemy attacks rather than leaving it up to chance. Perfect timing becomes necessary during a Low-Level Run, where enemy attacks that would normally become Cherry Tapping from enemies become One-Hit Kill attacks. There are no items the player can use to make enemy attacks miss invariably and decreasing their Attack Stats while increasing your Defense Stats will do naught to help you. Using a revitalizing item if you cannot dodge well will also not get you anywhere, as you will waste a turn using the item while whoever was knocked out will not be able to go at all. To make it even worse, if one brother survives and the player has no more healing items, the one that's still standing has to carry his brother during the enemy's attack phase, which delays the jump, making it considerably harder to dodge.
    • The predecessor, Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga has this as well. That game also doesn't even have any healing spots at all, quite unusual for an RPGnote . Perfect timing is all you need... it seems. Not only can you get equipment set ups to make yourself powerful (so you can kill enemies quicker and don't have to dodge as much), you can also get equipment and items that make the action easier as well. Effects ranging from not dropping your hammer when you hold it too long during a counter attack so that it all goes down to knowing when to stop holding the button (as opposed to knowing when to both start AND stop it), being able to float indefinitely (perfect if there's little to no attacks that can hit you in the air), making yourself lighter and more floaty (thus meaning your timing doesn't have to be as tight) and making yourself heavier (if you need to jump multiple times in quick succession, this can be helpful.) Thus this run CAN be done with pure skill, but you can also equip the right stuff to make the skill portion easier depending on the situation. Once you get the Shroom Force equipment, this challenge becomes MUCH easier.
      • The last fights with the Koopalings have timers that will explode and kill you within a certain number of turns. Fortunately, the Shroom Force effect will allow you to kill them before this happens. (and in a regular game, you can often kill them in a single turn)
    • Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story and Mario & Luigi: Dream Team work much the same way as the other games, but both have one significant exception. The giant fights (as Bowser in the former game and as Luigi in the latter) do not depend on level or statistics AT ALL. This means they are among the hardest battles for those relying on levels to carry them, but among the easiest for those relying on Action Commands to survive.
  • The Soulblazer trilogy has different amounts of success with low-level runs. Soulblazer requires the vast majority of monster lairs to be sealed in each level in order to finish that level (as the NPCs do aid you in your quest by supplying items or opening pathways to let you continue). Some can be avoided. But to kill the final boss, Deathtoll, you need the Phoenix magic and the Soul Blade, which requires a bare minimum of level 24 (out of 50); anything less and you can't even touch him , never mind hurt him.
    • Illusion of Gaia has a very unique levelling system, wherein clearing each room of a level gives you a permanent stat increase in either HP, Str, or Def. But when it comes time to face a boss, you get the stat increases anyway, which falls straight into Anti-Grinding.
    • Terranigma, on the other hand, has very few monsters that actually have to be killed. Aside from the bosses of course, only a handful of monsters throughout the game have to be killed in order to open certain hitherto blocked gateways, making underlevelling very possible. The game has now been completed at a measly level 13 (out of 50) critical hits of 2 points damage to the final boss (who has like 1200HP or something).
  • A version of this exists in X-Com UFO Defense, in which one uses only default equipment except for the ship needed to get to the final battle. No lasers, no plasma, no stun bombs or blaster launchers...
  • Resident Evil 4 has a varation of this with a No Merchant, No Attache Case run. No Merchant meaning you can never buy new weapons or upgrade your current ones and No Attache Case meaning you can never access your inventory. This means the only weapons you can still use are your combat knife and the basic handgun and you can only use healing items when you find them, so you can never use Yellow Herbs to increase Leon's or Ada's maximum health.
    • Resident Evil 5 has something similar, although the inventory is accessible by default.
  • A River City Ransom tool-assisted speedrun is much faster if it disregards Power Leveling and simply runs to each successive boss and takes them down. Of course, by the final boss fight, it's quicker to trick Simon into attacking himself.
  • Earthbound is both an excellent low level run and a terrible one. The first play area, Onett, turns out to be the biggest challenge in the game; defeating Frank and Frankystein is possible but difficult, but defeating Titanic Ant is virtually impossible without abusing savestates in an emulator, or leveling up once or twice to improve your chances. After that, it's relatively easy in terms of gameplay. However, purists will still find challenge in attempting to dodge seemingly forced battles, including a miniboss fight. At its worst you'll find yourself scrambling for one pixel to avoid a fight.
  • The soullevel 1 challenge in Demon's Souls is quite common. Some guys take it a step further though and complete the game in the much harder "New Game +" Mode without leveling up ever. Or beating the game using only your fists.
    • There is at least one video series of a "Soul Level 1, New Game +++++++" challenge. It's described as less an RPG, and more of a puzzle game (if anything so much as touches you, you will die).
  • A Soul Level 1 run in Dark Souls is considered easier than Demon's Souls but not by much. While you can't increase health, you can still upgrade weapons to +10 and add elemental damage, and pyromancy is attached to the rank of the flame and not the intelligence or faith stats, allowing you to stay ahead of the damage curve even though a light breeze would destroy you.
  • The Gothic expert "The Wonderer" has beaten Gothic II with Expansion with level 6. You can download the videos here (in German).
  • The Epic Battle Fantasy series (as well as Bullet Heaven) allow the player to simply not upgrade, in a somewhat similar way to the sphere grid in Final Fantasy X. Bullet Heaven in particular can get really nasty; compare the first Bonus Boss of four (and yes, the others do get harder) on a Low-Level Run here to that same boss fought with full upgrades.
  • The World Ends with You comes equipped with a level slider, which lets you go as low as 1 and as high as you have advanced. The more you handicap yourself, the higher the drop rate is. It's practically required to set your level to 1 to obtain several rare pins, especially in postgame. Fortunately, the only stat that level influences is Hit Points, so you can still destroy enemies in a reasonable timeframe at level 1, you just have to be careful to not get hit too much.
  • NetHack has an unusual example where Low-Level Run is actually a part of a viable strategy. The cost of the divine protection available in Minetown is proportional to the player's level, so rushing for Minetown without leveling allows the player to acquire lots of protection for relatively little money.
  • Wild ARMs 1 can be done in a Low-Level Run thanks to a severe abuse of Goat Dolls, an item in the game that allows a character to survive any attack with partially HP. The best part is, you can keep re-equipping more during combat. Experience can be avoided completely after a certain point in this game due to status effect 'forgetfulness', which causes characters not to gain any experience after a fight ends.
  • 10,000,000 has achievements for beating the game at rank Explorer or Dungeon Master, rather than the final rank of Hero.
  • Hyperdimension Neptunia U: Action Unleashed has an accessory available from the beginning of the game that disables EXP gain and sets everyone at Level 1 regardless of current level. Of course, this can be combined with other equipment and, since it can be equipped on one person and affect everyone, one could simply equip it on a character that he or she doesn't plan to use and have all three slots open for equipment that can boost stats fairly well. Also, there are certain bonuses within the game that allow you to give slight stat boosts to your characters by obtaining certain amounts of medals from different enemies, though these are optional and don't have to be accepted in order (for example, one can accept the award for obtaining 999 Dogoo medals before accepting the reward for 100 Dogoo medals), meaning that one can simply refuse to accept them to make the game even harder.
    • There are even two trophies in the game tied to this. One requires you to clear any mission with a negative accessory equipped (this being one of the qualifying accessories) and the other requires you to beat the final boss of Neptran Tower with the Level 1 accessory equipped. Assuming you try them without equipping other accessories to make up the difference, they can be incredibly challenging since your attacks now do Scratch Damage against an enemy who can easily perform a One-Hit Kill on you.
  • Undertale outright encourages low-level runs, since the only way to gain EXP is through killing monsters, and the game goes out of its way to make you feel horrible about killing monsters (while sparing them is always an option and at least gives the player gold with which to buy healing items and better armor). The Golden Ending requires the player to not kill a single enemy and go through the whole game at LV 1. EXP and LV, of course, stand for EXecution Points and Level of Violence.
  • Dragon Age: Inquisition actually has a DLC achievement for this, among other Self-Imposed Challenge options - getting to a certain point in the game at level 5 or lower with the "Take it Slow" option on (which halves your XP earned).
  • It's impossible to play Nexus Clash and not gain XP and levels eventually, but in a setting where people can transform into angels, demons and superhumans, there are always some players who choose to play a Mortal all the way to the level cap. This is usually roleplayed as saying "Screw you" to the various meddling gods that want people to become the aforementioned superbeings and fight in their wars.
  • A BL 4 run in Bloodborne. As with the Dark Souls example above, it's still possible to deal decent damage by upgrading your weapons and using items, but visceral attacks, which scale with the Skill stat, do such pitiful damage that many players during a BL 4 run will use a charged strong attack in place of a visceral after staggering an opponent. On top of that, past about the midway point in NG, or straight from the beginning for the DLC, everything will start to one- or two-shot you. This makes even bosses widely considered to be jokes by the community, like the Celestial Emissary or the second encounter with the Merciless Watchers in the Chalice Dungeons, into genuine threats.


Example of: