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RPG Elements

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You're not playing an RPG. However, your character gains experience and levels as if you were. Instead of being a mere test of skill, in which the only thing that makes the game easier or harder is your ability as a player, your control over the Player Character is abstracted so that you have a degree of customizability over them. Often their talents improve the more you practice or train, maybe there's a class system, or some sort of system that allows for tweakable abilities.

Well-implemented, this can give a game added depth and customizability, or allow players who might not be as good to spend a little time leveling up to make the game easier, creating a roundabout way to introduce Difficulty Levels to the game. Badly implemented, it seems like a tacked-on attempt to appeal to a broader demographic, or to be seen (critically) as a better game.

These have been around almost as long as console and computer RPGs have, and they became more common during the mid-90s, at which time a HUGE number of developers seemed to want to add more complexity to their games, and the hoped for increased sales thanks to the prestige that came from having "RPG Elements" printed on the back of the box, even if the elements in question weren't anything more than Hit Points.

Popular RPG Elements include:

An interesting outlier is the numerical display of an attack's damage (measured in Hit Points); while not an RPG element in and of itself, as a visual indicator it's strongly associated with the RPG genre nonetheless, as it implies there's a behind-the-scenes damage formula (incorporating attack and defense powers) in play.

It seems to occur most often in FPSs, strategy games (usually Veteran Unit), sports sims, Action-Adventure games, and the occasional Fighting Game, especially those that allow you to build your own character from the ground up. Compare Common Tactical Gameplay Elements. If a non-video game has RPG elements, it might be an RPG Mechanics 'Verse. Not to be confused with Elemental Powers used in RPGs.


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    Action Adventure 
  • Batman: Arkham Asylum and its sequels have experience points, delivered after either combat or plot progression (including the sidequests), that along with restoring the health enables to purchase upgrades to equipment and skills.
  • There's an Infocom text adventure, Beyond Zork. Your character had various stats, could use potions and herbs, and even attack monsters, yet it had all of the trademarks of the previous Zork games (including the mindbending puzzles). Surprisingly, it worked.
  • The Breach has a level up mechanic, each level increases Sergei's Rate of Fire and damage by 8%, and his health bar and shield regeneration by 5%.
  • Castlevania has firmly entrenched RPG Elements into its gameplay ever since Symphony of the Night came out, about the same time it adapted the free-roaming environs popularized by the Metroid series. It tried free-roaming gameplay with RPG elements before in Simon's Quest, but the results led to mixed reactions among fans and critics alike.
  • The Legend of Spyro: All games utilize an experience system where gems representing points are obtained from defeated enemies, as well as certain large gem clusters found around the game world. Once enough of these have been gathered, they can be spent to upgrade and strengthen Spyro's and, in the third game, Cynder's attacks. In addition, the last two games allow Spyro, and later Cynder, to permanently increase their health and mana bars by collecting special items, and Dawn of the Dragon introduces an equipment system where Spyro and Cynder can put on various pieces of armor found through the game that grant different buffs and abilities if worn.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
  • Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom had its characters gain experience for defeating enemies and using special combos. Their health and strength could then be raised, while majin’s abilities were improved through feeding him specific types of fruit.
  • ODT. - Escape...Or Die Trying by Psygnosis had an experience bar. At first, it could be distributed into armor (hit points), weapons (allowing to learn upgrades), or magic (allowed learning spells). Once these were topped, each fully filled experience bar gave you an extra life.
  • In Ōkami, when you do a good deed (from making trees blossom to helping cook the ultimate dish) you are rewarded with so-called "praise spheres" which more or less function as experience points, allowing you to increase your ink, your solar energy or your number of stomachs. The health is also partly increased with hidden solar fragments.
  • Remember Me had Nilin gain PGP points for defeating enemies, several abilities unlocked as she gains levels as well the Game Codex and several types of Rare Candy hidden away for Sidetrack Bonus.
  • Swim, Ikachan! has experience points earned by either killing enemies or eating a limited supply of fishes that increase player's maximum hitpoints when enough is collected.
  • The Ys series, though some would declare them straight Action RPGs. The gameplay, mostly in the style of Zelda II, is too far afield to accept as a true RPG for many, though.
  • ZanZarah: The Hidden Portal: All faeries gain EXP and level up through combat, can be equipped with increasingly powerful offensive/defensive spells, lose and gain mana/HP. There is also something like a Player Party: namely, Amy's five chosen faeries that follow her into battles (although only one can be fielded and directly controlled by the player at any time).

    Action Game 
  • Crimsonland had your character level up and receive a point that could be used to purchase one of the five abilities randomly drawn from a pool of 20 or so each level.
  • In Evolva, you must absorb the DNA from your enemies to mutate again and improve your weapons, making DNA something like Experience Points. Besides, you're allowed to customize your characters and choose which attacks and skills you want to improve.
  • How to Survive allows a choice of multiple characters with unique skill sets, and the Experience Points to either unlock more abilities or provide passive improvements for some of your characteristics.
  • Scurge: Hive is an isometric Action Game-slash-Platformer with experience points, character levels, and Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors. Oh, and Expys of the Metroid Fusion cast.
  • In Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, defeating enemies earns you points you can spend to upgrade your Force powers.
  • Strangely, Square's World of Mana series started out as a straight action RPG, but every game since Trials of Mana has had fewer RPG elements than the previous title. Dawn of Mana manages to be a straight-out third-person action game with fewer RPG elements than Ratchet & Clank.
  • In Onimusha games one of central mechanics is absorbing souls of slain enemies via Oni Gauntlet by holding a corresponding button. Said orbs replenish HP, mana, but also constitute experience points with which you can upgrade your weapons. Dawn of Dreams went much further than other games: you can upgrade your armor as well (which for first 30 levels also increases the number of items one can equip) and heroes themselves actually level up, which nets skill points used to learn new moves.

    Adventure Game 
  • Sierra's Quest for Glory series, though officially a graphical adventure, allowed you to improve various stats (both physical and skill) by taking related actions. Some tasks could not be completed (at least, not in a particular way) until your character reached a certain skill level.
    • Though the fifth and final game is more of an inversion (an RPG with adventure game elements).
  • Used very loosely in The Spellcasting Series. Ernie gains XP and levels by solving puzzles and learning new spells, but since it's a text adventure game without a smidge of combat, the process is mostly for show. Some spells DO require a certain level to be cast, but progressing through the game normally will take care of that problem on its own.
  • The YAWHG is mostly a Choose Your Own Adventure game, but the stats you raise in the six weeks prior to the YAWHG's arrival are critical to determining the outcome of various choices you make.
  • In Dreams in the Witch House (2023), the Player Character, Walter Gilman, has three stats related to his studies at the Miskatonic University, which can increase over the span of the game if the player makes him spend his time studying certain books. There is his Math stat, which governs his general academic knowledge of advanced mathematics and physics, his Exam stat, which governs his grasp on the current course he is studying for, and his Occult stat, which governs his knowledge of more esoteric subjects like ancient and obscure folklore and religions. The Math and Occult stats are tested as Walter tries to develop his radical theory for his term paper, where he plans to produce irrefutable scientific evidence that proves the existence of magic and its relation to mathematics, while the Exam stat is tested whenever Walter is undergoing an academic exam where it allows him to remember the right answers to the questions he is asked.

    Beat 'Em Up 
  • Charlie Murder has the mechanic where food consumed gave perma-buffs to stats. It also has level-ups, stat boosting clothing, spells, and skill points.
  • Code of Princess
  • Guardian Heroes
  • In Knights of the Round, your character will get stronger once your score reaches certain milestones. Does this remind you of anything?
  • River City Ransom is one of the original Beat 'Em Up RPGs - enemies dropped pocket change, which could be used to buy food that permanently increased your various stats.
  • Capcom's Dungeons & Dragons-based beat 'em ups Tower of Doom and Shadow Over Mystara are loosely based on the tabletop RPG itself. Strangely though, even though your character has Experience Points, they function as just a score if anything, as your characters simply level up once per chapter.
  • Dragon's Crown, a Spiritual Successor to Capcom's Dungeons & Dragons brawlers, borrows many elements from RPGs. While there are no Experience Points, characters get stronger by exchanging skill points for new skills and upgrades from the Adventurers' Guild, and equipping various sets of gear and weapons to increase stats.
  • Yakuza: Beating up enemies or eating out gives experience points that are used to unlock new moves and increase stats. You can stash away weapons and consumable items in your inventory for later use, and you can equip two accessories that give an attack/defense boost and possibly additional effects. Some games even have a Set Bonus.

    Card Battle Game 
  • Unusually, the Yu-Gi-Oh! video game franchise has RPG Elements in them, to some degree, possibly as a way to gauge the player's growing skill at the game. Unfortunately, some games take this concept too far, and actually prevent you from using cards above your current level, placing unneeded — and unwanted — restrictions on one of the most appealing parts to the card game: building and customizing your deck(s).
    • Reached its zenith in Yu-Gi-Oh! Reshef of Destruction, where compared to its immediate predecessor Yu-Gi-Oh! The Sacred Cards, duelist level, deck capacity and domino (cash) gains have been greatly reduced (think just 1 or 3 points more in deck capacity after every duel) while the deck costs of power cards has been greatly increased (with “Raigeki” in particular having its deck cost tripled, from 50 to 150). This, in addition to the game ramping up in difficulty more abruptly, ensures that most players will not see the endgame, lest they spend thrice as much time grinding as actually progressing. And even then, victory is not assured, as by the time you get to Marik, the game’s computer-controlled duellists start to actively cheat (like running 3 copies of Swords of Revealing Light in their decks—which you can’t—or starting the duel with more than 8000 life points).

    Driving Game 
  • Blur has you earn fans for finishing in a given place, pulling off stunts, wrecking other cars, etc. Get enough fans, your Fan Level increases, unlocking new cars and, in multiplayer, new car mods.
  • Euro Truck Simulator 2 features experience points and levels, which are tied into both unlocking new trucks and customization options and the game's skill system, which serves the dual purpose of unlocking new routes and making said routes more profitable, which in turn lets you afford the new trucks and customization options.
  • Gran Turismo is the game for which the term "CarPG" was coined. It was the game that brought an RPG-style experience system to racing games, with the money you earned in races functioning as your experience points that you then spent to both purchase new cars and "level up" your existing ones by buying new and improved parts for them. The in-game economy in Forza and countless other simulation racing games is based heavily on the one that Polyphony Digital created here.
  • Midnight Club: Los Angeles is a racing game that uses levels, albeit three different leveling scales. One is raised by driving certain types of cars, which unlocks parts; the second is for using special abilities, which unlocks more storage for special abilities, and the third and most important one is for racing in general, which unlocks more missions.

    Fighting Games 
  • Dissidia Final Fantasy is a 3D fighting game that borrows heavily from the series's RPG roots. Experience is earned from winning battles, and items can be equipped to your fighter to increase their stats. There is also an alternate control method that lets fights play out like Active Time Battles from other Final Fantasy games, with the AI controlling your fighter while you give it commands to attack, defend, evade, and so on.
  • "Libra of Soul" mode from Soulcalibur VI has players create their own fighter from scratch and set it out into the world in a story that runs parallel with the game's main narrative, collecting weapons and experience points from winning battles as they travel the world and complete quests.
  • Super Smash Bros. Brawl: Unlike the Trophies, which are merely part of an overarching Collection Sidequest like in other Smash games, the Stickers do serve a gameplay purpose, and it's by way of this trope. In Adventure Mode, there's a blank space menu where the player can place stickers, whose size and shape also introduce an Inventory Management Puzzle factor. The stickers boost stats and attributes to the characters that are being used in the campaign, though they have no effect in the other game modes.
  • Super Smash Bros. Ultimate:
    • You can equip Spirits that level up as you fight and can even evolve into stronger spirits. You can also equip support Spirits to give you support abilities similar to equipping a customizable weapon or armor.
    • There's a skill tree in Adventure Mode that lets you boost the power of your attacks and provide other benefits.
    • The Hero from Dragon Quest has gameplay elements borrowed from his home series. His special attacks are reliant on a Mana Meter and won't work if he lacks MP (which, thankfully, he can recover from landing normal attacks), and one of his specials pulls up a menu with a selection of powerful spells, similar to the RPGs's turn-based battles.
  • Twin Goddesses: After earning gold from fights, the player will then have the opportunity before the next fight to buy items that offer certain benefits such as increased health, strength for some kinds of attacks, and etc.

    First Person Shooter 
  • Borderlands is a First-Person Shooter with separate classes with a specific action ability and passive skill trees, as well as Character Levels - unlike other examples of An Adventurer Is You, weapons are not by any means restricted by class though, specific classes just have ways to make certain weapons better.
  • Call of Duty 4 every kill you make rewards you with experience. Gain enough, you rank up and get access to more equipment. As it's Call of Duty, this has become very popular in multiplayer shooters since then.
  • A pair of games known as the Crime Crackers duology were released by Media Vision as Japan-only titles for the PlayStation (one of them was even one of the first ten games ever released for that console). These games used Animesque artstyles for the characters and environments made by Kokomai of "Akaijutsu Club" and used an engine that was more of a middle ground between Wolfenstein 3D/Blake Stone and Doom's engines, but also allowed things like transporting elevators to give the illusion of multiple floors in the same map (like Duke Nukem 3D which included elevators that teleported you as one of its mapping effects), a specialized guarding system for blocking attacks from enemies, the ability to level up via Experience Points (the second game only), and probably one of the least used RPG elements in First Person Shooters, a multiple-character party set up (3 in the first game, 4 in the second game with the option to switch characters at the start of most levels). Some environments could even damage all of your characters simultaneously, and of course if all of them died, it was game over. The targeting system is also a bit out of place compared to other first person shooters, stopping you in place while you aim a crosshair at anything on screen and your shots will shoot towards the crosshair instead of straight ahead]. It was probably not the biggest thing since sliced bread, but it's existence was the inspiration for another FPS modification for Duke Nukem 3D with far more build up on the RPG Elements (among other things) so far.
  • Daikatana was (infamously) supposed to be an innovative blend of RPG Elements and the Quake FPS system. Delays, developer infighting, and just plain bad design resulted in the final release being... schizophrenic, to say the least.
  • An Older Than the NES example: Dungeons Of Daggorath for the Tandy Color Computer 2- ostensibly an early first-person dungeon-crawler, but deeper. Killing creatures increased your strength, and therefore both your health and damage; your strength was also the factor in "revealing" magical items that were more powerful than mundane ones once revealed. You were free to roam through the first three levels of the Dungeon at will, but as the second level's creatures would splatter you in one hit, and the third level had magical creatures that you couldn't even see without a magical torch, you were far better off hunting down every last creature before moving on.
  • Done surprisingly well in Hexen 2, which had a fair number of stats and leveling up did have an impact on the game. Leveling up was properly paced so that if you went with the standard combat tactics (kill anything that moves and some things that don't), you would never have to grind, making the RPG elements almost invisible.
  • The Deus Ex series. The repercussions of a lot of your actions in the first game are extremely subtle changes down the line. Many characters do react differently to you depending on how you handle yourself during missions. They aren't open world games, but they also aren't far off from how many table top RPGs conduct themselves (you can't really wander away or completely ignore the overall mission, but how you handle yourself and act does impact the mission further down).
  • Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II and later installments of the Dark Forces Saga. The player gets to pick force powers as the game progresses and can drift towards an evil/good character.
  • Strife, based on the Doom engine, gives your characters two stats (Accuracy and Stamina—determines maximum health) which you can upgrade throughout the game by visiting specific trainers. You can also find and carry around gold to buy stuff in shops.
  • Parodied in Team Fortress 2 - some weapons level up on the loadout screen as you play, but it has no effect at all on gameplay.
    • More specifically, some items are assigned static "levels" on acquisition, (e.g., Sandvich is a level 10 lunchbox) leading to some players collecting multiple levels of the same item to no additional benefit. Then you have the "strange" items that have kill-counts that persist throughout your career and bestow different prefixes to the name (like "Mildly Threatening Flaregun"). This also has no effect on gameplay outside of showing off how many kills you've racked up with a given weapon.
  • Warren Spector's 1st-person games (Ultima Underworld, System Shock, Deus Ex) had so many RPG Elements, it's hard to tell whether they were FPSs with an RPG's level system, or a shooter-styled RPG.
    • Ultima Underworld is as far from being an FPS is you can get. The only element it shares with FPS games is the first person point of view.
    • It's a similar situation to Magic Versus Science. Word of God (or at least the advertising material) is that they're RPGs with first-person shooter interfaces.
    • Bioshock, 2K's spiritual successor to System Shock 2, however, had its RPG mechanics scaled back somewhat to simplify gameplay (although the actual world itself contains a touch more complexity (in terms of systems that players and NPCs can interact with) than System Shock 2): Players were invited to enhance themselves by using ADAM to buy genetic upgrades, divided into plasmids (active superhuman attacks that let you fling items around and shoot bees out of your hand among other things) and gene tonics (passive upgrades that enforce the player's ability to deal with enemies, the environment and machinery), which were all swappable at will.

    Four X 
  • In Civilization IV, a "Unit Promotions" game mechanic was introduced, allowing you to use experience gained by your units in battle to buy them special traits that improved their combat values or added new abilities.
    • While picking specific bonuses as you level up is new, units getting better with experience has been part of the series since the original game. It started with a simple binary distinction (veteran vs normal) in Civ I and Civ II and slowly became more elaborate.
    • A somewhat more diverse experience setup was provided in the Spin-Off game Colonization (the original, at least). Through constant use, a Free Colonist could eventually and randomly level up to become an Expert (civilian) or Veteran Soldier, and Petty Criminals and Indentured Servants could both become Free Colonists. Likewise, once your colonies declare independence, your Veteran Soldiers could level up even further to Continental status. The revised version based on the Civ IV engine keeps the "Unit Promotions" mechanic from ''Civ IV', which has the side-effect of forcing your troops to level via combat so they are ready to fight off the Europeans once you declare independence. The "befriend & arm the natives" and "coexist peacefully" strategies from the old game aren't really workable if you want an effective militia in the new version.
  • In Sins of a Solar Empire, capital ships gain experience points, increasing their fighter cap, and granting the use of special abilities, which could be upgraded by throwing a skill point into them. You can upgrade a capital ship twice right out of the space dock if you have enough cash. Three times if you research a certain technology. This gives them an early edge against other capital ships.

    Hack and Slash 
  • Alice: Madness Returns managed to cram in some RPG Elements in addition to its Hack and Slash combat, heavy platforming focus and minigames. Your main weapons (Vorpal Blade, Pepper Grinder, Teapot Cannon and Hobby Horse) all had four tiers and were improved by investing points into them (although the 4th tier was available only as a DLC). That, and there was an occasional Dialogue Tree, although it didn’t have much impact on things.
  • Drakengard is Hack and Slash meets Flight Sim meets RPG Elements. You continually increase your HP, you level up your weapons, and you level up your dragon.
  • God of War to certain degree, where red souls from fallen foes are used to upgrade your weapons. Not the case of HP and Magic meter, which are upgraded by collecting a number of certain trinklets.

    Platform Game 
  • Azure Striker Gunvolt features a very basic levels-and-skills system, where Gunvolt earns EXP for killing enemies, and will level up upon getting enough EXP, which increases his max HP and may sometimes earn him a new skill. You can also synth new gear using materials and equip them to Gunvolt to change his parameters and abilities.
  • Everybody Edits has a mild RPG-like feel with the rank system and potion, as of a few of newer updates. As usual, fans did not react too well.
  • Freeware Metroidvania Iji uses RPG Elements to level up various skills like hacking or strength (for kicking). They're necessary and change how the player proceeds - concentrating on hacking enemies or destroy them with the most powerful guns? There's a huge amount of choices. It works in-game because the character, Iji, is part-cyborg.
  • Parodied in Kirby Super Star. In the "Great Cave Offensive" minigame, you fight Computer Virus, an "RPG-style" boss which takes the form of generic RPG enemies like a slime, witch, dark knight and dragon (as opposed to the Kirby series's more bizarre fare), complete with a little text box at the top of the screen that announces the player's or boss's blocks or attacks and a tinny, 8-bit style rendition of the main boss theme. Computer Virus even becomes temporarily invincible when it's his turn to attack, simulating Turn-Based Combat, though the player continues to control Kirby in the normal platformer style throughout the battle. When you win, the menu awards you various (spurious) spoils, including Experience Points, "hunger points", "happy smile points", "exam score points", and so on. In Super Star Ultra, you are told at the end, "You gain X experience points! (Not that it matters.)" and if you're playing as Meta Knight, different stats go up at the end.
  • Starting with Going Commando, Ratchet & Clank would heavily feature two XP systems: one for your health and one for your weapons, explained as earning Nanotech from fallen enemies. Health would ugprade with any kill, while weapons upgrade through use, gaining more power and functionality. In 2003 this implementation of RPG elements had never really been done before, let alone in an action-platformer, and ten years later XP was in practically every video game with combat in it (practically every non-RPG example on this page was released after Going Commando). Why? Because getting more powerful is fun and rewarding no matter the genre.
    • Starting with Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal, weapons could upgrade multiple times. This allowed them to get stronger incrementally, making them more viable in the time before the big level up as the enemies get more and more health in the meantime.
    • In Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction, XP was changed from being earned from kills to being earned from damage. The former meant that a weapon could take away 99% of an enemy's health, but only the weapon that dealt the killing blow would get XP (this also meant that support weapons, like turrets and drones, could effectively kill steal). The change to the latter meant that even the weakest gun in the game would still earn something just for participating.
  • Sonic and the Secret Rings and Sonic Unleashed implemented a level-up system and experience points that enhances their overall gameplay. Also done in Sonic Battle, where the skill points system is even discussed in-game.
    • This is also prevalent in Sonic Frontiers. Traditional EXP levels can be obtained to unlock new skills on Sonic's skill tree (with Tails, Amy and Knuckles having their own, separate experience and Skill Trees in "The Final Horizon"'s "Another Story" scenario), while Sonic can also collect two types of seeds, as well as Koco, to improve his speed, ring capacity, attack power and defense (Again, with Tails, Amy and Knuckles having their own individual stats levelled the same way in "Another Story"), ranging from the minimum at Level 1 to the Maximum at level 99.
  • Super Paper Mario departed from previous games in the Paper Mario series by being a platform game with RPG Elements rather than an RPG with some platforming elements. Likewise, the later games in the series have been action-platformer games with RPG elements such as a separate battle screen and Equipment-Based Progression rather than RPGs in the stricter sense.
  • Tomb Raider:
    • Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness: The game saw a lot of derision for its random RPG elements that added nothing to the game, other than a ludicrous way to bar progress until you did something to make Lara arbitrarily gain the ability she needed to progress.
    • Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light does this subtly with powerups that grant permanent health and ammo capacity upgrades, along with collectible artifacts and weapons that provide bonuses, with superior ones provided as progress is made.

    Puzzle Game 
  • DROD RPG is a Puzzle Game with RPG Elements, not actually an RPG. The player and all enemies have HP, attack and defense stats that mathematically determine the outcome of any combat, and the puzzle is to choose what enemies to fight and in what order so as to gain power-ups and progress without running out of HP.
  • Pixelo: You earn XP and gold every time you beat a puzzle. When you level up, you gain new badges which can give EXP and gold, unlock puzzles, or improve other stats. Beating certain puzzles also unlocks abilities or badges.
  • Puzzle & Dragons: You must defeat monsters using your own monsters to advance. To attack, you have to match three pieces, and the formula for attacks and such are all based on stats. You can level up and evolve monsters by using the monsters you don't need on the ones you do.
    • Puzzle Quest is similar. The more matches you do at a time, the more damage you do to the enemy.
  • One game of the Grow series is Grow RPG, which has a hero with HPs, stats and an inventory, but you don't directly play has him. You must place objects in a certain order, then once you're finished, you get to see you him go on his quest on his own, meaning the RPG part is pretty is just cosmetic as you can know in advance if you won or not by watching your objects' levels. But it wouldn't be fun if it just stopped here since you would have played for nothing.

    Real Time Strategy 
  • In Age of Empires III, your CITY gains experience. And can buy lots of cool upgrades.
  • Similar to both the above, MechCommander features pilots that gain experience as you progress through the game. Additionally, said pilots can be injured during missions and, although they do recuperate over the course of multiple missions, they can receive sufficient injury to kill them.
  • Command & Conquer:
    • Tiberian Sun and games released later allow normal units to gain experience and ranks of veterancy that makes them stronger and more durable. The highest ranks sometimes get special abilities such as slow self-healing. In most cases however, the game does not allow the player to carry their most experienced troops over to the next mission.
    • In Command & Conquer: Generals, the player can level up by killing enemy units and demolishing enemy structures. Then the player can spend the skill points for special units and superweapons.
    • Taken to its extremes in Command & Conquer 4: Tiberian Twilight, where players have to gain experience from playing within their profiles, which is necessary to unlock new units for use in both campaign and multiplayer mode. This has resulted in a need for grinding to unlock the powerful units and superweapons.
  • Dawn of War: Dark Crusade's campaign mode allows the player to equip their chosen faction's commander with various pieces of Wargear, which offer various stat boosts, as well as other bonuses, while also looking cool to boot. This carried over into the next expansion, Soulstorm. This carries over to DOW 2, with the "standard" campaign troops gaining experience and wargear choices.
  • RTS Dungeons And Dragons Dragonshard, being based on the Eberron campaign setting of Dungeons & Dragons, has RPG elements out the wazoo. In addition to requiring gold and crystal shards for building, killing enemies also gives you experience points, which lets you make certain unit types stronger. Not to mention the levelling up of hero characters and the meticulous inventory management aspect. In fact, it can get so complicated that micromanaging becomes a requirement, and failure to do so results in a quick death from the computer AI.
  • Quest 64 is often accused of this, instead of being considered a true RPG.
  • Probably one of the first RTS to have levels for units was Seven Kingdoms. Every unit had a Combat Skill and a Leadership Skill (which only mattered when they were Generals) and spies additionally had an Espionage Skill. Each of these rose over time either when training in a Fort or in Combat (except for Spionage). Some items or special events could also affect these scores. The first game in the series also had another skill for workers, but that was dropped in the sequel.
  • Spellforce walks the fine line between being an RTS with RPG elements and being an RPG with RTS elements, depending on whether one is playing Free Roam or Story mode. (Story mode focuses mainly on the RPG angle; in the "Breath of Winter" expansion, this leads to a massive difficulty spike when the encounters suddenly become ten levels too high for your hero to effectively deal with).
  • In the Total War strategy series, units can gain experience, making them more effective in combat. Furthermore, you can also upgrade their weapons and armor by retraining them in settlements containing Blacksmiths and Armories (or whatever the game-specific/faction-specific equivalent is). Finally, since the first Medieval incarnation, your faction's commanders all have stats that can be leveled up (or even leveled down) by gaining certain traits in the course of the campaign. This aspect of the game is significantly more prominent in the franchise's next installment, Shogun II. In previous games, the abilities of characters were listed in a handful of basic skills, as well as traits that gave them advantages or disadvantages in certain situations. In the subsequent game, however, generals and agents have special abilities, skills and talent trees made available to them when they gain enough experience, which allow for the player to specialize them in certain ways.
  • In Warhammer: Dark Omen the regiments improve via veterancy, upgradable armor and equipable magical swords / shields / banners, and are carried over from one mission to the next.
  • The Warlords Battlecry games not only allow basic troops to gain about ten levels of experience, but also allowed the player take a few choice units with them from battle to battle. Of course, these games also featured a hero which had a full RPG leveling system, classifying the games entirely as an RTS-RPG.
  • In Diggles note , the eponymous dwarfs learn abilities similar to RPG characters, but for a change by actually doing stuff related to the ability, e.g. gaining one point in "wood" by building something.

    Rhythm Game 
  • The beatmaniaIIDX series has been ramping up the use of this trope ever since its 19th installment (Lincle), with extra stage unlocks involving a world map and a little avatar fighting on-screen demons.
  • The third Taiko no Tatsujin game for the DS, Dororon! Yokai Daikessen, includes an RPG mode. From what's normally a rhythm game series. You travel a world map, get into random battles, gain level ups, visit towns, buy equipment, and fight bosses, just like a regular RPG. The main change is that battles is presented like songs are in the games. Every correct note you hit causes damage to your opponent, but enemies will sometimes use tricks to try and obscure your vision or generally make it harder to hit notes.

  • Dwarf Fortress has two modes of play. One is a Roguelike, and the other is similar to The Sims or Dungeon Keeper. Naturally, they both allow the dwarfs to gain skills and whatnot.
  • In Nuclear Throne you play as one of several mutants who can level up via radiation. Once leveled up, you can pick one of four randomly-selected mutations that grants you a special ability, ranging from being able to run faster to gaining health from killing enemies. Each playable mutant has mutations exclusive to themselves, which boosts their pre-existing abilities.

    Shoot 'Em Up 
  • In Light Gun Game Elemental Gearbolt, points scored in a stage can be allocated into experience, allowing the player character(s) to gain levels for increases to stamina and damage output. Points allocated in this manner are deducted from score, which was significant back when there was a $10,000 high score contest going on. But now, it's just for Bragging Rights.
  • In Bullet Heaven, you can collect coins from killed enemies and buy upgrades like more lives, stronger and faster shots, etc. Of course, these stats cap at a certain point; it seems to be more of a way to let newcomers to the Bullet Hell genre start out slow and work their way up. Any non-hardcore player will need max upgrades to survive the later levels and bonus levels.
  • In Mars Matrix, collecting golden cubes will give you Experience Points and levels. Leveling up increases the power of your main shot.
  • The Playstation port of Point Blank (1994) is a collection of minigames in which you use a gun controller (like Duck Hunt). It has a singleplayer RPG mode that replaces regular RPG battles with the minigames. The stats don't affect the actual minigames, but determine which ones you play, how many losses you can take before Game Over, etc.
  • One game, simply titled SHMUP, is your average vertical-scrolling, top-down Space Fighter shooter, however, most of the enemies you kill grant you EXP; upon level-up, your damage, speed, and HP increase by approximately 1% (and it's got Anti-Grinding features, in the form of diminishing EXP returns when playing through a completed stage), and between missions, one can visit the "Docking Bay", which is like a shop, stats screen, and equipment screen all rolled into one. Defeating an area boss grants you another gun slot.
  • Raiden V deviates itself from other games in the series by throwing in Mission Control, roguelike missions, shield and ten levels of weapon upgrades each. The latter being a requirement to reach the True Final Boss.

    Simulation Game 
  • In the Paleo Pines demo, your helpers gain experience whenever they perform actions. Levelling up gives them more stamina.
  • The employees in Parkasaurus all have stats and gain experience. Whenever they level up, the player can choose which stat to increase.
  • In the first Shepherd's Crossing game, the hunting mechanic takes the form of a turn-based battle system. You must teach your dogs and other hunting animals an array of skills, then use those skills in a turn-based battle to bring down foes. Some of the hunts simply have you trying to kill your prey, but the "hunts" against yaks and sheep are actually you rounding up animals that have escaped their owners, and as such, you must figure out how to bring them in without hurting them.
  • Unlike earlier installments in The Sims series, The Sims Medieval has RPG elements; the Sims you play as can be one of ten professions, and they gain experience points and level up, increasing what they can do in their profession (a Wizard will get more spells and potions available, a Knight will learn more ways to fight, etc.) It still mostly plays like a Sims game as managing the Sim's needs and mood is as important as managing XP, if not more so.
  • War Thunder, a World War 2 multiplayer air combat game, uses these for progression. As players build up experience flying for various countries, more plane options are opened for them. Further, characters accumulate "Silver Lions" which function as currency, and any new plays must be bought. The plans themselves can be upgraded with more of this currency, with new weapons or upgrades, but only after passing certain experience thresholds for each plane. On top of that, the plan crew accumulates experience, which can then be spent improving their skills, allowing them things like greater tolerance for G forces or the ability to identify and lock onto targets at greater distances.

    Sports Game 
  • NBA Street from EA Sports Big made it so getting 5/5 in stat made a silver crown appear for that stat, but then you could upgrade to gold crown (essentially 6/5). The catch is only one stat can get a gold crown; through lots of play, you can get 6/5 on one stat and 5/5 on all others.
  • The Game Boy Color version of Mario Golf. You'll gain Experience Points from completing events and winning tournaments in-game, which you can use to level up your character and increase stats like distance and straightness of your shot. In fact, most portable versions of a Mario Golf or Mario Tennis game made by Camelot, with the exception of Mario Tennis Open, have had RPG Elements and a Story Mode in them where in the first few, your goal is to become the greatest player ever by defeating Mario, so they aren't so much "sports games with RPG elements" as "RPGs with golf/tennis games in place of battles."
  • World Court Tennis for the TurboGrafx-16 has a "Quest" mode in which you walk around an overworld and have Random Encounters with other tennis players.

    Stealth Based Game 
  • Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops allowed you to collect new 'party members', gave them all unique stats and abilities, and even let you 'level up' their health and stamina with enough play. It felt less Final Fantasy and more Pokémon, though, since there was an element of collecting for the sake of collecting, only one party member was on the field at a time and most of them ended up filling up your Spy Unit (essentially a dump unit).

    Survival Horror 
  • Resident Evil 3: Nemesis has a downplayed example in the Reloading Tool, which Jill can use to make bullets out of by finding bottles of gunpowder; combining more bottles of gunpowder of the same type results in a larger amount of bullets. As she makes bullets out of gunpowder more often, she will produce more bullets per bottle of gunpowder. Additionally, after she has made a sufficient number of batches of both handgun bullets and shotgun shells, she will unlock the option to make enhanced ammunition for each gun, which are produced in smaller batches but with increased potency.

    Third Person Shooter 
  • The Bureau: XCOM Declassified has had both Player Character Carter and his squadmates level up for killing enemies and successfully completing missions, and it was possible to send the squadmates to perform dispatches for them to gain further experience. There were three classes (Engineer, Recon and Commando) for squadmates, all with their separate skill sets that expanded as they gained levels, while Carter had unique set of skills. Finally, there were dialogue trees and Multiple Endings.
  • Spec Ops: The Line had proficiency bars for the each of the five main weapon types (pistols, submachine guns, assault rifles, shotguns and sniper rifles), which increased with use.

    Tower Defense 
  • Plants vs. Zombies doesn't have any RPG elements, but Plants Vs Zombies 2 introduces the ability to level up your plants using coins and seed packets. In the Chinese version, they also unlock special abilities as they level up.

    Turn Based Strategy 
  • In the Advance Wars series:
    • Winning battles in Dual Strike gives your COs experience points which increase their rank. The higher their rank, the more bonuses you can assign to them at the beginning of a battle.
    • Units in Days Of Ruin level up when they kill a unit, going from rank 1, rank 2, and rank V. Each rank provides a very slight power boost compared to the previous rank.
  • Apart from individual units gaining stat points when they kill two or six units units of their own level, the leaders and heroes in Age of Wonders gain 10 skill points every level they gained. They can be spent freely on any of the stats, or on abilities such as spellcasting and combat perks, and it doesn't take many levels to reach the point where they can take down entire armies single-handedly. Especially using items "retrieved" from monsters' lairs.
  • Many small-scope strategy games like Close Combat and Battle for Wesnoth allow you to equip, promote, and transfer troops throughout a campaign.
  • Dark Wizard for Sega CD used units that leveled up, could be equipped with exchangable gear (if they weren't monster types), and even evolved or got class changes, despite being fundamentally a strategy game.
  • Heroes of Might and Magic had heroes commanding armies and gaining levels when enough enemy creatures had been defeated from the beginning, with each game up to IV adding more and more RPG elements to them (II added skills, III modified the inventory system to use an abstract sort of paperdoll system, and IV made the heroes actually fight in battles, and not just cast spells).
  • Silent Storm and its sequels has characters with unchangeable stats and skills that improve or worsen based on the successful use of these skills. For example, a sniper's accuracy skill improves based on successful hits and worsens based on misses. This means that each successful hit improves the likelihood of the next shot hitting the target. On the other hand, each miss reduces that likelihood. Additionally, characters gain XP and level up, at which point the player can select a perk (such as reduced time cost for turning or less bleeding from wounds). These perks are class-specific. Unfortunately, there is an entire branch of perks for the Engineer class that are spoilers for the eventual appearance of Panzerkleins.
  • The Night Watch and Day Watch games have characters learn a new spell per level. The classes are limited to three: Shapeshifter, Enchanter, and Mage. Shifters specialize in spells that turn them into various animals with melee attacks, Enchanters turn ordinary objects into amulets (i.e. support class), and Mages focus on combat spells (e.g. fireballs). Guns are also present, but there's no way to improve accuracy with them, although they can be used if the character is low on mana.
  • The characters in Odium actually gain experience immediately after doing damage to an enemy, and level up during combats. It's a simple Point Buy system. They have stats governing their health, their likelihood of counterattacking, their likelihood of making a critical hit, and how many hits they can take before becoming Enraged.
  • The Firaxis remake of XCOM: Enemy Unknown introduces soldier classes and level perks. All soldiers start at "Rookie" level with standard assault rifles and pistols but can quickly become "Squadies", as all it takes is one kill. At this point, the game randomly assigns the soldier a class (Sniper, Assault, Heavy, Support). Each class has its own primary weapon: Sniper has a sniper rifle, Assault has a shotgun (can use assault rifle), Heavy has a light machine gun (or heavy laser/plasma) and a one-shot bazooka (replacing a pistol), Support keeps the assault rifle. All but the Heavy class can switch to their sidearms. As the soldiers get promoted all the way to Colonel Badass, they get an ability each rank (usually one out of two) related to their class. For example, Heavy class can boost the Splash Damage of their rockets and fire twice per turn. Assault class can get the ability to dodge the first reaction shot by the enemy, as well as other defensive bonuses, so that the soldier can either get close enough for their Short-Range Shotgun, or draw fire away from others then take potshots/throw grenades. Support class's abilities can either focus on healing and giving defensive buffs to allies, or, focus on giving excessive overwatch fire (they always get the most kills for players on the harder difficulties). Once the psychic lab is unlocked, soldiers can be tested, and those with psychic potential can get Psychic Powers based on their (separate) psi-rank.

    Wide Open Sandbox 
  • Dead Rising and its sequels have "prestige points" that level the character up eventually, increasing your walking speed, your inventory space, making you learn new attack moves, giving you more health, and in Dead Rising 2 onward, unlocking new Combo Cards for Item Crafting. Note that going on a zombie killing spree is actually the least efficient way to earn Prestige Points; you gain much more for helping survivors back to the safe room.
  • Dying Light has different skill tree that increases depending different actions you've done over the course of the game.
  • Escape Velocity is an RPG to the extent that you can choose how your ship is outfitted and whose side you're on (and being on nobody's side is a valid choice).
  • In The Godfather: The Game, you can put points from Respect levels into five categories: Fighting, Shooting, Health, Speed and Street Smarts. With 50 Respect levels and 10 levels for each category, you'll max them all by the time you're done; no specialising here.
  • Many fans of Grand Theft Auto were surprised by the number and variety of RPG Elements in the San Andreas entry, specifically the idea that using an ability allowed one to improve it. In fact, one could say that the main character CJ in GTA: SA had a more realistic advancement than many true RPG heroes, as CJ doesn't improve in discrete levels, but almost continuously over time. Most of the titles in the series have some kind of character advancement, but usually in the form of bonuses for completing special missions. Some of CJ's stats include strength, stamina, muscle build, fat build, driving skills, cycling skills, flying skills, and yes, even sex appeal. The skill stats for various vehicles improve your handling of them as the skill set builds up (so when CJ rides a bike for the first time, he will pretty much suck at it and fall from even gentle bumps); meanwhile, your skill with different weapon classes improves as you use them, with some of them allowing Dual Wielding only once you're sufficiently skilled at firing one-handed.
  • Grand Theft Auto V has light RPG elements with different stats related to driving and flying skills, proficiency with guns, stealth, stamina, and strength that are increased by continuing to do activities related to the stats (running to increase stamina, fighting with bare hands to increase strength, etc.). The online component of the game, GTA Online, takes this a step further with Reputation Points that are earned through completing jobs and activities, increasing the player's Rank and opening access to more gear and content.
  • Kerbal Space Program's astronauts, in Career mode, gain experience from flying around and visiting moons or other planets. (Apparently KASA doesn't train them before launch.) Leveling up unlocks additional skills for pilots and engineers, and increases research/mining speed for scientists/engineers. They also have stats—stupidity, courage, and whether or not they're "badass"—but an individual kerbal's stats never change, and only affect their facial expressions.
  • Minecraft has this in the form of experience points, potions, and enchantments. Experience points are used to enchant tools and armor pieces for various effects, such as a sword multiplying the number of drops from a mob or a pair of boots that reduces fall damage. Brewing potions can get you various results, depending on what is used, and they can be made into a "splash" form that act like hand grenades.
  • Dragon Quest Builders subverts this: the Builder is not a hero and thus does not gain experience from killing monsters. Instead, they get stronger by crafting better tools, weapons, and armor. Their home base, on the other hand, gains experience as you build more rooms, with some rooms providing persistent bonuses.
    • Played straight in the sequel as the Builder now gains experience points to level up when they (or allied NPCs), kill monsters. Leveling up will not make the player deal more damage directly, though it does increase their health and stamina, unlock new weapons and skills, and make their partner Malroth more powerful.
  • In Unturned, you gain experience from killing zombies. Said experience is spent buying skills like doing more damage, being better at stealth, or requiring less food and water.
  • Spider-Man (PS4) has experience points rewarded to Spidey for completing quests and stopping random crimes in Manhattan, which allows players to purchase upgrades to skill trees in addition to increasing maximum health, swing speed, and attack power.
  • Yakuza has light RPG elements, with equipable gear to increase the player's stats and experience points won from battles to access new skills (except for Yakuza 0, which eschews experience points in favor of purchasing upgrades).

Non-video game examples:

    Anime and Manga 
  • The Voynich Hotel has a few RPG references; some are simply used as one-time gags ("I used this cypress stick to kill Drackys!") and some are somewhat more serious (which isn't saying much, given the nature of the story), like the Yakuza having their attack and defense values tatooed on their bodies, and the existence of a tool called "the Demon's Claw +2".

  • In The Swarm of War, the Zerg, both individually and as a collective, turn out to be capable of using psionic energy (including that of slain enemies) to mutate into stronger forms. In other words, they gain experience points when killing.
  • In Harry Potter: Monster Girl Quest, Harry gains the power to receives levels, skill points and feats from sexual encounters.


    Visual Novels 
  • In CLANNAD, after Tomoya successfully pulls off a prank on Fūko, the action will sometimes freeze and a congratulatory "you mastered a new skill!" message will appear to an old video game-style tune. Mastered "Shooting Juice up the Nose!" Also, when Sunohara wants to join Tomoya and Nagisa to help the theater club, Tomoya's perspective for his response changes to that of the Little Busters! Visual Novel, and all of the choices are attacks...

    Web Original 
  • YouTube commentator Aeron Tempest uses various RPG elements in his commentaries, including experience, stats, levels, ranks, and character skins.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • Foursquare. You gain "experience points" by checking in at places with your mobile device, you may earn various badges depending on the type of place you visit or what you do there, and becoming "mayor" of a particular place comes pretty damn close to "leveling up".
  • The game sharing site Kongregate has something similar, you get points from earning badges and rating games. Once you gain enough points, you level up. It's entirely pointless.
  • Newgrounds has users gain experience points for voting. Higher levels mean more voting power.
  • Digital distribution platform Steam has introduced a leveling system, heavily tied to its Steam Trading Cards. A higher Steam level earns you bragging rights, friends list slots (useful not only for gamers with a lot of friends, but for Team Fortress 2 traders who like to keep in touch with people they know are reliable buyers and sellers of metal, promos, and unusuals), and profile customization slots (again, not just for showing off - among the Profile Showcases you can earn is a display of items for trade, or an additional text box which can be used to list your services.)
  • To-do list helper Challenge Accepted (formerly GetYeDone) takes this to its logical extreme by applying RPG elements to real life—you can create "quests" (e.g., "Chores") and attach "tasks" (e.g., "Do the dishes") to them. Completing tasks earns you EXP proportional to how difficult said task is, and you have skills (e.g., "Academia", "Bookwormery", "Spawnwrangling") and attributes (e.g., bravery, kindness, responsibility) which increase when you complete tasks. What do these experience points and stat increases get you? Clean dishes. Or a phone call to your parents, a decently-written school essay, a good workout, etc.
  • Microsoft-owned video game streaming platform Mixer (formerly Beam) has a system where you can earn experience points by watching streams and by streaming yourself. You level up when you gain enough experience points.