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

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

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

Sometimes comes in the form of, not necessarily level-grinding, but money-making. When arriving to a new town, the first priority is usually to purchase all the best equipment at the shops which wasn't available at any of the previous towns.

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

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

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

Examples of Forced Level Grinding include:


Eastern RPGs

  • The Final Fantasy series started in 1987 and there are currently thirteen games in the main series alone. Due to its long history, the series is all over the map on this trope, with some games practically requiring grinding and others actively discouraging it.
  • The epilogue stage in the GBA remake of Final Fantasy II, starring all the game's dead characters, is made up of two dungeons, a Bonus Boss, and a final boss. Needless to say, since the characters are nowhere near as strong as the main heroes were at the end, you have to do a lot of grinding to be able to even get near the boss, let alone beat him.
    • The entirety of Final Fantasy III. Special mention must be made for Garuda, whose intended tactic involves four Dragoons -- all of whom must be raised to workable job levels.
      • It Got Worse in the DS remake, as the best jobs were nerfed, and the bosses (and most late-game Random Encounters) were granted double -- sometimes triple! -- turns. Even a properly-ground-out party can be demolished by a Back Attack in the World of Darkness before a single command actually goes off.
      • Although equipping the lowly thief with double Dark Knifes and sitting him in the front row results in hitting the damage cap at level 35. As long as you've ground your job level high enough by stealing from absolutely everything.
    • In Final Fantasy IV it's usually possible to keep up to pace without grinding, but completing the land of summoned monsters is impossible without grinding Rosa to level 36 (40 in the DS remake), at which point she learns the spell necessary to defeat the Puzzle Boss there.
      • The DS remake, on the other hand, is a bit less merciful to players who've been working their way straight through. Some of the monsters-in-a-box which were easy enough in the original now provide one-shot kills to a non-ground party, and heaven help you if you haven't built up at least 10 levels before he was able to survive fights at all on the Lunar Surface. This especially holds true for the Lair of the Father, where the average enemies tend to eat you for breakfast. Strangely, the Bonus Boss is pretty easy, with the right strategy.
        • On the other hand, the accelerated rate at which you gain levels in the DS version means that Rosa reaches level 40, and learns the spell noted above, well before reaching that part of the game.
      • Also worth noting is a bit of forced gil grinding in FFIV -- specifically, grinding to buy armor that Cecil can wear post-class change so he doesn't have to fight naked anymore (it's a bad idea to fight like that when one is the Party Tank, after all). There's only one armorer in the one town available, and the only wares he's got on offer cost about 15700 gil for the whole offering -- roughly four times the amount required to buy the bundle in the last town. And the monsters in the few areas available to you? Conspicuously not Money Spiders -- as in, it doesn't really make a difference that you just went through a dungeon, the best encounters there gave double-digit gil tops. While this can be partially alleviated by selling the old armor that Cecil can't use anymore, because Karl Marx Hates Your Guts, it won't be anywhere near enough to cover the cost of the new armor on its own.
    • And the sequel to that, Final Fantasy IV the After Years, gives you a choice: You can grind at the end of each chapter/Tale, to take on the utterly murderous Challenge Dungeons for items and equipment, and hopefully reach the level cap for that chapter (generally level 40-50ish). OR, if you are impatient to advance the plot, you can import data for the first Point of No Return[1], and play through the first part, collecting party members, etc... and then, you will reach another Point of No Return. Where you will be stuck on the moon, where even the easiest monsters will eat a party under level 40 for breakfast. If you weren't grinding for bonuses and Hundred-Percent Completion before, you get to grind for survival now.
    • Final Fantasy VIII has Anti-Grinding instead, making monsters level up at the same rate as the player's party. Too much level grinding will actually make some bosses harder. However, like the previous three, you still needed to take time to grind for ability points on your GFs.
      • You need to grind for one ability, card mod. After that, well... not so much. The bosses and random encounters give you more than enough AP to keep very much ahead of the enemies, if you avoid levelling up. The formula for an enemy's health is (for all enemies, barring omega weapon) x*level+y. x is a number between 100 and 4000, which increases as the story progresses. You may need to grind, but if you do, it'll only be to overcome your own levelling, and the enhanced health it brings foes. It's a very forgiving game.
    • Final Fantasy IX also de-emphasizes level grinding but instead requires you to learn abilities from equipped gear, maxing out their AP before a character can use the skill without the item equipped. The system is not conducive to level grinding in this way, as you have to hold off on equipping the strongest new equipment so that you can first master the skills from your old stuff, or just equip items whenever you need their related skills.
    • Final Fantasy X, more than anything else, averts this. With a bit of good planning, you can beat the game with completely undeveloped characters. There's only one point at which doing so requires you to go out of your way (to obtain a certain item), and doing so takes maybe half an hour tops.
    • In Final Fantasy XII, if you do not level grind, you will be killed by the random encounters. It's very annoying, particularly as the quests already take long enough that you can forget what your objective is before you've reached it. And you'll need to grind for Gil and License Points as well (though there are accessories that make the latter much easier to acquire). Still, since you don't get the Global Airship until very late in the game, you might as well take advantage of the long walks to grind.
    • Once you reach Gran Pulse in Final Fantasy XIII, you can technically go to your next destination right away... you just REALLY don't want to. This is one of the very few case though, where this actually feels like a good thing. You see, the entire game up until now was No Sidepaths No Exploration No Freedom, so being able to actually explore and do sidequests for once feels immensley satisfying.
    • Final Fantasy Tactics forces you to grind levels in most early stages.
      • The fourth scripted fight in the game (Dorter Trade City) is an especially big offender. Egregious because you have precisely one grinding spot available prior to it, and despite this, many players won't attempt it until they've got at least one character to a terminal class.
    • In Final Fantasy Tactics Advance 2, grinding is necessary to be able to take on certain bosses. Thankfully, since they have levels just like you do, you'll always know what range you should shoot for. There's long grinding periods before any fight with Illua, for example.
      • To even take on the five kings or the Brightmon Tor, you'll have to level grind up the ass. Luckily, some repeatable dispatch missions give enough EXP to level up units and is quicker this way instead of fighting.
      • The worst part is Hundred-Percent Completion though. Beating the game is doable at about level 60. Most of the endgame challenges involve powerful level 99 opponents.
    • Squeenix is so in love with this concept that they even wedged it into their Mascot Fighter Gaiden Game, Dissidia Final Fantasy! While Level Grinding does make it easier to get around some bosses, the simple fact is that if you play each character's "Destiny Odyssey", you'll get them up to around Lv.12 or 15. To attempt the next step in the campaign, "Shade Impulse", you'll want them to be more like Lv.50. Can we say Fake Longevity?
      • Considering it takes about four hours to get a character to level 100 on Bonus Experience day (a good chunk of that from level 1 to 30, which takes a while because of the way XP earned is determined), it's really not as bad as it seems.
      • Level grinding isn't enough, though, you also have to grind AP to get all of the character's abilities. Then you have the equipment grind, which is subject to Randomly Drops.
  • Record of Lodoss War for Dreamcast. If you proceed to the Big Bad's lair as soon as it opens, you will be unable to cause any damage to him at all. You're supposed to run around killing dragons to build up your levels and equipment first.
  • Digimon World 3 would probably win the award for Forced Grinding. And the blasted critters give so little EXP compared to the effort spent in killing them.
  • Digimon World 4. You'll need specific weapon types to get through areas. Didn't use the type for your first run through the area, or regularly switch your weapons? Prepare to spend a very, very long time beating the shit out of things to get enough skill to use anything decent. It takes an ANNOYINGLY long time to get any skill for a while-- at least your technique goes up very fast after it gets past a certain point. You'll still spend hours at a time beating up the respawning enemies even then, though.
    • It isn't that bad. I went through the game in two difficulty modes using only two weapon types and the MP spells. I bet I could do it using only one type of weapon, even.
  • Digimon World Dawn & Dusk for Nintendo DS require huge amounts of level grinding in order to tackle some bosses (ironically, once you take down the boss, the battles in the area you were grinding will have more and stronger enemies so you can get way more Exp.) Also, after the last story boss, you can accept a mission to take several bosses in a row, and even if your Digimon were strong enough to beat the story boss without much trouble, you'll be unable to scratch the two later bosses unless you spend a few hours grinding in the new area.
    • There is a trick to bypass this though. Sidequest/non story Quest is normally can only be done once, and during said Quest, usually there is a boss in the mission which basically is a slightly boosted mooks with higher EXP. There is a trick to abuse this. The game identify a quest being completed when you have finished the task, AND reported to the Client. To do this, after facing the mission boss, simply return to the City and cancel the quest(since you technically haven't completed it yet) and retake the quest. This is especially useful in the post-game since there is a boss that gives 10.000 Holy EXP and fairly easy, making getting Seraphimon (need 77777+ Holy EXP) and leveling easier.
  • Septerra Core does this after you get Lobo's ship.
  • The final areas in MOTHER 1 are brutal about this. Forget grinding and just run from every battle until you reach the final boss.
    • When you get your uber-strong helper EVE though, the place is MUCH easier. Unfortunately, EVE dies as soon as you get to the end.
    • Thankfully, the other games in the series averted this, for the most part. As long as you don't actively avoid enemies, there's only a few places early on where grinding is really necessary.
  • This can happen in The World Ends With You. Because the majority of enemy encounters are player-initiated, and one can go for ages with minimal battles, you can easily be overtaken by stronger enemies even on easy mode.
    • Especially if you don't realize that normal level grinding will only increase your HP and thus you neglect to feed your characters, which is the only way to increase their other stats.
      • Well, aside from equipment...which still requires that the characters grind Bravery. This is particularly noticable with Neku, as you can't dress him in goth lolita garb without--er, let's just leave this there.
    • You can beat story mode with zero grinding (or perhaps a very small amount if you're not awesome). However, post game is all about the grinding.
  • Most early Eastern RPGs were like this, it seems, but The 7th Saga for the Super NES was quite possibly the worst. How much horrible grinding was necessary differed from character to character (you could choose several beginning PCs), but gaining a few levels from town to town was absolutely necessary. In a quite a few areas, you have to grind 5 to 10 levels just so new monsters won't one-shot you.
    • This is actually due to a bug in the game, causing your stats to grow at something like 1/4 of the rate they're supposed to.
      • This may have actually been the developers being bastards, as the stat growths work properly in the Japanese version. In addition, almost every monster in the game had their stats increased in the US version of the game.
    • To complicate it even further, you're one of a large group of adventurers all working on the same quest. If you grind too much (Level 42 to be specific), Valsu the cleric learns a Game Breaker healing spell that renders any fight with him completely Unwinnable. If he's a required fight, get ready to start again. On the bright side, you can make this work in your favor. Find an apprentice willing to join you, decline the offer, grind ten or so levels, then go back and take him/her up on the offer. Since their stats grow at the Japanese rate, they'll be massively overpowered for a while.
      • A fight against Valsu is not Unwinnable post-42. I've beaten him several times. With Kamil no less. In fact, apprentice fights get easier post-60 or so once you've gotten to the last town before the big "change" in the game. It only takes the right tactics, Save Scumming, luck and good equipment to win.
    • And let's not forget a certain story event that throws you into a completely different area with stronger random encounters than you've ever seen before. Once you cross the Point of No Return, these enemies are the weakest you'll be seeing from that point on. In other words, you have to know this is coming and grind in advance. Otherwise, you're stuck in a world where you're too underleveled to kill anything, but that means you can't gain levels to get strong enough to kill things. In a word: Unwinnable.
  • Nippon Ichi's strategy RPGs from La Pucelle forward use this heavily, especially when optional bosses are included. There is usually some sort of bottomless dungeon full of monsters of increasing power available to help. Because facing a boss with HP and stats in the hundreds of thousands (or possibly millions) is just not done in a low level game.
    • This is even lampshaded in Disgaea 3, where Mao complains about the loss of his 4 million hour save file (a little over 456.6 years) of gameplay necessary to challenge "Level 9999 Baal" when his console and memory card are accidentally crushed.
      • However, in the case of the Disgaea titles, there are usually certain facilites around to make the grinding go by much faster (Thank you, Item World and Statiticians}.
  • Secret of Mana for the SNES., though arguably this is more or less weapon/spell grinding.
    • You can ignore spell/weapon grinding entirely for most of the game. Any enemy can be beaten with melee attacks and a knowledge of how to dodge. But the exception, the final boss of the game can only be beaten if both mages in your party cast mana sword on the main character. You got this spell about 15 minutes before the final boss fight if you didn't grind. Spells you just acquired start at level 0, and last about 10 seconds. So either you have to go through a whole final dungeon and a Boss Rush without using any spells, so you have every single available MP for the final boss, or you need to grind out levels for that last spell set.
  • In Chrono Trigger you can fight the final boss very early in the game; but you have virtually no chance of winning unless you play the rest of the game in order to grind up enough levels. This essentially makes the whole rest of the game a giant series of Side Quests, which is much more fun than random mob farming.
    • The DS remake adds a few new sidequests. One of them comes before the final boss, and takes a very long time with many battles. Completing it will make you powerful enough to curbstomp the entire final dungeon and boss.
    • The game itself largely actually averts the need for grinding; stat boosts gained from weapons and equipment vastly outweigh those obtained from simple intrinsic stat grinds, although you probably still need to grind out for Tech Points.
  • Phantasy Star IV had Money Grinding. You can survive the next area just fine without too much level grinding, provided you can afford the ungodly expensive equipment. Oh, and the next town that's five minutes away has a better set of ungodly expensive equipment that you need to buy to survive.
    • Money grinding is almost never worth it in PSIV, though. There are some very expensive equips in the mid- to late-game, but they're generally only worth a point or two of attack or defense. There is one point about 30 to 60 minutes into the game where one could grind for some sweet gear while abusing the temporary aid of much higher-level character, but that's hardly arduous, and entirely un-forced. Do the sidequests, explore, and leave the griding for lesser games.
    • Phantasy Star II on the other hand had loads of forced levelgrinding. To survive the first dungeon you probably had to grind atlest 10 levels, aswell as buy new weapons and armour.
    • Same for the original Phantasy Star.
  • Vay more or less requires the player to take time out to level grind between every single dungeon. This despite the game's comparatively high encounter rate - the enemies generally don't give much EXP, at least compared to the amount needed to advance a level at the stage in the game when you start fighting them.
  • Eternal Sonata has possibly the most extreme example in Mysterious Unison, more related to money-making. In order to obtain one piece of Claves' soul, you have to raise 99,999,999 gold to buy it from a spirit that found it. Although you can obtain it a little easier by fighting the dungeon's tougher creatures, which drop 600,000-1,500,000 gold each, keep in mind that these are some of the toughest monsters in the game.
  • In Pokémon Diamond and Pearl you could beat the last Gym Leader, get to and through Victory Road, and challenge the Elite Four pretty easily without having gone out of your way to grind prior to that. But beating the Elite Four/Champion is much different from challenging them; you might have to spend a couple nights grinding in Victory Road before you could actually do anything effectual against the Elite Four.
    • Since we're talking about Pokémon, this calls for The Big One. The Gold, Silver, and Crystal Versions are the easiest generation... until you get to Silver Cave. The strongest trainer prior to this is Blue, with his highest-level Pokémon being level 58. But then, we've got Red in Silver Cave whose LOWEST-level Pokémon is level 73!!! If you are playing with a 6-Pokémon team, this part of the game is a nightmare even if you caught the Level-70 legendary (Lugia in Gold, Ho-Oh in Silver; both of them in Crystal, provided you get the wings from Pewter City) to save time! Not to mention that the highest-level Pokémon you can powerlevel against repeatedly are level 50, so the exp. yield is not awesome.
      • It Got Worse in the remakes. Now, Red is in the upper eighties with all his mons. However, the pain is somewhat eased by the rematch system, where, not only can you rematch Kanto trainers, you can also battle former Gym Leaders with buffed-up teams, so there's not as much grinding on mons 20+ levels below you. Plus, you can always transfer high level mons you may have from other Gen IV games or use Pal Park to bring them up from GBA games.
    • ...and again with Pokémon Colosseum. Only, there's just ONE spot that requires forced grinding - the final two bosses, which are quite a leap over the best level Pokémon you can get before that. Other than that, you can avoid any sort of level grinding by just using Pokémon as you catch them, since they're actually at a level that can fight off the opponents of the area!
      • ... Or import your mons from Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald?
    • Keep in mind, however, that while playing the game, your enemies will (generally) be using Mons that you can obtain over the course of the game and that their stats have to (again, generally) match up. Further, you can catch 'mons with significantly better stat distributions, with usually one core legendary before the Elite Four and Champion. In order to replicate Health Damage Asymmetry, your opponent's levels are much higher (for greater HP) and usually cursed with Poor Predictable Rock (so that your attacks hit harder via Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors); it's not impossible to take down a high-level enemy team so long as your team is naturally leveled and you can abuse type advantages. The exception to this rule is Red from Gold, Silver, Crystal, and their remakes, who has insanely high-leveled mons that nothing else in the games come close to.
      • Even then, it's entirely possible to bring Red down with your team still in the low 50's and eligible for Stadium 2 Poké Cup (at least in Gen 2 -- HG/SS made him considerably more powerful, but level is no longer a barrier to tournament entry). The key is that most of his team is quite slow, and the ones that aren't have moves that can be negated entirely.
    • Basically, you know you need to grind when you run into a boss with one guy that is faster than everyone in your party, and KO's each one in a single hit, including the one that resists his attack. Even then, later generations can give some sort of workaround, usually involving the Focus Sash or Choice Scarf, and a properly-placed Reflect/Light Screen.
      • Another nasty point was in the generation II games and their remakes. For the first three towns, the highest level you encounter in the wild is 7, maybe 8. Then you come out of Ilex Forest, and some guy shows up and throws a level 11 mon at you. Its a big Oh Crap moment, and you realize you have a whole bunch of grinding to do.
    • In the fifth generation, the Elite Four only have four Pokemon each, the highest being only level 50. The champion replacement battle pits you against two tough battles in a row with the Pokemon around level 55, including a Legendary and a pseudolegend ten levels below the evolution threshold. Besides this, all the trainers right after the E4 have Pokemon starting at level 65, making level grinding also a necessity AFTER the bosses as well as before.
  • Happens a lot in the Ys series, especially with boss battles, making these a form of Beef Gate; eg the giant bee that guards the Bell in VI will annihilate you the first time you can reach it. And you need a ton of level grinding to beat Zava, the guardian at the entance to the Belltower in II.
    • Apparently, this was unintentional in the first game. It evidently didn't have a level cap, and Internet walkthroughs for it recommend reaching level 40 before the final boss fight. In the remake, you're capped at level 24, leading to one long final boss fight.
  • Breath of Fire had ridiculous hard boss battles at some points of the game, depending on whether or not you used Money Grinding to buy guaranteed critical items. Problem? Every time someone new joined the group, XP gained from monsters dropped. At the end of the game, you have 8 people in your party and the best fight in the game gives 3600 XP. It takes several hundred thousand to gain a level once you got to the 30s-40s. Trying to finish the game at the Lv30-40 range is not pretty as some of the later bosses can chew you up.
  • Breath of Fire II starts with two of your main characters as children. After a short sequence, you begin the meat of the game with those same characters as adults. However, the lazy bastards didn't see fit to level at all in the intervening years, so you start the game still at level 1. The first area you have to visit outside of your hometown is full of monsters that are really much better handled at level 5 and above. It only takes 30 minutes or so of grinding to get high enough to be comfortable in that area, but it seems like it would be offputting to a casual gamer to have to spent your very first hour in the game bringing your party up to speed with chapter 1.
    • Not to mention, how much Money Grinding is required to buy the equipment from the first town. 1 Defense is 1 Defense, and it IS necessary otherwise you will get your butt handed to you after the first 'plot event' that leaves your main character alone. Thankfully, going fishing is the fastest way to build up said money. Catching Fish means buying all of that equipment in 30 minutes instead of 2+ hours.
  • Legend of Legaia can be seen as this the entire way through the game. The bosses (especially a certain few) do NOT pull any punches, and will likely murder you in the first few rounds if you even THINK of fighting them under the recommended levels. The fact that equipment tends to be pretty expensive and that normal enemies don't give a lot of experience OR money doesn't help matters at all.
    • One particular boss (Berserker) is incredibly frustrating. Every previous boss can be defeated with proper leveling and strategy (such as blocking the obviously powerful attack that's coming on the next turn). Berserker, on the other hand, unleashes powerful attacks without warning (the first such boss to do so), can inflict your characters with the rot status effect, which drastically reduces combat effectiveness, and can kill even a level grinded character with impunity. Not to mention you have very few healing items and nothing that can protect against rot. And your equipment is sub-par with no way to get anything better until after you defeat Berserker. A combination of That One Boss and a Wake Up Call Boss that shows that simply level grinding isn't going to do it, but without giving you any idea as to what will.
  • In Dragon Quest I, the final boss, the Dragonlord, was literally impossible to defeat without grinding to at least level 20. The Dragonlord's final form (both his melee attacks and his fire breath) does more damage per turn than any curative item can heal, and there are no magic-restoring items, so the only way to beat him is to hit him until you run low on life, then casting your best cure spell (Healmore). The battle is completely decided by whether or not you'll knock off all his HP before running out of MP, which again is decided by which level you're on.
    • Also, in the first game, in order to survive in the Grave of Garin, you have to grind to about level 13 (damn Wraith Knights in the lower levels). Then, there's the swamps south of Hauksness, home to the strongest overworld enemies in the game, including the dreaded Star Wyverns, Green Dragons, Demon Knights, and Wizards. Not to mention the even more demonic enemies in the Final Dungeon.
      • Let's be honest, the first Dragon Quest I wasn't exactly big on content -- all you really need to do after saving the Princess from the Green Dragon (which you will be doing the bulk of your grinding in the first part of the game for) is gathering the Stones of Sunlight and the Staff of Rain to create the Rainbow Drop, which is needed to create the Rainbow Bridge to the Dragonlord's island. You'd be able to beat the whole game in less than an hour if you didn't have to fight anything, or if you didn't need any items to protect you against damage floors, which are invariably guarded by things you have to fight or require an obscene amount of gold.
    • In Dragon Quest II, even the enemies near the first town will pwn you if you don't level up around the starting castle first. At least you get the Copper Sword at the beginning of the game -- the Player Character of the previous game didn't even have that; he had to buy a club and spend several hours earning enough gold to work his way up to the Copper Sword.
    • Dragon Quest III is almost as bad in this respect. Try challenging some of the bosses at lower levels. Unless you get extremely lucky, you're going to be curb-stomped. Orochi in particular requires quite a bit after getting the ship to beat -- and you have to fight the prick twice in a row. (The latter part is, however, mitigated by the fact that you actually can rest at the inn outside town before the second fight.)
      • And if you didn't get smeared by Orochi (The boss isn't too bad with specific party compositions), Baramos most certainly will. If your team's levels aren't at least LV27-LV30 each, then you can forget about even surviving the trek to his throne, let alone fighting him. And even if you do make it, Baramos has a very good chance of wiping out the party if he decides to use Explodet and his dreaded breath attack.
    • Dragon Quest VIII. You started at level one. If you weren't at least level five when you entered the very first dungeon, you died a horrible death before even making to the entrance. It continues from there.
    • In Dragon Quest IX, the main storyline can be beaten with no grinding, but then as soon as the postgame starts, everyone goes cuckoo for Treasure Maps. If you do a spot of exploring with your new Global Airship, it won't take you long to find an easy quest that gives you an interestingly-named Treasure Map. Hm, wonder who this Baramos fellow is, and why his name is on this map...and the false sense of security combined with the total lack of in-game warning (apart from the name alone, for Dragon Quest vets) might lead you to believe that this couldn't possibly be that hard. Also, the difficulty levels of the "normal" Treasure Map grottoes are fond of spiking.
  • Lightning Warrior Raidy has it in spades. First, every new level of the dungeon has much tougher monsters. Second, you have to battle and/or beat sadistic puzzles to find new, better gear (with a literal Infinity+1 Sword needed to go further). Oh, and don't get me started on third or fourth level monsters with sure hit attacks - to even think to battle them for long you have to return to previous level and grind for healing potions, a rare drop.Without grinding, you can progress as much as about ~1/3 of the game, then you hit the solid wall.
  • The Star Ocean series generally requires little if any grinding for the main game; for the most part, keeping your equipment up-to-date is much more important. However, even if you use the proper strategies and equipment against the bonus bosses, if you're not at max level they will end you. On the normal difficulty setting. And even when you are at max level, said bonus bosses still tend to be pretty damn hard.
  • Averted in Valkyrie Profile Covenant of the Plume. There are a set amount of enemies in the game, and same with experience...but you can get more experience if you manage to rapidly attack the enemy while they're in the air or stunned so they drop gems.
  • Most Dragon Ball Z RPGs for the NES are like this, but none as bad as the first one. You start the game with Goku and Piccolo at around 400 BP (Power Level) and you're going to fight the first boss Raditz at 1500 BP. First of all, this game takes the power levels seriously, meaning that an army of characters at 800 BP wouldn't even be able to touch him. Second of all, unlike other instances of this battle there won't be any miracles, penetrating Special Beam Cannons or Gohans around to save your hide, so unless your BP is around 1500 you don't stand a chance. The fastest way to increase your BP is by splitting up in two and fighting yourself in a normal battle, each netting you around 10 BP. Meaning that in order to stand a chance against the first boss, you need to fight 100 battles, 200 if you want Piccolo to become strong as well. And when you've beaten Radtiz? You lose both characters, get 5 new ones that you have to train all over for the next, even stronger boss. And if you know the original, you know that it NEVER GETS ANY EASIER.
    • The second DBZ game actually did a complete turnaround, and made you spend most of the game with a 5-man party of powerful characters who were nearly guaranteed to win any given battle. The only point in the game where you're really at a risk is the part where Krillin needs to travel to the Eldest alone, at which point NOT running from every battle will get you killed extremely fast. After running from the 3 or so battles you end up entering, he gains a massive powerup, and you're back to dominating everything you see again. Balance was not the strong point of these games (there's also the training stages where Goku plays blackjack with his gravity machine and gets a game over if he loses, but these are pure luck and don't really count. And you can't grind to increase your chances of winning either).
  • Dragon Ball Z's "Legacy of Goku" RPG trilogy for Gameboy Advance has a level door, which can be broken by certain character when he's at the level labeled on the door. Even if you have beaten everything on your path, you can't advance to the boss or next area if your character doesn't have the required level.
  • Some of the doors in Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories required a card - or multiple cards - with a specific color and number in order to go through. Trouble is, a player who hasn't been stocking up will often find that out of ALL the Map Cards they have, the only they need is the ONLY one they don't have. Cue numerous battles as the player searches for that one stinking card.
  • Arc the Lad: The final boss in part 2 is so strong that, unless you have a powered up Choko in your party, you're going to have to level grind a ton if you want to even be able to scratch him. It's not recommended to take him on with a party below level 100.
    • You can also expend 2-3 hours of real time constantly buffing Elc and Gruga over and over before taking a single swing each at him and then running back out of range to repeat the process until he dies.
  • Depends on the game, but mostly averted with Shin Megami Tensei. You could just grind to hell; however, it's much better to simply fuse an Elite Tweak to beat whatever boss.
  • Any game where you know about timed hits and Action Commands averts this to some degree, as the difficulty is a combination of levels and skill.
    • There was one speed-run of the first Mario & Luigi where the person managed to beat the game without ever being hit, completely taking away the need for any levels at all (besides attack power, of course).
  • Sailor Moon Another Story, especially since stat change between levels are so huge and the enemies are very strong as the game progresses.
  • Riviera the Promised Land has the training mode, which is purely used for grinding weapons and items usage as learning abilities from them is the main way to gain stats. Thanksfully, your items won't break and you won't get a game over during a training, proving it less annoying aside from the fact that you'll have to waste loads and loads of time doing it whenever you get a new item in a very limited inventory.
  • In Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean, Level Grinding isn't particularly useful, since your decks matter more than your level...but then you have to grind for magnus drops to improve your decks, so it's the same effect. And if you want the best healing items, then you have to grind recipes. Baten Kaitos Origins averts this, hard.
  • In the NES version of Crystalis, you cannot damage enemies or bosses if you aren't sufficient level. The GBC version averts this.


Western RPGs

  • In Ultima I, the granddaddy of them all, grinding is almost the entire point of playing. Reaching the level cap is in fact a requirement for finishing the game. Later games in the series de-emphasized that aspect of play.
  • Wizardry VII, right at the beginning. You have to get up a level or two just to get to next area, be it the first town, local dungeon or the beach where you find the map system.
  • The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind has a couple of parts that can indeed be difficult if you just speed through the main quest. However, since the Soul Gems can be exploited to make insane amounts of money, you can more than make up for low levels with superpowered hardware. Oblivion, on the other hand, takes the FFVIII approach -- enemies level up at the same rate you do.
  • Shadowrun for the Sega Genesis/Megadrive was another game where the whole point was level grinding, or to be specific, money grinding. All the good upgrades cost tons of money. This is especially egregious in Matrix runs, which are the most profitable runs in the game, the reason being that cyberdeck upgrades will cost you an arm and a leg. To actually beat the game though, it's not necessary to upgrade everything because the main plot quest isn't that difficult and the final boss is a pushover. (More specifically, the final boss can be defeated by your allied shadowrunners with you not doing much of anything.)
    • That said, karma grinding is important if you're specializing in Acquisitions and want to run Renraku.
  • Diablo 2 can be beaten without any level grinding at all. On the first difficulty setting. But if you haven't been, then good luck with Hell.
  • Grinding becomes more necessary from the middle of Nightmare difficulty in Hellgate London, as the greater the level difference to opponents, the higher the penalty to damage and resistance; the level gains slow to a crawl. Since engame opponents are all higher than your max level, hours of grind become crucial to win. Because level difference also reduces experience gain, you gain most efficiently by replaying the same level range of maps, over and over.


MMORPGs

  • Used to be an issue in City of Heroes in the higher levels of the game. Often players would run out of missions around level 38, their contacts would dry up and they wouldn't get new ones until level 40. This was eventually fixed by first adding a infinite random mission generator in the form of a Police Scanner, and then by adjusting the XP curve so that missions in the late 30's would give more XP to make this problem less likely to occur in the first place.
    • And these days since the Mission Architect and additional 35-50 content, grinding is pretty much history.
    • And now there's Oroboros, which allows you to go back in time and do quests you thought you missed, so you don't run out of missions either.
  • Atlantica Online: New mercenaries always start out at Level 1 (with the exception of a few base classes that can be hired from wandering NPCs), even if the questline to get them (and the main character level requirement) is 100. There are other ways to get Exp than only in battle, but most of them translate to grinding in one or another form.
  • World of Warcraft tries to avert this. Questing is more effective than plain grinding for leveling purposes, and the various factions have Daily Quests instead of a plain reputation point grind. The old content was pretty bad, though. One particular grind (the Ahn'Qiraj War Effort) required the player to kill fourty thousand Mooks in addition to having the entire server's population grind-crafting ingredients to open a pair of new dungeons.
  • In Billy vs. SNAKEMAN, prior to the addition of the r00t plotline, it was possible to attain One Hundred Percent Completion by Season 5, even reasonable (barring the deeply Luck Based Runed Gear and Party House rares). The game's creator has gone on record as saying that he doubts anyone would be able to beat r00t before Season 15. To put the amount of grinding needed here into perspective, completing a Season takes a week of grinding, more if you're looking for runes or focusing on money rather than speeding through Seasons.
    • "Completing" a Season is a misleading phrase. Doing everything that can be done in a particular Season takes months to accomplish, as there are six major sections to the game (r00t is the seventh), each with its own subplots, to do. "Speedlooping" is finishing the Ninja (Naruto) section as fast as possible, and takes roughly a week- less if you abuse some game mechanics. A normal game involves finishing everything you can reach in the first three seasons, partially completing S4 and S5, speedlooping to S20 or so, and completing everything, including r00t, when you get there.
  • New characters in Ragnarok Online have to grind up a few levels by killing eggs, because even the weakest enemies are far too strong for them.
    • Not quite true, Ragnarok Online has gone far to enable new characters to kill things, where it gives them 'novice' gear instead of a knife. The rest of the game is still a grindfest, though.
    • At Least with Renewal, the grinding has been drastically reduced to a some sort of Anti-Grinding: You are forced to move and level with mob of your same or a little more level, but mob of your level is weaker to the point that you can pretty much solo most of the game, until you get to level 96 or so.
  • In Final Fantasy XI there is a level correction effect, a player fighting a mob that is higher level that the player will have their accuracy, attack, magical accuracy, magical attack, and evasion reduced. This means that a task that required an alliance of players to do at level 50 can be soloed at level 75. NA release players can tell stories of the horrors of hunting coffer keys for Artifact Armors or Limit Cap items in alliances when they were level 50, compared to how easy it is to do the same mobs at level 75+. (Not to mention how they increased the drop rates for these items, damn whippersnappers.) Even the level cap increase from 75 to 80 makes existing content like Dynamis much easier to do with smaller groups or amazingly productive with normal-sized groups. If you want to do anything in FFXI efficiently, you need to be max level. (Although Level Grinding is much easier with the advent of Abyssea.)
  • Warhammer Online plays with this in that the mobs themselves are distributed to roughly match your level, and the quests that take you to new places also tend to give you gear and boosts enough to handle them. The real grind is in PVP RvR, where to have any chance at all you need to grind either the actual zones to earn enough influence to get the best gear for that tier, or grind scenarios to gather enough emblems to purchase the best weapons.


Other Genres

Action-Adventure Games

  • Zelda games often have forced rupee grinding, like in the Triforce chart quest in The Legend of Zelda the Wind Waker. In most Zelda games you only have to grind for rupees once. Money eventually becomes a complete afterthought.
  • Hydelide. You have to level grind to take on anything beyond slimes. You have to kill 100 slimes just to reach level 2.
  • Scarface the World Is Yours is not explicitly a RPG, but has this in that you need to build up Tony's Reputation to a certain amount to open new plot missions. Furthermore, past a certain point you will need to farm Balls to raise Tony's health maximum or expect to die quite fast.
  • The American version of The Twisted Tales of Spike McFang increases the defense of most enemies. This means that while in the Japanese version you have to level grind to make bosses easier, in the American version you must level grind to do more than Cherry Tapping to them.
  • Willow for the NES requires you to be at least level 13 to transform Fin Raziel so she can power up the Cane of Plot Advancement, giving you a chance against Bavmorda. And at level 13 (level 16 is the maximum), it's still not a very good chance.

Miscellaneous Games

  • Half Minute Hero puts a new spin on this by combining Forced Level Grinding with Anti-Grinding and giving a player only 30 seconds to grind as much as possible to become powerful enough to face the boss.

Real-Time Strategy

  • Defense of the Ancients, where the first seven levels generally have to be ground up by staying in lane or the jungle before any effective team fighting can occur. There is the occasional Hero that can gank from level one, but that requires both personal skill and good, cooperative teammates. For carry Heroes, especially the hard carry lategamers, farming becomes nearly all of the game, which has made them less popular in recent versions where the Metagame has shifted to disadvantage them.
  • Bizarrely, Command and Conquer 4. New units are rewarded for XP, and you'll probably only get about a quarter of the way to unlocking everything by completing the single player campaigns (and that's assuming you can complete the single player without grinding anyway).

Rhythm Games

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

Wide Open Sandbox

  • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. At one point, sooner or later, you're going to have to swim like a doofus here and there and everywhere to be able to swim enough to take on a swimming level. Swimming! Anywho, thank goodness the Chinese Triads and the 'bad guys' will wait however long it takes for you to practice swimming (Protip: Bring a rocket launcher, which will oddly enough, not weigh you down).
  • The Godfather the game for X Box. Intentional or not, you'll have to simply wait for game-time to pass to earn enough protection money to buy the Infinity Plus One machine gun to clear out the last nest of bad guys.
  • Minecraft. Pretty much the only way to beat the Ender Dragon is to maximum enchantment ALL of your fighting gear. The max enchantment level is 30, so let's consider how many levels it takes:
    • Helmet (30)
    • Chestplate (60)
    • Leggings (90)
    • Boots (120)
    • Sword (150)
    • Bow (180)
    • Plus you might have to enchant books and fit them to the items, which will cost you even more (unless you're so lucky you need to go buy a lottery ticket).
    • However, Mojang recently subverted this trope in Minecraft 1.8 by changing how the enchant system works. Now, rather than having to get 30 levels each time, you only have to get there once (after which you only need to level up 3 times per enchantment). But they also made it harder to level up the higher you actual level gets (killing mobs gives you less exp the higher your level).

Notes

  1. After importing data and starting the Crystals chapter, if you want to go back and do grinding/Challenge Dungeons, you will have to restart the Crystals chapter for the benefits to carry over
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