Manga with level up systems have become super popular ever since the advent of the Isekai genre. Not to say that Isekai didn’t exist before something like, say, Sword Art Online. But specific stories with systems where you had to actively level up like in a Turn-Based RPG (Role-Playing Game) were pretty rare to find. It was only in the Digital age where MMOs (Massively Multiplayer Online) became a thing, that you started to see them in manga as well.
And like, it is a fun concept to read through. Manga with level up systems are so easy to binge through, because of how much content is laid out for them. And it isn’t just limited to Japanese manga alone. Some of the most popular Korean manhwa and Chinese manhua are essentially Isekai manga with level up systems or web novels in the same vein. Their quick rise to stardom could easily be attributed to gaming culture, which has become a zeitgeist on its own in recent years.
However, I think another reason why manga with level up systems are so widespread now is because of the world building they promise. Nearly all manga like it have some amount of lore that is explained throughout the series, which adds to the feel and vibe of everything. Like, it makes the plot feel so much more immersive, and the level up mechanics add so much unpredictability to the plot. Honestly, as a weeb who is also into gaming, manga with level up systems happen to be something I find fascinating.
I mean, technically I’m not in control of the main character, right? So, the story is completely out of my hands. Therefore, seeing what the creator decides for the character is an interesting thing to experience. And if you’re into something like that, here are our top 10 manga with level up systems to binge right now!
10. Dragon Ball
Is this a cop out? Maybe. But you can’t say that Dragon Ball wasn’t innovative for it’s time!
I mean, this was the manga series that popularized the idea of having a level up system for it’s characters. From Saiyan to Super Saiyan, each new evolution was better than the next. And only sheer hard work paid off over here. Like, ‘Over 9000’ is basically a cultural hallmark for anime at this point.
So yeah, Dragon Ball counts and I will not hear anything otherwise.
9. Dungeon Seeker
Dungeon Seeker might have a plot similar to lots of other manhwa out there, but it works itself out to be pretty unique.
The story follows Junpei Takeda, who is mercilessly bullied at his high school. However, it isn’t all hope lost because he does have a friend who helps him out in some situations, And then when they are all Isekai’d away into a new world, well it must be new beginnings right? Except not really, because turns out Junpei is the only one without powers.
Or so he thought, because apparently he can get the abilities of the person he last defeated! And so, the levelling up ensues.
8. Death March To The Parallel World Rhapsody
Did you ever feel exhausted by the Hustle Culture at your workplace and just want to switch to a life of a careless teen in a fantastical world? Well, Death March To the Parallel World Raphsody does exactly that.
Suzuki is a programmer that transports into his favorite RPG as the young teen hero. Of course, this means he gets to level up and grind, even though he wants to keep his skills a secret. However, in a world filled with magic, that’s a little hard to pull off! What follows is a story filled with a ton of adventure to keep you hooked.
7. Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest
Okay so see what I said about the previous entry? Now, take that and put an actual teen in similar circumstances, except he gets no powers at all and goes edgelord.
Arifureta: From Commonplace To World’s Strongest is about Hajime Naguto, an Otaku who gets Isekai’d into a new world with his classmates. But unlike them, he only gains a measly transmutation skill. Things go from bad to worse when he is betrayed by one of them and thrown into the Abyss. Fighting for survival, he meets Yue, a vampire also looking to escape. His journey through the Labyrinth is what shapes to go from a commoner, to the strongest in the realm.
6. Genkai Level 1
Another Zero to Hero tale, but who doesn’t love Underdogs, right? And Tetsuya Takashi definitely proves his merit in this manga.
Genkai Level 1, also known as Starting From The Limit Level 1, is about Tetsuya, who gets thrown into a world unknown where having rank 1 in powers makes you basically sub human. So, he is naturally thrown to be devoured by monsters. Of course, no one really expects him to survive the onslaught, but that all changes when he realises, he has a power no one anticipated. From that point onwards, Tetsuya starts gaining power steadily, rising above the ranks.
5. Grimgar Of Fantasy And Ash
This manga has a level up system that is so detailed, you don’t expect to see it in a story like it. But that’s what Grimgar Of Fantasy And Ash does best.
The fantastical world is so well curated, the characters themselves are left dumbfounded once it is revealed. And amongst them is our protagonist, Haruhiro. Haruhiro was one of the few he decided to stay back in this magical world, to find their own footing in it. And from there, we see him and others go through various adventures together, getting stronger with each passing incident they come across.
4. Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon?
DanMachi or Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon, is one of those insane manga that take often tired tropes, like a harem, and give it new life.
In a world ruled by Gods, Bell Cranell is the sole member of the Hestia Familia. Ridiculed by other powerful groups such as the Loki Familia, Bell and Hestia, the Goddess he works for, try their hardest to get ahead of those they are competing with by leveling up in the Dungeon. And what they might lack in numbers, they make up in their absolute loyalty towards each other!
3. The Rising Of The Shield Hero
This manga with a level up system seems fairly tame on the outside, but the main plot is filled with betrayal, redemption and everything in between.
The Rising Of The Shield Hero is the tale of Naofumi Iwatani, who was Isekai’d alongside 3 other men and raised to the status of Cardinal Heroes. Except unlike the other guys, his weapon is a pretty standard shield. Nevertheless, he gets a companion to help him through his journey like everyone else. However, that companion is the Kingdom’s princess, who betrays him by accusing him of assault, getting him banished. However, it is on this exile he meets his new companions, and manages to turn the table against the Waves, the demons he was called over to protect the world from.
Overlord is probably the most popular manga with a level up system out there, without really applying much of it. But it is important.
Momonga starts out as a mediocre nobody in a dystopian world, where his only solace is YGGDRASIL, a game that he can escape into. However, one day the game announces plans to shut its servers down and so everyone gathers for the last hurrah. Except Momonga is stuck in that world, with no way out. So now, he lives his life as Ainz Ooal Gown, a lich king who he has maxxed out and beyond. And there is no ‘naïve hero’ here. Ainz knows exactly what he needs to do to conquer the lands, and that’s exactly what he’ll do.
1. So I’m A Spider, So What?
This one is a fairly new manga with a level up system, but it caught my eye for it’s relatively different setting. Like, it just ends up doing so many things right.
So, I’m A Spider, So What has a female protagonist. Which is already nearly unheard of in Isekai. But the protagonist isn’t some weeping Belle or damsel in distress. She is a high school student named Kumoko, who is reborn into a new world as a spider demon. However, that is a very lowly class in the grand scheme of things.
So, to survive, she has to use her intellect to level up and get through the obstacles in her way. It’s fun, witty and makes spiders look cute. What else do we need?