I have tried a ton of RPGs, and most just don’t click for me. Here are a few:

  • Skyrim - enjoyed Morrowind for the side content, Skyrim just felt empty
  • Chrono Trigger - enjoyed until about halfway through with the battle with Magus; felt very RNG dependent, or maybe I was under leveled; I bailed after 5 or so attempts that all ended the same way (healer got killed and everyone got picked off)
  • Pillars of Eternity - burned out somewhere in Act 2 (20-25 hours); combat system annoyed me, and I dislike picking new abilities
  • Banner Saga - story is great, but I hate the combat, so I bailed

Some things about me:

  • I don’t care about leveling up/character builds, it feels like a chore; abilities also don’t interest me
  • I hate grinding
  • using items feels like cheating, so I tend to just use character abilities (I will heal if needed); I’d rather “git gud” than buy and use items
  • turn based combat (tactics) is generally boring, but I do like puzzles, so that can make it acceptable
  • I don’t like the feeling of being OP, I want to struggle through the end
  • I don’t like loot

That said, here are a few that I’ve really enjoyed:

  • ARPGs like Ys and Zelda - items are rare or are tools in a puzzle-like system; favorites are Ys 1, Ys Origin, Zelda: A Link to the Past, and Zelda: Skyward Sword (probably because I played Skyward Sword recently); I dislike BotW, and Memories of Celceta has been dragging a bit (I’m near the end, but excited to finish)
  • interesting RPGs like Undertale - short and very unique experience
  • Souls-like games - challenge involving melee/dodging keeps me going
  • Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky - not a fan of the combat, but the story is interesting somewhat at least; I’m about 2/3 through I think (30 hours), but I’ve taken a multi-month break; likewise, Xenoblade Chronicles is interesting so far, but I’m not super excited about it (may bump down to story mode to get through it, the combat sucks imo)
  • Nier: Replicant - great story, leveling stayed out of the way, and I never felt like I needed to grind or upgrade gear

I really like the storylines of RPGs, I just don’t like actually playing them. Unfortunately, my preferred ARPG genre is filled with loot nonsense, and I’ve played most of the ones that don’t really on that as a mechanic. Perhaps my favorite RPG-adjacent game not mentioned already is Yakuza 0, I’m not a fan of the combat, but he story is amazing and the side content is fun.

Does anyone feel similarly? Do you have any suggestions for other games to try?

I’d suggest Shadowrun: Dragonfall. Fairly simple mechanics, character building and inventory. Great storytelling and characters in a familiar but fantastic setting.

Do you like cool lore? Detailed item descriptions? What about esoteric oddities that you interact with through text? How do you feel about choose-your-own-adventure books? Torment: Tides of Numenera might be the game for you.

Also highly, highly recommend Disco Elysium, but someone already suggested that. I think you would love it.

I do like lore, and I used to love reading through the books in Morrowind and whatnot.

However, I generally don’t like in-game items, and I hate managing inventory. Numbers going up isn’t interesting to me, nor do I much care how my character looks. I’m much more excited about interesting combat encounters, story progression, and lore, and almost everything else just feels like noise.

choose your own adventure

I get anxious about getting a “bad” ending (mostly I don’t want to have “wasted” all that time), so I usually avoid them. I almost always play games once, so I want to see as much of the content as I can the first time through.

So here are some things I love about RPGs:

  • good story and deep lore
  • can pick different playstyles (spellcaster, knight, archer, etc)
  • interesting side quests

And things I actively dislike:

  • inventory management
  • not being able to see all content in one playthrough
  • skill trees - I’d rather the game decide based on my class
  • grinding - esp in JRPGs

My gold standard here is Ys Origin:

  • interesting, linear story
  • three playable characters with different play styles (and stories)
  • deep lore (esp when you play other games in the series)
  • no skill tree with new abilities unlocked as you go
  • minimal grinding
  • great boss fights

I wish it had interesting side content, though other games in the series have that.

I’ll definitely give Disco Elysium a try, and I’ve been recommended the other as well. Thanks for the help!

Jedi: Fallen Order is a souls-like set in the Star Wars universe. Frequently goes on sale for under 10 bucks these days.


shin megami tensei 4 might tick a lot of those boxes

  • character building not really a focus, you can get away with putting minimal thought into that
  • not really terribly grindy
  • i didnt end up using items much when i played it
  • there is turn based combat but its got an interesting system for it and battles tend to be pretty quick
  • the first part of the game is particularly brutal and while i wouldnt say youre ever op once youre past it its not nearly as bad
  • it does have loot tho, scavaging from the various above ground areas is basically the only way to get money

honestly biggest issues id say are that brutal first few hours and the fact that its forever entombed on the 3ds, its got a primo rpg storyline though i dont generally have a high tolerance for jrpg stuff either but i was basically able to immediately click with this one and didnt really have any issues at any point

You might try The Division. There should be a brief trial iirc. It does have loot, but you said you hate buying items too, so it seems like you just dislike gear in general. You aren’t required to manage your gear or loot well to complete the game, you just want to pick up better gear as you level up. There is some skills/tech stuff in there that can take a bit to get used to.

You won’t be OP. You’ll be using cover to stay alive. Some enemies are bullet sponges.

If you’ve ever had to hit the streets somewhere immediately following a natural disaster, it might feel a little eerie or uncanny. At least, it did for me. The snow is beautiful.

If you like soulslike, I recommend The Surge and The Surge 2. Don’t need much grinding, the environments are nice and the combat is sharp.


Have you tried the dark siders games? Very interesting world building in the first 3 the genre jumps a bit but the first is more of a Zelda like and the second a prince of Persia like (with a light loot system) the third wants to be a souls like.


It’s a bit of a long shot, but you might enjoy traditional roguelikes. At least, I kind of felt similar and then found them to be what I was looking for. How they fare for your individual points, roughly sorted from pro to not-necessarily-pro:

  • I don’t like the feeling of being OP, I want to struggle through the end
  • I hate grinding

Traditional roguelikes have brutal difficulty and grinding is effectively not a thing you can do.

  • using items feels like cheating, so I tend to just use character abilities (I will heal if needed); I’d rather “git gud” than buy and use items
  • I don’t like loot

The brutal difficulty forces you to use items. It won’t feel like cheating, but rather the only way to progress.
And there’s no way to sell loot, so basically whatever you find, either it’s new equipment or you just leave it there.
This also means money is extremely tight. You won’t be able to buy a hundred cheese wheels to counter-heal through encounters.

  • turn based combat (tactics) is generally boring, but I do like puzzles, so that can make it acceptable

Very much turn-based, although not JRPG-style (which I dislike, too) and the games do generally feel like large, somewhat less strict puzzles.

  • I don’t care about leveling up/character builds, it feels like a chore; abilities also don’t interest me

Well, this one’s a bit tricky. Traditional roguelikes are kind of all about that, moreso than RPGs. Because a death (or a win) resets your game progress, they can rapid-fire progress at you.
On the plus side, this is all part of the larger puzzle. It is not just a chore, but rather key to beating the difficulty.

I guess, I should also point out that by “traditional roguelikes”, I mean games that are actually like the 1980 game Rogue. So, don’t expect hyperrealistic 3D graphics. 🙃

Here’s two games that are relatively popular + beginner-friendly:



Traditional roguelikes have brutal difficulty and grinding is effectively not a thing you can do.

Ehhh. You can definitely grind in Angband.

A number of traditional roguelikes, like Nethack or Dungeon Crawl: Stone Soup, have a finite amount of food available that forces you to keep moving. But not all.

Yeah, I was wary making such sweeping statements about the genre, because I’m sure, there’s oddballs, but I didn’t either want to talk just of DCSS + Shattered Pixel Dungeon, which I’ve played more of…

And DCSS used to have food. They removed it some versions ago. What stops you from grinding, is that there’s a rather limited number of (non-respawning) enemies/XP.

Ah, fair enough. I haven’t played it in quite some time, and it’s notable for the developers doing gameplay revisions.


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For Chrono Trigger, that fight with Magus is a two-phase fight, and you’re not underleveled unless you can’t get through the second phase. Since you’re pinning it on RNG, it sounds like you didn’t make it to the second phase. The first phase is on the tactical (or puzzly) side and it’ll punish mistakes, which catches some players off guard. A change in party could possibly help too, depending on who you’re using. If Lucca’s in the party and you’re not using items, that fight’s probably going to give you a bad time.

Anyway, my top recommendation based on these criteria is Terranigma. It’s an ARPG with a very basic equipment system and you can go through the game only using HP restore items. The difficulty curve is fairly tight, with just a notorious level requirement later in the game. Try not to be put off by the script; it’s messy in places due to a very small Western release, but the underlying story is great. You could also try its predecessor, Illusion of Gaia, which has fewer RPG mechanics (it’s more like a Zelda game).

Other than that, I’d recommend trying to finish Trails in the Sky. Sky FC doesn’t show its hand until late. That–still ongoing–series is doing something with its story that isn’t being done elsewhere in RPGs, and it’s very rewarding if you can successfully connect with it. You’ll also probably enjoy the combat more later in the series.

If on your Ys journey you haven’t made it to Oath in Felghana or Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana, those are very popular in the fandom, and Ys VIII was a little bit of a breakout hit for the series for newcomers. Celceta isn’t very good.

Disco Elysium lacks grinding and battles but is very much a roleplaying game with a compelling story and characters (including those in your head).

Crosscode is an ARPG which will certainly scratch that itch for Zelda like dungeons. Combat is skillful, but easy enough that you don’t have to grind out the best gear and levels, though there is the option to grind a lot if you were to want that. The story is also really nice.

Crystal Project is the best JRPG I’ve played in a gameplay sense but it will require you to level classes and consider abilities. The reason I’d recommend it is because combat isn’t really just bigger numbers, end game combat encounters especially are like puzzles where you need to use the right tools in the right order. Also I’d say half the game is about exploration, the game embraces sequence breaking and going your own way, and has fun though occasionally frustrating voxel platforming. If you want a JRPG that is more story focused then I think Mario RPG is great, and you don’t have many choices to make as there are only like 5 characters / classes, it also has some voxel platforming and comedy.

Disco Elysium is the game that instantly came to mind. Basically all story that is brilliantly written with incredible voice acting. I hope OP checks it out.


I should play that someday. I played very little (I didn’t even leave the second location) until I forgot about it.

Hades sounds worth a try, it checks many of the boxes at least, though not all

A few games that I think you might like based on your post:
Cult of the Lamb
Dark Messiah Might and Magic
Drake Hollow
L.A. Noire?
The Looker
Pony Island (you like puzzles right?)
Red Faction Guerilla
The Aquatic Adventure of the Last Human

Also metroidvanias as a genre are probably a good fit for you.

Yeah, I’ve liked a few of the Metroidvanias I’ve tried, though I’m not a big fan of backtracking.

I haven’t played anything from your list, so thanks! I’ll try a few out (I recently picked up Pony Island, so that’s on the short list).


Have you looked into the Batman Arkham series? They have great stories, and feel kinda Zelda in that you get new tools as you progress. There are puzzles which I don’t always love, but maybe you do.

There is combat, but you can play on easy. And you upgrade your skills, but it is not very crucial to the experience.

And also maybe portal? Not very rpg, but environment changes as you progress.

Yeah, I’ve played Arkham Asylum and started Arkham City (forget why I stopped), so I can confirm, it’s a great series.

And I loved Portal. I have also played some similar games, like Magrunner (good puzzles, crappy story) and Relicta (good puzzles, try-hard story).



In my opinion, the arkham games got progressively better (except origins) - my favorite is Arkham Knight.

I really liked the Yakuza games. They’ve improved a lot over the years, the story is engaging, and there’s tons of fun side stuff to do. Although the audio is all in Japanese, so you have to read subtitles.

Yeah, I’ve played through Yakuza 2 and have enjoyed them all so far. It’s a fantastic series, thanks for the rec!

Have you played Judgement? It was supposed to be the successor to Yakuza.

I think this a great pick. I love the side quests and writing , and find the brawling to be a lot of fun too. Yakuza 0 is the place to get started for anyone interested.

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