These two phrases refer to comics and animation, respectively, that originate in China, but they’ve grown to include any anime-inspired media from East Asia.
We’ve already covered the Top 10 Manhwa Series That Need an Adaptation and Top 10 Chinese Anime With Overpowered Main Character, so let’s narrow the field a bit and talk about manhwa, specifically the hit webcomic Solo Leveling.
When a mysterious portal opens to dungeons full of monsters, certain people are gifted superhuman abilities in order to clear the dungeons.
They are called “ Hunters ”. Sung Jin-Woo is the lowest rank hunter, constantly getting injured and unable to increase his rank on account of his financial problems.
While on a lower-tier dungeon mission, he and a group of hunters are almost wiped out by a surprise high-tier boss. Jin-Woo volunteers to stay behind to give the others a chance to escape, sacrificing himself.
Three days later, he awakes in a hospital with floating displays only he can see. From there, his life becomes a living video game.
He must complete daily quests and increase his level or suffer the penalty. Having died once, he’s not about to let that happen again.
Table of Contents
- 10. Tower of God
- 9. The King’s Avatar
- 8. The Strongest Florist
- 7. Hardcore Leveling Warrior
- 6. Dungeons and Artifacts
- 5. Return to Players
- 4. Infinite Leveling: Murim
- 3. DICE
- 2. Zero Game
- 1. The Gamer
10. Tower of God
“ The Tower ” exists to fulfill your deepest desires. Only the strong who reach the top may have their wishes fulfilled. Bam has always lived beneath The Tower with his only friend Rachel.
One day, Rachel enters The Tower leaving Bam behind. Devastated, Bam opens the doors to The Tower by himself and begins the arduous climb to the top.
Underdog main character who fights to improve his shortcomings in a dangerous mysterious dungeon and competes with others to clear it, check.
Tower of God will give you a familiar sense of development and progression. Both Jin-Woo and Bam start with nothing but they have a strong will to fulfill their goals no matter what.
Tower of God puts more emphasis on teamwork and worldbuilding with trials and fights to test the characters’ wit and skill. It’s more of an ensemble story than Solo Leveling, but they’re both great journeys to follow.
9. The King’s Avatar
Ye Xiu used to be the top player of the MMORPG “Glory.” Hailed as the “Battle God,” he carried his professional e-sports team to victory time and again.
All of a sudden, he’s forced to retire when the team finds a new leader. Unable to give up his passion, he finds a job at an internet café and logs in just in time for “Glory’s” tenth expansion.
Under a new name and new characters, Ye Xiu restarts his ascension. For a manhwa that dives deep into its video game setting, look no further.
Jin-Woo may have a real-world stat sheet to manage that plays out like an RPG, but Ye Xiu is actually playing an RPG which comes with its own challenges.
On top of being a high-ranked player starting from scratch, no one seems to know his true identity, so there’s plenty of room for surprises and situational comedy
8. The Strongest Florist
What’s a man to do when he’s got gains for days, built like a truck, makes scary faces, and has an unfulfilled love for flowers? Hop into the virtual world and open a flower shop of course.
Jaeho was trained from a young age to be the ultimate MMA fighter, but he’d rather be a florist instead. His friend introduces him to “New World,” a VR game where you can do anything.
Thus begins Jaeho’s new life. This manhwa is definitely more on the comedic side. The video game characteristics are there, but that’s about where the similarities end.
The Strongest Florist fully commits to its premise and milks the comedy for all it’s worth. Whereas Solo Leveling will give you a gritty fight-for-your-life storyline, The Strongest Florist will give you a wacky escapist fantasy storyline.
7. Hardcore Leveling Warrior
Ethan is the #1 player in “Lucid Adventure,” and he’s not shy about rubbing it in people’s faces. He’s absolutely loaded, in real life and in-game, so he thinks himself superior to everyone else.
One day, while on a quest, he gets ambushed by a group of players. He dispatches them easily enough, but one mysterious player delivers a fatal blow, forcing Ethan to restart at level 1.
Jin-Woo and Ethan could not be more different, but the entertainment comes from seeing how they handle similar situations.
Ethan is, to put it lightly, pathetic. After being at the top for so long, he’s finally getting a taste of his own medicine.
There’s a lot of room for growth beyond just the video game mechanics, and that’s where the story hooks you, both in Hardcore Leveling Warrior and Solo Leveling.
6. Dungeons and Artifacts
Stetch is an A-rank explorer, known for his ability to avoid traps and navigate deadly dungeons. At the heart of these dungeons, are powerful magic artifacts.
On an expedition into the oldest dungeon in the kingdom, Stetch is tricked by the third prince into putting on a cursed ring artifact. The prince escapes the collapsing dungeon, leaving Stetch to die.
Except the ring resurrects him and promises to use its slew of powerful skills to help Stetch take revenge.
This revenge story is pretty simple, compared to Solo Leveling, but the interactions between Stetch and the ring are fun, and the morally ambiguous promise of revenge is an engaging through-line.
This manhwa takes the video game mechanics as truth in this world. It’s easily understood while leaving enough room for future world-building.
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5. Return to Players
Ten years ago, the gods above decided to turn the human world into a game where players, the humans, would fight for their lives. In the end, only one person remained, Sehan.
As the first and only player to clear the game, he was granted to ability to purchase a second playthrough. .
With the knowledge of ten years of hardship and experience, Sehan restarts to get a good ending to this gods-forsaken game
Just like Solo Leveling, this manhwa takes the video game aesthetic and runs with it. The setup is intriguing, the motivations are clear, and it’s a different kind of growing-from-nothing story with real tangible stakes.
It also sports a darker grittier style that isn’t shy about showing violence. If you like Solo Leveling, I guarantee you’ll like Return to Players, too.
4. Infinite Leveling: Murim
Yuseong Dan was supposed to lead his unit and protect the Murim from an enemy attack. However, he was nothing more than a decoy so the higherups could escape.
Filled with scorn and regret, he’s killed on the battlefield. Suddenly he wakes up in his childhood bedroom on the day of the entrance exam for the Military Academy with a strange text screen floating before him.
Somehow, Dan was sent back in time, and he’s determined to use the missions the screen gives him to change the course of his life. The premise is nothing new, but the additional flair comes from its ancient Korean setting.
The game mechanics and mission-based progression are still there, but it goes to great lengths to make this world feel real.
There’s the added mystery of how and why Dan was sent back, and like Jin-Woo from Solo Leveling, Dan has a lot of growing to do.
What if you could change any aspect of your life just by rolling a die? That’s the question Dongtae was given.
All his life, he’d been bullied, exploited, and passed up. It doesn’t help when a mysterious transfer student starts flirting with Dongtae’s crush.
He soon learns, however, that this transfer student is not who he says he is, and that a mysterious being called X has been helping him.
When Dongtae picks up a mysterious blue die, he enters into a real-life game where rolling dice can change anything. DICE puts the underdog storyline front and center with a very interesting set of rules.
There’s a similar thread to Solo Leveling where everyday tasks can give you huge benefits, but the chance inherent to rolling dice adds a wrinkle that heightens the tension.
It’s a pretty serious manhwa rooted in heightened reality with a touch of video game logic.
2. Zero Game
Hanna Yoo lost her parents at a young age and ever since her life has been a living hell. Her classmates bully her endlessly, and even her guardians tell her to move out.
Just when she thinks she’s better off dead, she gets an email from her father. It offers a chance to redo her life if she participates in a survival game.
With nowhere else to go, Hanna accepts and enrolls in the game. She’ll soon find out that wanting to die and facing death are two very different things.
Right from the start, this manhwa sets up its main character and circumstances, so you instantly know what you’re in for.
This is another relive-your-life story, but unlike Solo Leveling which focuses more on using new skills to redo life,
Zero Game seems to be a more introspective journey as Hanna finds the will to survive. There’s also a little pretty-boy flair, if you’re into that.
1. The Gamer
Jihan Han was just your average high school student until he suddenly started seeing the world as a video game. Literally.
He could see people’s levels, he gained experience points, and his stats increased based on his actions. He had no idea where this power came from or why he of all people had it.
That is until he sees other people like him fighting with strange powers. Turning life into a video game may not be as cool as it sounds. Of all the manhwa on this list,
The Gamer is the most like Solo Leveling. The premises are almost one-to-one, and the video mechanics behave practically the same way.
The Gamer, however, has a much more tongue-in-cheek style of comedy. It feels more light-hearted, and the stakes don’t seem as severe as Solo Leveling.
It’s a fun enough read and treads similar ground for fans of the real-life video game setting.
And that’s it for 10 Manhwa Like Solo Leveling. Manga, and comics, in general, will never cease to amaze me with the sheer number of variations on the same premise.
The video game aesthetic and survival game settings are nothing new, but they’re so flexible in how they can be interpreted and so accessible that anyone can instantly understand the context of the story.
So what’s your favorite manhwa? Have you heard of the ones on this list before? What do you think of the real-life video game throughline?
As always, have fun, stay safe, and get your WEEB ON!