On this page, we take a look at the best grinding games currently out there. While not for everyone, games that have a grinding component can be a relaxing way to unwind after a hard days work. That’s because immersing yourself in something repetitive seems to bring about a peace of mind.
Whether it’s fishing in Farcry 5, or powering through quests in World of Warcraft, the grinding mechanic takes many forms across nearly all genres of games. If you’re interested in checking out other types of games, we’ve got as section here worth checking out.
Top 10 Grinding Games of 2020
Here’s our top picks for the best grinding game.
Note that the games discussed here are independently chosen by our editors. At no extra cost to you, HGG and our charity partners get a share of the revenue if you buy anything through the links featured on this page.
1. World of Warcraft
- Website: https://worldofwarcraft.com/
- Platform: PC
- Genre: MMO
- Developer: Blizzard
WoW is still the king of grinding games. It is the most popular MMO in the world and has a slew of expansions that have helped keep things fresh. The great thing about WoW is that your grinding is well rewarded as the game keeps you on an upward trajectory continuously unlocking new parts of the world for you to explore and grind in. Because it is the biggest MMO by total server population, it’s fun to show off all your cool loot and levels on the well-populated servers. Furthermore, it is easy to make friends in WoW and find a guild of like-minded individuals.
Blizzard has done an amazing job with the lore of the Warcraft universe. So, while it does take a lot of time to level all the way up to the max level of 120 (as of Battle of Azeroth) the grind is fun because of everything going on in the background. The grind doesn’t stop once you hit the max level though. You can still grind materials, grind mounts, grind armor and weapons, grind raids, and grind higher difficulty raids. You get the picture. If you’re a tried-and-true PC gamer, World of Warcraft offers one of the best grinding game experiences.
2. Diablo III
- Website: http://diablo3.com
- Platform: PC, Xbox, PlayStation
- Genre: Action RPG
- Developer: Blizzard
Another title from Blizzard? You bet. Blizzard Studios consistently makes some of the best grinding games out there. Blizzard has perfected the dungeon crawler in the form of their Diablo series. Diablo III is the latest in the Diablo series and there’s plenty of sweet looking loot worth grinding for. World of Warcraft is for PC only. One of the great things about Diablo 3 game is that it is available on all the major platforms (even Nintendo Switch now) so you can play on the couch with your buddies or jump online. This game is what is now called an “Action RPG” and that’s a great description. You hack-and-slash your way through hordes of denizens of Hell and collect plenty of loot along the way.
The story line is top notch and we suggest listening to everything and watching the videos the first time through as its well worth it. Sure enough, after a few play-throughs the storyline becomes background noise. Fortunately progression is kept fresh by defeating harder and harder bosses and the Reaper of Souls expansion pack. Once you max your level out and get a great set of armor and weapons, you can begin again with a new class. There are seven classes to choose from: Barbarian, Crusader, Demon Hunter, Monk, Necromancer, Witch Doctor, and Wizard.
- Website: https://www.warframe.com
- Platform: PC, Xbox, PlayStation
- Genre: Third-Person Shooter
- Developer: Digital Extremes
Warframe is a free-to-play title where you can literally grind for 100’s of hours. This game is brought to you by Digital Extremes, an indie studio that went from small to superstar thanks to Warframe. They do an excellent job of listening to their community and making changes to the game based on the feedback they get. They’ve added a MASSIVE amount of content since the game first launched. What we really like about Digital Extremes is that they are ambition and try a lot of new things. Whereas with a traditional developer they make sure things are polished and tend to play it a bit more safe, the Warframe developers are pioneers. The gameplay centers around co-operative player versus environment (PvE) set in space but there is a player versus player mode too.
You can do a lot of acrobatic things with your character such as vaulting, wall running, and shooting in mid-air. You’re basically like Bruce Lee in space. There is a huge number of cosmetic items, weapons, upgrades, and auxiliary items. The sheer amount of customization is mind-blogging but it has also resulted in each player having a character that is uniquely different. Most gamers agree it has a slow start and takes a little while to really get absorbed, but it’s worth sticking with Warframe. It is a true competitor the likes of games like Destiny and Borderlands.
4. Destiny 2
- Website: https://www.destinythegame.com/
- Platform: PC, Xbox, PlayStation
- Genre: First-Person Shooter
- Developer: Bungie
Destiny 2 incorporates elements of massively multiplayer online games, role-playing games, and first-person shooters. Yes, there’s a lot going on in Destiny. It is an online playground for those of us gamers that love shooters and grinding. Much like Warframe, there is both PvE and PvP modes, but the game is tilted toward PvE. There are bunches of missions and raids to progress through and once you beat them all you can test your skills in prestige mode (much harder versions of each raid). It is a great game to pickup with your friends and very accessible since it is available on all the major platforms.
Like Warframe, there is a staggering number of loadouts and item customization. The graphics and environments are really impressive in Destiny 2. The Dreaming City (Forsaken’s end-game zone with powerful loot) is particularly beautiful. Fertile green mountains and misty blue crystalline rock are sprinkled with extravagant alabaster structures. Bungie is committed to keeping things fresh with Destiny 2, and between the ingame events and DLCs, there’s always something new to explore or participate in.
5. Path of Exile
- Website: https://www.pathofexile.com
- Platform: PC, Xbox
- Genre: Action RPG
- Developer: Grinding Gear Games
An excellent free-to-play game, Path of Exile is right up there with Diablo III as one of the best grinding RPG games. It scored a 90/100 on PCGamer which is an extremely high score from them. There’s always a new build, weapon, or boss that will keep you coming back for more. You can pick from 7 classes which helps keep the gameplay fresh and interesting. We know a lot of gamers who have played this game on and off for 5+ years.
The game is set in a dark fantasy world and true to its name, you are exiled from your home. Your character must now face the harshness of the wilds and dangerous folk that populate the world of Wraeclast. There’s a well balanced combination of larger outdoor areas and caves/dungeons. We’d also stick this game in the Action RPG genre as it is pretty similar to Diablo 3. Interestingly, Grinding Gear Games decided not to have an in-game currency in Path of Exile. The economy is based on a bartering system which actually is executed quite well and is a welcome innovation.
- Website: https://www.runescape.com
- Platform: PC, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android
- Genre: MMORPG
- Developer: Jagex
Runescape is as grindy as they come. That’s because this popular MMORPG boasts over ten thousand hours worth of content, including 27 unique skills, hundreds of quests, and plenty of epic encounters. From leveling woodcutting deep in the Wilderness to sneaking your way past demon monkeys on Ape Atoll Island, the game has something for every gamer.
The skill system is notorious for its difficulty and eternal grind. The fastest skills to level from 1-99 take upwards of 50-100 hours to max out, while the longer ones can take over 500 hours of in-game time. Many of the skills, e.g. mining or fishing, produce new resources that power the true-to-life economy and Grand Exchange (auction house). While some players focus solely on leveling, others choose to grind out PvE encounters, competitive PvP matches, or money-making schemes.
Launched in 2001, Runescape has been regularly updated for the past 18 years. Throw in the game’s new Old School mode (similar to WoW Classic), and there’s endless content to explore. It’s an exciting adventure through the World of Gielinor that’ll keep you entertained for as long as you like.
7. Fallout Shelter
- Website: https://www.falloutshelter.com/
- Platform: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch, iOS, Android
- Genre: Simulation
- Developer: Bethesda
Fallout Shelter is a spinoff of the acclaimed Fallout series by Bethesda. The world is suffering from the effects of post-nuclear war, and there are no safe havens left. That’s where you come in.
In Fallout Shelter, you assume the role of Vault Overseer. Your job is to develop and expand an underground base while fending off portentous radiated cockroaches and other nasty surprises.
Welcome new survivors to your encampment, but don’t overload your capacity. Farm and collect resources, discover new weapons and items, and encourage your population to produce offspring. Oh, and stay on your toes. Balancing the world’s only remaining civilization is a delicate act, and one wrong move could send your fledgling empire crumbling to the ground.
8. The Division
- Website: https://tomclancy-thedivision.ubisoft.com/game/en-us/home
- Platform: PC, PS4, Xbox One
- Genre: Action RPG
- Developer: Massive Entertainment
The pandemic has struck! Few survivors remain.
That’s where you, Special Agent from the SHD (Strategic Homeland Division) step in. Help The Division uncover the source of the virus while they build up a new operation. It’ll take sharp investigative skills and a backbone made of steel if you hope to make it through alive.
Do you have what it takes to protect the innocent while keeping would-be assailants at bay and fighting for your own life? The Division features tons of action-packed content, including exciting combat mechanics, missions, and a renowned loot system. Check out the immersive post-apocalyptic world and see if you’re up for the challenge. The grind awaits.
9. Monster Hunter World
- Website: http://www.monsterhunterworld.com/us/
- Platform: PC, PS4, Xbox One
- Genre: Action RPG
- Developer: Capcom
Monster Hunter is one of the best grinding games of 2020, bar none. Help the Research Commission by assuming the role of a Hunter and fighting against monsters in an unpopulated land known as the New World. Every monster you eliminate helps with the Commission’s research while rewarding you with ever more powerful loot.
As you progress through the game and defeat stronger monsters, your skills and arsenal improve. This, in turn, allows you to venture further out, exposing you to ever more fearsome opponents. This cycle continues as you take down progressively stronger enemies in an immersive 3D world.
There are no levels to grind; instead, the loot acts as the reward. It’ll take lots of hard work and effort if you hope to secure the very best weapons and armor. Up for it? Check out Monster Hunter World on PC or console.
10. Elite Dangerous
- Website: https://www.elitedangerous.com/
- Platform: PC, Mac, PS4, Xbox One
- Genre: Sci-fi Simulation
- Developer: Frontier Developments
It’s the year 3300. Mankind made it into space and has spent the past several hundred years unlocking the secrets of the universe. Now, it’s your turn.
Align yourself with one of three factions, assume control of a starship, and begin exploring an open-world rendition of the Milky Way. The game features over 400 billion star systems, with realistic simulation mechanics, including gravitational pull, day/night cycles, and so much more. Immerse yourself in the game world, knowing that Frontier designed Elite Dangerous using real data from astronomical repositories.
Are you ready to embark on a space-age voyage, unlike anything the world has ever seen? Elite Dangerous was released to critical acclaim, and it’s lauded as one of the best grinding games of our time.
What is a Grinding Game, Anyway?
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of grinding a video game, that’s okay we cover all the bases here. The chances are that you might have grinded one of your favorite video games without even realizing it. Grinding in video games is nothing new. In fact, grinding dates back all the way to platform games such as Legend of Zelda on the NES or Sonic the Hedgehog on the Sega Mega Drive – and even further, to long arcade sessions. Nowadays, they are particularly common in the role-playing game (RPG) genre, where players must use their characters to battle or fight low-level crooks to achieve the same outcome, building up their skill, gold or weaponry as a result.
Some gamers find the concept of grinding boring and tiresome. Now, we understand that repetitive button-mashing is not always pleasant, but if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing properly. Fortunately, many developers of RPGs and games in other genres are trying their best to make grinding a more enjoyable experience, as you make your way towards completing your favorite games. In other words, developers have taken notice of grinding often being unavoidable, and are now coming up with ways to make it more engaging and meaningful. Of course, some gamers believe grinding is a poor mechanic which gaming designers use to simply lengthen their games. However, that’s not always the case. Let’s take a look at the ways in which grinding a video game can be viewed in a positive light in today’s gaming world.
General Thoughts on Grinding Games
Here’s an overview of why grinding is an integral part of so many of the most popular games (and will continue to be in the future!).
- The journey is just as important as the destination
Have you ever thought what your gaming world would look like without grinding? Although you might complete your favorite video game in a matter of hours, you’d probably find it so easy that the accomplishment would be meaningless. A game with a constant stream of rewards and little challenge will surely leave you feeling empty at the end of it. Hard work really can be a reward all on its own.
- A shared grinding experience has a charm of its own
Although grinding is particularly popular in RPGs, it has also become an important part of massively multiplier online role-playing games (MMORPGs) too. World of Warcraft is a shining example of where this has been implemented successfully. If you are part of a team of other human gamers, grinding is often seen as a necessary evil as your team works or builds towards a common goal e.g. upgrading your weaponry or securing your town’s defenses in the event of attack. Providing there is a purpose to grinding, there should be no gamer that can argue against its validity, and the social element in online games makes it more pleasant than single-player grinding.
- It is satisfying when your hard work pays off
The merits of the grind offer so much more to the human psyche than the negatives. Your sense of satisfaction after spending hours on a video game obtaining a new, exciting skill should not be overlooked. With most things in life, it’s all about the payoff – and when you acquire something like a new weapon or item through grinding, you’ll really feel like you’ve earnt it. If you are playing a game that’s renowned for its extreme difficulty, successfully grinding will offer even more satisfaction.
- When grinding stays true to the gameplay and storyline
When many devout gamers accept grinding as part of the game, it is because the actions are often woven into the fabric of the game in a way where you don’t really notice it because you’re having so much fun. Take The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, for example. Even the biggest lovers of the game would not admit the main plot was Hollywood quality, but when you add in the weird and wonderful moments experienced during exploratory grinding or optional side-quests then it more than makes up for it. Grinding is embedded in the narrative of Skyrim: discovering random caves and clearing out unknown enemies, winning new items in the process can be just as rewarding as completing a bog-standard mission or chapter. Admittedly, modern audiences enjoy sandbox-style exploration a lot, and it allows for more pleasant grinding.
- Show off your loot and superior gear
This point is particularly relevant to gamers that play MMORPGs as part of a clan or team. Sometimes going the extra mile and grinding for that additional level up is just a way to look good in front of your mates. If you want to have your ego massaged by your gaming peers, you’ll almost certainly be prepared to play the long game and dedicate hours to your craft.
- It helps you to focus the mind fully on the game
If you enjoy the game you are playing, what’s wrong with focusing the mind on grinding? Grinding is a skill in its own right and takes a level of concentration and dedication to get right. By taking on these in-game battles and challenges, it helps to keep you fully focused on the job in hand and stops you from becoming easily distracted by outside influences.
- If you have the carrot of unlocking additional features or content
Of course, grinding is only really worth the time and concentration if you are aware of what kind of carrot is available at the end of your off-piste crusade. Many games now include additional features or content that are unlocked when players complete certain missions or achievements. These additional features are designed to enhance the main gameplay, making the effort worthwhile.
- You might pick up new experiences and Easter eggs along the way
During your grinding explorations, it’s not unheard of that you will come across areas of the game that you might not have discovered had you stuck closely to the main missions or chapters. It’s a good opportunity to get a better grip on the overall world, particularly if you are playing a MMORPG that requires swift adaptability and 360-degree vision of the challenges ahead. Some Easter eggs can only be found during grinding too, and while many of us find out about them online, nothing compares to the feeling of discovering an Easter egg yourself.
- Reframing grinding as progression
Yes, we know it might be easier said than done, but if you instead look at grinding as progression instead, you never know what you might achieve. It may be a glass half full thing, but the word grinding itself has a certain negative connotation from the outset, so by getting yourself into the mindset that these additional challenges or battles are merely there to enhance your character or gaming world, your experience will be much more positive for it.
- Repetition enhances your patience and perseverance levels
Although grinding is a repetitive gaming skill, there is no doubt that it can be replicated as a life skill too. By growing accustomed to repetitive actions and routines in-game, you will be better prepared to grind through real-life tasks; whether it’s homework, ironing your clothes or saving up money for a house deposit. Grinding video games teaches you that perseverance is worth it and that nothing ever comes easy in life. In a 21st century world where instant gratification is becoming the norm, grinding is an interesting form of delayed gratification.
Grinding can actually be a relaxing activity. It’s a chance for you to zone out from the stresses and rigors of everyday life and take part in mundane, repetitive tasks that eventually have an important in-game benefit. For developers, finding the ideal balance between main quests and grinding is essential for the long-term success of any title. The need to invest too much time and effort for too little reward is a one-way ticket to boredom. On the flipside, too little work or strategy in-game can lead to a game feeling as though it lacks depth, leaving you unsatisfied on another level.
The best grinding can be found in those games that manage to make it hard to know whether you’re grinding or not. Get it wrong though, and gamers will certainly see through these game-lengthening shortcuts. It’s undoubtedly a tricky balance for developers to strike.
Enjoy our guide on the best grinding games? You’re sure to love our other game curations too! Check them out below: