Surprising no one, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt remains an intimidating game more than three years after release. The first act, split into three major sections across the regions of Velen, Novigrad, and Skellige, can take over a hundred hours to see every icon on the map, complete every quest, and craft tons of potions, bombs, decoctions, and oils. Some don’t have a hundred hours to spend but still want to check out this massive game and to help, I’ve created this handy guide of the essential quests that you should play in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, based on my recent second playthrough.
Most of the essential quests in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt that are listed fell into a few categories: ones that offered tough decisions (especially that I found interesting from many forum posts where people argued for or against a certain decision), tales of tragedy, and unique situations that Geralt had to either investigate or participate in.
Choosing between the lesser evil is a theme shared by both the game and the book series it is based upon, and many decisions presented in The Witcher 3 are not about binary moral choices and more about choosing what outcome is slightly less than the other. While the consequences don’t lead to game-changing sweeps, certain decisions have such large amounts of time between them that save-scumming won’t work. You have to be on your game for a majority of The Witcher 3, especially when it comes to determining which ending you will receive.
The essential quests in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt are ranked in order of how they appeared in my Completed quest log and rated out of five. Just because a quest doesn’t appear doesn’t mean it’s not good, and just because a quest got three stars doesn’t mean all the other unlisted quests are rated below it. These are just my recommendations to players who are looking to save time and see the best content that The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt has to offer. These quests are pulled from contracts, secondary quests, treasure hunts, and main quests in the base game; there won’t be any from the “Hearts of Stone” or “Blood and Wine” expansions, as those will come separately.
The Play’s the Thing ★★★★: Geralt must put on a play to lure out his doppler friend Dudu in order to rescue Dandelion. The highlight is the actual performance of the play as Geralt plays the lead and depending on your choices, the actors can give solid performances or show up drunk. It’s a fun quest, especially trying to remember Geralt’s lines correctly as it goes on.
A Princess in Distress ★★★: A pellar’s goat, named Princess, has gone missing and you need to ring a bell in order to escort it back to him. Escort missions aren’t very fun, but this one has Geralt addressing the goat as royalty, and it’s a more lighthearted quest than a majority of The Witcher 3‘s content.
A Matter of Life and Death ★★★★: Both Triss and Geralt attend a masquerade party in this quest, during which many characters from the story make brief appearances and you decide whether or not to romance Triss while in a garden maze. A small Gwent tournament is also going on that awards you with unique cards, something I can never look away from. You also save a budding alchemist from the witch hunters, which is always a positive.
Carnal Sins ★★★★★: This is the best quest in the entire game, as you investigate a serial killer who has been murdering citizens of Novigrad; the latest victim makes it a very personal matter for Geralt. Your lead is a red herring and if you act too quickly, which is expected given the situation, you’ll lose the actual killer. Notes can be found throughout Novigrad bearing the authorship of a “concerned citizen,” which tips you off that he is still at large. Should you have a steady hand though, you can identify the true killer and slay him. It’s a lengthy investigation that requires you to be thorough and think things through, with many characters appearing as suspects. The ease at which you can screw up the quest without “failing” it is what really makes this quest stand out, as the emotional punch when you realize you haven’t avenged his victims is larger than any in-game consequences.
Following the Thread ★★★★: Geralt gets to buddy up with Lambert in an investigation into those responsible for his friend Aiden’s death. The investigation spans two continents and ultimately comes down to a tough decision in which you have to either kill or spare the person responsible. There is evidence pointing to his reformed status, but also evidence that your meeting with him is a ploy to earn pity. The choice to believe or reject his explanation is a tough one, and is one of the many quests people will argue for or against online.
The Nithing ★★★★: One of the strongest decisions you have to make between the lesser evil, Geralt must choose to kill a woman or doom a family to poverty. A curse has been set upon Lothar’s son and Geralt finds it was set by his former lover, someone he had lived with for a decade only to drop for another woman. She won’t let up the curse unless Lothar comes back to her, which would strip his wife and son of honor, the highest currency in Skellige. You must choose to reverse the curse on to her or let his wife and son suffer.
The Price of Honor ★★★★: Timmon is betrothed to Agda, but his brothers have yet to return from another island with her. Upon investigating the coast Geralt finds a tragic tale of lost honor and the importance that honor holds among Skelligers.
A Frying Pan, Spick and Span ★★★: This is a very simple quest, humorous in how simple: you find a pan inside a small house. There are some things you can investigate inside, which don’t pay off until late in the story, but otherwise it’s just a simple fetch quest for some old woman’s pan.
The Fall of the House Reardon ★★★: A standard quest to kill monsters becomes more complicated if you choose to explore the area more thoroughly. In the cellar you can find a scenario that breaks a woman’s heart, but allows her to return and live out the rest of her days in peace.
Last Rites ★★★: Another very simple quest, Geralt talks to an old lady who wants her wedding ring brought to her late husband’s grave. Doing so and using Keira’s lamp will show a sweet scene. Talking to her granddaughter after reveals some additional information and gives this quest one of the very few sweet endings there is in the game.
Wild at Heart ★★★★: A love triangle that ended in tragedy, this quest has Geralt investigating a werewolf attack that killed a woman named Hanna. Her sister, Margaret, tries to dissuade Geralt from pursuing his investigation into Hanna’s disappearance. Finding the truth means revealing a tragedy of error and may leave no one alive afterward.
Fool’s Gold ★★★: Part of the weeks of free DLC for The Witcher 3, this quest has Geralt teaming with the village idiot to lead pigs to their salvation. Turns out the pigs are humans, cursed by the nearby ruins. Talking to Yontek, and the pigs, is pretty fun as both are equally incapable of giving straight answers.
A Towerful of Mice/A Favor for a Friend/For the Advancement of Learning: ★★★★: This is a very good investigation quest into why a certain tower in Velen is haunted by powerful magic. You find many ghosts around and within the tower, and slowly unravel the story about how a mage working on a plague drew unwanted attention. Another resident of the tower, Anabelle, suffered a grim death because of this. She now haunts the island and requires her former lover Graham to prove himself and be freed. Of the options present one of them is deceptive, and it’s up to you to determine the correct course to lift the curse. This leads into the next quest “Favor for a Friend,” in which you can romance Keira and must stop her from attempting to go back to Radovid. The dialogue when convincing her can be tricky as you have three conclusions, two of which end badly. Choosing your words carefully nets you an ally for an important quest later in the game.
Devil by the Well ★★★: One of the first contracts you receive in White Orchard is to dispel a noonwraith haunting an abandoned village. The investigation is a good introduction to how most all contracts will be performed throughout the game, and features a sad story that also is a prelude to the many tragedies you will happen upon. Turns out the local lord was quite viscous and chased after some who sought to create their own village. This left a young woman full of hope as a ghost to haunt the location until she is put down by Geralt.
Patrol Gone Missing ★★★: An investigation into some Nilfgaard soldiers gone missing turns into a fight against a wyvern that massacred them. Further investigation, however, will show that these soldiers were committing heinous acts of war, and you can refuse the reward because of it.
Scavenger Hunt: Viper School Gear ★★★: Hunting down Witcher gear means finding notes and stories about their previous owners or diagram-makers, which frequently end in tragedy. For this one, the Witcher Kolgrim was falsely accused of kidnapping a beekeeper’s son and instead of facing a kangaroo court chose trial by ordeal. Ultimately, the trial did not go well for him.
Scavenger Hunt: Cat School Gear ★★★★: Another tragic Witcher tale, this time of Kiyan of the School of the Cat. Kiyan fulfilled a contract and boarded a ship for his next adventure. However, a mage was stalking him and kidnapped him for twisted experiments in an underground lab. The mage tortured Kiyan until he became a husk: you encounter what remains of Kiyan and can end his pained existence while hunting for Cat School gear.
Black Pearl ★★★: A simple quest to find a black pearl for an old Skelliger for his wife ends in a sad anecdote. After completing the quest, you can talk to him at an inn in which he reveals his wife didn’t react as he expected to the pearl, and the reason ends up as an emotional punch. It’s an unexpected and a very sad ending.
In the Heart of the Woods ★★★★: This contract to defend a village from the leshen killing residents has a tough decision, both with bad consequences. There is an internal conflict between the elders and tradition and the younger ones and rebellion. The leshen was being used in rituals to strengthen villagers, but only if they survived its trial. You may kill the leshen or fulfill its ritual to stop the killings: no matter what avenue you choose, blood is shed and you have to determine the lesser evil.
High Stakes ★★★★: This is mostly rewarding for Gwent players, as Sasha is the hardest Gwent opponent in the game and personally, it took me several attempts to finally best her. The investigation into who stole the tournament money also leads to its own satisfying conclusion, as the culprit took me by surprise.
Where the Cat and Wolf Play ★★★★: After taking up a contract, Geralt comes across a village massacred by someone who was very skilled and precise in their blows. The only survivor is a little girl who reveals the villain. Hunting it down, you can find out that the villagers were not innocent, but it’s up to you to determine whether the retaliation was justified or not.
The Bloody Baron Questline ★★★★: Well known as one of the strongest questlines, the Bloody Baron’s story is the first major one you come across in the game after White Orchard and is a lengthy investigation into the Baron’s missing wife and child. You soon find out he wasn’t a good father or husband and can have him reconcile with a previously unknown member of the family. There are a lot of wrong turns you can take that end in a terrible fate for the Baron and Velen: even the best outcome sees his wife and daughter not at all a part of his life as they were before the events of the game.
Possession/Lord of Undvik/King’s Gambit ★★★★: While Skellige society is obviously taken from the stereotypes of vikings and honor-obsessed cultures, it’s still enjoyable spending time with them, especially when determining who will be the next King or Queen of Skellige. Each quest with Crach an Craite’s children show their abilities: Cerys is rational while Hjalmar is hotheaded. Looking into Jarl Udlryk’s curse and investigating the appearance of a frost giant are both rewarding quests that lead into the finale. Before a new leader can be chosen, a massacre occurs and must be investigated with either Cerys or Hjalmar, leading to either finding the ultimate culprit or not. The quest leans towards a specific person becoming ruler, as their quest line is the one in which you uncover the mastermind, but has a rewarding end.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is available now for PS4, Xbox One, and PC. If you have yet to pick up the game, I’d highly recommend you do: if you need to know more, you can read our review from when the game first released, and you can pick up the Complete Edition of The Witcher 3 from Amazon now.
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