The world of Red Dead Redemption 2 is an expensive one indeed. Not only are there lots of things to buy (or buy off)— stuff like clothes, weapons, and bounties— but income is virtually non-existent. You play as outlaw Arthur Morgan, who is a member of the infamous Van der Linde gang. The only thing is that the gang (by virtue of being a gang) doesn't really have a reliable or steady source of income. On top of that, the country is moving on (both technologically and socially) and leaving the life of outlaws and cowboys in the literal dust. The gang is forced to loan money to beggars at exorbitant interest rates, rob trains and banks, and do menial odd jobs just to get by. As such, money is tight with a capital T.
But it doesn't have to be. Throughout the game there are many interesting side quests you can partake in, many of which don't take too long and pay quite handsomely. But there are also those quests that don't pay at all, or pay very little in return for the necessary amount of work. Sure, they can fun through a gameplay or story perspective, but they are next to useless if your goal is acquiring money.
We're here to sift through the side quests to tell you which are prosperous, and which are duds. These are fifteen side quests that can make you rich, and ten that are just not worth the hassle.
And, just so you know, there are some spoilers to follow.
There are sixteen legendary animals to be found throughout Red Dead Redemption 2, and luckily, none of them are very hard to find or eliminate. All it takes is acquiring the legendary animal map, riding to the location, and quickly disposing of the animal. It takes maybe ten minutes, and the animals don't put up much of a challenge. You can then sell their skins (and some of their bodies) to the trapper who pays quite handsomely for the rare items. If that wasn't all, you can also use their parts to craft trinkets and special garments and outfits. Going after the legendary animals is a no-brainer.
The stranger mission A Test of Faith is triggered after coming across amateur paleontologist Deborah MacGuiness. She tasks you with finding thirty dinosaur bones, which are littered throughout the enormous map. Not only is an internet guide required for this mission (because there's no way you're finding the bones on your own,) but riding to each specific location is tedious work. After a few hours of riding around the massive map and documenting dinosaur bones, you'll be rewarded with a skull statue and a special knife. It's kind of worth it for the funny cutscene, but don't go into the mission expecting a serious reward.
One of the most popular pastimes of open world games is simply exploring the world itself and seeing what you come across. And Red Dead Redemption 2 is filled with secrets (and lots of gold bars.) Simply exploring the world rewards you with valuable treasures, and gold bars can be found in Limpany, south of Cotorra Springs, in the Braithewaite Manor, and in the mountains northeast of Bacchus Station. There's seven gold bars among them for a grand total of $3,500. Not bad for simply wandering around doing nothing.
We hate to encourage gambling, but it really is a hassle-free way to earn some quick cash. Blackjack and poker are not only fun, but they're also quite easy to learn. And while many locations don't exactly pay out the big bucks, you can go to Saint Denis and buy into a poker game for $5. If you're particularly adept at the game (and if you can best the AI,) then you can walk away with some decent money. Sure, it won't be enough to retire on, but it's an easy, fun, and relatively risk-free way to earn some quick cash. Provided you're a good poker player, of course.
While in Rhodes, you unlock the ability to sell stolen horses to a horse fence. Do not do this. It is not worth the effort. Why? Because a basic stolen horse will net you maybe $2. If you want to increase the price, you'll have to significantly bond with the horse, and this may take a few in-game days. And your reward will be a price increase from $2 to $5. Yay. Yes, you can make more money with rarer horses, but that includes both finding and taming them, which could also take a while. In the end, horse selling is a mug's game and it's not worth the time or effort involved.
Bounty hunting has returned from the first game, and while the bounties don't seem as plentiful this time around, they still provide a decent income for the more morally inclined among us. There are a total of eleven bounty missions throughout the game, and they collectively pay $650. That's roughly $60 per bounty, which is certainly not a bad take considering the limited amount of work involved. Plus, hunting down bad guys is always a good time. It may not be the fastest way to make money, but it's honest work. Kind of.
Now if you want to sell some stolen goods, wagons are a great investment. You can sell stolen wagons to the fence in Emerald Ranch, and lucky for you, the roads near the ranch are absolutely littered with wagons. All you need to do is camp out in the grass, wait for a wagon to spawn (which may only take a few minutes,) and then proceed to steal it and sell it. The whole ordeal is over in five minutes, and you net yourself a cool $40. Of course, this will lower your honor, but hey, no one said life in the Wild West was easy.
If you'd prefer to live a more honest life, then hunting is always an option. Unfortunately, it doesn't pay nearly as well as stealing wagons. Hunting animals is not only risky business, but it's hard work. You have to find an animal, hope that it's a nice three-star version, and then dispose of it cleanly. Then you have to skin it and ride it back to the butcher's, all for maybe $10 in pelts and meat. In the time it takes you to hunt four perfect animals for $40 you could have stolen one wagon outside Emerald Ranch. Plus you get your clothes and your horse all messy, and who wants that?
Geology for Beginners is a stranger mission given to you by the maybe time-traveling Francis Sinclair, who tasks you with finding various rock carvings. Unlike the dreaded dinosaur bones which take forever, this is over in no time at all. After finding just one carving, you are paid $10 (and a bottle of bourbon). And after five, you are given a rock statue which can be sold to a fence for $50. All told, you are given a cool $60 after finding just five rock carvings, which shouldn't take very long (provided you use a guide.) Plus you get to see all the trippy engravings, so it's a win-win.
Smoking and Other Hobbies is a collector's dream, but a nightmare for more casual players. Arthur encounters a man named Phineas T. Ramsbottom outside Flatneck Station, who tells Arthur that premium cigarette cards are worth good money. There are 144 of these cards to collect throughout the map, and they're scattered all over the place. Finding them all is really monotonous work, and it takes forever. After finding all 144, you are given a mere $200. This may sound like a lot, but finding all the cards takes HOURS of work. And yes, you can buy premium cigarettes and amass the cards, but this isn't ideal for a cash-strapped player. At a hefty $5 a pack, you would be spending more than you would be making, and that's just bad business.
All That Glitters is stranger mission found west of Flatneck Station, and it is a fantastic mission to start if you want to make some quick money. Here you meet a seemingly-legendary explorer who sells you a treasure map for $10. Yes, it requires a small investment, but the ROI is incredible. You simply need to follow the map to Caliban's Seat, Cotorra Springs, and finally O'Creagh's Run, where you will find two gold bars, each worth a whopping $500. Sell them to a fence and earn yourself a nice $1,000. Easy money.
In Scarlett Meadows, there is a troubled circus performer named Margaret who needs your help tracking down three animals: a zebra, a tiger, and a lion. Only, Margaret is a bit of a trickster, and these animals aren't actually what they appear to be. The mission is a little tedious, but it has a fantastic ending that takes place at Emerald Ranch, and it's worth playing for that scene alone. However, players looking for monetary compensation will be unhappy, as Margaret pays you with a fake emerald that is only worth $50. It's a lot of work (and dangerous work) for little pay, AND you're bamboozled by a con man in the process. It doesn't feel too good.
Naturally, being an outlaw and all, you're going to be robbing some poor, unsuspecting folk. Granted, you don't need to do these activities if you want to live a more noble life, but they pay very well. Throughout the game you can go on various companion activities, which includes robbing homes, stagecoaches, and even the bank in Valentine. These can be very lucrative side missions, as the Valentine bank robbery alone can net you up to $2,500. That said, it's very easy to miss these missions, especially if you rarely go back to camp, so be sure to keep an eye out.
By the time you take the reigns as John, you are about as poor as can be. After all, John is on the run and working a quiet life as a ranch hand, so he's not exactly rolling in the dough. During this time you can find author Evelyn Miller in West Elizabeth, who invites you to his ranch in Tanner's Reach. You slowly get to know the man before he locks himself in his cabin to write a book, and you're forced to bring him food on numerous occasions. The final time you come to his cabin, you see that Miller has passed away from starvation, and you burn his cabin to the ground. The end. It's an interesting story, but it does absolutely nothing to alleviate your destitution.
Despite its gross appearance and the dangerous animals that litter it, the Southern bayou is rife with valuable exotics just begging to be collected. For example, alligator eggs are relatively easy to find (provided you know where to look,) and each little bundle will net you around $25. But the real money is in the exotic animals. Riding through the swamps and disposing of all the exotic birds you come across will earn you good money, seeing as how butchers pay high prices for their carcasses and plumes. You can easily walk away from a ten-minute exotics run with $50 in your pocket.
And this just proves that taking the honorable path sucks! Just kidding. After meeting with Brother Dorkins and Sister Calderón, a bratty kid lifts the Sister's crucifix and runs off with it, forcing you to chase him through the streets of Saint Denis. After finding him, you unfortunately come across a destitute Edith Downes, who screams and alerts the authorities to your presence. Not only do you not get paid for this mission, but you are actually given a wanted level which is relatively hard to shake (granted, Arthur kind of deserved it.) Still nice to get that honor, though.
The Wisdom of the Elders starts in Van Horn and leads to Obediah Hinton in Butcher Creek. Here you'll eventually descend into a gripping tale involving rabid dogs, Dreamcatchers, dark spirits, and a shyster who tries absolving a fuel company for tainting the local water supply. Upon completing the mission and saving the town, you are rewarded with $50. No, it's not really a lot of money, but the mission is a lot of fun, it reveals some interesting lore about the surrounding area, and it's really, really funny. Unlike some of the other prosperous jobs and side quests on this list, this one is actually enjoyable to play through.
In chapter 6, Arthur receives a letter from Penelope Braithwaite asking for his assistance in escorting both her and Beau out of town. Ah, the pain of young love. Naturally, things go horribly, and Arthur is forced to dispose of numerous attackers trying to prevent their escape. After you dispose of them, you need to drive the train to the next station, seeing as how the driver ran off in all the excitement. For your efforts, you can either accept a small bag of jewelry or decline it in exchange for honor. A very small amount of honor, or a jewelry bag worth next to nothing? Yep, this one is for the story and nothing more.
Arthur Morgan is an outlaw, and what kind of outlaw doesn't rob trains? Throughout the game, you have the option of commandeering and robbing trains, which can be a very lucrative business if you know what you're doing. Not only do you get the stacks of cash inside the train itself, but you can also rob every individual passenger, each of whom coughs up quite a substantial bit of dough. You can walk away from a robbery with hundreds of dollars, provided you play your cards right. If you don't, you can earn yourself a substantial bounty that completely negates the work.
Hoo boy is this side quest not worth it. A Better World, A New Friend is more commonly known as "the hunting requests," and they are a real pain. Each quest requires you to find a specific animal and collect its perfect carcass. Finding the animals can be a real nuisance, especially due to the random nature of their appearance. And when you finally find one (thanks to YouTube), you need to perform a clean shot in order to preserve the carcass. If you mess it up, you have to start all over. Many of these requests also require finding birds, which can be incredibly time-consuming. Even if the reward was $10,000, these hunting requests would not be worth it.
While on your peaceful travels you may come across a bandit camp, and their occupants are not afraid to get violent should you wander too close. Of course, you have the option to turn around and walk away. Or you could eliminate the bandits and steal all their goods. The camps usually contain nothing but provisions, but looting the bandits will reward you with cash and valuables. You can walk away from one of these camps not only with a fresh supply of canned goods, but also $50-100 in valuables like platinum bands and watches.
Yep, it's pretty obvious that doing the treasure maps will net you some good money. Aside from the aforementioned map given to you in All That Glitters, there is also the High Stakes Treasure and The Poisonous Trail maps, which will collectively reward you with seven gold bars. As each gold bar is worth $500 at the fence, this means that going on these simple treasure hunts will earn you $3,500 in profit. It's fun, it gets your brain working, and it makes you rich. What's not to like?
If there's one side quest worse than the hunting requests, it's Duchesses and Other Animals. This is the terrible, terrible mission given to you by Algernon Wasp, who tasks you with finding various exotics hidden throughout the swamps. These exotics include the aforementioned gator eggs, exotic bird plumes, and various types of orchids. Collecting these items is a nightmare (even with the help of the internet), and it takes countless hours to complete all six parts. It's not only monotonous work, but the setting is ugly and rife with dangerous creatures. You're given $760 when it's all said and done, but trust us, it's not worth the mental anguish.
Like The Wisdom of the Elders, The Smell of the Grease Paint isn't exactly a huge money-maker, but you'll be having too much fun to care. The mission begins in Van Horn when you talk to Marjorie, the leader of a traveling sideshow, and brawl with the deformed Bertram. After defeating him, you need to find Magnifico, a magician who continuously disappears in a cloud of colored smoke. After he is captured by Marjorie, the sideshow departs. However, you can later attend their show at the theater in Saint Denis, and Marjorie will give you $40 for your trouble. It's not much, but the mission is both fun and funny, and it takes all of ten minutes to complete.
If you don't want to go through the trouble of selling the wagons, you can always just rob them for some quick and easy cash. Wagons are plentiful, and chances are that you'll come across one within five minutes of riding. After encountering one on the road, you can either dispose of its occupants or somehow manage to break into its cargo hold without them noticing. Your take mostly depends on luck, as some wagons hold more expensive items than others, but there is the potential to walk away with a good amount of cash and/or valuables.