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Design & Style

Guide to Video Game Genres: 10 Popular Video Game Types

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Jun 10, 2020 • 4 min read

Video games are assigned to special categories, or genres, based on the way players interact with the game. Technological advancements within the video game industry have increased the number of console and computer games, eSports games, and mobile gaming platforms for smartphones, pushing game genres to expand and evolve.

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What Is a Video Game Genre?

A video game genre is a category of games that share similar gameplay characteristics. Video game genres have little to do with the storyline or setting itself, but how the player exists within that world. For example, simulation video gaming places players in a virtual world that mimics aspects of the real world, whereas first-person shooter (FPS) games are usually defined by their first-person perspective and battle-heavy gameplay using long-range weaponry.

10 Popular Video Game Genres

Here are the 10 most popular video game genres:

  1. Action: Action games focus on physical challenges that require hand-eye coordination and quick reflexes. First-person shooters, platformers, fighting games, “beat ‘em ups,” survival games, and rhythm games are all a part of the action genre. Call of Duty (2003) and Halo (2001) are two well-known FPS games, while arcade games like Mortal Kombat (1992) and Street Fighter (1987) are examples of classic fighting games. Fortnite (2017), which features battle-royale style gameplay, is a popular example of an action game.
  2. Adventure: Adventure games feature minimal combat, focusing mainly on narrative and puzzle-solving to progress in the game. Grim Fandango (1998) is a story-based game that relies on players uncovering and figuring out various puzzles in order to advance the storyline. Text-based games and interactive novels are also considered adventure games.
  3. Action-adventure: Action-adventure games blend the high physicality of action games with the narrative puzzles and long-term obstacles of adventure games, relying on a blend of both combat and puzzle-solving skills. Action-adventure games can be in either first person or third person—the iconic Nintendo title The Legend of Zelda (1986) is an example of the latter. The action-adventure genre also includes subgenres like survival-horror, notably the Resident Evil (1996) franchise, as well as platformers like Metroid (1986).
  4. Role-playing: Role-playing games, also known as RPGs, are especially immersive games, using extensive worldbuilding and lore to provide a detailed game world where the game player controls the protagonist or party. Japanese role-playing games (JRPGs) and massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) are two of the more popular game subgenres. JRPGs are geared towards an in-depth single player experience with titles like Final Fantasy (1987) and Pokémon (1996). MMORPGs, on the other hand, are online games that focus on a more cooperative experience with other real-life players. World of Warcraft (2004), an MMORPG, is one of the most popular games of all time within the RPG genre.
  5. Strategy: Strategy games are about using strategic thinking to succeed, rather than brute force or power. These games sometimes focus on building and defense, and can be turn-based like Civilization (1991), or they can operate as real-time strategy games, like Age of Empires (1997). The multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA)-style game League of Legends (2009) is a real-time strategy game, where players use clever teamwork to overtake their opponents.
  6. Simulation: Games that mimic or simulate aspects of real-life are known as simulation games. These games focus on operating businesses, building cities, or creating people with their own lives. The Sims (2000) is a simulation game that focuses on building the lives of characters to experience the world you’ve created, whereas RollerCoaster Tycoon (1999) deals with building a theme park and managing the people and patrons who work and visit there. Flight and racing simulation games also fall under this genre.
  7. Puzzle: Puzzle games can incorporate wordplay or shapes, or they can be logic-based, requiring the player to incorporate deductive reasoning or quick matching skills. Puzzles can also rely on trial and error, where the player needs to experiment with all the objects available first to find out how each responds. Tetris (1984), is one of the most famous examples of a puzzle video game, as are many digital “room escape” games available online.
  8. Sports: Sports games simulators allow players to compete with or against other real-life or computer-controlled players. Games like MLB ‘98 (1997) for the PlayStation game console lets players experience the world of Major League baseball, while FIFA International Soccer (1993) simulates professional soccer matches.
  9. Racing: Racing games are sometimes part of the sports or simulation subgenre, but can also be their own specific type of video game. Racing games mostly focus on the competitive racing aspect of gameplay. Two examples of racing-style games are Midnight Club: Street Racing (2000) and Super Mario Kart (1992).
  10. Idle games: Idle games, also known as incremental or clicker games, involve minimal activity on the player’s part. The player will perform a simple action like pressing a key or clicking a button repeatedly to earn currency. This currency can be spent in the game to optimize mechanics or processes, eventually leading to an automatic execution of gameplay that requires even less effort from the player—hence the name, “idle games.” AdVenture Capitalist (2014) is a free-to-play clicker game that lets players grow their business by earning money and choosing upgrades to help it run successfully.
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