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The World of Video Game Genres: How to Choose One For You

April 30, 2024

While video game genres used to have clear distinctions, the landscape has become increasingly diverse. With various genres and sub-genres emerging, game developers constantly experiment with new combinations, leading to a dynamic and ever-evolving gaming environment.

Studios operate within tight schedules and seize opportunities by following trends. To stay informed, we offer insights into the evolving world of game genres. From the point of view of a custom game development company, we created a curated list that delves into the most relevant video game categories today, providing valuable knowledge for enthusiasts and industry professionals alike.

What are Video Game Genres?

A video game genre describes a particular style or category of games exhibiting similar mechanics, ideologies, or traits. These genres of games are dynamic, often featuring numerous sub-categories and overlapping principles. For instance, a 2D platformer game may integrate elements of character skill progression typically found in RPGs.

Video game genres are classifications of games sharing similar gameplay and mechanics. For instance, the role-playing game (RPG) is a cornerstone genre, captivating millions worldwide daily. In RPGs, players embody characters who grow in strength and expertise while overcoming progressively challenging obstacles and levels.

Moreover, most video game genres boast sub-genres, refining and delineating categories further. For instance, one finds Action RPGs, MMORPGs, Roguelike RPGs, Tactical RPGs, Sandbox RPGs, and others within the RPG genre. In contemporary gaming, it's also common for titles to blend elements from various genres. Nonetheless, most games can be classified into approximately 10 to 15 distinct game types.

Video Game Genres Market Overview

In the expansive global video game market, encompassing computer, console, mobile, and social gaming, several key players are driving the surge in gaming popularity. Delving into crucial aspects such as gamer demographics, platform preferences, and industry-wide trends, let’s explore detailed gamer statistics for 2024:

  • In 2023, the global gamer population stood at 3.220 bn, projected to reach 3.320 bn by the end of 2024.
  • Asia boasts the highest number of gamers, with 1.48 bn, followed by Europe, with 715 m.
  • In the United States, males comprise 55% of the gaming population, while females account for 45%.
  • PC remains the preferred gaming platform among game developers.
  • Globally, 66% of gamers engage in video games for relaxation.
  • The United States is home to over 3,000 esports players.
  • In 2023, the gaming industry in the US generated a revenue of $90 bn.
  • Worldwide, there are 618 m gamers aged below 18.

Currently, 3.2 bn individuals worldwide indulge in gaming activities across various platforms such as smartphones, PCs, PlayStations, and more. However, the motivations driving each gamer can vary significantly. Some seek relaxation, others crave entertainment, and some simply desire to fill their time during breaks or commutes. Here's a breakdown showcasing the diverse reasons behind gamers' choices:

ReasonNumber of GamersPercentage
Relaxation and unwinding2.04 bn66%
Fill time while taking a break, waiting, or commuting1.61 bn52%
Entertainment1.58 bn51%
Alone time with yourself1.48 bn48%
Solve a problem, use my brain, and think logically1.14 bn37%
Be comforted0.99 bn32%

The data clearly shows that relaxation is the primary motive for 66% of gamers.

Discovering the Types of Game Genres

The highlighted trends in video game genres serve as essential insights for developers in 2024. Understanding these shifts in the market is crucial for predicting future trends and aligning development strategies with genres that demonstrate growth and resonance with audiences.

But what distinguishes these genres of games, and what unique features do they offer? Let’s look at the most popular game genres of 2023-2024, including Shooter, Adventure, Role-Playing, Battle Royale, Strategy, Sports, Puzzle, and Idle. Subsequently, we will broaden our discussion to encompass these categories more, enhancing our understanding of the diverse gaming landscape.

Most Popular Video Game Genres

The current leading video game genres include action, adventure, and RPG. However, these rankings are subject to change. A single groundbreaking game has the potential to disrupt the entire market landscape. Consider the impact of casual game development and mobile games like Pokémon Go, Candy Crush Saga, and Angry Birds, which have significantly influenced the industry in recent years.

While numerous video game genres exist, some are particularly prevalent. Sports, strategy, role-playing, action, adventure, and horror are widely recognized as among the most common genres in gaming. The leading video game genres fluctuate over time, reflecting shifts in popular culture. Among the enduring top genres in games are action, horror, fantasy, and puzzle games. Let’s explore the variety of genres and see what games we have here.

List of Video Game Genres

1. Role-playing games

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla

Role-playing games have their roots in tabletop RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons. In these games, players assume the role of a single character, often customizable, who grows stronger and learns new skills as the game progresses.

As players overcome challenges and adversaries, their characters earn experience points, which can be used to acquire new abilities, ensuring the game remains engaging and balanced even as it becomes more difficult.

What defines a standout RPG? It combines a captivating storyline, a sense of character progression, and memorable characters, complemented by solid gameplay mechanics and high-quality visuals. A hallmark of RPGs is the player's sense of agency, where the game unfolds according to their choices rather than following a predetermined path.

RPG enthusiasts are drawn to the genre in games for its rich narratives, imaginative settings, character customization, and progression systems. However, RPGs can be expansive and complex, potentially overwhelming for some players.

Japanese Role-Playing Games (JRPGs) and Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPGs) represent two distinct sub-categories within the RPG genre of video games.

JRPGs typically feature a broader array of playable characters and follow a more linear narrative path. In contrast, MMORPGs provide an open-world experience with single-character progression within a shared online environment, often accommodating hundreds of players simultaneously.

Notable RPG titles include:

  • Final Fantasy 7: Remake;
  • Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim;
  • Assassin’s Creed Valhalla;
  • Persona 5 Royal;
  • World of Warcraft.

2. Sandbox games

Minecraft

Minecraft

These kinds of games, also known as Sandbox RPGs, immerse players in expansive open worlds teeming with enemies, dungeons, towns, castles, and various points of interest. While there's typically a main storyline to follow, players can approach it as they see fit.

A quality sandbox game offers a variety of activities and characters to engage with beyond the main narrative. Side quests, jobs, mini-games, and collectible hunting are just a few options, allowing players to explore at their own pace without feeling pressured by the game's storyline.

These games provide an immersive experience tailored to each player's preferences. They encourage creativity and empower players to tackle challenges in their preferred manner. However, the vast size of open worlds can be daunting for newcomers, and the time investment required can be considerable.

Some standout sandbox games include:

  • Grand Theft Auto 5;
  • Elden Ring;
  • Minecraft;
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild;
  • Red Dead Redemption 2.

3. Survival horror

Evil Dead: The Game

Evil Dead: The Game

These games are characterized by their primary theme of horror, a genre that has thrived since the early days of PlayStation. These games typically blend elements of slasher films, science fiction, and psychological thrillers, immersing players in hostile and intense environments.

In survival horror games, players often feel underpowered and vulnerable due to limited resources such as ammunition, crafting materials, speed, and visibility. Players are frequently challenged to scavenge for items that unlock new paths or solve puzzles to progress towards the game's conclusion. You may think twice before diving into a survival horror game if you do not like jump scares, eerie environments, or classic horror tropes commonly found in films.

Here are some of the most popular survival horror games:

  • The Evil Within 2;
  • Alien: Isolation;
  • Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, Resident Evil: Village;
  • Silent Hill 2;
  • Evil Dead: The Game.

4. Sports games

FIFA 22

FIFA 22

These games replicate popular physical sports in video game form, offering versions of every professional sport imaginable. They vary in style, focusing on fun and user-friendly controls, while others prioritize realistic simulation to capture the essence of playing the sport.

Simulation-style sports games aim for authenticity, striving to recreate the realism and experience of the sport. They are widely popular worldwide and constitute a significant portion of the online gaming market.

Additionally, some sports games emphasize strategy over action, such as Football Manager, which relies on tactics and knowledge rather than reflexes and skill. One drawback of sports games is their tendency to become outdated quickly due to the dynamic nature of real sports. As a result, updated versions are released annually, often featuring minor changes like roster updates and new mechanics.

For sports enthusiasts, here are some popular genre choices:

  • FIFA 22;
  • Madden 22;
  • Mario Strikers: Battle League Football;
  • Football Manager 2022;
  • NBA 2K22.

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Cricket Manager

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5. Racing games

Gran Turismo 7

Gran Turismo 7

In racing games, the primary objective is for vehicles to compete against each other to reach the finish line first, making them a distinct subset of sports-themed games. This classic genre of games has been a staple since the early days of computer gaming, allowing players to showcase their driving skills in thrilling competitions.

Like sports games, racing games come in two main types: simulation and kart-style. Simulation racing games strive for realism, meticulously recreating the physics and mechanics of real-life driving experiences. On the other hand, kart-style racing games prioritize fun and excitement over realism, featuring vibrant visuals, quirky characters, and exaggerated physics.

For automotive culture enthusiasts, titles like Gran Turismo or Forza offer a comprehensive celebration of the internal combustion engine. While racing is the central focus, players can spend countless hours customizing and fine-tuning their vehicles to suit their preferences before hitting the track. However, racing games may not appeal to everyone, particularly those uninterested in fast cars and motorcycles.

Here are some notable racing games to consider:

  • Gran Turismo 7;
  • F1 2022;
  • Forza Horizon 5;
  • Super Mario Kart 8 Deluxe;
  • Hot Wheels Unleashed.

6. Action-adventure games

The Last of Us 2

The Last of Us 2

The action-adventure genre blends elements from action and adventure games, often incorporating puzzle-solving, inventory management, and survival mechanics. Typically presented in either first or third-person perspective, these games are characterized by their fast-paced gameplay and extravagant set pieces reminiscent of Hollywood blockbusters.

Unlike RPGs, where the narrative unfolds dynamically, action-adventure games provide players with a predefined path. Players are assigned an overarching goal and guided along a linear route, navigating through missions and encounters to progress to the next story checkpoint.

If you enjoy narrative-driven games with intense action sequences, action-adventure games will likely appeal to you. Although generally shorter than RPGs, they offer immersive experiences that can be enjoyed in shorter gaming sessions. However, the linear nature of their gameplay can limit player choice, as progression relies heavily on reaching specific story events. Open-world or RPGs may be more suitable alternatives for players who prefer more freedom in their gaming experience.

Here are some standout action-adventure games:

  • Uncharted: A Thief’s End & The Lost Legacy (available as a bundle);
  • The Last of Us 2;
  • Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart;
  • God of War (2018);
  • Horizon Forbidden West.

7. Fighting games

Tekken 8

Tekken 8

Once at the height of their popularity in the early 90s, fighting games have experienced a notable resurgence in recent years. These hyper-casual games typically feature one-on-one combat between human-controlled characters or CPU-controlled opponents. Variations can include 1v1, 2v2, or even 3v3 matches. The objective remains constant: to defeat your opponent using hand-to-hand combat techniques and maneuvers. While some titles focus on melee weaponry, the ultimate goal is to deplete your opponent's health points through controller button sequences and other movement options.

While fighting games are often accessible, mastering them can be challenging due to their deep mechanics, meta-gameplay, and complex systems. This depth adds longevity to the genre of video games, appealing to hardcore gamers who enjoy delving into intricate strategies. However, the intense complexity of some titles may deter more casual players despite developers' efforts to improve accessibility.

Here are some popular fighting games worth exploring:

  • Street Fighter 5;
  • Mortal Kombat 11;
  • Samurai Shodown;
  • King of Fighters 15;
  • Tekken 8.

8. Platform games

Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy

Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy

Commonly referred to as platformers, they revolve around the core mechanics of running, jumping, and maneuvering across platforms within a virtual environment. While players may encounter enemies along the way, the focus lies primarily on the character's movement rather than combat or weaponry. Levels often serve as puzzles for players to solve, with the ultimate objective progressing from the starting point to the end.

Platformers boast simplicity in design and offer a low barrier to entry, making them accessible to players of all skill levels. They provide quick and uncomplicated fun, making them ideal for short gaming sessions. However, don't mistake their accessibility for easiness; many platformers require precise timing and quick reactions to navigate through challenging levels.

Despite the potential difficulty, platformers remain an entertaining and rewarding genre to explore. Whether you are new to gaming or a seasoned player, there's something inherently enjoyable about their timeless appeal.

Here are some popular platformers to consider:

  • Celeste;
  • Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy;
  • Sonic Frontiers;
  • Cuphead;
  • Hollow Knight.

9. Simulation games

The Sims 4

The Sims 4

They allow players to immerse themselves in a simulated world, often of their design. Life simulation games, in particular, aim to replicate various aspects of real life, whether managing a theme park or nurturing a virtual family. These games empower players to craft their virtual realms, with freedom of choice being a central theme.

If you aspire to be a business tycoon or seek escapism through virtual reality, simulation games cater to various interests. Vehicle simulations are a notable sub-genre, providing realistic experiences of operating different types of vehicles. While simulation games can be daunting due to their vast array of building options, their creative rewards make the learning curve worthwhile.

Here are some top simulation games currently available:

  • Microsoft Flight Simulator;
  • Animal Crossing: New Horizons;
  • Stardew Valley;
  • The Sims 4;
  • Cities: Skylines.

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Farmerama

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10. Real-time strategy (RTS)

Civilization 6

Civilization 6

RTS games prioritize strategic planning over sheer force, challenging players to outmaneuver their opponents. Typically, the objective involves destroying the enemy's main structure with computer-controlled minions that follow predefined paths. In RTS games, players focus on constructing bases or cities, managing resources, and commanding armies to defend their territory and seize control of enemy strongholds.

To succeed, players must strike a delicate balance between resource gathering and allocation, enhancing both offensive and defensive capabilities. This must be done in real time, as opponents simultaneously execute their strategies. RTS games are characterized by rapid decision-making and reflexes. They are typically played using a mouse and keyboard, although console adaptations exist.

Here are some of the most renowned real-time strategy games:

  • StarCraft 2;
  • Age of Empires 4;
  • Civilization 6;
  • Warcraft 3;
  • Command & Conquer.

11. Shooter games

Halo Infinite

Halo Infinite

Encompassing first-person shooter (FPS) and third-person shooter (TPS) genres, they center around gunplay as their core mechanic. FPS games, a subset of action games, are renowned worldwide, with titles like Call of Duty and Halo dominating the scene. Typically set in immersive 3D environments, FPS games offer fast-paced action and intense battles from a first-person perspective, enhancing player immersion.

In contrast, TPS games provide a broader perspective by pulling the camera back, allowing players to view their characters from a distance. This more expansive field of vision offers strategic advantages and a different gameplay experience. While shooter games offer genuine enjoyment, they may present a steep learning curve for newcomers. However, accessibility features and tutorials often help players get into the experience more quickly.

Popular shooter games include:

  • Call of Duty: Vanguard;
  • Doom Eternal;
  • Halo Infinite;
  • Overwatch;
  • Far Cry 6.

12. Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) games

Overwatch

Overwatch

Akin to MMOs, MOBA thrives on competitive online gameplay. Players are tasked with leveling up their hero throughout the match, acquiring skills and abilities to overcome enemy bases. The primary objective in MOBAs is often to capture the opponent's main structure/base or eliminate all opposing players within the arena.

These games emphasize teamwork and collaboration, making them ideal for group play. However, solo players can also enjoy a similar experience. Despite their seemingly straightforward gameplay, MOBAs feature intricate combat systems with real-time variables, adding depth to the experience. The global community for MOBA games is vast, offering opportunities to make new friends and learn from others.

Popular MOBA games include:

  • DOTA;
  • League of Legends;
  • Arena of Valor;
  • Overwatch;
  • Smite.

13. Free-to-play games

Fortnite

Fortnite

While initially free to download and play, they often rely on in-game purchases to generate revenue for developers. These purchases can include extra skins, levels, weapons, and other virtual items that enhance the gaming experience. While these transactions are optional, they offer convenience for players who prefer to accelerate their progress or customize their gameplay.

Fortnite is one of the most prominent examples of a successful free-to-play game, boasting a massive player base and extensive in-game purchases. Other video game genres include:

  • Stealth games;
  • Text games;
  • Battle royale;
  • Strategy;
  • Board games;
  • Mobile;
  • Tower defense;
  • Party games;
  • Trivia;
  • Rhythm games;
  • Exercise.

The Impact of Game Genres on Developers, Sellers, and Gamers

By 2023, the gaming landscape had expanded to encompass over 50,000 games on Steam alone, with nearly 700,000 mobile games available across platforms like the App Store and Google Play.

With such a vast array of options, how does a gamer decide which game to play? A survey of over 1,200 gamers revealed that 74% relied on genre information when purchasing. Consequently, video game genres become the focal point of analyses aiming to provide actionable insights into gaming trends. However, many of these reports lack a rigorous methodology for studying different game genres, which undermines the value of the insights they produce.

One research study utilizes the Five Factor Model, a recognized framework for evaluating personality based on fundamental human traits, to correlate gamers with their genre preferences. The study suggests that introverted individuals are inclined towards "indie" games, although indie games can span among all game genres.

Another study conducted by psychologists identifies gaming addiction as most prevalent among players of MMORPGs, first-person shooters, and action-adventure games. Yet, this study defines FPS as a "kill-or-be-killed game from the player's eye view." However, games like Fashion Police Squad (2022) challenge this definition. In Fashion Police Squad, players combat "fashion crime" by shooting poorly-dressed NPCs and instantly outfitting them in fashionable attire.

Strategies for Making Game Genres Useful

A well-made game with poor marketing is predicted to sell eight times fewer copies than a well-made game with effective marketing. Since genre significantly influences purchasing decisions, accurate genre labeling is crucial for effective marketing. However, different gaming genres can fail for various reasons, like:

  1. Overusing catch-all genres like "action" may not accurately represent the game's unique qualities. Even labels like action-adventure are only assigned to games that genuinely blend action and adventure elements, such as Uncharted 4 (2016). Furthermore, developers of games specify the type of action-adventure based on core gameplay mechanics, distinguishing between titles like Halo (action-adventure shooters) and Spider-man (fighting action adventures).
  2. Complexity in categorizing multifaceted games like Minecraft leads to misclassification into multiple genres. The approach involves categorizing games with multiple gameplay options using a four-value system. This system delineates primary and notable genres, clarifying what activities players can expect. For instance, instead of numerous genre labels in Minecraft, there is a hierarchy of genres, each with prominence and relevance to gameplay.
  3. Labels such as "souls-like" and "Metroidvania" become synonymous with the genres they innovate, potentially limiting audience reach. Terms like ‘souls-like’ and ‘Metroidvania' are not considered genre labels but descriptive terms. While 'souls-like' serves as a shorthand for specific gameplay characteristics, they can be identified as each title's defining genre, themes, and settings.

Through these methods and strategies, it becomes more apparent to determine the genre classification, enabling gamers to understand the gameplay experience offered by each title.

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Elevating Your Game with Game-Ace Services

Delving into the vast array of video game genres unveils a rich and ever-evolving landscape, each offering distinctive allure and challenges. From the mind-bending puzzles of puzzle games to the strategic intricacies of MOBAs, the high-octane thrills of racing games, and the survival instincts tested in survival games, there exists a genre tailored to every player and developer.

At Game-Ace, you can find a full-cycle game development company. We are your reliable partner, ready to bring your projects to life, on time and with precision. Whether sculpting the chilling ambiance of a horror game, the vivid landscapes of an action-packed adventure, or the intricate visuals of a card game, our adept team stands prepared to craft game art that resonates with your audience and enhances your project. Let's collaborate to turn your gaming vision into a fascinating result!

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