Video Game Guide to Genres
What is a Genre?
A genre is a style or form of gameplay that defines what you can expect in terms of controls, rules, or challenges. When creating the genres for VGG we used those that are widely accepted and recognized by the industry and gaming community. After researching many other fora, Wikipedia, and staple video game sites as well as input from VGG's own community, we got to the current list of genres and their definitions. Based on that, some decisions were made regarding which subgenres would appear on the genre list and which wouldn't. Some of the descriptions here are taken from the given genre listing, while others are from Wikipedia.
Genre and Theme - What is the Difference?
Simply put a genre defines gameplay. It gives an idea of what you can expect in terms of controls, rules, or challenges. A theme defines the subject matter or ambience; when or where it takes place and what it contains in terms of characters or setting.
What to do if You Can't Define a Genre?
Some games are really hard to classify. From Seaman to Katamari Damacy, there are some games that just refuse to be pigeonholed. When that is the case, select Other, and discuss the case with the admins.
What Don't We Include?
We receive a lot requests for new genres. Most of them are for genres that are very niche, new, covered under themes, and sometimes are not even a genre at all! Unfortunately, since there are so many genres, sub-genres and even sub-genres of sub-genres, we simply cannot include them all. If you can ascribe at least 100 games to a genre there is a good chance we'll take it.
Genres we do not include:
| Board Game
| A digital imitation of any physical board game.
| Covered under the Board Game theme.
| Games targeted at or used by casual gamers.
| It is not a genre.
| Short for "Independent"; a term used for games made without a publisher's financial support.
| It is not a genre.
| A form of gameplay where you quickly cut down large hordes of enemies.
| A form of gameplay with a large interconnected map, though access to parts of the world is often limited by doors or other obstacles that can only be passed once the player has acquired special items, tools, weapons or abilities within the game.
In the list provided on this page, full 'genres' are in large bold font and 'sub-genres' are listed below in smaller text.
An Action game emphasizes physical challenges, including hand-eye coordination and reaction-time. The genre includes a diverse array of sub-genres.
An action-adventure combines elements of the adventure game genre with various action game elements. It is perhaps the broadest and most diverse genre in gaming, but typically includes the fast pace and quick reflexes of action while telling a story similar to adventure.
Action role-playing games (abbreviated action RPG, action/RPG or ARPG) form a loosely-defined sub-genre of role-playing video games that include some elements of real-time action games. Hack and Slash games are part of this genre.
Beat 'em Up
Beat 'em up (also known as a brawler) features melee combat between the protagonist and a large numbers of antagonists. These games typically take place in urban settings and feature crime-fighting and revenge based plots, though some games may employ historical or fantasy themes. Multiple player characters and two-player cooperative gameplay are also hallmarks of the genre.
Endless Runner games are a sub-genre of the sub-genre Platform and feature a constantly moving character that players must navigate around obstacles. These games may feature levels with start and finish, or they may never end, but the main factor is a character that never stops moving, timing and dexterity.
The main object of the majority of Endless Runners is to get as far as possible in a level. Many Endless Runner games continually generate an infinite amount of one level. All Endless Runners feature unchangeable momentum.
Fighting has the player control an on-screen character and engages in one-on-one close combat with an opponent. These characters tend to be of equal power and fight matches consisting of several rounds, which take place in an arena.
The platform game (or platformer) is characterized by jumping to and from suspended platforms or over obstacles (jumping puzzles). It must be possible to control these jumps and to fall from platforms or miss jumps. The most common unifying element to these games is a jump button; other jump mechanics include swinging from extendable arms, as in Ristar or Bionic Commando, or bouncing from springboards or trampolines, as in Alpha Waves.
Stealth has the player avoid detection, using stealth to evade or ambush antagonists. Games in the genre employ mechanics such as hiding in shade, disguises, and noise which can alert enemies. Some games allow the player to choose between a stealthy approach or directly attacking antagonists, perhaps rewarding the player for greater levels of stealth. The genre has employed espionage and counter-terrorism themes, with such protagonists as special forces operatives, spies, and ninjas. Some games have employed stealth game elements with those of other genres, such as first-person shooters or platform games.
Survival is a sub-genre of the sub-genre Action Adventure. It has game-play where the player is typically made to feel vulnerable and has limited ammunition, health, and resources. You are challenged to find items, explore, solve puzzles, and to react to unexpected attacks from enemies. Chopping wood to build a home and fishing to obtain food are common elements of the genre.
An adventure or a text mode game in which the player assumes the role of protagonist in an interactive fiction that is driven by exploration and puzzle-solving instead of physical challenges such as combat. The term originates from the 1970s computer game Adventure and relates to the style of gameplay pioneered in that game, rather than the kind of story being told. Action Adventure games have their own genre under action.
Point-and-Click utilizes a cursor to interact with objects displayed on the screen. Newer games eventually incorporated pre-rendered 3D elements and live-action video. First-person Adventures are identical to Point-and-Click, but use a first-person perspective and often feature few or no other characters.
Text Adventure or Interactive fiction, often abbreviated IF, describes software simulating environments in which players use text commands to control characters and influence the environment. Works in this form can be understood as literary narratives and as video games. In common usage, the term refers to text adventures, a type of adventure game where the entire interface is "text-only". As expected from the description, text adventure games should be part of this genre, as does interactive movies.
A Visual Novel is a sub-genre of the sub-genre Text Adventure. Visual novels or interactive movies are distinguished by their mostly static graphics, live-action stills, or video footage and minimal game-play, multiple story-lines, and/or endings typically achieved by intermittent multiple-choice decision points. They are typically (but not always) text heavy and story-driven with strong character development. While most player interaction is limited to clicking to keep the text, graphics, and sound moving not all visual novels limit themselves to clicking through text and may allow the player further interaction with the environment, objects, and characters.
More recent games implement a "play" or "fast-forward" option that now makes replays less tedious or clicking through dialogue unnecessary. Some newer visual novels dubbed "interactive movies" play like a film with occasional promps for player interaction and/or exploration.
Arcade games often have very short levels, simple and intuitive control schemes, and rapidly increasing difficulty. This is due to the environment of the Arcade, where the player is essentially renting the game for as long as whose in-game avatar can stay alive (or until runs out of tokens).
Games on consoles or PCs can be referred to as "arcade games" if they share these qualities or are direct ports of arcade titles. Many independent developers are now producing games in the arcade genre that are designed specifically for use on the Internet. These games are usually designed with Flash/Java/DHTML and run directly in web-browsers.
Pinball is a type of physical arcade game, usually coin-operated, where a player attempts to score points by manipulating one or more metal balls on a playfield inside a glass-covered case called a pinball machine. The primary objective of the game is to score as many points as possible. Secondary objectives are to maximize the time spent playing (by earning extra balls and keeping the ball in play as long as possible) and to earn free games (known as replays). This genre is for games that simulate the physical machine on a computer screen.
Augmented reality (AR) games superimpose computer-generated objects on a real-world environment. The augmentations are generally real-time. In video games, the most common implementation of Augmented reality is the insertion of digital objects into the environment.
AR games often use a physical “marker” to allow the game to recognize and process elements.
Classic games is a broad genre which applies to a variety of recreations of traditional physical games. Card game, board games and casino games are all part of this genre.
Clicker / Incremental
Clicker or Incremental is a genre whose gameplay consists of the player performing simple actions (such as clicking on the screen) repeatedly to gain currency. This can be used to obtain items or abilities that increase the rate at which currency accrues. In some games, even the clicking becomes unnecessary after a time, as the game plays itself, including in the player's absence, hence the moniker "idle game".
Some people call these types of games edutainment because they combine education and entertainment. Closely related to the use of educational games is the use of what is known as Serious games. An educational computer game can be defined as an electronic medium with all the characteristics of a gaming environment that have intended educational outcomes targeted at specific groups of learners.
Maze games have a playing field which is entirely a maze, which players must navigate. Quick thinking and fast reaction times are encouraged by the use of a timer, monsters obstructing the player's way, or multiple players racing to the finish. The most famous game of this genre is Pac-Man.
The party game has become a genre of video games - arguably in 1982, with Starpath's Party Mix. Currently, the most well known example is the Mario Party series. These games are usually best played in multiplayer mode. The games are commonly designed as a collection of simple minigames, designed to be intuitive and easy to control. Some of the games (most notably the Mario Party series) are played out on boardgame boards.
This genre covers video games where the user is presented with trivia questions and must select the right answer. Primarily, these games tend to be multi-player and multiple-choice in their answering, and can have timers to promote rapid gameplay, but other game modes and answering techniques are also covered.
Puzzles are a genre that emphasize puzzle solving. The types of puzzles to be solved can test many problem solving skills including logic, strategy, pattern recognition, sequence solving, and word completion.
These games involve a variety of logical and conceptual challenges, although occasionally the games add time-pressure or other action-elements.
Hidden Object or hidden picture requires the player to find items from a pre-defined list within a picture.
Role-playing video games (RPGs) form a loosely defined genre of computer and video games with origins in pen-and-paper role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons, borrowing much of their terminology, settings and game mechanics. The player in RPGs controls one or several adventuring party members fulfilling one or many quests. The major similarities with pen-and-paper games involve developed story-telling and narrative elements, player character development, complexity, as well as re-playability and immersion. Electronic medium removes the necessity for a gamemaster and increases combat resolution speed. RPGs have evolved from simple text-based console-window games into visually rich 3D experience. Action RPGs have their own entry under Action.
Massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) is a genre of computer role-playing games in which a very large number of players interact with one another within a virtual game world.
As in all RPGs, players assume the role of a fictional character (often in a fantasy world), and take control over many of that character's actions. MMORPGs are distinguished from single-player or small multi-player RPGs by the number of players, and by the game's persistent world, usually hosted by the game's publisher, which continues to exist and evolve while the player is away from the game. This is often referred to as being offline.
The roguelike is a sub-genre of role-playing video games, characterized by randomization for re-playability, permanent death, and turn-based movement. Many early roguelikes featured ASCII graphics. Games are typically dungeon crawls, with many monsters, items, and environmental features. Computer roguelikes usually employ the majority of the keyboard to facilitate interaction with items and the environment. The name of the genre comes from the 1980 game Rogue.
Tactical Role-Playing Game
This sub-genre of role-playing game principally refers to games which incorporate elements from strategy games as an alternative to traditional role-playing game (RPG) systems. Like standard RPGs, the player controls a finite party and battles a similar number of enemies. And like other RPGs, death is usually temporary. But this genre incorporates strategic gameplay such as tactical movement on an isometric grid. Unlike other video game genres, tactical RPGs tend not to feature multiplayer play.
Rhythm game, or rhythm action, is a genre of music-themed action video games. Games in the genre primarily focus either on dancing or simulating the playing of musical instruments. Players must press buttons at a precise time corresponding to a sequence dictated by the game. Doing so will cause the game's protagonist or avatar to dance or play their instrument correctly, thus achieving a greater score. Many rhythm games include multiplayer modes in which players compete for the highest score or cooperate to simulate a band playing together. While conventional control pads may be used as input devices, rhythm games often feature novel devices which emulate musical instruments. Dancing games sometimes require the player to physically dance on a mat, with pressure-sensitive pads acting as the input device.
Exergaming or exer-gaming (a portmanteau of "exercise" and "gaming") is a term used for video games that are also a form of exercise. The genre has been credited with upending the stereotype of gaming as a sedentary activity, and promoting an active lifestyle.
The genre's roots can be found in games released in the late eighties, including Power Pad (or Family Trainer) for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and Foot Craz for the Atari 2600, although both had limited success. Konami's Dance Dance Revolution was cited as one of the first major successes of exergaming; when it was ported from the arcade to PlayStation, it sold over three million copies. In the 2000s, a number of devices and games have used the exergame style to much success: the EyeToy camera has sold over ten million units, while Nintento's Wii Fit has sold in excess of 21 million copies. The term exergaming entered the Collins English Dictionary in 2007.
An open world is a type of video game level design concept where a player can freely roam a virtual world.
The term is sometimes used interchangeably with "sandbox" and "free-roaming"; however, the terms open world and free-roaming describe the game environment itself and allude more to the absence of artificial barriers, in contrast to the invisible walls and loading screens that are common in linear level designs. The term sandbox refers more to the mechanics of a game and how, as in a physical sandbox, the user is entertained by their ability to play creatively, boundless of artificial structural constraints, and with there being "no right way" of playing the game.
A simulation game describes a diverse super-category of computer and video games, generally designed to closely simulate aspects of a real or fictional reality. Some of the most important simulation sub-genres have their own entry on VGG. Simulation should be added too to games of other genres which try to emulate real life. So, a Racing game which has very realistic physics systems is both a Racing and a Simulation game. When a simulation game doesn't fit in one of the sub categories, use this one.
Dating sims (or dating simulations) are a sub-genre of simulation games, usually Japanese, with romantic elements. They are also sometimes put under the category of neoromance. The most common objective of dating sims is to date, usually choosing from among several characters, and to achieve a romantic relationship. The term dating sim is also often used as a synonym for the visual novel genre. However, this is mixing genre and medium, as visual novels are considered a subgenre of adventure games and the term does not cover simulations. While the two genres often share a common visual presentation, dating sims are sometimes considered to be more statistically based than the "choose your own adventure" style of visual novels. For Eróge, or Hentai games, remeber to select the Adult theme besides its mean theme.
Flight simulation is an approximation, or simulation, of flight and various aspects of the flight environment. Flight simulation is used for a variety of reasons, including flight training and aircraft development. Space Flight Simulator should be on this genre, other flight games, except Shoot 'em ups, should be under this genre too.
Virtual Pet games or experiences often have users interacting with and caring for a virtual pet taking such actions as feeding, grooming or otherwise playing with said virtual pets. Life simulation games (or Artificial life games) are simulation games in which the player lives or controls one or more artificial lifeforms. A life simulation game can revolve around "individuals and relationships, or it could be a simulation of an ecosystem". Dating Sims have their own genre showed above under Adventure.
Construction and management simulation games (or CMSs) are a type of simulation game which task players to build, expand or manage fictional communities or projects with limited resources.
In city-building games the player acts as overall planner or leader to meet the needs and wants of game characters by initiating structures for food, shelter, health, spiritual care, economic growth, etc. Success is achieved when the city budget makes a growing profit and citizens experience an upgraded lifestyle in housing, health, and goods. While military development is often included, the emphasis is on economic strength.
A racing game is either in the first or third-person perspective, in which the player partakes in a racing competition with any type of land, air, or sea vehicles. They may be based on anything from real-world racing leagues to entirely fantastical settings. In general, they can be distributed along a spectrum anywhere between hardcore simulations, and simpler arcade racing games.
A sport game is a computer or video game that simulates the playing of traditional sports. Most sports have been recreated with a game, including team sports, athletics and extreme sports. Some games emphasize actually playing the sport (such as the Madden NFL series), whilst others emphasize strategy and organization (such as Championship Manager).
Although shooter is considered a sub-genre of the Action games by some of the industry, nowadays it is such an wide part of it that we consider it a full genre. Shooters includes many sub-genres that have the commonality of focusing "on the actions of the avatar using some sort of weapon. Usually this weapon is a gun, or some other long-range weapon". A common resource found in many shooter games is ammunition. Several sub-genres are listed and should be used where appropriate - Shooter should only be used for any shooter which doesn't fall into an existing sub-genres (e.g. third-person shooters).
First Person Shooter
First-person shooter (FPS) is a video game genre which centers the gameplay around gun- and projectile weapon-based combat through the first person perspective; i.e., the player experiences the action through the eyes of a protagonist. Generally speaking, the first-person shooter shares common traits with other shooter games, which in turn fall under the heading action game.
Light Gun Shooter
Light gun shooter, also called light gun game or simply gun game, is a video game genre in which the primary design element is aiming and shooting with a gun-shaped controller. Light gun shooters revolve around the protagonist shooting targets, either antagonists or inanimate objects.
This is the type of games where the player controls a (mostly human) character in a platform environment with a lot of shooting going on, and the goal is to reach the stage's end without dying. The genre is a mix of platform, action and shooting games.
Shoot 'em Up
In a shoot 'em up (also known as shmup), the player controls a lone character, often a spacecraft or aircraft, shooting large numbers of enemies while dodging their attacks. The genre in turn encompasses various types or sub-genres (e.g. "Bullet Hell"). Shoot 'em ups call for fast reactions and for the player to memories levels and enemy attack patterns.
Strategy game emphasize skillful thinking and planning to achieve victory. They require one to be strategic, tactical, and logistical to overcome challenges. Many games also offer economic challenges and exploration. These games sometimes incorporate physical challenges, but such challenges can annoy strategically minded players.
4X games are a sub-genre of strategy in which players control an empire and "explore, expand, exploit, and "exterminate". The term was first coined by Alan Emrich in his September 1993 preview of Master of Orion for Computer Gaming World. Since then, others have adopted the term to describe games of similar scope and design. 4x Strategy games are commonly part of the Management genre too.
Multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA), also known as action real-time strategy (ARTS), originated as a subgenre of the real-time strategy (RTS) genre of video games, in which a player controls a single character in one of two teams. The objective is to destroy the opposing team's main structure with the assistance of periodically spawned computer-controlled units that march forward along set paths. Player characters typically have various abilities and advantages that improve over the course of a game and that contribute to a team's overall strategy. A fusion of action games and real-time strategy games, players usually do not construct either buildings or units.
Real Time Strategy
RTS games are a sub-genre of strategy, where as in other wargames, the participants position and maneuver units and structures under their control to secure areas of the map and/or destroy their opponents' assets. In a typical RTS it is possible to create additional units and structures during the course of a game. This is generally limited by a requirement to expend accumulated resources. These resources are in turn garnered by controlling special points on the map and/or possessing certain types of units and structures devoted to this purpose. More specifically, the typical game of the RTS genre features resource gathering, absurd bivouacs, in-game technological development and indirect control of units.
Tower defense is a sub-genre of the sub-genre real-time strategy. The goal is to try to stop enemies from crossing the map by building towers which shoot at them as they pass. Enemies and towers usually have varied abilities and costs. When an enemy is defeated, the player earns money or points, which are used to buy or upgrade towers.
Walking simulators are a minimalist genre of games that lack many of the traditional aspects of gameplay - such as a goal, win/lose conditions, or combat. Instead they focus on discovery and story through walking, exploration, and interaction with non-hazardous items in the environment. They sometimes feature puzzles, but these are infrequent or non-existent altogether and are never a key aspect of gameplay. Enemies or some other threat may be present, but "death" is rarely a risk to the player. Instead some other form of punishment, loss, or setback may be implemented.