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A video game genre is a specific category of games related by similar gameplay characteristics. Genres are not usually defined by the actual content of the game or its medium of play, but by its common challenge.[1]

Genres may encompass a wide variety of games, leading to even more specific classifications called subgenres. For example, an action game can be classified into many subgenres such as platform games and fighting games. Some games, most notably browser and mobile games, are commonly classified into multiple genres.[1][2]

The following is a list of all commonly defined video game genres, with short descriptions for individual genres and major subgenres.

Action[edit]

Main article: Action game

Action games emphasize physical challenges that require eye-hand coordination and motor skill to overcome. They center around the player, who is in control of most of the action. Most of the earliest video games were considered action games; today, it is still a vast genre covering all games that involve physical challenges.

Action games are classified by many subgenres. Platform games and fighting games are among the best-known subgenres, while shooter games became and continue to be one of the dominant genres in video gaming since the 1990s.[3] Action games usually involve elements of twitch gameplay.[3]

Platform games[edit]

Main article: Platform game

Platform games (or platformers) involve players jumping and climbing, while avoiding obstacles and battling enemies to navigate their environment. Settings are often vertically exaggerated with lots of uneven terrain that the player can leap to or fall off of. Characters in platform games are typically able to jump many times their own height and players are offered some control over their movement in midair as well as the height and distance of their jumps.[2]

Donkey Kong was one of the earliest and best-known platformers; the American gaming press classified it using the term climbing game at the time.[5]Super Mario Bros. was one of the best-selling games of all time; more than 40 million copies were sold (excluding Game Boy Advance and Virtual Console sales).[6]Jumping Flash! was the first console platformer to incorporate 3D graphics.[7]

Shooter games[edit]

Main article: Shooter game

In shooter games (or simply shooters), players use ranged weapons to participate in the action, which takes place at a distance.[2] Most shooters involve violent gameplay; lethal weaponry is used to damage opponents. However, some shooters, such as Splatoon, have non-violent objectives.

Shooters, aside from subgenre classifications, can be further classified by their perspective of play. First-person shooters are played within the protagonist's perspective; they often include a heads-up display displaying key information such as the current health of the protagonist.[9] In third-person shooters, the protagonist's body can be seen fully; the environment is rendered from a distance.[9] Some shooters incorporate both perspectives.[2]

Hero shooters are either multiplayer first- or third-person shooters that strongly encourage cooperative play between players on a single team through the use of pre-designed "hero" characters that each possess unique attributes, skills, weapons, and other activated abilities. While setting up a match, players on a team typically must each select a different hero than those selected by teammates, and as the match progresses, the players gains experience to unlock more powerful abilities for their hero. Outside of a match, players have the ability to customize the appearance of the heroes but with no other in-game effects. Such games are inspired by multiplayer online battle arena games like Dota 2 and League of Legends, and popular team-based shooters like Team Fortress 2. Examples of hero shooters include Gigantic, Overwatch, and Paladins: Champions of the Realm.[10]

Light gun shooters are controlled with a gun-shaped controller; light guns function via a light sensor, hence the name "light gun". The technology has been used as early as the 1920s for shooter games, although electronic video gaming did not exist at that time.

Shoot 'em ups pit players, who are usually piloting some form of flying vehicle, or flying by some other means, against large waves of opponents; the player is continuously moving and must attack and avoid opponent's attacks as well as obstacles.[11]

Since the 1990s, shooters, most notably first-person shooters, have become widely successful in video gaming, accounting for a large percentage of video game sales.[12]Wolfenstein 3D, created by Id Software and released in 1992, was credited for pioneering gameplay and graphics elements incorporated by many other shooters.[13] Also developed by Id and published one year after Wolfenstein 3D's release, Doom is broadly considered to be one of the most influential games in video gaming history.[13] Other successful shooter series include Half-Life, a widely acclaimed and commercially successful series noted for its influence on contemporary shooters; and the Call of Duty franchise, with more than 175 million sales across all its titles.[14]

Fighting games and beat 'em ups[edit]

Main article: Fighting game

Main article: Beat 'em up

Fighting games center around close-range combat against a small number of equally powerful opponents, often involving violent and exaggerated unarmed attacks against opponents. While ranged and melee weapons may be present in fighting games, they emphasize hand-to-hand combat.[2]Beat 'em ups (or brawlers) are a related, but distinct genre; they both involve close-range combat, but beat 'em ups pit players against large waves of opponents as opposed to a few.[2][11] Many fighting games incorporate heavily emphasized attacks based on various martial arts systems. Fighting games were one of the dominant genres in video gaming until the late-1990s, where the genre saw a general decline. Fighting games released after the late-1990s, including ones that are part of popular franchises, did not attain the popularity of earlier fighting games.[15] Beat 'em ups saw a sudden decline in popularity in the same time period, but 3D beat 'em ups have kept the genre alive.[16]

Stealth game[edit]

Main article: Stealth game

These games tend to emphasize subterfuge and precision strikes over the more overt mayhem of shooters, for example, the Metal Gear series, and the Sly Cooper series. In a Stealth game, players are usually still able to engage in loud, conspicuous combat, but are often punished for it. Other games, such as Dishonored, the player can obtain their goal with or without stealth, but stealth is encouraged. The inclusion of stealth as a mechanic in a game does not necessarily make it a Stealth Game. For example, Skyrim has an entire perk tree dedicated to "Sneaking", but there few opportunities to use it effectively until the player invests dozens of perks into it, and most of the dungeons in the game are set up in favor of the hack-and-slash strategy that most players adopt.[original research?]

Survival games[edit]

Main article: Survival game

Survival games start the player off with minimal resources, in a hostile, open-world environment, and require them to collect resources, craft tools, weapons, and shelter, in order to survive as long as possible. Many are set in procedurally-generated environments, and are open-ended with no set goals. They may overlap with the survival horror genre, in which the player must survive within a supernatural setting, such as a zombie apocalypse.

A battle royale game is a video game genre that blends the survival, exploration and scavenging elements of a survival game with last man standing gameplay. Battle royale games challenge a large number of players, starting with minimal equipment, to search for weapons and armor and eliminate other opponents, while trying to stay in safe playable area which shrinks as the time passes, with the winner being the last competitor in the game. Notable battle royale games are PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds,Fortnite and upcoming Paladins: Battlegrounds.

Rhythm games[edit]

Main article: Rhythm game

Rhythm game or rhythm action is a genre of music-themed action video game that challenges a player's sense of rhythm. The genre includes dance games such as Dance Dance Revolution and music-based games such as Donkey Konga and Guitar Hero. Games in the genre challenge the player to press buttons at precise times: the screen shows which button the player is required to press, and the game awards points both for accuracy and for synchronization with the beat.

PaRappa the Rapper has been deemed the first influential rhythm game; whose basic template formed the core of subsequent games in the genre. Other popular rhythm games include Dance Dance Revolution, Maimai, Project Diva, Cytus, Love Live: School Idol Festival, The Idolmaster, Osu, Taiko no Tatsujin, Crypt of the Necrodancer, etc.

Action-adventure[edit]

Main article: Action-adventure game

Action-adventure games combine elements of their two component genres, typically featuring long-term obstacles that must be overcome using a tool or item as leverage (which is collected earlier), as well as many smaller obstacles almost constantly in the way, that require elements of action games to overcome. Action-adventure games tend to focus on exploration and usually involve item gathering, simple puzzle solving, and combat. "Action-adventure" has become a label which is sometimes attached to games which do not fit neatly into another well known genre.

The first action-adventure game was the Atari 2600 game Adventure (1979). It was directly inspired by the original text adventure, Colossal Cave Adventure. In the process of adapting a text game to a console with only a joystick for control, designer Warren Robinett created a new genre. Another typical Action-Adventure game is "The Legend of Zelda" by Nintendo, which involves puzzle solving, sword fighting, and item collecting. Because of their prevalence on video game consoles and the absence of typical adventure games, action-adventure games are often called "adventure games" by modern gamers.

Survival horror[edit]

Survival horror games focus on fear and attempt to scare the player via traditional horror fiction elements such as atmospherics, death, the undead, blood and gore. One crucial gameplay element in many of these games is the low quantity of ammunition, or number of breakable melee weapons. Notable examples include Silent Hill and Resident Evil.

Metroidvania[edit]

Metroidvania games (named after its two first well-known franchises, Metroid and Castlevania) feature a large interconnected world map the player can explore, but access to parts of the world is limited by doors or other obstacles that can only be opened after the player has acquired special tools, weapons or abilities within the game. Acquiring such improvements also aids the player in defeating more difficult enemies and locating shortcuts and secret areas, and often includes retracing one's steps across the map. Metroidvanias usually do not consist of any linear gameplay and often involve lots of backtracking - especially after new powerups or tools have been obtained. Bossfights are also a staple of metroidvanias, without which they would be considered puzzle or adventure games[citation needed].

Adventure[edit]

Main article: Adventure game

Adventure games were some of the earliest games created, beginning with the text adventure Colossal Cave Adventure in the 1970s. That game was originally titled simply "Adventure," and is the namesake of the genre. Over time, graphics have been introduced to the genre and the interface has evolved.

Unlike adventure films, adventure games are not defined by story or content. Rather, adventure describes a manner of gameplay without reflex challenges or action. They normally require the player to solve various puzzles by interacting with people or the environment, most often in a non-confrontational way. It is considered a "purist" genre and tends to exclude anything which includes action elements beyond a mini game.

Because they put little pressure on the player in the form of action-based challenges or time constraints, adventure games have had the unique ability to appeal to people who do not normally play video games. The genre peaked in popularity with the 1993 release of Myst, the best-selling PC game of all time up to that point.[17] The simple point and click interface, detailed worlds and casual pace made it accessible, and its sense of artistic surrealism caused news outlets such as Wired Magazine, The New York Times and the San Francisco Chronicle to declare that the gaming industry had matured.[18][19] It had four proper sequels, but none managed to experience the same level of success. The success of Myst also inspired many others to create similar games with first person perspectives, surreal environments and minimal or no dialogue, but these neither recaptured the success of Myst nor of earlier personality-driven adventures.[citation needed]

In the late 1990s the genre suffered a large drop in popularity, mass-market releases became rare, and many proclaimed the adventure game to be dead. More accurately, it has become a niche genre. Adventure games are not entirely uncommon, but they tend to be very low budget in anticipation of modest sales. The genre was somewhat rejuvenated with the release of The Longest Journey in 1999, which emphasized stronger story elements and more interaction with different characters. A recent resurgence of adventure games on Nintendo consoles might signify a new interest in the genre.[20] A successful Kickstarter campaign in 2012, run by Doublefine Studios, also spoke to the continued interest in Adventure games. The game produced as a result was mired in controversy and production delays, and to some, signalled the true end of the genre outside of niche markets.

Text adventures[edit]

The earliest adventure games were text adventures, also known as interactive fiction. Games such as the popular Zork series of the late 1970s and early 1980s allowed the player to use a keyboard to enter commands such as "get rope" or "go west" while the computer describes what is happening. A great deal of programming went into parsing the player's text input.

Graphic adventures[edit]

Graphic adventure games emerged as graphics became more common. Adventure games began to supplement and later on replace textual descriptions with visuals (for example, a picture of the current location). Early graphic adventure games used text-parsers to input commands. The growing use of mice led to the "point-and-click" genre of adventure games, where the player would no longer have to type commands. The player could, for example, click on a hand icon and then on a rope to pick up the rope.

Visual novels[edit]

A visual novel(ビジュアルノベル,bijuaru noberu) is a game featuring mostly static graphics, usually with anime-style art. As the name might suggest, they resemble mixed-media novels or tableau vivant stage plays. Many visual novels track statistics that the player must build in order to advance the plot, and permit a variety of endings, allowing more dynamic reactions to the player's actions than a typical linear adventure plot. Many visual novels are dating sims, including bishōjo games. Visual novels are especially prevalent in Japan, where they make up nearly 70% of PC games released.[21] They are rarely produced for video game consoles, but the more popular games are sometimes ported to systems such as the Dreamcast or the PlayStation 2. The market for visual novels outside Japan, however, was nearly non-existent prior to the success of the Nintendo DS, for which several Japanese visual novels were released in the West, such as the Ace Attorney series.

Interactive movie[edit]

The interactive movie genre came about with the invention of laserdiscs. An interactive movie contains pre-filmed full-motioncartoons or live-action sequences, where the player controls some of the moves of the main character. For example, when in danger, the player decides which move, action, or combination to choose. In these games, the only activity the player has is to choose or guess the move the designers intend him to make. Interactive movies usually differ from games that simply use full motion video, FMV, extensively between scenes in that they try to integrate it into the gameplay itself. This has been used in everything from racing games to fighting games. A few adventure game have tried to use the term to liken the storytelling of their games to those in movies, most notably the later Tex Murphy games and the more recent Fahrenheit (Indigo Prophecy),[22] although they are more aptly classified as genre hybrids. Elements of interactive movies have been adapted for game cut scenes, in the form of Quick Time Events, to keep the player alert. Games like Resident Evil 4 present obvious in-game prompts for the player to react to. Not doing so usually results in the player character either getting hurt or outright killed.

Real-time 3D adventures[edit]

Around this time, real-time 3D adventure games appeared. These included Nightfall in 1998, Shenmue in 1999, realMyst in 2000, Shadow of Memories in 2001, and Uru: Ages Beyond Myst in 2003. They augmented traditional adventure gameplay with some of the attributes more commonly associated with action games. For example, freedom of motion and physics-based behavior.

Role-playing[edit]

Main article: Role-playing video game

See also: History of role-playing video games

Role-playing video games draw their gameplay from traditional [not always] role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons. Most of these games cast the player in the role of one or more "adventurers" who specialize in specific skill sets (such as melee combat or casting magic spells) while progressing through a predetermined storyline. Many involve manoeuvring these character(s) through an overworld, usually populated with monsters, that allows access to more important game locations, such as towns, dungeons, and castles. Since the emergence of affordable home computers coincided with the popularity of paper and pencil role-playing games, this genre was one of the first in video games and continues to be popular today. Gameplay elements strongly associated with RPG, such as statistical character development through the acquisition of experience points, have been widely adapted to other genres such as action-adventure games. Though nearly all of the early entries in the genre were turn-based games, many modern role-playing games progress in real-time. Thus, the genre has followed the strategy game's trend of moving from turn-based to real-time combat. The move to real-time combat began with the release of Square's (now Square Enix's) Final Fantasy IV, the first game to use the Active Time Battle system; this was quickly followed by truly real-time role-playing games such as the Mana series, Soul Blazer and Ultima VII. Some throwbacks to older turn-based system did exist such as the Golden Sun series for Game Boy Advance.

Action RPG[edit]

The action role-playing game or action RPG is a type of role-playing video game which incorporates elements from action games or action-adventure games. The first action role-playing games were produced by Nihon Falcom in the 1980s, such as the Dragon Slayer series and Ys series. Later so-called "Diablo clones" are also part of this genre. Although the precise definition of the genre varies, the typical action RPG features a heavy emphasis on combat, often simplifying or removing non-combat attributes and statistics and the effect they have on the character's development.[23] Additionally, combat always takes place using a real-time system (hence the "action") that relies on the player's ability to perform particular actions with speed and accuracy to determine success, rather than mainly using the player character's attributes to determine this. Typically action RPG focus more on the collection of randomized treasure than story progression that is found in other types of RPG.[citation needed]

MMORPG[edit]

Massively multiplayer online role-playing games, or MMORPG, emerged in the mid to late 1990s as a commercial, graphical variant of text-based MUDs, which had existed since 1978. By and large, MMORPG feature the usual RPG objectives of completing quests and strengthening one's player character, but involve up to hundreds of players interacting with each other on the same persistent world in real-time. The massively multiplayer concept was quickly combined with other genres. Fantasy MMORPG, like Final Fantasy XI, The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar, and The Elder Scrolls Online, remain the most popular type of MMOG, with the most popular "pay-to-play" game being World of Warcraft, and the most popular "free-to-play" games including RuneScape and TERA, yet other types of MMORPG are appearing. Sci-fi MMORPG, which began with Phantasy Star Online, hold a smaller part of the MMOG market, with the popular space sci-fi game EVE Online being the most notable. Other massively multiplayer online games which do not have a conventional RPG setting include Second Life and Ingress.

Roguelikes[edit]

The roguelike video game subgenre borrows its name and gameplay elements from the 1980 computer game Rogue. Superficially, a roguelike is a two-dimensional dungeon crawl with a high degree of randomness and an emphasis on statistical character development. Though traditionally featuring a text user interface, many such games utilize graphic tiles to overcome character set limitations, for example: Pixel Dungeon on PC, Android and iOS.

Tactical RPG[edit]

The tactical role-playing game subgenre principally refers to games which incorporate gameplay from strategy games as an alternative to traditional RPG systems.[24] Like standard RPG, the player controls a finite party and battles a similar number of enemies, but this genre incorporates strategic gameplay such as tactical movement on an isometric grid.[24] The genre has its origins in tabletop role-playing games, where each player has time to decide his or her character's action.

Sandbox RPG[edit]

Sandbox RPG or Open World RPG allow the player a large amount of freedom and usually contain a somewhat more open free-roaming (meaning the player is not confined to a single path restricted by rocks or fences etc.) world. Sandbox RPG contain similarities to other sandbox games such as the Grand Theft Auto series, with a large number of interactable NPCs, large amount of content and typically some of the largest worlds to explore and longest playtimes of all RPG due to an impressive amount of secondary content not critical to the game's main storyline. Sandbox RPG often attempt to emulate an entire region of their setting. Popular examples of this subgenre include the Dragon Slayer series by Nihon Falcom, the early Dragon Quest games by Chunsoft, Zelda II by Nintendo, Wasteland by Interplay Entertainment, the SaGa and Mana series by Squaresoft, System Shock 2 by Irrational Games and Looking Glass Studios, Deus Ex by Ion Storm, The Elder Scrolls and Fallout series by Bethesda Softworks and Interplay Entertainment, Fable by Lionhead Studios, the Gothic series by Piranha Bytes, the Xenoblade series by Monolith Soft, and the Souls series by From Software.

First-person party-based RPG[edit]

Also known as DRPG (Dungeon RPG), this subgenre consists of RPGs where the player leads a party of adventurers in first-person perspective through a dungeon or labyrinth, typically in a grid-based environment. Examples include the aforementioned Wizardry, Might and Magic and Bard's Tale series; as well as the Etrian Odyssey and Elminage series. Games of this type are also known as "blobbers", since the player moves the entire party around the playing field as a single unit, or "blob".[25][26]

Most "blobbers" are turn-based, but some titles such as the Dungeon Master, Legend of Grimrock and Eye of the Beholder series are played in real-time. Early games in this genre lack an automap feature, forcing players to draw their own maps in order to keep track of their progress. Environmental and spatial puzzles are common, meaning players may have to, for instance, move a stone in one part of the level in order to open a gate in another part of the level.[citation needed]

Cultural differences[edit]

Cultural differences in role-playing video games have caused RPG to tend towards two sets of characteristics sometimes referred to as Western and Japanese RPG (also referred to as "WRPG" or "JRPG"). The first ("WRPG") often involves the player creating a character and a non-linear storyline along which the player makes his own decisions. In the second type ("JRPG"), the player controls a party of predefined characters through a dramatically scripted linear storyline (though there are additional features such as Xenoblade Chronicles which contains action elements and sandbox environments). There are described advantages to—and dedicated fans of—each system, including fans of Western RPG in East Asia and Japanese RPG in Europe/North America. Western RPG include the Fallout series and Elder Scrolls series, while Japanese RPG include the Final Fantasy series and Dragon Quest series.

Choices[edit]

See also: Nonlinear gameplay in role-playing games, Nonlinear narrative in video games, and Action role-playing game § Choices and consequences

Some RPG give the player several choices in how their story will unfold. Typically the player can have an effect on whether the enemies in the game will be taken out lethally or non-lethally. This is very popular because it makes the player have to deal with the consequences of their own choices whenever they fail to save someone or don't get the ending they desired, for example. This makes for a much more interactive experience between gamers and gameplay, also explaining their popularity. Some notable examples include the Minecraft: Story Mode series, Megami Tensei, SaGa, Mass Effect and Elder Scrolls series.

Fantasy[edit]

Due to RPG origins with Dungeons & Dragons and other pen and paper role-playing games, the most popular setting for RPG by far is a fantasy world, usually with heavy medieval high fantasy influences, with series such as Diablo, Final Fantasy, Elder Scrolls and Baldur's Gate sharing a basic fantasy setting. However, numerous exceptions exist, with some notable examples including the East Asian settings of Far East of Eden and Jade Empire, the steampunk settings of Final Fantasy VI and Grandia, the science fiction settings of Star Ocean, Xeno, Knights of the Old Republic, and Mass Effect, the retro-futuristic setting of Fallout, and the contemporary settings of Mother, Megami Tensei and Alpha Protocol.

Simulation[edit]

Main article: Simulation video game

Simulation video games is a diverse super-category of games, generally designed to closely simulate aspects of a real or fictional reality.

Construction and management simulation[edit]

Main article: Construction and management simulation

Construction and management simulations (or CMS) 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. Perhaps the most known game of this type is SimCity, which is still popular and has had great influence on later city-building games. SimCity

Platform games are set in an environment with platforms, hence the name platform game.
This picture shows gameplay of a freely licensed version of Doom, a highly influential first-person shooter.
This picture shows gameplay of a shoot 'em up.
KQ is a role-playing game
Video showing basic point and click action RPG gameplay.
Nethack is a roguelike game. The text display seen here is common in games in the roguelike genre.
Screenshot of Damnation of Gods, a Dungeon Master clone. All four members of the players's party move around the game world as a single unit in first-person perspective.

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