The video game industry is vast, including a number of genres and sub-genres, designed to draw the interest of the diverse clientele known as gamers. But, what separates an action game from an adventure game? Are first person shooters their own genre, or part of the larger action category? What if it is a first person shooter with a horror theme?
The lines between one genre and the next can be blurry, with a wide variety of titles belonging to two, or even three, possible categories. With that in mind, here is an introduction to some of the most popular video game genres, and what makes them unique.
A staple for arcades, the fighting genre pits on players against another, or against an AI-controlled opponent, in rounds of single combat. The goal is simply to exchange blows while attempting to get your opponent’s health bar to zero before yours. Most featured up to three rounds per battle, with the winner of two out of three being declared the winner. If a player is the winner, they then advance to the next battle in line.
Racing games come in a variety of formats, but all feature racing at their core. Whether you have access to a garage full of cars that actually exist, like with Gran Turismo, or prefer the more cartoonish approach of Mario Kart, the goal is to get around the track faster than your opponents. Winning races sometimes open’s opportunities to improve the virtual cars and unlock additional tracks, while others are purely for bragging rights.
Similar to racing in regards of the simplicity of the premise, sports games have players simulate the experience of playing a particular sport. Most professional sports, such as football and basketball, are represented, as well as combat sports, like UFC and extreme sports, like trick skateboarding. Players either work to win games or score points, depending on the exact sport involved.
First Person Shooters
The first person shooter got its name based on the perspective the player is the character. Instead of seeing the entire character within the environment, players are positioned to see how the character would see, including seeing the arms and weapons protruding into the view.
Game play focuses on players working (shooting) their way through a variety of scenarios, following a particular storyline. Some of the quintessential examples include the Call of Duty, Battlefield, and DOOM franchises.
Real Time Strategy
Real-time strategy allows players to control large armies, developing their weapons and bases, and working towards a specific mission. It is the video game equivalent to chess, with each side making a series of moves to try and outdo the other.
One of the games that originally popularised the genre on a large scale was the Command and Conquer series, while Dawn of War and Age of Empires are more recognised examples today.
The RPG, or Role Playing Game is one of the more story rich options available in gaming today, but often still features a strong combat aspect. Players lead characters through stories, making various choices along the way that impact the story’s conclusion. Free online versions are available, like Stick RPG 2, as well as titles in a traditional console and computer formats, such as the Mass Effect series.
RPGs played online in open worlds full of other players are classified as MMORPGs or Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games. One of the most recognised names in MMORPGs is World of Warcraft (WoW), though the genre was popular before WoW entered the market.
The Multiplayer Online Battle Arena or MOBA genre has players controlling a single character in an online landscape, working with (or fighting against) other players who are doing the same. Unlike an MMORPG, a MOBA focuses primarily on player versus player, or team versus team, combat, at times including AI-controlled characters that must also be dealt with.
A primary feature of an adventure game is the presence of a well-developed story. Many of these games function more like an interactive movie than a traditional RPG. Some of the best examples of adventure games include little, if any, combat.
Instead, players make a series of decisions that directs the course of the story, and the life of the character they are playing. Some of the best recent examples include the Walking Dead series and Life is Strange.
I leave horror for last as it is not a complete genre on its own. Most horror games function using the premise of another genre, such as first person shooter or RPG, while having the story and experience focus on horror themes. A game classifying as horror is more about how the experience makes the player feel than how it is played.