Video games come in an incredible variety of styles and gameplay experiences. Over the decades, distinct genres have emerged that each offer their own flavors of interactivity. Game genres help players understand at a glance what kinds of challenges and experiences a game will offer. In this guide, we’ll explore the most popular video game genres and their subgenres and highlight some notable examples of each.
Adventure games emphasize story, exploration, puzzle solving, and inventory management over action. Players uncover the narrative at their own pace through point-and-click interfaces or 3D worlds. Puzzles test players’ logic and inventory management skills.
Point-and-Click: Puzzle and story-driven games with a point-and-click interface. Ex: Monkey Island, Grim Fandango
Visual Novels: Text and narrative-focused adventures with minimal gameplay. Ex: Doki Doki Literature Club, Ace Attorney
Interactive Movie: Limited interaction over video playback. Ex: Late Shift, The Bunker
Action games test and reward players’ reflexes, hand-eye coordination, and reaction time. The gameplay is fast-paced, with a focus on combat, explosions, and epic moments. Popular subgenres include shooters, fighting games, hack and slash, and more.
Shooters: First and third-person shooting at enemies. Ex: Doom, Gears of War
Fighting Games: Head-to-head battles with combo systems. Ex: Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat
Hack and Slash: Melee combat against swarms of enemies. Ex: God of War, Dynasty Warriors
Sports games let players experience their favorite sports virtually on the field and as a manager. Controls and rules mirror professional sporting events with varying degrees of realism. Management modes also allow guiding a franchise to championships. This game genre is always a trend in the video game industry.
Simulation: Realistic physics and controls aim to capture authentic gameplay. Ex: FIFA, NBA 2K
Arcade: Simplified pickup and play experiences focusing on fun. Ex: NBA Jam, NFL Blitz
Management: Build teams through trades, drafts, and training. Ex: Football Manager, OOTP Baseball
Simulations replicate real-world activities, from piloting vehicles to running a business. Some aim for utter realism, while others take the artistic license of game art services for fun and accessibility. Management, construction, sports, and vehicles are common subjects.
Flight Sims: Piloting aircraft in authentic arcade flight models. Ex: Microsoft Flight Sim, Ace Combat
Business/City: Building and managing businesses, cities, parks, etc. Ex: SimCity, Restaurant Empire
Vehicle Driving: Driving cars, trucks, and trains in realistic environments. Ex: Euro Truck Simulator, Forza Horizon
Life Sims: Creating characters and managing daily life. Ex: The Sims, Animal Crossing
Platformers are 2D, side-scrolling games challenging players to run, jump, and climb through perilous courses. Hazards and enemies must be overcome with precise timing and dexterity. Platformers dominated early gaming and remain popular today.
2D Traditional : Side-scrolling obstacle courses. Ex: Super Mario Bros, Sonic the Hedgehog
Puzzle Platformer: Platforming integrated with puzzle mechanics. Ex: Limbo, Inside
Run and Gun: Shooter elements added to platforming. Ex: Contra, Metal Slug
Role-playing games (RPGs)
RPGs have players customize characters with unique skills, items, and abilities. Rich stories unfold through exploration, quests, and side activities. Combat blends strategic party management with action, turn-based, or tactical systems.
Action RPG: Real-time combat emphasizes player skill. Ex: Diablo, Path of Exile
Japanese RPG: Turn-based systems inspired by classic RPGs. Ex: Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest
Open World RPG: Exploration of vast 3D worlds with quest freedom. Ex: Skyrim, The Witcher
First Person Shooters
First-person shooters (FPS) portray gun-based combat from the visual perspective of the protagonist. Fast reflexes are key for aiming, movement, and weapon switching in frenetic firefights. FPS games are a pillar of multiplayer gaming today.
Military FPS: Combat across sprawling maps inspired by real wars. Ex: Call of Duty, Battlefield
Hero FPS: Sci-fi and fantasy settings with powerful player characters. Ex: Doom, Overwatch
Immersive sims: Environmental interaction and emergent gameplay. Ex: BioShock, Dishonored
Action-adventure games blend combat, action sequences, and exploration with puzzle solving. Environments encourage exploration and often hide secrets for inquisitive players. Action-adventure offers a diverse catch-all genre.
Cinematic Action-Adventure: Heavily scripted, quick time event driven experiences. Ex: Uncharted, The Last of Us
Action RPG: Roleplaying progression and loot with real-time combat. Ex: Batman: Arkham Series, Horizon Zero Dawn
Open World Action Adventure: Huge sandbox worlds. Ex: Assassin’s Creed, Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Fighting games pit players against each other in close-quarters combat. Players utilize combos, special moves, spacing, and psychology to outmaneuver the competition. Fast reactions and deep knowledge of movesets and matchups are rewarded.
2D Fighters: Two combatants restricted to a 2D plane. Ex: Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat
3D Fighters: Fighters battling freely in a 3D arena. Ex: Tekken, Soulcalibur
Platform Fighters: Battles across dynamic stages with platforming. Ex: Super Smash Bros
Real-Time Strategy (RTS) Games
RTS games task players with gathering resources, building armies, and defeating opponents in real-time without turns. Balance economic development with troop management in pitched battles across land, sea, and air.
Traditional RTS: Base building and unit control. Ex: Starcraft, Command & Conquer
MOBA: Teams of players, each controlling a single powerful hero. Ex: League of Legends, Dota 2
Tower Defense: Building defenses to destroy advancing enemy waves. Ex: Plants vs Zombies, Bloons TD
Racing games allow players to speed through tracks and courses in high-performance cars, bikes, and other vehicles. Racing ranges from realistic simulations to off-the-wall arcade experiences. Multiplayer and competitive play features heavily.
Simulation: Realistic driving physics and true-to-life handling. Ex: Gran Turismo, Forza Motorsport
Arcade: Exciting speed and stunts over realism. Ex: Need for Speed, Mario Kart
Futuristic: Future and sci-fi vehicles and settings. Ex: F-Zero, Wipeout
Shooters encompass any game where shooting weapons take center stage. Unlike precise FPS games, the shooter label can apply to a wide range of gameplay and game art styles featuring guns.
Run and Gun: 2D side-scrolling shooting. Ex: Contra, Metal Slug
Bullet Hell: Frantic dodging of overwhelming bullet patterns. Ex: Touhou Project
Third-Person Shooter: Shooting from behind the character. Ex: Gears of War, Uncharted
Looter Shooter: RPG loot and progression systems. Ex: Borderlands, Destiny
Puzzle games challenge players’ logic, pattern recognition, and problem-solving skills. Completing puzzles and unraveling gameplay mysteries delivers intense satisfaction. Popular subgenres include physics, hidden objects, and matching puzzles.
Physics puzzles: Mechanic and physics-based puzzles. Ex: Portal, Half-Life 2
Matching puzzles: Matching tiles or game pieces. Ex: Candy Crush, Bejeweled
Logic puzzles: Deductive reasoning and critical thinking. Ex: Baba Is You, The Witness
Casual games feature simple rules and gameplay tailored to mass market appeal. Players of all backgrounds can easily pick them up and make progress regardless of skill. Short play sessions cater to mobile lifestyles.
Match 3: Matching tiles on a grid for points. Ex: Candy Crush, Bejeweled
Hidden Object: Finding lists of objects hidden in busy scenes. Ex: Hidden City, Hidden Through Time
Hyper Casual: Extremely simple mobile-focused games. Ex: Fruit Ninja, Flappy Bird
Strategy games emphasize thoughtful planning, resource management, and grand decision-making over dexterity or reflexes. They reward analysis, creative problem-solving, and long-term strategic vision.
4X: eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate. Ex: Civilization, Endless Space
Real-Time Tactics: Real-time skirmishes with small squads. Ex: Company of Heroes, Tooth and Tail
Grand Strategy: Managing nations on a global scale. Ex: Europa Universalis IV, Crusader Kings 3
Massively Multiplayer Online RPGs (MMORPGs)
MMORPGs allow thousands of players to simultaneously inhabit expansive open fantasy worlds together online. Players customize characters and team up to quest, raid dungeons, and participate in massive PvP battles.
Fantasy MMORPGs: Swords and sorcery settings. Ex: World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy XIV
Sandbox MMORPGs: Open-ended gameplay and mechanics. Ex: EVE Online, Ultima Online
Action Combat: Real-time skill-based battles. Ex: Guild Wars 2, Black Desert Online
Stealth games challenge players to avoid detection and use cover to infiltrate locations and evade enemies. Patiently hiding in shadows and plotting routes makes one feel like a predator stalking prey.
Tactical Espionage: Methodically infiltrating bases. Ex: Metal Gear Solid, Splinter Cell
Immersive Sims: Emergent stealth woven into larger games. Ex: Dishonored, Deus Ex
Stealth Horror: Eluding supernatural enemies. Ex: Alien Isolation, Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Party games provide casual, social fun for groups to play together in person. They feature simple, intuitive controls and mechanics that anyone can easily pick up. Laughing together is often just as important as winning.
Board & Card Games: Digital adaptations of classic tabletop party games. Ex: Monopoly, Scrabble
Trivia Games: Fast-paced general knowledge trivia. Ex: You Don’t Know Jack, Trivia Murder Party
Activity Games: Offbeat mini-games and prompts. Ex: WarioWare, Jackbox Party Pack
Action RPGs incorporate real-time combat requiring player skill into RPG leveling and loot systems. Fighting relies on positioning, dodging, timing, and aim instead of turn-based menus. Diablo popularized the genre.
Looter Shooters: FPS and TPS games with RPG gear. Ex: Borderlands, Destiny
Soulslikes: Ultra-challenging third-person melee combat. Ex: Dark Souls, Bloodborne
Isometric: Top-down view for tactical positioning. Ex: Path of Exile, Grim Dawn
Tactical RPGs feature turn-based combat on grids allowing precise control of units. Careful positioning and strategy are required to overcome challenges. Customization adds depth when building forces.
Japanese TRPGs: Anime-style graphics and stories. Ex: Final Fantasy Tactics, Fire Emblem
Strategy-JRPG Hybrids: Blend of gameplay systems. Ex: XCOM, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle
Survival games challenge players to navigate harsh environments and scenarios by managing hunger, thirst, and other needs. Survival mechanics immerse players in the fundamentals of existence.
Survival Sandbox: Open worlds to explore. Ex: Minecraft, Valheim
Survival Horror: Surviving and escaping nightmares. Ex: The Forest, The Long Dark
Survival Simulation: Realistic survival mechanics. Ex: SCUM, This War of Mine
Battle Royale Games
Battle royale games pit a large number of players against each other in a last-man-standing deathmatch. Players scavenge for weapons in a shrinking play zone to become the final survivor. Fortnite popularized the genre.
Hero Shooters: Fortnite, Apex Legends
Military Shooters: PUBG, Call of Duty Warzone
Genres help categorize the diverse range of video game experiences that have emerged over decades. But games frequently blend genres together into new combinations. The labels serve mainly to give players a general idea of a game’s strengths that match their tastes. By understanding different genres, players can more easily discover new games tailored to what they love most. The variety of genres means everyone can find interactive adventures to lose themselves in.