Like other media, video games are sorted according to genre, but unlike film or literature they are usually classified independent of their theme or setting. Instead, gameplay is the main criterion for categorizing games.
The emergence, evolution, and success of video game genres depends on both technology and the congenital behavior of producers and consumers. Companies naturally want to minimize risk, and it is safer to imitate a successful platform game or shooter than to attempt something different and risk commercial and critical failure. Consumers, likewise, tend towards what they know, rather than chance wasting their time and money on something they know nothing about. Game genres develop as technology progresses but innovation is moderated by commercial constraints and by the conditioned opinions and expectations of players.
Within game studies there are no universally accepted, formal definitions for game genres, some being more observed than others, so the following list is in no way authoritative or comprehensive. Games do often fall under more than one category.
An action game is genre of video game where the main challenges involved are tests of physical skill, such as hand-eye co-ordination or fast reaction times. Such challenges are often restricted by time limits. Puzzle solving or explorational aspects of these games are often minimal.
Beat 'em up
The beat 'em up is a sub-genre of action game involving melee fighting with large quantities of enemies. They usually involve fighting through a level full of enemies in order to take on the boss at the end.
The fighting video game is a sub-genre of action game involving melee fighting in a one-on-one situation. This usually involves using sequences of buttons to perform a variety of moves, and often involve special effects or fantasy moves that would not be possible to re-create in a real fight. This sub-genre specifically excludes wrestling and boxing games which attempt to recreate fights realistically. These games instead fall under the sports genre.
The platform game is a sub-genre of action game that is characterised by the need for the player to jump between platforms and over gaps. The jumps must be controllable and missable. These games often do not conform to normal physics and often allow for things like changing the direction of a jump in mid air or performing 'double jumps' (performing a second jump while in mid air from a jump in order to reach extra heights).
The shooter game is a sub-genre of action game that focuses on the use of a long-range weapon, usually a gun. Shooter games are divided into multiple types, and a shooter game may belong to several of these types.
The first-person shooter is a type of shooter game that presents the game from the first-person view of the character that the player controls. This presents different challenges to a third-person shooter, for instance having to turn around in order to see an enemy approaching from behind.
The first-person shooter is a type of shooter game that presents the game from a third-person view, and therefore the character that the player is controlling can be seen on screen.
Shoot 'em up
A shoot 'em up is a type of shooter game which involves controlling a person, vehicle or spacecraft and shooting a large quantity of incoming enemies. The action is viewed from a top-down or side perspective, and the screen usually scrolls in only a single direction. In some shoot 'em ups the screen does not scroll at all and all of the action on a single level takes place on a single screen.
Light gun shooter
A light gun shooter is a type of shooter game where the player uses a gun-shaped controller in order to aim at the display and pull a trigger in order to shoot.
A rail shooter is a type of shooter game in which the movements of the player are confined to a pre-set path which the player cannot alter or has only limited control over (for example occasionally choosing between two paths).
A tactical shooter is a type of shooter game which aims to realistically simulate combat. A single bullet can often kill, and players need to be more cautious than in most other shooter games. These games require more strategy and planning than most other action games.
An adventure game is a genre of video game that relies on exploration and problem solving. These games have no combat or physical challenges, other than the occasional mini game.
Graphic adventure game
The graphic adventure game is a sub-genre of adventure game that uses graphics to convey information about the environment. Visual clues to puzzles are common in these games. Control of the game may use a text interface or a graphically oriented one.
The interactive fiction is a sub-genre of adventure game that entirely relies on text to describe the environment and inform the player of what is going on. The player controls the game using a text interface by entering commands such as
PULL LEVER and
EAST. This sub-genre is also known as text adventure.
The interactive movie is a sub-genre of adventure game where most of the game is full-motion video. Players occasionally provide input in order to make decisions, however most of the game is pre-set.
The visual novel is a sub-genre of adventure game with very minimal gameplay. The story is displayed to the player in the form of pictures and large amounts of text, and occasionally the player is asked for input in order to make decisions.
A action-adventure game is genre of video game that mixes the essential aspects of both action and adventure games. From action games they take physical challenges, requiring some level of physical skill. From adventure games they take the deeper storyline, inventory system, dialog and simple puzzles.
The stealth game is a sub-genre of action-adventure games which promotes the use of stealth over the use of combat and brute force. These games often use mechanics such as hiding in shadows, sneaking up behind enemies, hiding bodies and minimizing noise.
Survival horror game
The survival horror game is a sub-genre of action-adventure games which leave the player vulnerable and open to attack. Weapons that are found break easily, ammunition is scarce and food must be rationed. In a fight fleeing is often a viable option, and often the only option in which survival is the outcome.
Role-playing video game
The role-playing video game is a genre of video game based on storytelling and character development. Players control a small party of characters who often each have different skills or abilities. Combat tends to be performed by choosing commands such as 'attack' or 'cast fireball' rather than pressing combinations of buttons as in action games, and is often turn-based. As the player progresses through the game the characters they control increase in power and often learn new spells or abilities.
Music and rhythm game
The music and rhythm game is a genre of video game that requires the player to press buttons in time to some music. The buttons to press may be displayed on the screen, requiring the player to press them as they move past an indicator of some sort, or they may be played to the player who then has to repeat them from memory. Many of these games use standard controllers, however some games have specialised controllers including dancemats, guitars and drums. Some music and rhythm games employ a microphone and require the player to sing at the correct pitch rather than press the correct button.
The simulation game is a genre of video game that is designed to simulate a certain thing with various degrees of realism.
The career simulation game is a sub-genre of simulation game that aims to simulate a certain job such as doctor, business manager or city mayor.
The life simulation game is a sub-genre of simulation game that lets the player control one or more lifeforms. This may involve controlling humans in a social simulation, controlling pets or controlling entire eco-systems.
The vehicle simulation is a sub-genre of simulation game that lets the player control a vehicle. This may include cars, trains, boats, aircraft or even spacecraft.
The sports game is a genre of video game that simulates the playing of traditional sports such as baseball, football or tennis. This does not include games that involve playing a fantasy sport that does not exist, which instead are action games.
Sports management game
The sports management game is a sub-genre of sports game that involves the player taking the role of the manager. The player takes control of strategy, tactics, transfers and finances, while the matches themselves are played by computer AI.
The racing game is a genre of video game, although it can also be classed as a sub-genre of either sports games or vehicle simulation. These games involve racing any form of vehicle whether it be car, go-kart, or boat. Racing games come in varying degrees of realism from cartoon cars with power ups such as bombs and shrink rays, to highly detailed grand prix racers.
The strategy game is a genre of video game based around the use of tactics and planning. This usually involves the creation and control of multiple units in order to complete an objective.
Turn-based Strategy Game
The real-time strategy game is a sub-genre of strategy game where players (including the computer controlled teams if appropriate) take turns making their moves.
Real-time strategy game
The real-time strategy game is a sub-genre of strategy game where players act at the same time rather than taking turns.
The party video game is a genre of video game that is designed for quick, easy to pick up play between multiple players. These games usually take the form of a series of mini-games, and usually require little in the way of instruction or learning.
The puzzle video game is a genre of video game that is based around puzzle solving skills.
The educational video game is a genre of video game that has educational aims. These aims may be instead of, or in place of, the usual entertainment aims of a video game. Games in this genre usually also fall under another genre.
The adult video game is a genre of video game that is intended for an adult audience and has significant sexual content. Games in this genre usually also fall under another genre.
Massively multiplayer online game
The massively multiplayer online game or MMOG is a genre of video game which supports hundreds or thousands of players playing together online in a persistent world. This genre of game does not typically have an end, and cannot be 'won' or 'lost'. Sub-genres include:
- Massively multiplayer online role-playing game or MMORPG which incorporate features from role-playing video games.
- Massively multiplayer online first-person shooter or MMOFPS which incorporate features from first-person shooters.
- Massively multiplayer online real-time strategy game or MMORTS which incorporate features from real-time strategy games.