Genre Definitions

Basic Genres

Action: Action games main mechanics revolve around one or more of the following:

  • Accuracy
  • Movement
  • Quick Decisions
  • Reflexes
  • Timing
This genre is only to be used for games that don't fit in the other action-based basic genres such as Action-Adventure, Racing/Driving, Role-Playing (RPG) and Sports.

Adventure: Adventure games emphasize experiencing a story through dialogue and puzzle solving. Gameplay mechanics emphasize decision over action. Puzzle solving usually revolves around combining or manipulating items to advance the story. Some sub-genres like visual novels often skip on the puzzle solving and focus fully on interactive narrative. The name Adventure stems from the game Adventure (a.k.a. Colossal Cave), and not to the unrelated film/book genre Adventure.

Compilation: Denotes any retail package that contains a combination of game titles. "Compilations" are two or more games in a series (prequels/sequels) or a similar genre. "Shovelware" is the term given to dissimilar games packaged together, usually at a low price, to try to make up for lost or sagging profits.

Educational: Educational games try to teach the player through playing. Usually intended for younger children, educational games offer a fun, indirect way to practice "non-fun" subjects like spelling, math, history, etc. Educational games are often called “Edutainment”.

Puzzle: Puzzle games focus purely on solving puzzles usually without much narrative. Puzzles exist in many varieties: strategic, tactical, logical, trivia, word puzzles etc.

Racing / Driving: Racing/Driving games allow the player to race, or drive vehicles in a leisurely manner. Racing can be done in vehicles, on mounts, on foot or in completely abstract graphics. Games with this genre needs to have racing/driving for the majority of the game, not just as a short sequence.

Role-Playing (RPG): Role-Playing games (RPGs) belong to a wide a varied game genre that focuses on character development. Additional aspects that are often found in RPGs are:

  • Amassing wealth
  • Narrative
  • Tactical combat
Character development in RPGs does not necessarily happen as in traditional stories, but means the main character(s) in the game learns new abilities or improves the capabilities of old ones. Character development also includes collecting armament and/or utilities of gradually increasing power.

Simulation: Simulation games can be one of many different types of simulations. What all simulations have in common is that they are more realistically modeled to real life situations and/or variables than most games. Simulation games can model a wide variety of different situations and variables, most common are:

  • Business/Trade Simulations
  • Construction Simulations
  • Life Simulations
  • Management Simulations
  • Sports Simulations
  • Vehicle Simulators and Vehicular Combat Simulators
  • War Simulations (Wargames)

Sports: Sports games are games in which players control either players or managers of a real or fictional sports.

Strategy/Tactics: Strategy/Tactics games revolve around strategic and/or tactical usage of resources often in combat or managerial scenarios.

Presentation

1st-Person Perspective: Displayed from a 1st-person perspective or view; i.e. from the viewer's own eyes (not used in describing interactive fiction, as all interactive fiction is 1st-person by definition).

3rd-Person Perspective: Displayed from a third person perspective or view; i.e. the player is able to see his/her own avatar.

Isometric: Playfield is technically two-dimensional, but drawn using an axonometric projection, so as to look three-dimensional. Movement input is usually diagonally-biased to match the player's orientation (as opposed to straight up/down/left/right movement, which matches the game avatar's orientation).

While the perspective term has traditionally been labeled isometric, in typical use it includes isometric (e.g. Knight Lore, the Immortal), dimetric (e.g. SimCity 2000, Diablo), and trimetric (eg. Fallout/Fallout 2, SimCity 3) projections.

Side-Scrolling: Used to describe any game where the main setting of gameplay involves the player character moving from one side of the playfield to the other horizontally for a length of time. The screen may scroll to the opposite direction continuously, or just when the player character reaches the edge of the screen, enlarging the area or opening a new one. Side-scrolling perspective is often entirely two-dimensional; however, some side-scrolling games (particularly beat-'em-ups) may allow limited movement into the depth of the screen. Side-scrolling perspective is common for most 2D platformers, as well as many 2D shooters and action games in general.

Top-Down: Used to describe any game where the main setting of gameplay is represented by a top-down (also known as overhead) view of the playfield. Top-down perspective may be used for a wide variety of genres; among the most common ones are vertically scrolling shooters and most 2D role-playing games.

Pacing

Meditative / Zen: Meditative or Zen games try to calm or relax players. These types of games often have no goals and players can't do anything wrong inside the game.

Persistent: Persistent games’ mechanics continue even when the player is not playing the game. Either the game state is simulated on a remote server or the changes over time are calculated when the player returns to playing.

Real-Time: Real-Time games present the game continuously, as opposed to in turns like a game of Chess. This descriptor is not to be used on action games, which are inherently real-time. In some cases the player can still pause the game at any given time.

Turn-based: Turn-Based games are divided in turns. Players can usually only interact with the game during their turn.

Gameplay

Anime / Manga: Manga (Japanese: 漫画; the two Chinese characters literally mean immoral or whimsical pictures) is a widely popular form of comic books in Japan. Manga originated in late 19th century, but came to prominence in the second half of 20th century. The term anime (Japanese short version of the word animation) is normally used to describe animated cartoon movies of Japanese origin.

When applied to video games, these two terms indicate a specifically Japanese visual style, characterized by sharp, bright coloring; exaggerated, often super-deformed facial and body proportions in drawing; cute stylistic elements, etc.

Originally only applied to 2D graphics, anime or manga characteristics can also be clearly visible in many 3D games made in Japan.

Arcade: Denotes an arcade or "arcade-like" game, whose gameplay mimics or was inspired by a traditional coin-op arcade game. Arcade games usually have very little puzzle-solving, complex thinking, or strategy skills needed; the focus is on reflexes and "twitch". The Arcade genre is usually used as an additional modifier to Action games.

BattleMech: Any game using ideas, machines, weapons, or 'mechs similar to the FASA BattleTech series. This includes all 'Mech and "Giant Robot" games, including titles that are not explicitly from the FASA universe (Earthsiege, etc.).

Beat 'em up / Brawler: Beat 'em ups - also known as Brawlers - focus on melee combat with a large number of antagonists. Usually players can perform a wide variety of combat moves and combos to hurt the opponents. These games are usually divided into levels similar to platform games or action games. Beat ‘em ups are not to be confused with Fighting games which offer balanced arena fights between equally balanced teams or single characters.

Board / Party Game: Simulation of a traditional board game or party game where gameplay involves two or more players.

The main thrust of board games and party games is that they are designed for multiple players. If it is only playable by a single player (e.g. Solitaire, Shanghai, etc.), it is not a board/party game and should not be listed here.

Cards / Tiles: Computer implementation of a game played with cards or tiles. This includes poker, blackjack, mahjong, and others.

Casino: Simulation of a casino game; slots, poker, blackjack, roulette, etc.

Chess: Refers to the classic board game of the same name. Most computer chess games allow playing the computer at varying levels of difficulty.

Comics: Denotes any game that uses characters or settings based off comic books (or strips). Examples: The Punisher, X-Men, etc.

Fighting: This genre includes action games that focus on close-combat fighting, unarmed or using melee weapons; the emphasis is on executing precise moves (punches, kicks, etc.) when facing opponents who usually use similar tactics against the playable character. Characteristic for these games is reliance on martial art techniques. Fighting games are traditionally divided into two broad categories: Versus fighters and Beat 'em 'ups / Brawlers.

Flight: Simulation of aircraft flight, usually represented in three-dimensional (3D) graphics.

Game Show: Simulation of a TV "game show". Examples: The Price Is Right, Family Feud, Wheel of Fortune, etc.

Hidden object:

Interactive Fiction: Gameplay is language-based in nature. All interaction with the player, both input and feedback, is done through the input and output of pure text. Input mimics natural language using verb-noun (action-item) commands (Abbreviations also qualify, because they abbreviate a verb-noun construct, like "w" for "go west" or "i" for "list inventory"). Output is rendered in full, natural-language, grammatically-correct sentences.

Sometimes referred to as "text-adventure" or "Infocom" games (after the company that made them famous).

Interactive Fiction with Graphics: Same mechanics as Interactive Fiction, with modifications for graphics made to the input and output interface. Output can include graphics, which can either be turned off (Transylvania, Tau Ceti, etc.) or are mandatory (Sierra "Quest" and Lucasarts "SCUMM" games). Input is still text-based requiring verb-noun input, but the method of selection does not have to rely on the keyboard (meaning, you can pick from a visual list of verbs and nouns, like Lucasarts adventures).

To remain in the Interaction Fiction with Graphics subgenre, verb-noun input using text labels must be maintained. If the verbs (actions) and nouns (items) are replaced by icons or pictures, or accepts verb-only or noun-only input, it no longer qualfies as Interactive Fiction.

Interactive Movie: Gameplay consists of a running "movie" with several different storylines that the user can follow by making choices during the viewing, although occasionally an action/arcade sequence may be included. Interactive Movies are best suited for novice gamers looking for entertainment without too much effort.
Examples: Dragon's Lair, Star Trek: Borg, Psychic Detective

In the nineties, the term "interactive movie" was often used to describe any game with real-life action cutscenes, e.g. Under a Killing Moon. Those games do not necessarily belong to this genre.

Managerial: Gameplay centers mainly around the management of resources instead of controlling the resources or gameplay itself. Both sports-management (fantasy football, etc.) and real-life simulations (Railroad Tycoon, Simcity, etc.) are applicable to this genre.

Martial Arts: Simulation specifically geared towards traditional martial arts situations or combat. Examples: Budokan, Sword of the Samurai, etc.

Mental training: Games based around intellectual activities to exercise your mental capacity.

Naval: Denotes any game with a naval theme, such as battleship wargaming/strategy, submarine simulations, or other type of combat/gameplay based on seafaring vessels.

Paddle / Pong: Denotes any game patterned after the original Pong arcade game, where a paddle is moved back and forth (or up and down) to deflect a ball thrown at it. The ball can be "aimed" by deflecting off of different parts of the paddle to hit targets for points; missing the ball results in loss of life. Examples: Popcorn, Arkanoid, etc.

Pinball: Simulation of an arcade pinball machine.

Platform: Platform games (platformers) are action games in which the playfield is set up as a series of planes (floors, levels, or platforms) for the player to navigate.

Platform games often involve combat, but include additional challenges by making navigation hazardous. Often the challenges of overcoming environmental dangers surpass those posed by combat. The player character is usually required to jump over gaps and damaging areas, or to access a different platform. In many platform games the player character is very vulnerable and can die easily from falling damage, environmental traps, or enemy attacks.

Early platform games (e.g. Donkey Kong) were confined to one screen and required the player character to climb in order to reach higher platforms. Later platformers, popularized by Super Mario Bros., began to focus on traversing side-scrolling levels, often within an allotted time limit, fending off upcoming enemies and jumping. This style, commonly referred to as jump-and-run, has preserved itself in many later platformers as well.

Other platform games, such as Prince of Persia, emphasize exploration, combat, and problem-solving in addition to the usual platform challenges. Such games have become known as cinematic platformers. This style has had a considerable influence on many 3D platformers (e.g. later Prince of Persia games, ICO, etc.), which incorporate extensive puzzle-solving.

Puzzle-Solving: Puzzle-solving may refer to actual puzzles (logical, mathematical, physical, etc.), as well as a type of problem-solving distinguished by clue-gathering and manipulation of objects. This type is particularly characteristic for puzzle-solving adventures. Puzzles may also occur in action games, e.g. platformers or (more rarely) 3D shooters.

Puzzle games (i.e. games that are entirely composed out of puzzles) are categorized within the strategy genre.

Rhythm / Music: Denotes a type of action game whose mechanics are based on the player's command of timing and reflexes, and the gameplay environment uses musical rhythm as timing. Examples include Parappa the Rapper, Space Channel 5, Frequency, Samba De Amigo, etc.

Shooter: Shooters are action games in which the player character shoots enemies.

The shooting is usually performed with firearms in these games; however, any weapon that dispatches projectiles qualifies, which makes many games (e.g. Heretic) that rely on medieval ranged weaponry or even magical projectiles shooters as well.

There are many shooter sub-genres, including fixed-screen shooters, scrolling shooters, rail shooters, and others.

Since the emergence of 3D graphics, 3D shooters, popularized by Wolfenstein 3D and Doom, have become the leading representatives of the genre. This sub-genre is sometimes referred to as first-person shooter, though this definition is not very precise, since the genre's distinguishing feature are 3D environments, not the perspective; some 3D shooters allow players to switch between perspectives, while others enforce a third-person view.

3D shooters may incorporate elements of other genres, most commonly role-playing (e.g. System Shock games and Deus Ex).

Stealth: Denotes any game where gameplay strongly centers around not being detected, searching for hidden/secret items, and otherwise avoiding conflict. The protagonist is usually a spy or government operative, however any game that has stealth as its core gameplay mechanic qualifies. Examples: Splinter Cell, Hitman, etc.

Survival Horror: Survival horror is typically a 3rd person perspective game in which the player has to survive an onslaught of undead, human, animal or monster like opponents, usually in claustrophobic environments. Horror film elements are used liberally. The player is typically armed, but not nearly as well-armed or armoured as a player in a first person shooter game. The player's goal is generally to escape from an isolated house or town that is inhabited mostly by zombies and monsters through shooting and puzzle solving.

Video Backdrop: Denotes any action game based on interacting with a motion-video backdrop, either as scenery or as an enemy. Examples: Rebel Assault, Novastorm, etc.

Visual Novel: Also called NVL games, "digital novels", and "choose-your-own-adventure games": games in which the story is told through text overlaid on a background representing the scene being described. The player's input is confined to periodically making choices which might affect the direction and outcome of the story. Mostly regarded as a branch of Japanese adventure, but Western examples exist as well.

Interface/Control
Sports Themes

Baseball: Simulation of a baseball game, or variant.

Basketball: Simulation of a basketball game, or variant.

Bike/Bicycling: Description to come

Bowling: Simulates the common ten-pin alley experience of bowling.

Boxing: Simulation (or close variant) of boxing.

Cricket: Any game that simulates a cricket match.

Darts / Target Shooting: These games simulate target shooting with either darts, guns, bows or other projectiles for sport.

Dodgeball: Dodgeball

Fishing: Simulation of the traditional hobby of catching fish for sport.

Football (American): Refers to a simulation of an American football game (for European football, see "Soccer")

Golf: Simulation of a traditional golf game. (To describe Miniature Golf, combine with the "Arcade" genre.)

Hockey: Simulation of a traditional hockey game.

Horse / Derby: Denotes any game that simulates horse racing or "fantasy" betting on horse races, like the Kentucky Derby.

Hunting: Describes gameplay that simulates hunting wildlife or game. Examples: Deer Hunter, Turkey Shoot, etc.

Off-Road / Monster Truck: Denotes any racing game based on off-road driving conditions or using "monster trucks". Examples: 4x4, Offroad, Monster Truck Madness, Test Drive: Off-Road, Extreme Mountain Bike, etc.

Olympiad: Represents multiple sporting events in a single game, similar to the Olympics. Examples: Summer Games, Winter Games, Boot Camp, Ski or Die, etc.

Paintball: Simulation of a non-violent sport where participants use markers to shoot paintballs (gelatin capsules filled with paint) at other players, or using the game mechanics.

Ping Pong/Table Tennis: Simulations of the sport of ping pong/table tennis.

Pool / Snooker: Denotes any game that simulates the popular bar game of pool (all variations), snooker, or similar.

Rugby: Gameplay mimicks the action or managerial aspects of professional rugby.

Sailing / Boating: Denotes any simulation of piloting or racing sailboats, windsails, powerboats, etc.

Skateboarding: Simulation of traditional skateboard racing and stunts.

Snowboarding / Skiing: Games that have a snowboarding or skiiing theme, such as the Cool Boarders series.

Soccer / Football (European): Simulation of a traditional soccer game.

Surfing: Simulation of traditional surfing.

Tennis: Simulation of a traditional tennis match.

Tricks / Stunts: Denotes gameplay where scoring and/or advancement is achieved via performing "tricks" or "stunts". Games in this genre are usually (but not always) sports-related. Common terms for this kind of game are "Action Sports" or "Extreme Sports". Examples: Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX, Tony Hawk Pro Skater, California Games, Trickstyle.

Volleyball: Denotes any game that simulates volleyball-style gameplay.

Wakeboarding: Simulation of traditional wakeboarding.

Wrestling: Simulation of "Pro" wrestling.

Educational Categories

Ecology / Nature: Denotes any game that studies the ecosystem, the environment, etc.

Foreign Language: Denotes any educational game where an emphasis is put on learning a language foreign to native English speakers, such as French, German, Spanish, etc.

Geography: Denotes any educational game where the focus is on learning geography, locations, landmarks, etc. Example: the "Where is Carmen Sandiego" series.

Graphics / Art: Denotes any educational game that develops or explores visual creativity.

Health / Nutrition: Attempts to teach healthy habits such as nutrition, exercise, "clean living", etc.

History: Denotes any educational game that teaches history.

Math / Logic: Educational game centering on building mathematical and/or logic skills, such as addition, subtraction, geometry, etc.

Music: Educational game centering on building tonal and music theory skills.

Pre-school / Toddler: Educational game centering on entertaining and teaching pre-school children or toddlers. Typing skills are usually not required.

Reading / Writing: Educational game centering on building English reading, writing, spelling, or grammar skills.

Religion: Denotes any educational game that teaches or emphasizes religious teachings.

Science: Denotes any educational game with an emphasis on learning biology, chemistry, physics, etc.

Sociology: Denotes any educational game that attempts to teach sociology.

Typing: Educational game centering on building typing and keyboard skills. Examples: "Mavid Beacon Teaches Typing", "Dvorak on Typing", etc.

Vehicular Themes

Helicopter: Simulation of helicopter flight or battle.

Motorcycle: Specifically denotes motorcycle or motocross (dirtbike) racing.

Tank: Denotes any game that explicitly centers around tanks, for the purposes of action, arcade, or simulation (or all three). Examples: M1 Tank Platoon, Battlezone, Soldier Boyz, Panzer General, etc.

Train: Games involving train management, simulation, and general use for more than 50% of a game.

Setting

Cyberpunk / Dark Sci-Fi: Cyberpunk / dark sci-fi refers to science fiction with an explicitly dark and/or moody tone. This style is sometimes modeled around the concept of a "cyberpunk", or a human individual in the future who can interact directly with computers or a computer network, often working alone against an evil corporation or computer AI.

Fantasy: Medieval / Fantasy is a setting that attempts to exclude technical and scientific achievements which came into prominence around 15th century and later, drawing inspiration from the Middle Ages in Europe (end of 5th - 15th centuries) and usually extending the time period in case of other cultures (China, Indian, Islamic Age, etc.). Supernatural elements (e.g. wizards, monsters, demons, etc.) are very frequently represented in games with this setting. Many such games treat their European medieval roots very loosely, and may include steampunk, modern-day, or even light sci-fi elements, mostly focusing on the "fantasy" part of the setting.

Historical Battle (specific/exact): Any strategy game that recreates, closely mimics, or attempts to show different outcomes of a historical battle or battles. Examples: Gettysburg, Patton vs. Rommel, European Air War, Close Combat 3, etc.

Post-Apocalyptic: Describes any game where the setting is soon after a world-wide nuclear war, where radiation has created mutants, entire cities are leveled, and necessities like gas, food, and water are hard to come by. Think shortly after a nuclear holocaust. Think "Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome". Examples: Wasteland, Fallout, etc.

Sci-Fi / Futuristic: Used as a modifier when the gameplay setting takes place in the future, outer space, or other Sci-Fi setting. Examples: Wing Commander would be a Sci-Fi Action game; Master of Orion and Alpha Centauri are Sci-Fi Simulation games; etc.

Narrative Theme/Topic

Adult: Adult games feature explicit sexual situations.

Comedy: Comedy games present events in the game in comedic fashion. They feature jokes in conversations or one-liner, or relies on satire or absurdity.

Crime: Crime games are about criminals or law enforcement pursuing them.

Detective / Mystery: Detective/Mystery games feature a traditional detective story or mystery that needs to be solved.

Horror: Horror games feature classic "horror" elements. Usually refers to traditional gothic horror, but can include other horror styles.

Romance: Games that are about (not just feature) romance.

Spy / Espionage: Spy / Espionage games revolve around spy characters or personages performing espionage.

Thriller: Thriller games use suspense, tension and excitement as the main narrative elements.

War: War games (not to be confused with Wargames) are games that have War as a narrative backdrop. The story takes place during wartime, or the player is actively fighting in a war.

Other Attributes

Add-on: Denotes any product which requires another game to run.

An add-on or expansion pack typically features no significant changes to the gameplay mechanics and enhances the existing game, e.g. by adding more levels, campaigns or race tracks. Products which only use the engine and construct a new game around it are called total conversions.

Coin-Op Conversion: Denotes a game that originally appeared in stand-up, coin-operated, arcade game form (or pinball form) and later converted to a personal computer version. Examples: Pac-man, Space Invaders, Pinball Jam, etc.

Editor / Construction Set: Denotes the addition of an editor bundled with the game so as to facilitate tweaking game variables, drawing new playfields/maps, drawing new graphics, etc. Built-in editors greatly extend the life of games because they extend playability infinitely. Games that are exclusively built around this concept are called Construction Set games; e.g. Pinball Construction Set or Stuart Smith's Adventure Construction Set.

Emulator: Denotes any game or game collection running on an included emulator.

Emulators facilitate the execution of foreign game code on a platform it was not designed for; this allows the coin-op arcade game Defender, for example, to run on a PC.

Licensed Title: Denotes any game where the gameplay, storyline, or setting was taken from or inspired by a specific movie, television show, book, board game or other work that predated the game. Examples: Die Hard Trilogy, Rendezvous with Rama, Below the Root, Mechwarrior, Blade Runner, etc.