Games are more popular than ever: they flood our newsfeeds, fuel social interactions, and give us boatloads of fun for hours. Not only are they seemingly ever-present today, but there are so many different game genres to choose from.
Whether it be a role-playing game or point and click adventure, there are so many game genres, many of which mix and match different aspects of other genres, that you can truly hone down what you’re looking for in a game.
What are the main game genres? What are the biggest games in each genre? Which genre is right for you? Luckily, I’m here to show you by providing the complete guide to video game genres.
Back in the mid-1990s, a friend of mine invited me to the sleepover. I knew we’d have fun: staying up late, eating extremely unhealthy foods that would make normal peoples’ stomachs turn, and just goof off in general. However, my friend guided me to his PC in his room. Sure, we gamed a lot together, but this was different. He booted up Doom by id Software.
I was immediately flooded with hellscape imagery; demons and monsters hunting you down, huge guns and chainsaws that make short work of your quarry, and insane amounts of blood and gore.
This was my first introduction to first-person shooters or FPS games. Today, FPS games are some of the most popular games on the market. Titles like those in the Call of Duty and Battlefield franchises have solidified FPS as some of the most enduring genre-specific games in modern history.
FPS games have a deep history in gaming, arguably spanning back to the 1970s. However, it really didn’t become a global sensation until the seminal release of Wolfenstein 3D in 1992. It ended up selling over 200,000 copies by the end of 1993. People were hooked on its unrelenting action, gore, and gunplay.
Wolfenstein 3D ushered in countless FPS titles throughout the rest of the 1990s, ultimately culminating in an FPS ‘boom’ in the 2000s.
In FPS games, the player character perspective is from, get this, the first person. I know, a little crazy, but bear with me. The player is usually given a large arsenal of weaponry, (specific to the setting of the game), and set out to vanquish foes. In Doom, the enemies were demons. In the original Call of Duty, the enemies were Nazis.
FPS is the genre perfect for players seeking an adrenaline rush. FPS titles throughout gaming history have usually been fast-paced, action-packed, and plain fun. Sometimes, FPS games even have a deep storyline.
The newer Wolfenstein games, namely Wolfenstein: The New Order, not only had you gunning down baddies, but it also examined nuanced topics like the nature of the conflict, post-traumatic stress disorder, purpose, and identity. We have moved past simple action hero protagonists and have moved into dramatic storytelling.
Then, of course, there’s multiplayer. In 2008, the combination of an online connection and a copy of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare was a recipe for hours and hours of crazy entertainment. Game developers brought multiplayer to a new level, with many players preferring the multiplayer portion to that of the single-player missions.
If you’re the kind of gamer that looks action-packed, run and gun adrenaline rushes and talking a lot of trash to your friends online, I’d highly recommend FPS titles.
The real-time strategy, (RTS), the genre of games has its roots in the 1980s with a game called The Ancient Art of War. The player is required to partake in rock-paper-scissors type gameplay between different types of warrior units. For example, you would have to counter archers with horsemen, and horsemen with spearmen.
In the genre today, we’ve moved past that simple concept and fleshed it out immensely: players are usually required to build bases, spawn units, and destroy the opponent. The Blizzard game, StarCraft, defined the way that RTS games would progress in gaming history.
With an attractive, gritty, and detailed set of space, the player chooses between three races, the Terrans, Zerg, and Protoss.
Each race has its own benefits and weaknesses, unique buildings, units, and storylines. StarCraft’s addicting base building and fast-paced action made it a powerhouse in not only RTS but gaming overall.
Today, StarCraft is still intensely played amongst gamers, especially those in South Korea. Koreans pour their hearts and souls into StarCraft in the form of cutthroat tournaments with crazy amounts of money and prestigious gaming sponsorships on the line.
A personal favorite of mine, the Age of Empires franchise, blends good old RTS with a strong edge of history. Specifically, Age of Empires II: Age of Kings throws the player into the RTS format of gameplay while playing through real-world scenarios like the Hundred Years’ War, The Spanish Reconquista, and the battles between William Wallace and the kingdom of England.
This mix of deeply researched history and solid game mechanics added a certain prestige to the game.
If you’re a gamer that likes to micromanage things, build structures and units, and vanquish your foes with an army of longbowmen, real-time strategy games are right up your alley.
In my opinion, role-playing games are some of the most significant and fun games ever made. The roots of RPGs are as old as imagination itself. If you really want to narrow it down more, however, you could look to the famous Dungeons and Dragons, developed by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson in 1974.
It’s a fantasy role-playing game in which players, along with a dungeon master, (the one controlling the story and the players’ interactions), quest through dungeons using tabletop pieces, many-sided dice, and a bunch of creative brainpower.
There’s really nothing the player can’t do. You can create a character with a rich backstory: their wants, needs, phobias, etc. The sky is the limit.
This same creativity transferred extremely well to the virtual world. Some of the standout titles that we all know and love like The Elder Scrolls series, specifically Skyrim and the upcoming 6th entry into the series, have made RPG gaming more popular than ever. RPGs shine when there are no restrictions except the player’s imagination.
In the Elder Scrolls games, the player can choose between multiple races, each with their own pros and cons.
The game points you in the direction of the main quest, but you are ultimately left to your own creative devices, free to do nearly whatever you want.
I’ll never forget riding along in Skyrim and all of a sudden, the soundtrack changes from the ambient, beautiful ambient sounds of a living, breathing world into a pumped-up Viking Chorus. It signified that a dragon saw me and swooped down to fry me to a crisp.
I had to run for my life, as I was a puny level 2 wood elf archer. It happened organically while I was on my way to another quest, and it was exhilarating.
Moments like that, in which I’ll never forget the feeling I got while it happened, is what makes RPGs the superior genre in my mind.
On the other hand, you have great RPGs like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, where you take on the role of an established character thrown into the political intrigue of a fully fleshed out world. The options are still there, but this time an addicting and comprehensive storyline is included.
Games in the Assassin’s Creed franchise are now embracing more RPG elements in their series. Weapons, outfits, and video game characters can be customized, and there is a whole historical world to explore.
If you’re a gamer that loves a good storyline, freedom of choice when playing, or a game to ignite the imagination, role-playing games will fulfill that need.
Much like RPGs, MMORPGs, (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games), will ignite the imagination, and throw the player into a detailed world. This time, however, it’s online. The world is now not only populated by some possibly detailed NPCs but also other human players at the same time.
It was originally started back in the 1970s with the release of Mazewar for computers. Players were able to roam mazes, shooting at each other on the predecessors of the internet. Game developer Richard Garriott, (creator of the Ultima series of RPGs), then described these types of games like MMOs, which then lead to MMORPGs.
Games like EverQuest, Anarchy Online, and Ultima Online were amazing milestones in the genre. The gameplay styles are tailored to a gamer’s playstyle. Servers can be specified to be PvE, (player vs. environment), or PvP, (player vs. player), depending on if you want to avoid more competitive playing scenarios.
In 2004, Blizzard, never satisfied with the nearly perfect games they create, dropped a bombshell on the world of gaming. They developed an RTS, Warcraft, into an MMORPG: World of Warcraft.
The player could choose between the two factions: Alliance or Horde. The player starts off doing menial quests like slaughtering boars for townspeople, eventually battling huge monsters like dragons with their friends later in-game.
Teaming up with other players adds a new dynamic to the playing style. Players can join the different classes to form a comprehensive team to take down some of the most powerful enemies in the game. World of Warcraft has been the gold standard in the genre for over 15 years now, with no signs of stopping.
It has easily earned almost $10 billion dollars and is always adding new expansion packs, including new races to play as, or new quests to go on. If you’re a fan of RPGs, but you want to take your skill online to either help or hinder other players in a rich, detailed world, MMORPGs are going to be your bread and butter.
Online gameplay has become more popular than ever in the last decade. eSports, in particular, has increased tenfold from the early 2000s to become a legitimate sport and source of income for players.
You’ll often see a team of battle-tested gamers lined up in a row with powerful PCs, battling a likewise experienced opposing team for all the money, sponsorships, and bragging rights involved in the tournament. This is where MOBAs come in.
Multiplayer Online Battle Arena games are somewhat of an offshoot of MMOs, in that they are focused only on the competitive play between teams and players. MOBAs are an interesting mash-up of different genres, namely RTS and RPGs. Matches between teams can last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour and beyond, depending on players’ skill level and maps.
MOBAs really came onto the gaming scene with a mod for StarCraft: Aeon of Strife. In the game, players each had their own base they had to defend, fast gameplay to defeat the other team and whittle down their resources to zero. This developed further into the widely popular derivative Defense of the Ancients, (DotA), in 2003.
Ever since, players have been testing their mettle against each other in a variety of different titles, maps, and competitions.
Some of the most iconic eSports competitions and tournaments are courtesy of MOBAs. The game League of Legends is one of the most widely played games in the world, as well as a huge moneymaker for players looking to make a name for themselves on the eSports circuits.
In the 2018 League of Legends World Championship, the overall prize was an insane $6.45 million split between 24 different teams.
The gold and $2.4 million was awarded to the extremely talented team, Invictus gaming, led by Luo “Ferrari_430” Feichi out of China.
If competition runs in your blood, or you gravitate towards more fast-paced games, MOBAs will no doubt satisfy that hunger.
I hope this guide has given you a good idea of what each genre listed can provide for your unique playing style. Whether it be FPS games, RPGs, MMORPGs, RTS, or MOBAs, there is no shortage of choices for you to make. The only tough decision now is which great game will you pick up.