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21 + 1 Video Game Genres

21 + 1 Video Game Genres

(The list might not cover every existing genre, but I will cite the most important ones that I believe cover every game out there. If there is any major change, I will update accordingly)

Have you ever been to a point where you just wanted to try out a new genre of games, instead of playing games of the same genre all the time, but didn’t know which genre should you pick?

This list aims to help you by listing almost all the gaming genres, giving you what you need to know about them, and present you some of its most popular games, so you can have a starting point. So, without further ado, let’s begin.

Disclaimer: There will be some genres that will be left out, not because they are too “casual”, “boring”, or “simple”. It’s just that this list is a bit more in-depth, and there aren’t many things I can write about the ones that are left out.

Of course, there may be other reasons and whatnot, but if you really believe that a game genre should be on this list then just comment below with your reason behind such request, and if it is indeed convincing, I will edit in a new section in this article.


Platformers (or platform games) are one of the earliest gaming genres. It’s an action subgenre that usually gives you control of a character, and your goal is to reach an endpoint, by traversing various landscapes and levels of increasing difficulty.

You almost certainly have heard about this genre by games like Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros. or SEGA’s Sonic the Hedgehog franchise. Platformers are also one of the most popular gaming genres, and usually, any person’s introduction to gaming.

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One of the first and most iconic platformers of all time.

Generally, platformers have a variety of some subgenres that mostly dictate what you can use to get to you goal. Some examples include gun platformers, or puzzle platformers.

Platformers are ever so popular even to this day. This is due to their design. It’s very easy to get into a platformer game, but that does not mean that they are easy, because, as noted above, of their increasing difficulty. Their popularity is quite impressive, considering that they are almost always single player games.

If you want to try out platformers, here are some if the more popular ones, as well as some that I think you should try out:

  • Sonic the Hedgehog Series
  • Super Mario Bros. Series
  • Crash Bandicoot Series
  • Spyro the Dragon Series
  • (The original) Megaman Series


Shooter games are one of those game genres that every gamer has played at least once at one point in their life. Typically, in a shooter game, you control your character, and your goal is to complete various objectives that always require shooting stuff.

Generally, I’m not fond of shooters, but, being another action game subgenre, I can understand why there are so many fans of this genre; its simple yet fast-paced gameplay is quite exciting. There are, however, some more advanced mechanics for you to learn on most of these games, mechanics like gun recoil, or ammo capacity.

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Shooters are also one of the most renowned games in the e-sports scene, with some games frequently running various local tournaments and even global championship, with thousands of cash for rewards.

They also have a huge fanbase, as you can see streamers and/or broadcasts having thousands of viewers when live streaming.

Like most genres, shooters also have a small variety of subgenres, that either change the way you view your character when playing (first or third-person shooters), implement a reward system that lets you customize your character and strengthen your weapons, or what kind of guns you use.

Shooters will always have a place in the gaming industry, with new games coming every year, and creating hype doing so. If you want to get into shooter games and try them out, here are my suggestions:

  • Doom
  • Half Life 1 & 2
  • Counter Strike: Global Offensive (abbr. CS: GO)
  • Call of Duty Series
  • Overwatch


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Fighting games are yet another genre with lots of history. The first fighting game dates to 1976, but fighting games were at their peak during their golden age of the 90s. Back then, they were the prominent competitive games.

Fighting games, like platformers, began in arcades, and even to this day, most arcade machines have either a fighting game or a platformer. Their competitiveness in the 90s was solely on arcade machines. Since then, fighting games have gradually moved to consoles and computers.

Every fighting game is pretty much the same on its core design and set of rules. You control a character, and you must defeat the opponent that is either an AI Bot or another player. Usually, you are victorious if you win 2 out of 3 rounds. The fighting is melee combat only, and there are different characters, with different playstyles.

The controls are seemingly very easy, with the press of a button usually corresponding to a simple move (e.g. a punch, or a kick). The catch is that there are an overwhelming number of different combos for each character, that require a very specific sequence of button to execute. These combos take a lot of time, practice, and patience to master. This separates good players from the bad.

The popular fighting games are mostly series, and there are some I won’t mention:

  • Mortal Kombat Series
  • Street Fighter Series
  • Tekken Series
  • SoulCalibur Series


So stealth games are a rather small subgenre, due to its similarities to other action games. Usually, a stealth game has similar objectives to other action games and subgenres. Its main selling point is subterfuge.

Subterfuge is a stealth game’s bread and butter. Your given objectives usually require you to perform them in secret, remaining undetected and resulting in automatic failure, should you be spotted. Some games might offer you an option between going stealthy, or engage in full-fledged combat, but you probably will be punished for it.

Stealth games weren’t always a standalone (sub)genre. In fact, it began as a gameplay element for various other action games. This can be found in today’s games as well; many games might have some stealth missions or objectives. The first mainstream stealth games all came in 1998, where three successful games were released in that same year.

Common elements in stealth games include different services such as espionage, counter-terrorism, and spying. The protagonists are masters of the aforementioned; ninjas, spies, thieves, assassins.

Stealth games might be used as an element in other action games, but they use other common action game elements, such as first-person and third-person shooters, or platformers.

There aren’t as many popular games or series that are categorized under the stealth subgenre, but the ones that are, are well-respected games on their own. These include:

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  • Metal Gear Solid Series
  • Assassin’s Creed
  • Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell
  • Alien: Isolation


Survival games are a weird kind of action subgenre, in the essence that they don’t give you a certain goal in the traditional sense; your goal is to survive for as long as possible (or for a predetermined amount of time).

Survival games leave you on day one with just basic rules and tools, and you must use them to survive, advance and build more advanced tools, and even weapons. In some cases, though, you just need to survive with what you’re given from the start.

One notable, and lately very popular subgenre of survival games are the battle royale games. Within one, you are pitted against a large amount of other human opponents, within one small arena, with its boundaries diminishing every few minutes. You begin with nothing, and by scavenging areas and buildings, you can find weapons to aid your cause.

Survival games have always been popular within the gaming community, but with the releases of multiple battle royale games, their popularity spiked, especially with younger audiences, as usually, a survival game had some horror elements to it, making them unfit for youngsters.

I will divide the list of popular games with games that are survival games in the traditional sense and battle royales:

Traditional Survival Games

  • DayZ
  • Don’t Starve
  • Subnautica

Battle Royales

  • Fornite
  • PUBG
  • Apex Legends


Horror games are what the name implies; they want to scare you. While their gameplay is a lot like survival games, and the player’s goal being the same; to survive, there are some key differences which distinguish them from each other.

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One small but important difference is that horror games hinge on the unexpected, jumpscares being the most used way. This means that enemy encounters are often random and unexpected.

The tone is usually darker as well, and there are some platforming elements too.

Another difference in survival games is resource management. Horror games give very scarce resources, and you must manage them very well lest you run out. You cannot farm enemies for more, nor can you survive without any.

During recent years, many horror games have moved on to be more action-packed, with some of the fans criticizing the game developers for this change.

Still, horror games are coming out every few years, and while they are not super popular like other genres, their sales certainly don’t reflect that.

Few are the games in the genre, and the most popular are:

  • Resident Evil Series
  • Silent Hill Series
  • Left 4 Dead
  • Slender: The Eight Pages
  • The Last of Us


Metroidvania games got their name from their spiritual predecessors, whom they aim to be similar to Metroid and Castlevania.

What connects these games together is that these games have a large interconnected map, that allows you access to advanced areas, only if you’ve hit some requirement, or if you unlocked some item, or sometimes if you found a secret shortcut/passage.

Said methods require defeating a lot of enemies, and many times going back to revisit areas you’ve completed, just because you can further explore it with the use of your newer powers.

Generally, though, Metroidvania games are a lot like puzzle or adventure games, but what makes them stand out as a genre is their boss fights. Metroidvania games always have boss fights, with one final boss waiting at the end of the game.

Though their popularity was high due to Metroid’s and Castlevania’s success, there aren’t many game releases of this genre. But the few games released are certainly worth the effort:

  • Metroid Series
  • Castlevania Series
  • Hollow Knight
  • Ori and the Blind Forest

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Adventure games are a big genre, and theoretically, I could split it to its subgenres for the purposes of this list, but honestly, the subgenres just change the way in which the adventure is delivered.

While the name doesn’t suggest that, adventure games don’t have much action (if at all). Your adventure is through a graphic or text novel, in which you have a character, and your actions always affect the future of the story.

There are elements of puzzle-solving as well with some subgenres fully relying on it.

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Text Adventures where very simplistic in nature, but they still got the story through.

The first of its subgenres is text adventure, used by the first-ever adventure games. The interface and game are simplistic. You just read through the story and use your keyboard for your “reaction” on any given situation.

The second one is graphic adventures. Same as above, only differences being that there is an image of the current location (maybe with some characters in) and your input is the mouse instead of the keyboard.

The aforementioned subgenres were the first kind of adventure games. As technology evolved, so did adventure games, moving on to point-and-click adventure games.

This time, you use your mouse as your guide to the story, for things like answering to NPCs, moving between locations, or interacting with your environment. Usually, in point-and-click adventure games, the main purpose is to find and collect items, for future use.

A different application of point-and-click games is the escape room games, most popular for mobiles. Like the point-and-click, you have to find items within a room (or a predefined space), but you have to figure out how to use them (by combining, dismantling, or just checking them) in order to either escape the room or find the code that lets you escape the room.

Puzzle adventure games are the most renowned adventure games. Generally, you can move and interact with your environment, but the progression relies on puzzle-solving within the environment, instead of inventory puzzles.

Narrative games are another popular adventure game subgenre. These games don’t rely on gameplay; they immerse you in their story instead.

A common theme for these games (which also offers amazing replayability value) is its branching storyline. This means that each choice you make, will affect the final ending of the story. There are also a lot of cutscenes in these games, to help with delivering the story.

Finally, we have some smaller subgenres, the walking simulations, where the story is delivered through walking alone, the visual novels, which is like reading a book, but there are sprites of the characters, which make them more lively.

Finally the (least common) interactive movies, where a movie is played out for you and at some points you input (usually with a joystick, or similar control patterns) a move in order for the movie to continue.

Due to the general lack of action, adventure games aren’t as popular as other genres. They are generally played by gamers who value good storytelling above gameplay. For the few that exist (such as me), the more popular adventure games are:

  • The Talos Principle (Puzzle Adventure Game)
  • The Walking Dead Series (Narrative Adventure Game)
  • Life is Strange Series (Narrative Adventure Game)
  • Portal 1 & 2 (Puzzle Adventure and Platforming Hybrid)

Action RPGs

Action RPGs (Role-Playing Games) are a rather unique subgenre, in the essence that it really became popular thanks to its origins and through its own subgenres. You will not see any recent pure action RPGs, most combine elements from other genres.

Action RPGs originated from the Hack and Slash tabletop games. Hack and Slash games started moving from tabletop to platform when game developers started releasing games set in D&D-like worlds.

What contrasted them from regular action games, or regular RPGs is that they combined elements from both, thus the naming Action RPGs.

Releases began in the late 70s, continuing through the rest of the 20th century. The big breakthrough came in 1996, with Blizzard’s Diablo.

This game reinvented the genre, with games previously being considered examples of action RPGs moving on to other categorizations of subgenres, and Diablo setting the scene for future action RPGs.

While Diablo is a point and click action RPG, there are also the shooter action RPGs, that also began during the late 90s. They may not have the success of Diablo and the subgenre it created, but they are still considered staples as popular action RPGs.

Action RPGs are liked because of their hybridity. Their games have elements from action games, RPGs, shooters, puzzle games, platformers, point and click, and some more.

The common element between all action RPGs is its real-time combat, instead of it being turn-based, which is the reason why many action RPGs are also referred to as hack and slash.

If you are new to Action RPGs as a genre, then I recommend to you the following games in order to get introduced with them:

  • Diablo Series
  • Deus Ex Series
  • Mass Effect Series
  • Final Fantasy XV


MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games) are one of the biggest gaming genres today (even though it has been declining for the past 5 or so years). What keeps MMORPGs so popular among other things, is the fact that in this genre, you create your character.

MMORPGs were created as a variant of the more text-based MUDs. As game developers kept experimenting, MMORPGs weren’t really defined until 1996 and the release of Meridian 58.

Ever since, MMORPGs haven’t seen much change, as there aren’t many things that can be changed in a game that wants to consider itself an MMORPG. During the late 2000s, MMORPGs became one of the most profitable businesses in the world. Their popularity surpassed almost every other genre.

As the name suggests, MMORPGs are combinations of MMOs and RPGs. This means that you will be playing a traditional RPG, where you must progress your character through quests, missions, and enemy slaying.

The difference is that there will be hundreds, if not thousands, of other players trying to do the same. You will be able to interact with them in the virtual world that the game is set.

Usually, you are the one that decides the looks of your character (things such as gender, race, height, hairstyle and many other options). Sometimes though, you are forced within a specific character.

What you always get to choose is your class. Classes determine the role of your character, and every different MMORPG has many different classes (and sometimes subclasses too!), but the main aspects of these classes are (usually) damage, tanking, supporting.

Every MMORPG has at least one PvE mode (Player vs Environment), where players must cooperate in order to kill very hard computer-controlled monsters. MMORPGs also have one (or more) PvP mode(s) (Player vs Player), where teams of players battle other teams of players.

Sometimes, an MMORPG might have some sort of territory contesting mode, where players must contest with players of a different allegiance (through factions, races, clans and other forms of shared identity) for a specific territory.

I’ve already mentioned that MMORPGs are a very profitable business in general. But how do companies earn money from such games? There are several ways which they do:

  1. The first is through a subscription fee. This means that a player must pay a specific amount of money every set amount of time
  2. The second is through the freemium model. That means that the game is generally free, but will require some sort of payment for further advancement or for acquiring strong items and remaining viable during the later stages of the game
  3. The third is by regular payment. Simple enough; you pay once, and you can play indefinitely.
  4. Finally, the fourth method is through cosmetic items. An MMORPG, either free or paid, will give you the option of spending money on cosmetic items that only alter appearance. This method is more commonly used by free-to-play MMORPGs to sustain themselves and the game since there is usually no other form of income
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The impact of MMORPGs is evident by thousands of cosplayers on every gaming event.

MMORPGs also have a huge impact on gaming culture and socialization in general, but to further analyze them, I would be required to write a whole article dedicated to them.

For now, I will list some of the most popular and famous MMORPGs that you can play today:

  • World of Warcraft (Subscription Fee)
  • Guild Wars 2 (Free-to-Play, but has paid expansions with more content)
  • TERA (Free-to-Play)
  • RuneScape (Free-to-Play)


Roguelikes are two-dimensional dungeon crawling games. They got their name from the first roguelike named Rogue.

At the beginning of the genre, roguelikes were characterized dungeon crawling through procedurally generated levels, by turn-based gameplay and permanent death.

As graphics improved, roguelikes couldn’t remain to their original tile-based graphics, lest they face extinction, so by today, the shifted to more procedural labyrinth dungeon crawler style of levels, which means that you have to find an exit every level and that the levels would never have the same map layout, no matter how many times it was repeated.

Having borrowed concepts from the popular tabletop game Dungeons & Dragons, roguelikes allow you to choose your character, his strengths/weaknesses, and many times, allow you to customize your starting attributes and skills.

You begin with your basic equipment, and as you move on, you acquire more powerful weapons, equipment, and items. Combat in older roguelikes is done by moving to the same space as an enemy (or casting a ranged attack/spell), and the game runs calculations for the damage done and/or taken.

While older roguelikes were always turn-based, many roguelikes today are real-time, which means you must adjust your attacks and dodges on constantly moving enemies.

Newer roguelikes, with their real-time combat system and their enhanced graphics, are not considered pure roguelikes, with many claiming that the use of roguelike label for these games is wrong, and the term roguelike-like (or rogue-lite) is to be used.

But these games still capture the original feel of the roguelikes, and in a constantly evolving world, some things are bound to change eventually.

The roguelikes’ main selling point is their replayability; you can start a new game, and every time it’s going to be different than the previous. Many of the newer roguelikes (the “roguelites”) also hold many secrets. As you finish the levels more or complete specific tasks within a run, you can unlock more characters, items, weapons, and easter eggs.

In the list of the more popular roguelikes, I will not make the split between roguelikes and “roguelites”, as I really don’t believe they deserve a separate list:

  • Rogue
  • The Binding of Isaac & The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth
  • Mystery Dungeon Series (by Chunsoft)
  • FTL: Faster than Light

Sandbox RPG (or Open World RPG)

Sandbox (or Open World) RPGs are games that give you the freedom to do what you want in a huge explorable world. There is a main objective or plot to follow, but the world has unlimited secondary content, fully unrelated to the main one.

As a subgenre, it made its first appearances in the late 70s to early 80s, with many games trying to deliver a large, new open-world experience.

Though everyone can argue which game was the first “true” open-world game, none can argue that The Legend of Zelda, released in 1986, was what shaped future open-world games.

Following that, many open-world games were created, some of which are popular (as series) today, and the genre hasn’t shifted from its original games, only improved upon its existing strengths.

The open-world concept is used in a lot of the games released today, with games that aren’t even considered open-world RPGs, like Assassin’s Creed offering you to explore the world in which they are set.

As already mentioned, open-world RPGs have the main storyline (or objective) to follow but allow you to explore any of the areas of the map. By exploring, you can find new weapons, more equipment, more experience, or even just learn about the world you explore through its inhabitants.

Many NPCs will give you secondary quests for you to complete. Gameplay-wise, the game is like the other RPGs, with the usual “character progression through experience and skills” system.

Some of the popular Open-World RPGs include:

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  • Minecraft
  • The Legend of Zelda Series
  • No Man’s Sky
  • Grand Theft Auto Series

Construction and Management Simulation

Construction and management simulation games are this list’s first strategy genre. You are tasked with constructing and managing something (depending on the subgenre). You are usually left with a minimal amount of resources at start, and one of your objectives could be to generate a passive income of said resources.

The gameplay doesn’t differ much between the subgenres; essentially, you are the leading figure in a given town, community, city, country, any form of the social management group.

You decide what are the best steps to strengthen your economy by trying to keep the group of people under supervision pleased. The goal is to reach a specific milestone before another group does (controlled by a different person or an AI).

The first of its subgenres is city-building games. Despite the name, you do not always manage a city ironically. What you manage as a leader is a set piece of land, where your goal is to make it grow.

You must decide which building will be built when and where, and what your people’s priorities and salaries are.

Of course, you do not do any of the building, you are the leader after all; why would you bother with handyman work?

The next subgenre is the theme park management. These games put you in charge of a theme park instead of a whole facility/society. You decide which ride will be built, how expensive their tickets are, and sometimes, other details like duration, height or whatever attribute a theme park ride can have…

The third subgenre is technically a subgenre of city-building games. I’m talking about the colony management games. Just like the city-building games, you manage the society and its constructions, these games, however, put an emphasis on construction and management.

As you are the leader of a colony, your main target is not profit. Instead, you must find ways for your colony to evolve technologically or culturally.

As colony management games focus more on construction and less on the economy, we have their opposites, the business games. Your goal is to become as financially strong as possible. This is done through stock buying and investments. There’s not much else to say about them really.

Government simulation games put you in the position of a leader of a country, and instead of deciding on salaries and building constructions, you decide on the laws of the country.

There really is no challenge with these games though; because you play government simulation, and the game must go on, there is nothing you can do to lose the game.

Finally, we have the sports simulation games, but I will go in-depth with them in the sports genre section. The list of popular construction and management games isn’t long at all, but the three that will be mentioned are known by most of the gaming world:

  • SimCity
  • Age of Empires
  • Tycoon Series:
    • RollerCoaster Tycoon (Theme Park Simulator)
    • Zoo Tycoon (City-building Simulator)
    • Transport Tycoon (Business Simulator)

Life Simulation

Life simulation games (aka artificial life games) are games where you control one or more lives. If you are controlling more than one lives, then that means that you control an ecosystem of sorts.

Life simulation games are simplistic by nature. You do not have a set goal other than just controlling the life of one or more creatures. Usually, you manage aspects such as the relationship department, or the social department.

A genre as simple as this originates from something far more complicated. In fact, life games were created from the results of extensive research on actual artificial life (hence the naming artificial life games).

Even though quite simple by nature, life simulator games have some “subgenres”, although they could better be considered types. The first of the types are digital pet games, where you take care of a virtual pet, without having to worry that it might die.

God games are also part of this type of game genre. In god games, you have control over several people as an omnipotent being who they worship, and you can do whatever you want, with action ranging from blessing them to smiting them.

Biological simulations are the bread and butter of the types of life simulation games. You are given control of some form of population (or a singular entity), and you must achieve things through time.

There are other options available in some games, like crossbreeding or mutations, and you can use such methods to your advantage.

Last, social simulators allow you to manage a group of people based on their social interactions and relationships. You don’t have targets and objectives like in biological simulations, you just make choices for your characters and observe how it affects their status quo.

These games are a little like adventure games, but unlike them, they don’t have a story to compel you.

Life simulation games are not to be taken seriously by a gamer looking to have fun, as they neither have action nor do they immerse you with a story. Even as strategic options, there are far better genres for this job.

But if you are a casual gamer looking to burn some time without needing to learn about complicated rules and movesets, and having a game you can easily put up and down any time of the day, then definitely check the following life simulation games out:

  • The Sims (Social Simulator)
  • Wolf (Biological Simulator)
  • Nintendogs (Digital Pet Simulator)

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Vehicle Simulator

Vehicle simulators are games for players that actually bother with vehicles in their real life. Of course, there is the racing simulation subgenre that is actually very fun even if you don’t know about vehicles, but we’ll get to that soon.

Vehicle simulators, like all previous simulator genres, are self-explanatory; they give you the experience of driving a specific vehicle. Oddly enough, this genre is popular even today.

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Vehicle Simulators put you in the position of a driver of a vehicle.

The key element here is vehicle control. The challenge these games offer you are mastering the vehicle that the game is based on.

You must manage things like speed, acceleration, steering, handling, fuel, and other attributes.

Some games even have a multiplayer option, allowing you to test your skills against other players. Much like an MMORPG, you can usually customize the looks of your vehicle.

The genre is divided between “purist players” and “casuals”. Purists demand full realism from any given vehicle, while casuals don’t care at all. The purists are the kind of people that I mentioned above; interested in vehicles outside of the virtual world as well.

But most vehicle players are casuals, and that’s where racing shines. Casuals, as well as purists, enjoy the classic multiplayer challenge presented.

There are very few games that don’t include driving the vehicle, rather, you are the mechanic that repairs it or a gunner on one of the weapons. They too are considered vehicle simulators.

With many different vehicles existing, there are many different vehicle simulator subgenres, each tailoring to a specific kind of player.

The most basic are racing games, with boat and naval simulators, farming simulators, flight simulators, spacecraft simulators, tank and mech simulators, train simulators and truck simulators being more minor subgenres. And there is the small subgenre of vehicular combat games.

I will not dwell on the minor subgenres, as they are literally what their name implies, but I will note that flight simulators have two more subtypes, the civilian flight simulator, and the military flight simulator.

The first doesn’t have any objective, and is a simple emulation, the biggest challenge presented being bad weather conditions.

The second is being a pilot for military aircraft with missions like taking down the enemies’ base or aircraft.

Now about the racing games. Again, they have two types, but unlike the flight simulators, it doesn’t just change the purpose of the vehicle. The first subtype of racing games is the racing simulations, the second is the arcade racing game.

The racing simulations are based on real-world facts and events, such as the Formula races, or NASCAR. These games are heavily based on the real world, with things such as damage to your car when you crash, and prize money when you win to further upgrade your car.

This type of game adheres to the purist type of player I mentioned above, but many casuals enjoy it as well.

The second one is the gamer suited version of vehicles. In the arcade racing games, you race on settings and levels of a fantasy world, with many rules not obeying physics at all.

Many games have weapons to use to hinder your opponents, and I’m not talking about guns and rockets. There is a large variety of weapons in every different game, depending on the title.

In the end, whether you are a purist or a casual, the following list of popular games will have you covered:

  • Project CARS 2 (Racing Simulator)
  • GTR 2 – FIA GT Racing Game (Racing Simulator)
  • Mario Kart Series (Arcade Racing Game)
  • FlatOut Series (Vehicular Combat Game)


4X games are my personal favorite genre of games. Again, belonging to the strategy grand genre, 4X games are the epitome of strategic thinking and planning.

4X stands for the words eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate. These words show your objectives, as typically, in a 4X game, you control an empire of sorts. That does not mean that any game that puts you in control of an empire (or country) is a 4X game, in fact, they are renowned for their complexity.

4X games were influenced by various board games, much like action RPGs and roguelikes. Unlike them though, 4X games were influenced by strategic games requiring a lot of time and thought, instead of classical role-playing games like D&D.

Though some 4X games were released prior to 1991, they were mostly seen as simple strategy games and didn’t gather enough audience, partly due to marketing reasons. One notable release was Armada 2525, which was the father of 4X games, but due to the financial problems the company that released had, it did not get the deserving attention.

Everything began in 1991, with the man known to every 4X player, and most of the gaming world as well; Sid Meier. His influence on 4X games was crucial, and without him, 4X games might not have even been a thing today.

The game that started it all was Sid Meier’s: Civilization. Having been influenced by a lot of strategy games, Civilization was the first strategy game to put an emphasis on technology and diplomacy, as well as the militaristic power of an empire.

It also introduced another way of winning, rather than simply conquering all; you could win if you were technologically advanced enough to be the first civilization to reach the Alpha Centauri System.

This system of multiple ways to win continued to develop through newer releases of the Civilization series, with today having 5 different ways to win, and therefore to play the game.

4X games developed after the release of Civilization tried to emulate some of its designs, and that is why you will see some similarities between all 4X games. 4X games typically have some form of research and technological advancement.

Though many non 4X games have research and advancement trees, 4X games tend to have much more options, and more diverse paths, as the technological race is intended to last for the entirety of the game session.

Peaceful competition is another of the design commons among 4X games. This is the option to win by never being aggressive with any enemy, and never needing to attack them or hinder the (except maybe with espionage).

Another thing in common in 4X games is the choice between multiple factions, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Due to the similarities mentioned, and the turn-based nature of the games, a typical game session tends to last for lots of hours.

4X games have a fanatic audience that adores the strategic part of the game, which results in 4X games being released every year or so, or at the very least, new features for existing 4X games. If the thought of 4X games entices you, I suggest the following games to get you started:

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Freeciv, a free 4X game, and a very good introduction to the genre.
  • Sid Meier’s: Civilization Series (Most notably 4 (IV) and 6 (VI))
  • Master of Orion Series
  • Freeciv (a free 4X games if you want an introduction without paying)
  • Galactic Civilizations III

Real-Time Strategy (RTS)

When websites speak generally about strategy games, or if a casual player that does not understand the differences between different genres and subgenres tries to mention strategy games, they almost always refer to the real-time strategy genre of games. Real-time refers to the continuous nature of the games, where, you don’t have a turn to think about your next plan or move.

Real-time strategy games are the most popular of the strategy game genre. The experts will argue about which was the first RTS released, and to further complicate things, RTS themselves were developed separately in North America, United Kingdom and Japan.

The releases did have some common themes that helped define real-time strategy games, but the genre unified with the release of Herzog Zwei by Sega and Genesis in 1989.

Herzog Zwei helped the genre by creating staples for a real-time strategy game to have, such as unit construction and resource management. Alas, Herzog Zwei was an arcade game, and the genre still had way before being compact. Dune II, released in 1992, along with Warcraft: Orcs & Humans, are what fully led the RTS genre to what we know today.

Dune II was heavily inspired by Herzog Zwei but had the advantage of utilizing a mouse and a keyboard. Thus, the unit and building control became more solid and allowed the game to have more options. Following the success of Dune II, Blizzard decided to invest in the newly created genre by releasing the first Warcraft game, just two years after Dune II.

The game was a huge success, not just because of the genre in general, but for its story and setting, as well as other things such as the ability to build farms giving the player a feeling of full society, instead of just a military setting.

Ever since, newer releases just expanded on existing elements of the genre, instead of innovating. Through the advancement of technology and the refinement of the genre, we got what we have today.

Real-time strategy games today as regarded as the highest form of competitive strategy games, due to the continuous thinking and micromanagement required.

Gameplay for real-time strategy games is simple at its core, despite the difficulty of the game itself. You have a base and some units, and you must utilize them, along with the limited starting resources you have, in order to expand and grow your town. At the same time, the enemy has a similar start on the other end of the map (usually), thus starting a race of who can be the first to topple the other. Sometimes there are different factions with their own strengths and weaknesses, for example, a faction might have very expensive and strong units or very cheap but weak units. The first must play a slow build-up game to dominate the enemy late, and the second must rely on swarming of its units early to be successful. Micro and macromanagement is also a core element of any RTS.

Micromanaging refers to the control of small scale and easily noticeable things, such as your units, your buildings, your resources.

Macromanagement refers to how you can use those small actions for a grander scheme in the game, for example, how a future building you build will affect the map layout in future battles.

A small, and not nearly as successful subgenre of the RTS games are the real-time tactics games (RTT for short). These games forego the building and economy management of traditional RTS games by instead focusing on a single unit or group of units for you to manage, and on the tactics required for you to win.

Its relatively lower popularity is due to its design; they decided on foregoing elements the made the genre successful, to begin with. Of course, that does not mean they are not fun.

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Starcraft II; one of the most competitive games in the world.

If you want to play real-time strategy games competitively, there is only one option for you, if you want to have fun, the second series of games is solely created as single player and should be enjoyed as one:

  • Starcraft 2 (the competitive choice)
  • Warcraft Series (bar World of Warcraft, as it is an MMORPG)
  • Starcraft: Remastered (the original Starcraft with updated graphics)

Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA)

One of the most popular game genres and one of the newest ones as well, multiplayer online battle arena games (or MOBAs for short) are the epitomai of competitive gaming. Every PC gamer has heard of the game League of Legends (LoL).

MOBAs could be considered by some as a subgenre of the real-time strategy games, but the truth is, the only thing in common with the two is the real-time combat they are based on. Truth be told though, MOBAs originated thanks to the real-time strategy classic: Starcraft.

Starcraft gave players their own game editing based on the game’s engine. A user named Aeon64 created a custom map called Aeon of Strife (AoS), in which you assumed control of a powerful character, and then on to one of three different lanes in order to battle with opposing players. This is the core design of a MOBA, but it still had room for development, as it didn’t have much to do other than going to a lane and fighting.

A few years later, again through modding in a Blizzard game, more specifically Warcraft 3: Reign of Chaos, and later its sequel Warcraft 3: Frozen Throne, a user named Eul created a map called Defense of the Ancients (DotA). This map was inspired by AoS.

Likewise, you had control of a character that was growing more powerful, and you went to one of three different lanes to do battle with opposing players. But in DotA, you also had help from smaller, weaker, AI-controlled units (called creeps), and each team had a base with powerful buildings called towers to protect it.

DotA became a massive success within the Warcraft 3 community, and through changes (both in modders working on it and gameplay-wise), it reached its peak form: DotA: Allstars. One of the first modders of DotA worked along with other programmers on a new game based on DotA called League of Legends. Valve also hired the creator of DotA: Allstars in order to work on a standalone DotA title that won’t be based on another game engine.

Newly founded Riot Games released League of Legends in 2009, and Valve released DotA 2 in 2013. These two games became the most-watched professional e-sport in the world and the highest cash reward giving e-sport in the world respectively.

Blizzard then decided that enough is enough and that they couldn’t be out of an extremely popular genre that was created thanks to them. So, they released Heroes of the Storm (HotS) in 2015, with characters from all their titles as competing heroes.

In fact, Blizzard completely disregarded gold gain and item acquisition that MOBAs had and relied on for gameplay balance purposes, instead of focusing more on hero brawling and action. The results are left up to debate between players.

Personally, I enjoy both ways, but I like Blizzard’s version a bit more as it is more teamwork-oriented. Oh, and sometime in 2014, Smite was released, which gave MOBAs a fresh third-person perspective.

I already listed the most popular MOBAs through their history (besides Smite which was just an honorable mention), but in case you were too bored to read (tl;dr):

  • League of Legends (LoL)
  • DotA 2
  • Heroes of the Storm (HotS)
  • Smite

Tower Defense

One of the simpler genres of the list, tower defense games are liked for their simplicity, and the challenge they present you.

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One of the first Tower Defense games.

Tower defense as a concept began with the very popular arcade game Space Invaders where you had to protect yourself and your territory from hordes of enemies. Through the years, and with many, many games, the concept further evolved.

At first, instead of controlling the unit that defends and its attacks, you were instead placing it somewhere along the paths. Then you could choose different ways to defend. A precursor game introduced automatic attacking of towers, being able to repair your base, upgrading the defenses, and more importantly, different (and harder) types of enemies.

Gameplay-wise, you begin with a small amount of currency, and you must use it to decide which towers to place and where depending on the map. Each defeated enemy gives you more of the currency to buy more towers, or to upgrade existing ones.

Towers have different effects, further augmented by their upgrades, and you can use a variety of different strategies to win. Enemies become progressively harder and with more powers and/or resistances. There is often a free play mode, where there is no set number of rounds, the game just keeps going.

With the use of Flash Adobe, as well as the mobile gaming bang in the late 2000s, tower defense games became very popular for their easy-to-pick-up nature. Since then, two popular series have been created and maintained to this day (and they’re from the same company!).

These will make up the list because the rest are easy to find and aren’t worth it if you’re looking for a recent game or one that will get more features and updates in the future. The list:

  • Bloons Tower Defense Series (the latest is Btd6, the most popular Btd4)
  • Plants vs Zombies Series


Wargames are what they imply; games about war, and the tactics on how to win them.

Wargames are not that popular as a genre, but they gain a spot on the list for their very popular subgenre: grand strategy games. Grand strategy games are much like 4X games; they require a lot of strategic planning and thinking. But unlike them, you only win through warfare.

Every action you take to advance your economy, culture, or technology, is done with the intent of destroying the enemy through sheer domination.

Grand strategy games might have other parts for you to work on (such as prestige and culture) but they are for score purposes only (or for civil order and to avoid rebellions), you cannot survive long without strong military power.

Most are turn-based, but the Total War series is a mixture of turn-based actions and real-time combat; you control your empire and movement of armies taking turns but fight in real-time.

The gameplay is very similar to 4X games. You must manage your economy, your civil order, and your army, to achieve the best possible result, the only difference is, the only option is to destroy or be destroyed.

Generally, grand strategy games are preferred by those who like a good strategy game but don’t want to overcomplicate things more than they should, as grand strategy games only allow you to focus on how to topple your opponent’s forces.

Still, they are very popular, and even though I prefer 4X games myself; I still play grand strategy games just as much. The more popular strategy games you can play are:

  • Europa Universalis Series
  • Total War Series (except Total War: Arena)
  • Crusader Kings II


Another of the earliest genres known to game, sports games are not just what they imply. For example, did you know that one of the first sports game ever was… Pong (I dare you to find a more fitting genre for Pong if you can! Unless you don’t know what Pong is, in which case, what exactly are you doing in a gaming article anyway?). Besides, who hasn’t seen Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!, or some old basketball game with pixel-art graphics.

Sports games are video games that express any real-world sport in some way or in some form. Depending on the rules of each sport of which the game you’re playing, you just gotta do what every person playing a sport wants: win.

Really, there’s not much I can say about history; sports games just developed in graphics and controls. I mean, look at the FIFA series, there’s not much to improve on a game that’s based on an already predetermined set of rules. Some arcade games that are based on athletic events have their own twists, but the main concept is the same.

There are also sports management games, where you focus on the tactical side of things. These games require more strategy and planning, as you must decide which players you want on your team, how to utilize them, how to keep them happy, what to do when they’re injured etc.

Sports games are a somehow closed-off genre, because, despite its popularity, most players playing a sports game, have some exposure to said sport to get into a game about it. Or they just want to kill time. (Pong!)

The list of popular games will have mostly football (soccer for the Americans out there) and basketball games because they are the most popular sports in the real world as well:

  • FIFA Series / Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) Series
  • Football Manager Series
  • NBA Live Series
  • Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Series
  • Pong
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Idle games might not have a spot in most game genre lists, but the few that like them aren’t represented enough. And so, as a fan of these games, I will do my best to represent them honorably.

Firstly, I’ll address the gameplay: The game begins with you having nothing and requiring performing 1 simple action. Then you gain something for that action. After performing that action a few more times, you can purchase something, that will help you generate more… of that something, either by rewarding your actions more, or passively. By purchasing enough passive income you just leave the game running on its own, and return literally whenever to make more purchases.

The question I’m usually asked when talking about such games with friends is the classic “But what’s fun about a game where you have to do nothing in the end?”

When a person plays a game, their target is to have fun and to do that, the player must achieve things in any given game. Well, idle games give you this small pleasure with absolutely minimal time investment.

An idle game is played because every person will be at a phase where they can’t invest time in a game of the other genres, but he has about 20 or so minutes to kill. Idle games give you the option.

But also, most gamers, being gamers, have an innate insatiable curiosity, and when they actually begin an idle game, they want to see how far they can get. Realm Grinder in specific has hundreds of achievements and things to unlock, and different factions, with different ways to earn money.

Now I don’t expect anyone who doesn’t play such games agreeing with me on the spot and playing idle games gleefully for the rest of their lives. But, if you really don’t play these games, I plead with you to try them out for just a measly 10-15 minutes.

Trust me, that’s how I began snowballing into checking my idle game every 10 minutes. Just do it for as much as 15 minutes. I will suggest two games in case you decide to hear me out; both games have support today:

  • Realm Grinder
  • Clicker Heroes (There is also Clicker Heroes 2 in Early Access)

EDIT: Idle games seem to be more popular on mobiles these days as many idle game/realm management hybrids make their way to our screens. I still suggest you try the original ones I mentioned, and continue with these new games afterwards.

So, this was the list of the genres of games you can play. Again, if you feel that I left any genre out of this list just tell me so in the comments, and I will either explain to you why what you ask isn’t on the list, or you can convince me to put it in the list. If you have any other questions, feel free to ask, and I will answer as soon as I see them.

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