The Computer and video game genres reference article from the English Wikipedia on 24-Apr-2004
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Computer and video game genres

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This is an alphabetized listing of computer and video game genres with a brief description and examples from each genre. This list is by no means complete or comprehensive; rather, it represents a variety of genres as proposed by a variety of parties. As with nearly all varieties of genre classification, the matter of any individual game's specific genre is open to personal interpretation.

Within game studies there is a lack of consensus in reaching accepted formal definitions for game genres, some being more popular than others. For example, some schemas are largely semiotic, while others rely more strongly on configurative patterns of interface and mechanics.

Many of these categories overlap due to the subjective nature of many genres. (For example, the Legend of Zelda series has elements of action, adventure and role-playing.) This overlapping is further pronounced as more games are being produced and styled as hybrids, blending elements characteristic to one or more popular genres (e.g. "Action-RPGs" like Diablo, Vagrant Story, and ).

Table of contents
1 Adventure
2 Educational
3 Fighting
4 First-person shooter
5 Platform
6 Puzzle
7 Racing
8 Retro
9 Rhythm
10 Role-playing
11 Serious
12 Shooters
13 Shoot 'em up
14 Simulation
15 Sports
16 Strategy
17 Survival horror
18 Third person shooters
19 Traditional
20 See also


Adventure games cast the player as the protagonist of a story in which the player participates. These games normally require the player to solve various puzzles and find various artifacts. The earliest adventure games were textual, then a hybrid of visual display with textual input, and now rely on "point-n-click". Mass market adventure games are nearly nonexistent today, and most new entries into the genre are fan-created interactive fiction games.

Adventure games began with Adventure in the 1970s, later developed into the Zork series, and rose to popularity in the 1980s and early to mid-1990s. Notable titles include Day of the Tentacle, the King's Quest series and the Monkey Island games.

In the terminology of console video games, adventure games are games which involve exploration of, and interaction with, the environment as a main facet of gameplay. The term "adventure" here refers to Adventure on the Atari 2600 instead of Colossal Cave Adventure. Notable console adventure games include the Legend of Zelda series, the Tomb Raider series and the Grand Theft Auto series.


Educational games, as the name implies, attempt to teach the user using the game as a vehicle. Most of these types of games target young user from the ages of about three years to mid-teens; past the mid-teens, subjects become so complex (e.g. Calculus) that teaching via a game is impractical. Numerous subgenres exist, each for a different field (math games, typing games and so on).

Notable games in the genre include the Carmen Sandiego series, Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing, and the Oregon Trail series.

Programming games like Robocode and Core War may also be put in the educational category.

A somewhat less serious approach to the genre is typified by the typing tutor The Typing of the Dead.


Beat 'em up or fighting games emphasize one-on-one combat between two players, one of whom may be computer controlled. These games usually focus on martial arts, which are usually so dramatic and physically impossible as to be comical. Some of these games may also employ hand-held weapons in addition to or instead of performing combat gymanastics (such as Soul Calibur and some characters in Mortal Kombat). This genre arose in the mid-1980s and became a phenomenon with the release of Street Fighter II; the genre is still popular today.

Notable series of games include King of Fighters, Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, Soul Edge, Soul Calibur, Tekken and Virtua Fighter.

First-person shooter

First-person shooters (FPS) emphasize shooting and combat from a specific perspective. Most FPS's place the player behind a gun or other weapon with the player's "hand" holding the weapon. This perpective is meant to give the player the feeling of "being there." Most FPS's are very fast-paced and require quick reflexes. Because of the perspective, these games tend to be very violent.

Recent studies have shown that these types of game actually improve user's reflexes (as in reaction time). The same study showed that little time was needed (as little as a few hours) to see improvements in reaction times.

To be an effective game, an FPS needs to be both fast and 3-dimensional, which put them out of the reach of most consumer hardware until the early 1990s. DOOM was the "breakout" game of the genre; it used a number of clever techniques to make the game fast enough to run on average machines.

See first-person shooter for more detail, and a sampling of games in this genre.


Platformers, also called side-scrollers, view the game area from a side or "cutaway" perspective. In these games, the background or playing area smoothly scrolls as the player moves about, hence the name. These games are traditionally 2D, but some have employed 3D computer graphics effectively. Traditional elements of these games include running, jumping and some fighting. Side-scrollers were some of the first types of video games and are still popular today, usually with younger players.

Notable games and series include Donkey Kong, Super Mario Brothers, Lode Runner, and Sonic the Hedgehog.


Puzzle gamess require the player to solve logic puzzles or even navigate complex locations such as mazes. This genre frequently crosses over with adventure and educational games.

Minesweeper, Q*Bert, and Tetris are probably the best-known games in this genre; see list of computer puzzle games for more.


Racing games are one of the most traditional of genres. They typically place the player in the driver seat of a high performance vehicle and require the player to compete against other drivers or sometimes just time. Emerging in the early 1980s, this genre is still very popular today and continues to push the envelope in terms of graphics and performance. A popular subgenre of the racing game is the kart racing game, which simlifies the vehicle handling and introduces various obstacles and other quirks to the racetrack.

Notable racing games include OutRun, Gran Turismo and Mario Kart.


Retro games are those early games following a simple (if not simplistic) interface, which involves at most simple four-directional movement and one basic command. "Retro" is not necessarily a genre, as many seemingly unrelated games could be likened together under this umbrella. Most pre-Nintendo Entertainment System console and arcade games could be classified as "retro". Pong and Pacman are probably the two most notable examples of the genre.


Rhythm games challenge the player to follow sequences or develop specific rhythms. Some games require the player to tap out rhythms using a game controller or keyboard while others require the player to actually dance in sync to music. This genre arose in the late 1990s with the ever increasing popularity of rap music and the success of Dance Dance Revolution. Also see audio game.


Computer role-playing games (CRPGs or simply RPGs) place the player in a fantasy or science fiction setting. Most of these games are similar to traditional role-playing games played with pencil and paper (notably D&D) except, in this case, the computer takes care of all the record keeping and deterministic elements such as die rolling. Most of these games have the player acting in the role of an "adventurer" who specializes in a certain set of skills (such as combat or casting magic spells). These skill sets are normally called "classes" and players can normally control one or more of these characters. Since the emergence of affordable home computers coincided with the popularity of pencil and paper role-playing games, this genre was one of the first in video games and continues to be popular today.

Though nearly all of the early entries in the genre were turn-based games, modern CRPGs have introduced a real-time aspect, thanks largely to the success of Diablo and similarly designed games. Thus, the CRPG genre has folllowed the strategy game's trend of moving from turn-based to real-time combat.


Recent times have seen the emergence of a new genre called serious games. Serious games are targeted at adults and teach them real-world concepts via games. These games are contracted by large companies (such as Wal-Mart) to supplement their educational budget. For example, a game that teaches a manager how to run a Wal-Mart Supercenter may cost $1 million to develop, as opposed to having all the managers attend seminars that cost $20 million. As with traditional computer games, serious games are designed to be engaging, fun and competetive so that users will be encouraged to continue playing (and therefore learning from) them.

Serious games are too new have had a significant effect on the game industry and, since most are developed specifically for one client, they are not released for retail sale to the general public. However, many large corporations are starting to leverage the educational and financial benefits of serious games in addition to traditional professional training.


Shooters emphasize shooting enemies, whether they be human, alien or insect. These games usually employ a top-down or fixed side perspective. These games have a fixed playing area and the player has limited mobility. Some versions allow no mobility at all (just aiming), these are called rail shooters. Most of these games can be played (though not completed) in a matter of minutes. Some of these games do not even have a formal ending; instead they just get progressively harder. Another of the earliest genres, these types of games have fallen in popularity though they still have a strong hobbyist following.

Space Invaders is the prototypical game of the genre; other notables include Centipede and Missile Command.

Shoot 'em up

Scrolling shooters, also known as "Shoot 'em ups" or "Shmups," emphasize fast-paced shooting or shooting and running. The targets may be intelligent or non-intelligent (as in Asteroids). This genre is somewhat muddled. For example, at what point does a shooter become a shoot 'em up? Another very early genre which has a mixed following today.

The genre may be said to begin with Spacewar in 1962, but Asteroids is probably the most familiar.


Some do not consider simulations to be games at all, but rather "digital toys" or "software toys." Indeed, this is how Will Wright, the designer of the most popular video game of all time, The Sims, describes his games. These games aim to simulate a specific activity (such as flying an airplane) as realistically as practically possible, taking into account physics and other real-world limitations. Some require a great deal of reading before the game can even be attempted, while others include a simple tutorial. Some of these types of games, such as flight simulators, have a limited following, while others, such as The Sims have an enormous following, including those who don't consider themselves "gamers."

Flight simulators are their own well-developed subgenre of simulation, as are wargames. Games such as The Sims, SimCity, SimAnt, and SimEarth are combinations of simulation and strategy.


Sports games emulate the playing of traditional physical sports such as baseball, soccer, American football, boxing, golf, basketball, ice hockey, tennis, bowling, rugby, etc. Some emphasize actually playing the sport, while others emphasize the strategy behind the sport (such as Championship Manager). Others satirize the sport for comic effect (such as Arch Rivals). This genre emerged early in the history of video games and remains popular today and is extremely competitive, just like real-world sports.


Strategy games focus on careful planning and skillful resource management in order to achieve victory. Classified as "thinking games," these products are targeted at teens and a more mature audience. Most of these games are turn-based as opposed to realtime, but there are some that are realtime or mix the two types of play (such as X-Com). This genre has had a consistent following since the mid-1980s.

The two main subgenres are turn-based and real-time games. Turn-based games were originally the common form of strategy game, the computers of the time being too slow for real-time interaction, and go back to Star Trek games played on teletypes. Early home computers were soon adopted for wargames, and the genre expanded from there.

Survival horror

Survival horror games focus on fear and attempt to scare the player via traditional horror fiction elements such as atmospherics, death, the undead, blood and gore. Many of these games include first-person shooter elements. The genre is thought to having originated with Alone in the Dark and to a lesser extent System Shock, and was popularized by the Resident Evil series. Other notable games in the genre include Silent Hill and Fatal Frame (Project Zero).

Third person shooters

Third-person shooters (TPS) employ a specific perspective for the player. This is normally just behind the game character, but it is sometimes an isometric perspective. Many of these games are classified in other genres as well (such as Tomb Raider). The Grand Theft Auto series falls into this genre, as do such games as Heretic II, Jet Force Gemini, Mafia, Magic Carpet and Oni.


Most popular board games, card games, and the like have been computerized to some degree or another. For example, almost 1000 freeware board games are available written in Zillions. Computer game programs can be worthy opponents and can help improve one's skill at traditional games.

See also