An Introduction to Video Game Genres and Culture

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An Introduction to Video Game Genres and Culture

Introduction to Video Games

Video games are here to stay, and whether you’re bored, going to a party, or just enjoy digital media and art, you will surely be required to pick up a controller(1) at some point. 

How can you talk to your friends about video games? In this blog we are going to cover the most popular genres, the difference between a casual and hardcore gamer, and talk about what retro gaming is. 

This blog is a companion piece to podcast #12 Press Start by Ride the Vibes. If you haven’t listened, no worries,you don’t need to listen to understand this blog. 

The Genres of Video Games

I imagine many people immediately think of guns when they think of video games, but much like movies and books, there are different genres(2), and the video game universe has blossomed into a diverse ecosystem. 

Role Playing Games (RPG) 

Role playing games are massively popular, and typically—but not always—incorporate fantasy themes. They often involve a deep plot, heroes, and an evil force threatening to destroy the world. 

One major trait common in RPGs is leveling up and buying equipment(3). The more you fight, the higher level you become, and you need to use money to buy weapons, armor, magic, items, and so on. 

RPGs are probably considered the nerdiest genre of video game because they tend to be very long, and they require a lot of strategy and patience. People who love deep stories, emotional soundtracks, a lot of exploration, and long adventures will love RPGs. 


Famous RPGs: Final Fantasy, World of Warcraft, The Witcher, Dark Souls, and Fire Emblem

Steve’s pick: Persona 5

Yoshi’s pick: Pokemon

Winnie’s pick: Pokemon 

Persona 5 role playing game


Shooting games have always been one of the most popular genres since the days of Space Invaders, Contra, and Doom. Shooting games involve guns, explosions, and a lot of action. 

The most popular kind of shooting subgenre(4) is called a first person shooter (FPS). This is when you run around in first person and shoot every bad guy in sight. There are also run and guns, which are 2D games where you run left and blast away the baddies. 

The last subgenre I will mention here is spaceship shooters (shmups), where you control one spaceship and need to shoot, blow up, and survive near-endless hordes of enemy ships. 

If you like fast-paced intense action, shooting games are for you. 


Famous Shooters: Call of Duty, Doom, PlayerUnknown Battlegrounds, Contra, and Space Invaders

Steve’s pick: Doom

Yoshi’s pick: PlayerUnknown Battlegrounds

Winnie’s pick: House of the Dead 

shooter PubG


Anyone who has played a Mario game knows what a platformer is. Platformers don’t usually feature in-depth stories, but they are fun games for all ages, and the gameplay tends to revolve around exploration, jumping around/surviving obstacles, and defeating bad guys (poor little goombas!) 

The most unifying(5) aspect of platformers is being able to jump. You need to jump over pits, and across moving obstacles. In many platformers, you can jump on enemies to kill them. Some platformers are more about exploration while others are more action oriented. 

This was my favorite genre as a kid, and many of the most beloved video game characters arose from this genre. If you like catchy music, dynamic gameplay, and colorful worlds, platformers may be for you. 


Famous platformers: Mario Bros, Sonic The Hedgehog, Mega Man, Kirby, Celeste

Steve’s pick: Donkey Kong Country 

Yoshi’s pick: Super Mario Bros. 

Winnie’s pick: Sonic Adventure  

platformer Sonic Adventure


Tetris is the face of puzzle games, so everyone pictures blocks falling down into neat patterns when they hear “puzzle games.” However, they are much more diverse than this. 

Puzzle games might involve moving shapes together, escaping a room, arranging numbers, etc., (there are too many examples to list here). The main feature of puzzle games is that you need to use logic and strategy to complete a puzzle in order to move on to a new area or to a harder puzzle. 

One final thing to note is that other genres like RPGs and adventure games often incorporate puzzles. If you like to use your brain until it hurts, puzzle games might be for you. 


Famous Puzzle Games: Tetris, Portal, Angry Birds, Dr. Mario, Candy Crush

Steve’s pick: Puyo Puyo

Yoshi’s pick: Limbo 

Winnie’s pick: Candy Crush

puzzle candy crush


Racing games are self-explanatory. In this genre, the player will usually control a car, race, and try to come in first place. Racing games don’t always feature cars though. There could be motor bikes, futuristic(6) vehicles, airplanes, and lots of other whacky vehicles. 

The most famous racing game is probably Mario Kart, where Mario and his Mushroom Kingdom companions ride in go-karts throwing bananas and shells at each other. If you like assembling cars, fast-paced action, and drifting, this genre is for you. 

Famous Racing Games: Mario Kart, Forza, Gran Turismo, Need For Speed, Burnout

Steve’s pick: Mario Kart

Yoshi’s pick: Need For Speed

Winnie’s pick: Mario Kart

racing Mario Kart

Survival Horror 

Survival horror games may seem like shooters on the surface, but unlike them, this genre is all about atmosphere. Survival horror games often feature dark and grisly(7) scenarios (like a zombie apocalypse or being lost in the middle of space). Unlike most shooters, survival horror games usually feature a more compelling story and a potential mystery to unravel. 

The music is generally lo-fi and creepy, the colors are dark and shadowy, and there is usually a big emphasis on just trying to survive. Weapon ammo may be scarce, health may be hard to find, and you will likely have to choose between fight or flight. If you like the feeling of stress and adrenaline and the exhilaration of being hunted, survival horror games may be up your alley. 


Famous Survival Horror Games: Resident Evil, Silent Hill, Alien Isolation, Bioshock, The Last of Us

Steve’s pick: Bioshock/ The Last of Us 

Yoshi’s pick: Resident Evil/Outlast

Winnie’s pick: N/A

survival horror Resident Evil


Adventure games are hard to define. They often mix elements from RPGs, shooters, and platformers. 

Adventure games involve a lot of exploration with some action. They don’t tend to focus on leveling up or upgrading gear. Instead, they tend to be shorter games that allow you to explore the world. 

That said, adventure games are often intertwined(8) with other genres. Their key feature is being able to explore and advance the plot without having the tedium of RPGs. If you like games that allow you to explore beautiful worlds without a lot of tedium, adventure games are for you. 


Famous Adventure Games: The Legend of Zelda, Shadow of the Colossus, God of War, Journey, Metroid

Steve’s pick: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 

Yoshi’s pick: God of War

Winnie’s pick: Mario Odyssey 

adventure Mario Odyssey


Fighting games are different from shooters: They usually involve fighting fist to fist or with melee weapons. 

Most–but not all–fighting games are 2D. These games tend to feature punching, kicking, grappling, tossing, and blocking. Games like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat also made memorizing button combinations really famous. If you like short bursts of intense action and kicking your friends’ butts, fighting games are definitely for you. 


Famous Fighters: Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, Super Smash Bros., Tekken, Marvel vs. Capcom.

Steve’s pick: Super Smash Bros. 

Yoshi’s pick: Mortal Kombat/League of Legends 

Winnie’s pick: Dead or Alive/Soul Calibur

fighting Marvel vs. Capcom 2


Sports games are exactly what they sound like, games where you play sports (just in a virtual world). 

Nowadays, there is a game for just about every sport under the sun. Football, baseball, basketball, wrestling? Check. There is even a car football game. If you love sports and competition, this is your genre. 


Famous Sports Games: Madden, NBA 2K, Rocket League, Everybody’s Golf, MLB The Show

Steve’s pick: NBA Jam

Yoshi’s pick: NBA 2K

Winnie’s pick: NBA 2K 

sports NBA 2K


Simulation games are totally different from most others. Instead of combat, jumping around, or exploring, you will simulate real-world activities. Flight simulators used to be the most popular, but nowadays, you can farm, build a village, date, and so on. 

Some simulators are just made for entertainment, but others can actually be used for education. For example, there are simulators that allow you to build a computer or conduct a surgery. Simulation games have a lot of potential to be used in schools and workplaces, especially if VR continues to evolve. 


Famous simulation games: Animal Crossing, Stardew Valley, SimCity, Spore, City Skylines

Steve’s pick: PC Building Simulator

Yoshi’s pick: SimCity 

Winnie’s pick: Overcooked 

simulation Sim City

Casual vs. Hardcore Gaming 

Let’s break down casual and hardcore first. Casual means relaxed and not concerned or not regular. Hardcore means highly committed, active, and strict members of a group. 

A casual gamer might play games when they have some free time and want to relax. They won’t prioritize playing video games, and they most likely don’t play every day. While they might love certain video games or franchises, they won’t regularly spend money on gaming, and they probably won’t have a big game collection. 

7 Psychological Benefits of Video Games

A hardcore gamer is likely to prioritize their gaming time over all other social activity. They want to play regularly, and they have goals that are related to the games they are playing. Hardcore players are also more likely to buy video games on a regular basis and they very well might have a decent collection, which they are proud of. Finally, hardcore gamers are likely members of the community: Maybe they stream, make videos, write blogs, or just pay attention to gaming news and other prominent members of the community. 

Retro Gaming

Retro, in essence, means something from the past or something that resembles the past. Retro video games would be older games. This could be anything from 8-bit games like with the NES (Famicom), or even games that are just ten years old, from the past generation. 

Retro games are popular because they are now more easy to play than ever, and people feel a lot of nostalgia(10) towards them. 

Many retro game collections have come out for modern video game consoles, and there have even been mini consoles (like the NES/Famicom Classic Edition). On top of that, people often build their own gaming devices, such as with the wildly popular single-board computer, Raspberry Pi

Lastly, there are tons of modern games that are made to look retro. They are new games but feature aesthetics(10) that make them seem like older games.

retro video games


1. controller (n.) 

Def. an input device used with video games or entertainment systems to provide input to a video game, typically to control an object or character in the game

Ex. Modern video game controllers feature two analog sticks. 

2. genre (n.) 

Def. a category of artistic, musical, or literary composition characterized by a particular style, form, or content

Ex. My favorite genre of video games to play would be RPGs. 

3. equipment (n.) 

Def. the set of articles or physical resources serving to equip a person or thing

Ex. You will need to buy some basic construction equipment if you want to work here. 

4. subgenre (n.) 

Def. a genre that is part of a larger genre

Ex. Black comedy is my favorite subgenre of comedy. 

5. unifying (adj.)  

Def. to make into a unit or a coherent whole

The unifying trait we all share is that we’ve lived abroad before.

6. futuristic (adj.) 

Def. of, relating to, or characteristic of the future, futurism, or futurology

also : very modern

Ex. Flying cars are still very futuristic

7. grisly (adj.) 

Def.  inspiring horror or intense fear

Ex. The bloody corpses in the game are grisly

8. intertwine (v.) 

Def. to unite by twining one with another

Ex. We want to intertwine our business ideas so we can make more money. 

9. nostalgia (n.) 

Def. a wistful or excessively sentimental yearning for return to or of some past period or irrecoverable condition

Ex. I love 90s music because it brings about a deep feeling of nostalgia

10. aesthetics (n.) 

Def. of, relating to, or dealing with aesthetics or the beautiful

Ex. This game came out in 2019, but the aesthetics feel very 1980s. 


Controller-video-games-gaming by StockSnap

background-video-game-80s-aliens by MasterTux