Game Design

Game genres I don't like

written 2023-09-18

I thought it'd be fun to write about all the genres I categorically dislike and why. This doesn't always mean I think the genre is objectively bad (though I do think that on some of them as you'll see), but it means you shouldn't recommend to me games of that genre. Hopefully this will be an interesting discussion. In no particular order, starting off with...

Precision platformers

Platformers that consist mostly of having to execute a fixed sequence of inputs very precisely. These are usually platformers where everything kills you in 1 hit, and challenges consist of elements that either have no state at all (platforms, spikes) or that follow fixed patterns (moving platforms, spikes that appear and disappear on a cycle), so getting past them just requires planning out a sequence of inputs and rehearsing it to perfection. An example is Celeste. I found that game's story more interesting than its gameplay.

Celeste review

I like platformers that aren't like this. For example, Super Mario Bros. It derives a lot of depth from having enemies instead of just platformer hazards, since enemies move in more dynamic ways and afford the player more room for creativity. One of the coolest examples is using Koopas as weapons against other enemies or to break blocks. Also, Mario can survive 1 or 2 hits by picking up powerups.

I also really like when games that fall closer to "combat game" than "platformer" nevertheless mix in platforming, like Hollow Knight. Hollow Knight doesn't do it as often as I wish, but the parts where it mixes combat and platforming are the coolest parts.

Hollow Knight review

Oh, almost forgot, this will be interesting to mention, Hollow Knight does have precision platoforming sections. The White Palace. This is an area with fixed, super precise and difficult platforming, which is required for what I call the "medium" and "hard" endings but not the "easy" ending, and the first time I played it it was really stressful and not enjoyable. I thought in the moment "hey, this feels like I'm playing Celeste suddenly". But the White Palace is just a small part of the game. The rest of the game doesn't have any super difficult sections like that.

Racing games

There are not enough player abilities to have much depth. You boost, optimize your turns, aim for the powerups, avoid the obstacles, but there's not much decision making or creativity, it seems to be mostly a grind of just trying to drive more accurately.

Rhythm games

First up, I've been interested in rhythm games in the past. I quite liked Beat Saber for quite a long time. But nowadays I'm not at all interested in rhythm games and I don't expect to ever be again. It's weird to me in retrospect that I was. I think they (even not-VR ones) have a lot of the same appeal as dancing, which is something I'm otherwise completely uninterested in. From a game mechanics perspective, rhythm games are basically just pressing a fixed sequence of inputs as directly told by the game, which is about as boring a concept as I can imagine.

Beat Saber review

Fighting games

There are a few things I don't like about these:

Party games

Referring to games like Fuzion Frenzy, Stumble Guys, and Mario Party (I've never actually played Mario Party but I've seen it played). Party games are a lot like casual games. They're generally designed to be not just easy to learn (which is a good goal for any genre), but *so* easy to learn that you can just pick up a controller, read 1 sentence telling you the goal and controls of a given minigame, and be ready to play it.

They're designed like this for 2 reasons. 1st, as their name suggests, they're meant to be things you can invite people over for and party with, without anyone having any preexisting knowledge of the game. 2nd, since they consist of a bunch of minigames, they don't have room to put a lot of depth into each one.

When I first saw Stumble Guys gameplay online I was like "oh so it's an obstacle course race where the players' only abilities are walking and a weak jump. Imagine an obstacle course race with the movement mechanics of an actual platformer. That would be much better."

I feel the need to say I have a soft spot for Fuzion Frenzy though (disclosure: I grew up with it). Its minigames are definitely deeper than Stumble Guys's, and much more diverse. But each one, considered as a game on its own merits, is still a shallow game. Like Twisted System is a very basic rhythm game (actually very similar to Osu Taiko, which I've ragged on before). Jetboat Sprint is a very basic racing game. Several other of its minigames are very basic racing or rhythm games, and I'm sure you could pick out other categories. I think Misguided Missiles, Bombstruck, Rubble Alliance, Tailblazer, and Laser Snare are some of the best ones - but again, still shallow compared to full-blown games.

Depth comparison of a few rhythm games

Tactical shooters

Using the term given by critpoints.net.


Tactical shooters usually try to be somewhat realistic and have mechanics like aim down sights, which lets you shoot more accurately at the cost of mobility and field of view. Aim down sights is a bad feature because it effectively separates moving and shooting into two different phases of gameplay, so you don't have to think about both at once. Limiting the interaction of these two parts of the game reduces the depth. Sprinting is another feature with the same effects. A third thing that drags these games down is that most weapons are hitscan, meaning dodging is impossible, so fights basically come down to whoever starts shooting first. They also tend to have low weapon variety, with most weapons being automatic rifles and more or less interchangeable.

I don't mind shooters that aren't tactical shooters, what critpoints calls "arena / classic / arcade shooters". Halo is a great game (less so starting with Halo 4).

Halo review

Games with RPG combat

I don't just title this section "RPGs" because I emphatically do *not* mind RPGs. Being an RPG does *not* require you to have what I call "RPG combat". I call it that because the design style is very common in RPGs, but it's absolutely not essential to RPGness.

Dark Souls and CrossCode are undeniably RPGs, but completely avoid having RPG combat.

Dark Souls review

CrossCode review

Most RPGs have it though, especially JRPGs, like Lost Odyssey and most Final Fantasy games, but also non-J RPGs like RuneScape and The Elder Scrolls.

Final Fantasy 13: Story games gone wrong

Okay, so what is RPG combat? Basically it's any combat system where you don't have many meaningful options, so outcomes are determined more by your stats than by how you play. You can't reliably avoid enemy attacks, so if you're underleveled, a fight is just impossible. Or else dodging is trivial, gimmicky and boring, like in The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion where you just move forward and backward in a mind-numbling rhythm to avoid most melee attacks. And the rate at which you deal damage is also not really subject to skill, since usually optimal play is to just keep using your strongest attack or spell.

Sandbox games

Referring to games like The Elder Scrolls. I dislike the lack of sense of objective or progression in these games. While they often have a main plot/questline, you're not encouraged to focus on it and it usually isn't very interesting, either in story or gameplay terms. The other quests also don't interest me, because they don't feel like I'm getting further in the game, they feel like I'm just doing random things, like a tourist.

When I say I dislike the lack of sense of objective, I don't want that to be taken as I dislike all games that don't give me a clear objective at all times. Hollow Knight mostly has an open world for you to explore and find stuff to do. There's something resembling a main plot/questline, but it's up to you to find it, and you won't always know if what you're doing is part of it or not, but it's all fun regardless because every path you explore culminates in either a fulfilling boss or challenge, or a rewarding find like an upgrade, movement ability that can unlock new areas, or charm that can enable new playstyles. You don't do fetch quests, "kill X things" quests, or explore rooms and dungeons that are just there to make the world feel big and open.


For me, these games don't deliver the appeal of an RPG, because I don't get to progress through a clear campaign with good pacing and good closure; and they don't deliver the appeal of a multiplayer game, because both coop and PvP are unbalanced if players are at different levels. Plus most MMORPGs have RPG combat.

Amything with microtransactions or match game account leveling

Obviously, any microtransaction that offers any sort of competitive advantage is a complete disqualifier. Microtransactions that are strictly cosmetic are allowed, I'll just ignore them.

By "match game account leveling", I mean systems where, by playing matches, your account levels up, unlocking stuff new players don't have access to. For example, PvP shooters where you unlock better weapons by playing more matches, or collectible card games where you start with a shit card pool you can only make shit decks out of, and unlock better cards by playing the game for months or years. And speaking of collectible card games...

Out-of-match deckbuilders

I specify "out-of-match" because my criticism doesn't apply to games where you build a deck while playing, like Dominion. What I'm talking about here is games where you build a deck *and then* take it into a match, like Magic: The Gathering and everything inspired by it. I think this genre is fundamentally flawed, doomed to be plagued with bad balance, because since you can build your deck out of any cards, *all* cards are competing with *all* cards for a slot in your deck, so all cards have to be balanced against all cards. (Yes, Magic and similar games divide the cards into colors so not literally any cards can go together, but still any cards within your colors.) And these games have to have several hundred cards to be interesting, so it's just infeasible to balance them such that many interesting strategies are viable, most of the cards see some play and the game isn't dominated by a few cards that are overtuned or have the best synergies.

Compare this to Prismata or Dominion, where cards are chosen randomly at the start of the match and made available for purchase to both players, instead of players bringing pre-built decks to the table. This ensure new strategies will show up in each game, and limits the impact of the developers accidentally making a few cards a bit too strong, since they won't show up in every game.

It can also make it so not all cards have to compete with all other cards to see play. Prismata is a better example than Dominion here: in Prismata, there are some units (cards) that obviously have low levels of impact on the game, like Auride Core. These units aren't *bad*, they do see play reasonably often when they show up due to their low cost, but because their overall impact is low, if Prismata were structured like Magic: The Gathering, they would never see any play.

And speaking of so many card games...

Card games in general

Games where you draw cards from a randomly shuffled deck during the match. I dislike these for one reason exactly: I dislike randomness.

A little bit of randomness is not okay

That said, I can tolerate it sometimes if it's something I'm playing with friends. I liked Hellcard and Dominion somewhat.

Real-life time games

Not "real-time" games, meaning any game that isn't turn based, but real-life time games, meaning games where time passes when you're not playing, causing you to feel forced to play lest something bad happen in-game. This is super toxic. I was a victim of Tribal Wars when I was a kid, and yes, I call playing such games victimhood.

Platform games

Oh, okay, this is slightly a stretch of the topic and an excuse for me to rant about something politics-adjacent. By "platform games", I mean "games" that are actually *platforms for games*, like Roblox. I find these absolutely disgusting and will never touch them. They're like Medium for blogs, or Amazon for stores. Corporations stop trying to middleman entire ecosystems making everything worse just so you can control everything challenge (impossible)! I don't want one account that I sign into to access all my games. I don't want common mechanics like the character and movement mechanics of Roblox being bludgeoned into all the games even if they're totally separate genres. No matter what your game is, you can make it better outside Roblox than in. And I especially don't want game developers to use some platform-specific SDK that only allows them to publish on one proprietary platform (and probably forces them to use a shitty programming language too).

Steam is different, because it's mostly just a *distributor* of games, not a platform on which games are developed such that Steam has total control of them forever and they can never exist outside Steam. I will never touch the social aspects of Steam, the bullshit stupid trading card system or whatever, the pointless profile customization, fuck all that shit, but I'm fine with buying games from it.

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