Game Design

Game genres I like

written 2024-01-08

A while ago I wrote an article on all the game genres I categorically dislike and why. I had a pretty long list and was pretty happy with it. Now it's time for an article on the genres I do like.

This list is pretty short (I might think of more to add later) and I don't have as much to say about them as I did about the ones I dislike, but a friend wanted me to post this anyway so I do.

Action platformer

Games that have platforming mechanics, but where the main challenge is fighting enemies rather than just getting from point A to B. The movement abilities create so many more possibilities than in non-platformer action games.

I think the best example of this genre is Hollow Knight. It's a very deep game with some great enemy designs and lots of late-game challenges to keep experienced players interested. Moving and attacking are interleaved so well, and the strategy and playstyle freedom afforded by the charm system is wonderful.

Watching high level gameplay is so exciting, seeing the advanced maneuvers they do that I would never think of in the heat of the moment, like casting a spell in the air to interrupt falling.

Turn based strategy

Caveat: I mostly only like this genre if it's completely deterministic and perfect information. I always hate randomness, but it's least forgivable in this genre.

Go and Prismata are some of my favorite games. I also dabble in others, like Chess, Hex, and Blooms. I like how these games feel like a collaborative study of the possibility tree. There's right and wrong moves, each game is part of your shared quest to chart them out, and finding those answers is very satisfying because you've definitively learned something about the game.

Downside: multiplayer (more than 1v1) usually doesn't make sense in these games. Although there are ways to do it (senseis.xmp.net has a huge list of multiplayer Go variants), they never gain any traction because they require extending the rules and are never supported in the software.

Turn-based strategy games that do support multiplayer, such as Magic: The Gathering-based games, have a problem where the optimal strategy is to let the best player on your team make all the decisions.

Real time strategy

I like how open-ended these games are. There's not objective right and wrong moves, but a ton of different actions you could take at any moment that would all be useful and cool. It's very different from turn-based strategy games, but I like both.

As a kid I enjoyed Age of Empires and Starcraft. I went many years without playing any, but as of 2024 I'm getting back into them and finding them super fun.

Little feels as empowering as winning a real time strategy game. Managing a big empire, commanding a big army, and utterly destroying your opponent's base after a long, hard-fought game.

A downside of this genre is the huge learning curve. There's so much you have to know about the game to really play it, memorize the tech tree, which units counter which, complex controls (attack move, unit stances, garrison, queueing commands, selecting by type, bookmarks). And there's so much happening at once that it's very overwhelming. Honestly, probably the only reason I'm willing to put in that kind of learning effort is because I grew up with these games.

I think RTS is also one of the best genres for cooperative play. Unlike turn-based games, you can generally just add in extra players without changing the rules at all. There's no concern about having the best player on your team make all the decisions, and it emphasizes teamwork more than coop action games.

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