The first part of this project has some important context about how this study was conducted.
I searched several sites with large video game databases to decide how I was going to approach the genre section. I wasn’t totally satisfied with any of them, but I found MobyGames to be the best compromise. GameFAQs has an odd tiered system with a variable number of tiers that is inconsistent about describing certain aspects that I wouldn’t exactly call genres. GiantBomb was inconsistent and less complete. I made a list of 30ish tricky games to assign genre to and looked them up on 4 sites, and MobyGames seemed the best to me. I’m still about to point out a lot of issues, but no genre system is going to be perfect. MobyGames is also essentially a tightly controlled wiki, but things slip through the cracks and don’t get fixed, so I made changes and made things more consistent when it seemed obvious.
MobyGames has 10 genres: Action, Adventure, Compilation, Educational, Puzzle, Racing / Driving, Role-Playing (RPG), Simulation, Sports, Strategy/Tactics. That’s verbatim, and yes it drove me crazy how Racing / Driving has a space on either side of the slash, but Strategy/Tactics doesn’t, and we’re reminded how Role-Playing games are abbreviated. Games can be labeled with as many genres as needed.
Action is very general, covering fighting games, music and rhythm games, platformers, first-person shooters, and sometimes seemingly anything that isn’t turned based or menu driven. Some Sports games included it and some didn’t, confusingly. I made an effort to make it more consistent by removing it from any games that were more on the “sim” side, that weren’t arcadey or had an Actiony side mode.
Adventure, as MobyGames defines it, focuses on narrative over action, and emphasizes dialog and puzzle solving. Includes visual novels, point and clicks, walking simulators, and many games without combat.
Compilations have multiple games in one package. Does not include minigame collections like Mario Party. I removed compilation from many games that included DLC that was sold separately in a previous release, only full games put together counted for this project.
Educational doesn’t seem like it should be a genre at all to me, but these are mostly games for young children about the alphabet or basic math.
Puzzle seems to be used exclusively for games that are all about puzzles, not games that have some puzzles to solve, like the Legend of Zelda series.
Racing / Driving is included in some games with vehicular minigames or sections, like Grand Theft Auto.
Role-Playing games includes games like Dark Souls and Monster Hunter as well the The Elder Scrolls, Final Fantasy, and Persona.
Simulation for our purposes includes Cooking Mama, Nintendogs, most of the Imagine and Petz series, Phoenix Wright, and Guitar Hero. This is probably the most eclectic genre.
Sports includes wrestling, hunting, billiards, fitness, and some horse games.
Strategy/Tactics includes the Jackbox games, city builders, war games, board games, card games, and the Worms series.
Genre – General Distribution
Overall, nothing comes close to action. Yearly releases of many sports games keeps them the second most common. Role-Playing is higher than I would have expected, especially compared to Racing / Driving games.
I really like this chart, you can see how the industry has changed and how what kinds of games it makes has evolved over time. Although classic point-and-click adventures are rare now, the genre has managed to become the second largest. Some of this is because many adventure games are released episodically, and then bundled, resulting in a lot of separate game entries.
Sports games have actually become less common over time, perhaps it’s become too hard to compete with the big franchises?
PC is really an outlier here, where in other metrics it’s very close to the overall average due to making up about a fifth of the games included. It’s difficult to really see any trends among hardware companies. The time period a system exists in is probably much more important.
A bit easier to see some minimums and maximums here. Playstation Vita just barely coming out on top for RPGs. Switch really has a different makeup than other Nintendo consoles or handhelds have had. Lots of Racing / Driving games in the 5th generation. The N64 somehow has the largest percentage of Sports titles in its library.
Genre – Genre Combinations
Since games can have any number of genres, let’s look at what Action appears alongside. Not too hard to apply Action to any other genre.
Adventure games come packaged in Compilations fairly often. Almost every Adventure game released episodically eventually had a Compiled edition. I can’t think of any Racing / Driving or Sports games that were also Adventure games. Let’s see, Barbie Horse Adventures: Riding Camp is listed as Adventure and Sports, Yakuza Kiwami 1 and 2 are too (with Action as well). That’s one thing they have in common.
As said before, lots of Adventure Compilations, but a surprising number of Puzzle games in Compilations too.
There are so few Educational games that we can expect a very different graph.
“What is a Puzzle and Sports game?”, you may be asking. A few include Pocket Card Jockey, Vertigo, and Clubhouse Games.
Surprisingly few Racing / Driving games are purely their own genre. Simulation seems like a natural pairing. Racing / Driving games that are also Adventure games include Nancy Drew: The Mystery of the Clue Bender Society and L.A. Noire.
Strategy/Tactics games are a natural fit for RPG mechanics, while driving a car isn’t. I just checked and Final Fantasy XV didn’t count as a Racing / Driving game for some reason.
Simulating playing a Sport or Racing a car make sense, while other genres probably have a side mode or minigame with some kind of Simulation.
Most Sports games don’t intermingle other genres into their gameplay.
Strategy/Tactics games are often about solving the puzzle of how to win, but few are also Puzzle games.
The above graphs in chart form. Here we can see the least combination of genres is Role-Playing and Educational, which makes good sense, these genres serve very different groups and tend to have very different budgets. There were only three such games: Fossil League: Dino Tournament Challenge, Bookworm Adventures, and Bookworm Adventures: Volume 2.
Here is an overall look at what percent of games are one genre. This is different than the previous “This Genre Alone” statistics because those were only considering the subset of games with a particular genre.
Genre and Metascore
The y-axis of this graph starts at 60 to make the differences more apparent, but keep in mind the range of values is 5.13. Action is by far the most common genre, but has the second-lowest average score. Compilation’s high scores could be influenced by the perceived value of a good cost to gameplay time ratio.
And here are the the genres of the best-reviewed games. Adventure, Puzzle, Simulation, and Strategy/Tactics all pretty low considering how many games of each there are.
That’s all for genres, next time it’s completion times.
GameRankings.com for metascores and some release dates. Archives: 1, 2, 3
MobyGames.com for genres, some release dates, some ESRB ratings, and some ESRB content descriptors
HowLongToBeat.com for main story and completionist times.
ESRB.org for ESRB ratings and ESRB content descriptors
Wikipedia for its many lists of games