Genre Background

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.

Sources

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

This was originally posted on reddit. I probably won’t use data from VGChartz again, but I think it was a fine estimation for this kind of thing. I was surprised it got so little attention, although I’m not very happy with my writing looking back on it now.

A topic that often comes up is how important a series is to Nintendo, which series should get another game, which series are underappreciated, which get the best review scores, and which no one would miss. I wanted to approach this with numbers.

I gathered review score and sales data for 30 Nintendo series, and calculated attach rates. I thought it was important to consider both sales and attach rates because selling 3 million copies on the Wii is different than selling 3 million copies on the Wii U.

This only includes Nintendo published and owned series. Not all of these games are Nintendo developed, however.

I didn’t include some “casual” series, like Nintendogs, Brain Age, or the Wii series. I think Nintendo is done with these, and they targeted a different group than the “core” games we like to discuss.

Series had to have at least 3 games with full data available. Sorry, Kid Icarus, you didn’t quite make it. I wanted this to be more of a historical look at established series, but there’s some Splatoon numbers in the fun stats section.

The Charts

Here is the overview of average scores, sales, and attach rates. The columns on the right are normalized (scaled specifically to that list) numbers so that we can compare things more easily and for the next charts.

The top three in terms of scores don’t feature Mario at all. I knew Advance Wars was liked, but I did not realize they routinely reviewed that well. Donkey Kong Country also surprised me.

Pokemon dominates the sales numbers, although there are some caveats, which you can read about further down. If you consider dual versions as separate games, the average sales are only 9.1, which would still place it at third, and the attach rate would be 8.79, good for 6th place.

Sales and attach rates manage to stay pretty consistent, although some series with most/all of their entries on DS have much worse attach rates.

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Here I add the normalized numbers to give a score based on review scores and sales/attach rate. I think this is an interesting way to look at things, it makes sense to not focus entirely on one or the other. Fire Emblem has seen a big resurgence in recent years and considered one of Nintendo’s big IPs now, yet it is only in the middle of the pack. Mario Party is also surprisingly low, but they really have been churning them out. Pokemon Mystery Dungeon’s large, vocal fanbase online has always mystified me, and here we see it on the bottom, due to its sales not making up for its scores.

Once again, I must mention Pokemon’s unique release structure and how it effects these standings. Scores have a somewhat disproportionate effect on this chart due to Pokemon’s dominance in sales when dual versions are counted as one game (that is how Nintendo does it). If you look at the first chart again you will see that the normalized numbers for sales plummet to .76 for second place, a much bigger drop than scores.

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Here we see which series have a disconnect for sales versus scores, you could say they aren’t selling up to their potential or that they are hidden gems. Advance Wars takes first with its second highest scores and the second lowest sales, none of the four games have sold over a million copies. Mario Golf isn’t a something you hear a lot of demand for, but it’s pretty high up here. Pokemon’s huge sales numbers can’t make up for its merely “great” review scores.

Some fun stats

  • The highest scored game: Super Mario Galaxy with 97.64

  • Lowest scored game: Mario Party: The Top 100 with 53.2

  • Best selling game: Super Mario Bros. with 40,240,000

  • Worst selling game: Maybe Warioware Gold (still pretty new and very speculative number) , maybe Chibi-Robo Park Patrol (Wal-Mart exclusive, not even released in EU)

  • Highest attach rate: Super Mario Bros. with 65%

  • Lowest attach rate: If you don’t want to count Warioware Gold, Advance Wars: Dual Strike with .25%

  • Splatoon sold 4.93 million copies on Wii U (Splatoon 2 is at 6.76 currently). If allowed on the list it would have been 7th on the best selling chart, above The Legend of Zelda’s average. A 36.36% (Splatoon 2 at 34% currently) attach rate would be 1st overall, well above Mario Kart.

  • Average review scores for each system among the games included (this is more for fun, we don’t have a representative sample of games to really consider this a look at which systems had the best games): SNES 87.68, N64 84.02, Gameboy/Color 84.29, Gamecube 83.85, Gameboy Advance 83.5, Wii 81.84, DS 79.18, 3DS 76.73, Wii U 76.66. Interesting that they tend to go down over time.

  • The correlation between review scores and sales was r = 0.3296. Not very strong.

  • 203 games were used for this study

About the score, sales, and attach data

Nintendo almost always releases sales numbers for games that sell over 1 million copies in their financial reports. These are used on Wikipedia to make lists like https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_best-selling_Nintendo_3DS_video_games I used these lists for the bulk of the sales data. Most of these games sold over 1 million copies. Please keep in mind these often-quoted numbers are still not exact. Games can sell more after these reports come out, and Nintendo isn’t going to include a game in their reports forever. For games that sell less than one million, I have to go with the best estimates that exist, which is usually VGChartz. The errors on these numbers are certainly higher than Nintendo’s numbers, but it’s the best we have. None of them seemed particularly unlikely to me, but keep in mind that lower-selling games are more likely to be more wrong. Sometimes I was able to find supposed leaked sales estimates from NPD and I used these when possible.

I used GameRankings instead of Metacritic for average review scores mostly because it goes back farther and they are given to two decimal places. Unfortunately, it does not have NES scores. Attach rate is the percent of copies that exist relative to the hardware. If a game sells 1 million copies on a system that has sold 100 million, it has a 1% attach rate.

About the games I looked at

For each series I only included “mainline” games. When it doubt I referred to wikipedia or series-specific wikis to draw these lines. I’m sure people will disagree with some of the inclusions and exclusions, but in the context of talking about “which series does the best/deserves a new game”, it doesn’t make sense to consider Kirby’s Dream Course to be the same series as Kirby Super Star or Kirby’s Avalance, games which all play very differently. There aren’t always clear lines, and some series like Yoshi platformers are all over the place, so here are some examples: Star Fox Adventures: doesn’t count. Kirby’s Epic Yarn: doesn’t count. Super Mario Maker: doesn’t count. Donkey Kong Land trilogy: doesn’t count. Yoshi Touch and Go: counts. Tri Force Heroes: counts.

No ports or remakes, I wanted this to focus on games that were brand new when they released and free of “oh yeah, I remember liking this game” or “this game feels dated” reviews. I did, however, include pretty-much-identical ports to other systems if they happened within a year, such as Smash 4 and Twilight Princess. This ended up being beneficial to Pokemon since games like Platinum and Omega Ruby get lower scores and have lower sales.

Speaking of Pokemon, it was difficult deciding how to approach it. You have dual releases that are almost identical and have their sales numbers added together. Review sites generally review them as one game, though there are exceptions, every game has slightly different scores. However, a pretty large but unknowable percentage of people buy both versions, essentially two copies of the same game, which means sales data gives a skewed look at how popular Pokemon is. I’m sure there are also people who just wait for the “definitive version(s)” released one or two years later, while others (like me) will buy almost the same game a third time. Yellow, Crystal, Emerald, and Platinum are also much more similar to their base games than Black2/White2 and Ultra Sun/Moon were so you’d have to consider counting the latter if not the former. The remakes are also much bigger deals than other video game remakes usually are. In the end, I decided to count dual versions as one game (so 7 games, one for each generation), and average their scores. No third/fourth versions or remakes included. This gave Pokemon a big boost.

Fire Emblem Birthright and Conquest are reported with their sales numbers combined even though they are definitely more different than Pokemon versions and have more greatly differing review scores. In my spreadsheet I gave them each 50% of the sales.

I did not include download-only games. These games tend to be much lower profile, never seem to have sales data, and have much fewer reviews if any.

No Switch games. Sales and attach rates still have a lot of time to change. There were also no Virtual Boy games included, there’s no sales data or review aggregates.