Dungeon crawler or looter shooter? Nine genres of video games explained | Games



This term is a portmanteau derived from two beloved games that arrived on the Nintendo entertainment system in the mid-1980s, Metroid and Castlevania, and is generally applied to 2D games in which the world is searchable in all directions. (as opposed to classic platform games, where you go left to right). There are usually secret rooms and areas that can only be accessed once you find a key or item later, so players need to mentally map their progress and go back if necessary. In this way, a good metroidvania world is like a story, with tensions, foreshadows, plants, gains, and surprise reveals built into the very foundations.

To try: Hollow Knight, Axiom Verge, Ori and the Blind Forest.


Fail and learn, and fail and relearn… Crypt of the NecroDancer. Photography: Klei Entertainment

One of the most popular indie game genres, the term roguelike comes from the 1980 game Rogue, originally developed by coders Michael Toy and Glenn Wichman. It featured a hero exploring a multi-story dungeon, attempting to find treasure while battling monsters and collecting weapons and armor – but if the character died the game was over, no extra lives. The layout of the dungeon changes each time you play.

A roguelike is a modern version that retains the key elements – permanent death (or permanent death), ever-changing environments, and gameplay based on exploring, killing enemies, and collecting items. Above all, death is understood in this genre not as a failure but as a step towards a better understanding of the game. “In general, roguelikes are about learning what could still happen, and being better prepared and able to do so. face it, ”says game developer Rami Ismail, who co-created the famous Nuclear Throne. “Most roguelikes have simple interconnection systems and their charm comes from learning to understand permutations… [it’s] about failing and learning and failing and learning and realizing that you fail a little later every time. There is a real sense of accomplishment in overcoming a challenge like this. They are also fun to make: small interconnected systems allow tons of emergencies and surprises. “

To try: Nuclear Throne, Spelunky, Caves of Qud, Crypt of the NecroDancer.


More recently, a variant of roguelikes has appeared: roguelites. In these games, players keep certain skills, items, weapons, or whatever after death, so they don’t have to start from scratch every time they die.

To try: Hades, Returnal, Dead Cells.


Kill for money ... Nioh.
Kill for money … Nioh. Photography: Koei Tecmo

A genre that emerged as a tribute to the Japanese dark fantasy game, Dark Souls (and Demon’s Souls before it). It is basically an action role-playing adventure involving tough combat, hostile environments, huge danger, and a few checkpoints to mark your progress. Soulslike games will usually have some sort of currency earned by killing enemies that can be used to level up your character – this currency is removed if the player character is killed, but can be picked up if you return to find your body. Quite clear, right? There is a lot of argument online about what constitutes a soul, and like the games themselves, they can get extremely obscure and overwhelming.

To try: Nioh, The Surge, Salt and Sanctuary.

Dungeon robot

Keep crawling… Enter the Gungeon.
Keep crawling… Enter the Gungeon. Photography: Devolver Digital

An RPG spinoff that tends to ditch storytelling and tinkering with your character in favor of quick exploration and combat, and stacking up endless brilliant things. Dungeon bots involve traversing maze-like enclosed environments, battling enemies, collecting items and money, solving puzzles, and unlocking doors. The best examples, Gauntlet and Diablo, let you do all of this with friends. Game developers love them: “The genre offers enough flexibility to define your game effectively anywhere and focus on experimenting with gameplay and systems,” says Dave Crooks of Dodge Roll Games, creator of the brilliant Enter the Gungeon.

“Additionally, dungeon bots are often set up in confined spaces and built with modular parts; you don’t need the online multiplayer, you don’t need an expert physics programmer, you don’t even need to know how to write dialogues. The important things are that the player feels pressured to keep crawling, that they are rewarded, and that the loop of play is compelling.

To try: Enter the Gungeon, Darkest Dungeon, The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, Diablo III.

pillager shooter

Borderlands 3… for those who like to shoot and, well, loot.
Borderlands 3… for those who like to shoot and, well, loot. Photography: 2K Games

This genre term applies to any shooter that lets you collect ever better and more useful weapons, ammo, and clothing from your defeated enemies. Raider shooters tend to involve complex inventory screens where players can intricately customize their avatars, selecting armor, abilities, and weapon loadouts that match individual gameplay approaches. are generally ranked from Common to Legendary, based on their stats and rarity, and the low chance of finding rare items is a major motivation for the game. The Borderlands sci-fi shooter is widely regarded as the ancestor of the kind.

To try: The Division, Destiny 2, Borderlands.

Survival game

Teach us to be better stewards of nature… The Long Dark.
Teach us to be better stewards of nature… The Long Dark. Photography: Backcountry studio

One of the darker game subgenres, survival games challenge you to live as long as possible in an inhospitable environment, gathering resources and fighting danger until your character escapes or succumbs (usually it is the latter). “Most survival games also model physical vulnerabilities, simulating ideas like hunger, thirst, fatigue and extreme cold or heat,” says Raphael van Lierop, writer / director of The Long Dark. “Many have extensive crafts or combat, but in general they are built around the fact that the player has to make good choices that help them stay alive another day… A survival game gives the player a unique relationship. with the gaming world, a relationship where even a simple movement comes at a cost and you are still fighting for time.

“As we learn more about how to wrap interesting narratives around these vulnerability simulators, I think we have the opportunity to really change the way our players think about their relationship with a game, and likewise with the real world. If approached thoughtfully, a survival game can help someone become a better steward of the nature we depend on. It’s the future.

To try: The Long Dark, Don’t Starve, Ark: Survival Evolved, Escape From Tarkov, Valheim, Day Z.

Platform card builder / battler

Play your cards right… Slay the Spire.
Play your cards right… Slay the Spire. Photography: RP

A genre that borrows elements from traditional card games as well as collectible card sets such as Pokemon and Magic: the Gathering. The characters are represented in the form of cards with abilities and values, which are played against a rival’s collection in a turn-based battle.

Players can start with a limited number of cards, but gain more as you go – hence deck building. “In our games, we use cards in several different ways: to fight the battle between our character and an enemy; as consumables like a health potion; like interchangeable collectibles that offer costumes and bonuses, ”says Helen Carmichael, designer of the Shadowhand and Ancient Enemy card fighters.

For Carmichael, the attraction of games lies in their familiarity. “Cards are a widely understood chip that spans all kinds of table games – from poker to monopoly. They are easy to understand… Cards in deckbuilding games can be both very beautiful and display a lot of information. There is a lot of testing and balancing to make sure these types of games are fun and the difficulty level is reasonable. But when we get it right, it’s hard to resist the temptation to play “just one more hand”.

To try: Hearthstone, Dicey Dungeons, Slay the Spire, Shadowhand.


Devilish in the extreme ... Celestial.
Devilish in the extreme … Celestial. Photography: Matt plays games

Another coat rack – this time combining masochistic and hardcore – applied to any game in which uncompromising difficulty is some kind of goal. It is most often associated with a type of platform game in which the levels are designed specifically to frustrate the player and require trial and error to conquer – as well as extreme skill. Capcom’s Mega Man series is often cited as a prime example due to the emphasis on precise jumping challenges. Indie games like this have become cult hits because of their ridiculous difficulty.

To try: Celeste, Super Rude Bear Resurrection, VVVVVV, Super Meat Boy.

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