Understanding mobile games’ genres

Mobile Games

October 18, 2022

Casual and hyper-casual mobile games have reigned over the mobile world as of late. But they’re not the only game genre available out there. Whether you’re a curious player or a game developer, if you’ve been wanting to learn more about all the different kinds of mobile games, you’re in the right place.

Picking a game category

Choosing a game category for your mobile game in the stores will affect how users see it. So any ASO strategy for mobile games will need to take game genres into consideration. Moreover, before setting up your game’s marketing strategy, you should be sure about its category and the genres it fits into, in order to target the right audience. 

ASO-wise, your game’s category will impact relevancy and competition. Relevancy because it’s prohibited by app stores to place your app in an unrelated category, but also players will be more likely to download your game when scrolling through the category (or searching for that category) if your game fits. 

As for competition, each game category has its own big players and by choosing a category you will set your game against all the other games in this category. Some will have less competition than others and less competition means a higher chance of better ranking.

Don’t be afraid, you can always change your game category later on if you feel the one you choose doesn’t work. That doesn’t mean you should often change it, give your ASO strategy some time to build ranking and organic conversions before giving up on a game category.

source: AppFlyers

Casual vs. Hyper Casual

Casual games are the predominant gaming category on mobile. Most mobile games, regardless of their genre, fit in the casual category. Recently, hypercasual has been rising as well, challenging the casual genre. 

Casual games are meant to be easy to play, they’re easily understandable by the player and that’s what makes them so successful: they’re the most played game genre on Android and are projected to reach 17,463.7 million downloads worldwide this year. The main rules are:

  • low barrier to entry
  • easy rules
  • short gaming session

This helps make casual games easily playable by anyone at any given moment. Even with only 5 minutes of free time during a work break, you can easily pull out Candy Crush and play for a little while. 

Hyper Casual games are an amped-up version of casual games. While the latter is already easy and quick to use, hypercasual is even easier. They rely on easy game mechanics, with a clear goal for the users. 

They often use 2D designs with simple color schemes as well as looped mechanics. With a minimalist player interface and no meta layers, the player faces a very easy goal that can be played again and again and again. 

Example of the usual design of hyper-casual games.

Uncovering the different mobile games genres

Each app store has its own list of game categories, they only slightly differ but they also show that not everyone always agrees on the qualifications of games. Data.ai (formerly App Annie) classifies mobile games into 3 categories (Casino, Core Games, and Casual Games), and then games genre as subcategories.

We’ll take a look at all these (sub)categories and introduce them to you:

AAA games

AAA games are classified all throughout the gaming industry as “high-budget, high-profile”, usually distributed by well-known publishers. Hugely successful on PC and consoles, they’ve started being more and more incorporated into mobile gaming with the rise of mobile phones’ performances.

They are massive games, with huge world-building and carefully crafted gameplay. They’re also often linked to big gaming franchises. 

Action games

Action is quite a large category by itself, it usually includes games with action-packed mechanics. You need to be quick on your feet (or most likely on your fingers), with razor-sharp reflexes. They bring challenges to players, with very dynamic gameplay.

It also includes many subgenres such as:

  • Platform games (primarily about jumping and climbing), games like the OG Mario
  • Shooter games (using weapons to participate in action)
  • Fighting games (close-ranged combat games)
  • Beat ’em up games (similar to fighting games but instead of one-on-one fights, they are against a large amount of people)
  • Stealth game (sneaking around without the enemy noticing you)
  • Survival games (start with minimal resources and collect resources to survive)
  • Battle Royale (survival game with a one-man standing attitude) which is also its own game category

Adventure games

Adventure games are quite a large category. As long as you take the player on an adventure (any kind of adventure), you can qualify as an adventure game. Pokémon GO for example makes players walk around to catch new pokemons, whereas survivor.io puts them in dangerous situations where they need to survive.  It’s a much more generic category. 

Arcade games 

Arcade games only require simple control, interaction, and gameplay. They are a very addictive genre of games, often working on an infinite loop where the player needs to reach the highest score possible, and start over when he makes a mistake. This includes games like Subway Surfers, Temple Run, Angry Birds, and Minecraft.

They are low-stakes games where players work towards a higher score or a new milestone. Some arcade games also rely on vintage aesthetics, playing on digital remakes of actual real-life arcade games. 

Battle Royale games

Battle Royale games are pretty popular as of late, especially thanks to Fortnite’s rise to success. This kind of game takes place in a virtual world where people (alone or in a team) must fight other players until there’s only one player (or team) standing. 

Usually, as time ticks by, the world (or arena) tends to shrink in size to bring people together and make it more challenging. Fortnite and Apex Legends are some of the most successful Battle Royale games. 

Board games

Just like their real-life counterparts, mobile board games are usually a digital adaptation of board games. This is the category where you can fulfill your need to play chess everywhere. Many coloring games seem to be also using this category as of late, as can be seen from the screenshot below of the top free app in the US in the Play Store. 

Card games

Card games are mobile versions of actual card games. In addition to many versions of Solitaire games, this category has one rule: it has to include cards. If you want to play UNO! online with your friends (or even complete strangers) or if you want to play The Witcher’s Gwent, this is the category where you will find what you’re seeking. 

Casino games

Casino games are a self-describing game genre. Just like real-life casinos, the goal is to bet and then win money. Most of these casino games are mobile versions of casino machines or games, for people who may have more luck in the digital world. 

Educational games

Educational games (or Kids’ games as they’re classified on the App Store) are a category of games aimed at kids. The goal is to teach the player something useful (plenty of games focus on learning to count for example). 

From coloring to maths or even cooking, these games are all about teaching kids new skills. 

Multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA)

MOBA games ride on the success of games like League of Legends. They’re mostly a multiplayer version of Battle Arenas. Players team up with other players and attempt to win over another team. There are several sizes of games possible, with teams becoming bigger or smaller. 

It’s a game that is played online, directly with other players, and with a strong social component. 

Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPG)

Massively multiplayer online role-playing games or MMORPGs are like RPGs on steroids. As their name shows, they are games set in massive virtual worlds where players get to interact with each other. 

Usually, Action-oriented games are very popular and benefit from the success of well-known MMORPGs like World of Warcraft, which made its mobile debut not too long ago. 

Music games

No surprises here, music games are centered around musical elements. Some of the most successful mobile music games involve the player tapping to the rhythm of music (often well-known contemporary songs) to gain points and try to last as long as possible.

Puzzle games

Puzzle games are amongst the most popular. It’s even the preferred gaming app genre in the UK, and the second most played on mobile devices worldwide. This genre of games must include some sort of puzzle and strategy. There are many different types of puzzles, from Dominoes to Candy Crush, which requires solving puzzles and meeting objectives.

Match-3 and Merging are two puzzle mechanics that are encountering a lot of success lately. As a casual kind of genre, the category drives users in search of leisure and fun, with a touch of strategy and forward-thinking. 

Racing games

Racing games are all about setting the players through a course and letting them compete (between themselves or against computer-generated opponents) and try to make the best  time. Most racing games include cars or motorcycles, (like Mario Karts for example), but some include more original racing events. 

One of the current top free games on the Play Store in the racing category is a hyper-casual game where you need to race through coffee orders.

RPG games 

RPG stands for Role-Playing Game. RPG is a game category particularly successful on consoles and PC, however, it’s been growing on mobile audiences as well. This category of games tends to include bigger games, some with large open worlds. 

Often paired with adventure genres, RPGs have the player act as the main character (whether customizable or not) to complete the storyline. Sometimes there will even be several storylines, the main one as well as some side quests. They’re worth over 8 billion in consumer spending solely on mobile.

Simulation games

Simulation is one of the most popular mobile game categories. It accrued over 3 billion downloads worldwide in 2021. This category is designed to emulate real-life situations and offer an alternative reality. One of the most popular simulation games is The Sims, they’re particularly popular on PC but they do have a mobile game as well. 

With simulation games, the player is immersed in a new situation and will have to make their way through it. From flying planes to building towns, there’s no experience that’s impossible for Simulation players. 

You can try your hand at being a Goat (with Goat Simulator), a farmer (with Stardew Valley), or a cook (with Cooking Mama). The immersive gameplay experience breeds success. 

Sports games

This is an easy category to understand, sports games include every mobile game that’s based on a sports theme. It can be football (or soccer for the US citizens reading this) games like FIFA for example. 

There are even some games that allow the player to try their hands at parkour. Sport simulation games put the user in the spot of an athlete and have them act out the sport (whether in teams or alone), they can also manage sports teams, etc. 

As long as the game is about sports, then it fits in the category. 

Strategy games

Strategy is the highest subgenre by consumer spending ($9.7 billion according to Adjust). Strategy games rely on the player’s decision-making to determine the outcome. Some of the most popular games are Strategy such as Clash of Clans and Clash Royale.  

The goal is to win (whether that means beating your opponent or solving puzzles) thanks to your wits. There are many different mechanics that can be used for strategy games, making it a very diverse game category. 

Trivia games 

Just like real-life trivia games, mobile trivia games are all about answering questions to earn the highest score possible. There are many subjects available to help gamers try out their knowledge with a fun twist. 

Word games

Word games revolve around, well, words. Just like Wordle, the game that took the world by storm last year, these games are centered around words. From Scrabble to Hangman, or even crossword, as long as words are involved they’ll be in this category.

Word games may not be one of the biggest game categories of the stores, but it’s one that has existed for long, and still has its own public. 

No matter who you are and what you like, there’s a (mobile) game for you out there.

Marine Nozerand

Hi there, I'm Marine (she/her), I'm a Content Manager at Apptamin. Apptamin is a creative agency specialized in app videos (video ads, app store videos, etc.).
Marine Nozerand

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