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Jonnas

Videogame Genres

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Posted (edited)

So this is a topic I've been thinking about for a while now. When you think about it, film and/or literary genres are fairly straightforward: romance, action, horror, comedy, thriller... these are all succinct and direct ways to describe the general tone or point of a traditional work of fiction. Sometimes things get silly, like some people might claim that "Historical", "Medieval", or "Sci-Fi" are genres (they're settings, after all), but that's far as it goes.

But videogames get complex about it. It isn't enough to describe general tone, videogame genres need to be able to describe a game's mechanics, level design philosophy, specific variations thereof, and that's all before we take tone or setting into account. Hybrids are very common as well, and there's always the general necessity to describe which genres are getting mixed, instead of forcefully fitting it into a single one: for example, I've noticed Back to the Future is either described as an "Adventure" or "Comedy" but rarely both, but with videogames, we have no issue in calling a game a "roguelike twin-stick shooter".

As such, things can get complicated, and arbitrary lines can be drawn in the sand. Like, how come we all agreed that "Metroidvania" and "2D Platformer" are separate genres? What distinguishes an RPG from a regular Adventure game? Tetris and Portal share the same genre, and that's really weird when you think about it. And which genre is Pac-Man, anyway?

Hence this thread. I'm hoping this can be the place where we discuss the specifics and minutia of these things. And here are a couple of questions to get us started:

1. Is there such a thing as a 3D Metroidvania? If so, which games qualify?

Quote

What constitutes a Metroidvania seems a tad arbitrary at times, considering 3D games are often excluded whenever the genre is discussed (for example, [IGN's video] even posited that the likes of Arkham Asylum and Resident Evil could potentially qualify, but chose to exclude 3D games). I figure the likes of God of War (2018) and Dark Souls fit the criteria necessary to part of the genre, but it's not often presented that way.

Quote

[Control and God of War (2018)] cover all four "requirements" listed in that video (while IGN accept only three for it to count for that). 

To me, they definitely have the same feel. They're just more narrative driven ones like Metroid Fusion.

With Control, every time I got a new power or keycard, I explored every single previous area just to find any secrets, new areas and stuff like that. To me, that's the main vital element of a Metroidvania.

Quote

Can't say I would ever consider Control or God of War (PS4) Metroidvanias, I think they would seem pretty out of place on that list IGN put up, even if 3D games were included. The rebooted Tomb Raider I could maybe see the argument for though.

This question is self-explanatory. Metroidvanias are normally synonymous with 2D games, but should it be so?

2. Does "Action/Adventure" describe anything? How can we do better?

Quote

Horizon, God of War, Infamous, Ghost of Tsushima, Days Gone, The Last of Us, Spider-Man, Death Stranding all belong in the same category.

Quote

But that's the thing, many are not even the same (or similar) genre. Because "third person adventure" is not a genre

The quotes I selected are tangentially related to this issue. Mainly, a lot of games are plainly described as "Action/Adventure", and while I can see why, that does feel overly generic, and not really representative of anything specific about the game in question. I mean, all it says is that there is combat (action), and explorable environments (adventure), and that's nearly all videogames! Should we do more to subdivide these types of games? If so, how?

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So yeah, hopefully we'll get some interesting discussion going :) Any other topic about videogame genres should be welcome here, so feel free to bring them up if you ever think of one.

Edited by Jonnas
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Interesting question. I think its also notable how the definition of "genres" has evolved overtime. Sometimes that was due to negative stigma over certain genres, like after platformers fell out of public favour in the 2000s any platformer was simply marketed as an "action game". Even Sega did this with Sonic Heroes. If you go to the team select screen in that game and call Omochao to describe each team, he has this to say about Team Rose.

 

Quote

Team Rose's story is designed for players who are new to action games.

Very specifically "action games".

 

Similarly I only ever saw RPGs as RPGs and only ever call them by that genre name. But after the rise in popularity of games like The Elder Scrolls, Fallout and Mass Effect we began to see a split in genre classification, with the games mentioned being "Western RPGs" and the RPGs I was familiar with, the likes of Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, Chrono Trigger etc now being referred to as "JRPGs".

 

Similarly you see games like Super Paper Mario and Ratchet & Clank be genre hybrids. Super Paper Mario is half platformer, half RPG. Does that mean it counts as its own unique genre? Ratchet & Clank has a lot of segments with platforming but a lot of the games also have segments that feel specifically like a third person shooter.

 

That's all I've got for now...

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Honestly, it's precisely because games are more than just the setting they take place in that makes them so difficult to categorise compared to movies.

1. Is there such a thing as a 3D Metroidvania? If so, which games qualify?

Yes, it's called Metroid: Other M. Moving on.

OK, seriously though, the point I want to make is that the fact that Metroid itself has managed to translate the gameplay it's known for into a 3D space perfectly fine 4 times already proves that 3D Metroidvanias exist. The key problem here is what makes a Metroidvania?

I actually believe people have lost sight of the absolute fundamentals of what makes Metroidvanias what they are. For me, there are only 3 aspects of it.

1. The playable character will collect some kind of upgrade that expands their repertoire of abilities over the course of the game.

2. The player must use the previously mentioned upgrades to travel back to previously accessible areas and uncover new paths that lead to more upgrades. This must be done in order to eventually "win" the game and it must be a method of progress that is fundamental to the entire game.

3. The area which makes up the game must be interconnected in a way that allows the player to freely explore every area once they have access to all of the previously mentioned upgrades.

The first point actually applies to a lot of games. One of those that jumps out in this case is the Zelda series. So I'm gonna use that as an example as to why this question is so hard.

So Link will no doubt collect all sorts of items that lets him do more stuff. That fits point 1 perfectly.

Point 2 is when things get complicated, there are plenty of times where Link can use items he collected to go back to an area he had been to before and collect more upgrades to make his life easier, but the majority of the time, these won't be necessary to actually complete the game. It'll make things easier, sure, but it's not required.

But then that causes an issue... In fact it causes an issue way back in Zelda 1.

You see, in order to finish that game there's a point where you must use the Raft to reach one of the 8 dungeons. This is necessary to finish the game. (Unless you utilise glitches, but that doesn't count)

And as for point 3, don't need to explain that.

So does that make Zelda 1 the same genre as Metroid or Castlevania: Symphony of the Night? To me, that just sounds silly. But then it hit me. The reason I fell into that problem was that because Zelda 1 uses point 2 a couple of times, I thought that means that it fits the Metroidvania genre.

But the key difference between Zelda 1 and Metroid is what makes up the majority of their gameplay.

Zelda is about exploring 8 separate labyrinths in order to collect 8 shiny triangles to go beat up a giant boar. Sometimes Link will have to use items he has found to backtrack and reach new labyrinths to progress.

The goal of Metroid is to get to Tourian and blow up all the Metroids there and then explode a giant brain in a jar. The difference comes in how often you'll have to backtrack and use new items to reach previously inaccessible areas. You won't make 10 minutes of progress unless you utilise this tactic.

So, simply put. It's far too hard to define a genre in a way that neatly sorts everything. It comes down to where you draw the line. For me, Metroidvanias have to not just fit the three points I made, but those points have to be the main fundamentals of the game. And that's why I think Metroid fits, but Zelda doesn't, despite some similarities.

2. Does "Action/Adventure" describe anything? How can we do better?

No, it really doesn't. And that's terrible.

I think that the only realistic way to sort this problem is to drop Action and Adventure as genres because games are too complex for those rather simplistic descriptors.

You see this with some subgenres garnering fanmade names. The likes of Bayonetta and Devil May Cry have gotten the description of "Stylish Action". The problem with that is that it's a stupid description that tells the uninformed little about what the fundamentals of the game are. (Combat focused action game that rewards those who learn the intricate combos of the playable character and the attack patterns of various enemies).

And there's the likes of "Souls-like", which even I'm not certain of what that means. Sure, if you've played Dark Souls, that will give you a decent idea of what to expect. But then people changed it to "Soulsborne" because one game was released by From Software and it didn't have Souls in the name.

That example just comes across as hardcore fans wanting to exclude other games because they're seen as somehow inferior to their super hard series. (Don't deny it, that fanbase is notorious for skill-gating the Souls games)

So the unfortunate truth is that, 9 times out of 10, you can't describe a genre in a meaningful way with a snappy title.

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Posted (edited)

The term Action/Adventure used to be used to describe games that took the puzzle gameplay from point n' click Adventure games; and presented them within the context of an Action game.  That was the whole thing that defined Zelda 1 after all, the whole point was to take the actions that you would see in a point n' click Adventure (like push, pull, walk, sword strike, climb etc) in real time, instead of using menu commands (as per this classic 1991 interview with Miyamoto & Tezuka).  The term Action-Adventure came about because it was meant to be a real-time point n' click Adventure game.

Of course then, the distinction between an "Action" game and an "Adventure" game then, must be that "Action" games take place in real-time and are focused on fast paced real-time gameplay; while "Adventure" games are menu driven, cerebral and puzzle focused.  Zelda was both, hence the term "action-adventure".

RPGs then, are Adventure games with mechanics that were borrowed from pen & paper RPGs (most notably Dungeons & Dragons).  Western developers stuck heavily to the mold defined by Dn'D (right down to the Tolkein esc Fantasy aesthetics) and sought to make them primarily for the PC platform, while Japanese developers primarily focused on consoles and made their games with simplified interfaces & a stronger focus on storytelling & pre-defined characters (naturally also drawing heavy influence from Anime & Manga).  As such, we now have the distinction of WRPG and JRPG.  Meanwhile, "Visual Novels" are literally "Adventure" games with the puzzle solving gameplay stripped out of them.  Confusingly, we even have Action RPGs now! (which have now become the norm), while almost every single modern AAA game (regardless of genre) has some sort of RPG elements bolted on top of them!

 

The truth really here is that video game genre names have never been particularily descriptive of the type of gameplay seen in any particular game, even from the very beginning.  They are instead, a product of historical circumstance; and are only really useful to people who have been able to stick around and watch the medium develop from its early days.  They are a window into the history of video game creation and how games have drawn influence from each other and other places, more than anything else.

I mean, we still don't have any term for a Roguelike other than... well... a Roguelike; because it's a game like Rogue! (A game from all the way back in 1980!). It's like what would've happened if we never moved on from Doom Clone for the FPS genre (a term itself that is often misappropriated to games like Metroid Prime; which can be described as both a Metroidvania and a First Person Adventure! The whole thing is a mess!).

The point is that it's not worth getting hung up on exact genre labelling, because they have always been poor descriptors of gameplay.  That is not really what they do, but rather they are a historical footprint that showcases where a game gets its influence from.  That's the real value of a video game genre name (Co-incidentally, this is why calling Metroid a "Metroidvania" is really silly!)

Edited by Dcubed
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Genres are just a handy way to categorise games, it gives you a vague idea of a game, but lots of games can utilise elements of multiple genres, and therefore can be part of many different genres. Star Wars film are sci-fi, fantasy, action and adventure - possibly more. Which selection of categories it belongs to depends on which parts of it resonate with you.

 

I agree that the Metroidvania name is silly, but for a different reason: Castlevania didn't start focusing on the "Metroidvania" style until Symphony of the Night, when the franchise was already 10 years old, had at least 5 mainline games and lots of spin-offs. The next main game (the 64 one) used a completely different style. I think "Exploration" could work as the games are directly about exploring the game world given to you, with the focus on the world, and it could be mixed up with other things ("Exploration Platformer" would describe Metroid quite well). 

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1 hour ago, Cube said:

I agree that the Metroidvania name is silly, but for a different reason: Castlevania didn't start focusing on the "Metroidvania" style until Symphony of the Night, when the franchise was already 10 years old, had at least 5 mainline games and lots of spin-offs. The next main game (the 64 one) used a completely different style. I think "Exploration" could work as the games are directly about exploring the game world given to you, with the focus on the world, and it could be mixed up with other things ("Exploration Platformer" would describe Metroid quite well). 

Part of me wonders if Metroidvania was first coined by a PlayStation diehard that wanted to claim that Sony had their own answer to Super Metroid for that reason.

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Glen-i said:

Part of me wonders if Metroidvania was first coined by a PlayStation diehard that wanted to claim that Sony had their own answer to Super Metroid for that reason.

The term was coined by Jeremy Parish (of Retronauts & Good Nintensions fame), so the answer to that is no.

Edited by Dcubed
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14 minutes ago, Dcubed said:

The term was coined by Jeremy Parish (of Retronauts & Good Nintensions fame), so the answer to that is no.

Huh. I always thought it just showed up randomly on an internet forum and it just stuck eventually.

Learn something new every day.

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The term Metroidvania I believe actually first showed up to try and describe Symphony of the Night's change in style of gameplay for the Castlevania series. It was something like, "lets call the old ones Castlevanias and the new SOTN like games Metroidvanias".

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On 13/04/2021 at 11:37 PM, Aperson said:

Interesting question. I think its also notable how the definition of "genres" has evolved overtime. Sometimes that was due to negative stigma over certain genres, like after platformers fell out of public favour in the 2000s any platformer was simply marketed as an "action game". Even Sega did this with Sonic Heroes. If you go to the team select screen in that game and call Omochao to describe each team, he has this to say about Team Rose.

Very specifically "action games".

Nice catch! It's true, the platformer genre was dire at the time, which goes to show genre naming conventions are a reflection of what the gaming community/subculture thinks.

I also noticed some regions give different names to genres, or otherwise classify them differently (I've seen at least one publication refer to a fighting game as a "Beat'em Up", and heard at least one person say "Simulation game" to refer to any single-player game).

And I'm not sure how much of an actual thing this is, but popular Anime My Hero Academia had a scene where somebody said "I faced the problem like a Role Play game [shows visuals similar to Dragon Quest / Final Fantasy], but when I thought of it as a Simulation game [the visual turns into Fire Emblem / Civilization], it started to make more sense", which indicates Japanese gamers have an entirely different nomenclatures going on.

On 13/04/2021 at 11:37 PM, Aperson said:

Similarly I only ever saw RPGs as RPGs and only ever call them by that genre name. But after the rise in popularity of games like The Elder Scrolls, Fallout and Mass Effect we began to see a split in genre classification, with the games mentioned being "Western RPGs" and the RPGs I was familiar with, the likes of Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, Chrono Trigger etc now being referred to as "JRPGs".

Just to add to this point, the irony is that the likes of Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy took heavy inspiration from D&D to begin with, before taking the videogame genre in a distinct direction. I think I've been hearing the "Western RPG" and "JRPG" distinction as far back as Baldur's Gate II. I'm betting that, while JRPG were proliferating on consoles, western-style RPGs were developing their own thing on PC, before the likes of Mass Effect and Elder Scrolls brought those PC conventions to console gaming in the late '00s.

On 14/04/2021 at 12:54 AM, Glen-i said:

1. Is there such a thing as a 3D Metroidvania? If so, which games qualify?

Yes, it's called Metroid: Other M. Moving on.

OK, seriously though, the point I want to make is that the fact that Metroid itself has managed to translate the gameplay it's known for into a 3D space perfectly fine 4 times already proves that 3D Metroidvanias exist. The key problem here is what makes a Metroidvania?

I actually believe people have lost sight of the absolute fundamentals of what makes Metroidvanias what they are. For me, there are only 3 aspects of it.

1. The playable character will collect some kind of upgrade that expands their repertoire of abilities over the course of the game.

2. The player must use the previously mentioned upgrades to travel back to previously accessible areas and uncover new paths that lead to more upgrades. This must be done in order to eventually "win" the game and it must be a method of progress that is fundamental to the entire game.

3. The area which makes up the game must be interconnected in a way that allows the player to freely explore every area once they have access to all of the previously mentioned upgrades.

The first point actually applies to a lot of games. One of those that jumps out in this case is the Zelda series. So I'm gonna use that as an example as to why this question is so hard.

So Link will no doubt collect all sorts of items that lets him do more stuff. That fits point 1 perfectly.

Point 2 is when things get complicated, there are plenty of times where Link can use items he collected to go back to an area he had been to before and collect more upgrades to make his life easier, but the majority of the time, these won't be necessary to actually complete the game. It'll make things easier, sure, but it's not required.

But then that causes an issue... In fact it causes an issue way back in Zelda 1.

You see, in order to finish that game there's a point where you must use the Raft to reach one of the 8 dungeons. This is necessary to finish the game. (Unless you utilise glitches, but that doesn't count)

And as for point 3, don't need to explain that.

So does that make Zelda 1 the same genre as Metroid or Castlevania: Symphony of the Night? To me, that just sounds silly. But then it hit me. The reason I fell into that problem was that because Zelda 1 uses point 2 a couple of times, I thought that means that it fits the Metroidvania genre.

But the key difference between Zelda 1 and Metroid is what makes up the majority of their gameplay.

Zelda is about exploring 8 separate labyrinths in order to collect 8 shiny triangles to go beat up a giant boar. Sometimes Link will have to use items he has found to backtrack and reach new labyrinths to progress.

The goal of Metroid is to get to Tourian and blow up all the Metroids there and then explode a giant brain in a jar. The difference comes in how often you'll have to backtrack and use new items to reach previously inaccessible areas. You won't make 10 minutes of progress unless you utilise this tactic.

So, simply put. It's far too hard to define a genre in a way that neatly sorts everything. It comes down to where you draw the line. For me, Metroidvanias have to not just fit the three points I made, but those points have to be the main fundamentals of the game. And that's why I think Metroid fits, but Zelda doesn't, despite some similarities.

Good breakdown. It's a good conclusion that you've reached (the part I bolded), but it does beg the question of whether Link's Awakening (where you need to backtrack to fulfill the trading quest) or Skyward Sword (where you need to revisit the same areas often) count. Of course, it's all about the game's focus on freeform exploration, which gets subjective.

To me, it just seems like Metroidvania is a game that fulfills all 3 points you mentioned... and is also a 2D platformer. Which sounds arbitrary, but I think that's how the term is used. People seem willing to overlook level design and exploratory elements as long as it "looks" enough like the references to the genre. Some people say Metroid Prime fits the genre, but only because it's Metroid. The likes of Bioshock and System Shock, despite being designed like that as well, aren't often called Metroidvanias.

On 14/04/2021 at 12:54 AM, Glen-i said:

2. Does "Action/Adventure" describe anything? How can we do better?

No, it really doesn't. And that's terrible.

I think that the only realistic way to sort this problem is to drop Action and Adventure as genres because games are too complex for those rather simplistic descriptors.

You see this with some subgenres garnering fanmade names. The likes of Bayonetta and Devil May Cry have gotten the description of "Stylish Action". The problem with that is that it's a stupid description that tells the uninformed little about what the fundamentals of the game are. (Combat focused action game that rewards those who learn the intricate combos of the playable character and the attack patterns of various enemies).

And there's the likes of "Souls-like", which even I'm not certain of what that means. Sure, if you've played Dark Souls, that will give you a decent idea of what to expect. But then people changed it to "Soulsborne" because one game was released by From Software and it didn't have Souls in the name.

That example just comes across as hardcore fans wanting to exclude other games because they're seen as somehow inferior to their super hard series. (Don't deny it, that fanbase is notorious for skill-gating the Souls games)

So the unfortunate truth is that, 9 times out of 10, you can't describe a genre in a meaningful way with a snappy title.

You're telling me the "git gud" crowd practices gate-keeping? My word!

But seriously, these are all very good points. I've always seen the likes of Devil May Cry and Bayonetta as "hack&slash" games (which if you think about it, are basically Beat'em ups in 3D), but there is a desire to "unite" them further, based on the one developer creating both series with similar foci and conventions.

Soulslike is another one where it makes little sense to pretend it's a genre, even though its gameplay conventions are notable and memorable. It already fits the trappings of agreed-upon genres, such as 3D Adventure game, or a 3D Metroidvania... or even a hack&slash, though one where each hack and each slash need to be thought about carefully

On 14/04/2021 at 7:47 AM, Dcubed said:

The term Action/Adventure used to be used to describe games that took the puzzle gameplay from point n' click Adventure games; and presented them within the context of an Action game.  That was the whole thing that defined Zelda 1 after all, the whole point was to take the actions that you would see in a point n' click Adventure (like push, pull, walk, sword strike, climb etc) in real time, instead of using menu commands (as per this classic 1991 interview with Miyamoto & Tezuka).  The term Action-Adventure came about because it was meant to be a real-time point n' click Adventure game.

Of course then, the distinction between an "Action" game and an "Adventure" game then, must be that "Action" games take place in real-time and are focused on fast paced real-time gameplay; while "Adventure" games are menu driven, cerebral and puzzle focused.  Zelda was both, hence the term "action-adventure".

RPGs then, are Adventure games with mechanics that were borrowed from pen & paper RPGs (most notably Dungeons & Dragons).  Western developers stuck heavily to the mold defined by Dn'D (right down to the Tolkein esc Fantasy aesthetics) and sought to make them primarily for the PC platform, while Japanese developers primarily focused on consoles and made their games with simplified interfaces & a stronger focus on storytelling & pre-defined characters (naturally also drawing heavy influence from Anime & Manga).  As such, we now have the distinction of WRPG and JRPG.  Meanwhile, "Visual Novels" are literally "Adventure" games with the puzzle solving gameplay stripped out of them.  Confusingly, we even have Action RPGs now! (which have now become the norm), while almost every single modern AAA game (regardless of genre) has some sort of RPG elements bolted on top of them!

Didn't know about the origins of the term. That's fascinating! As a fan of Point&Clicks, I did wonder how come that traditional type of game got excluded from the "Adventure" naming conventions (because I do remember a time where "Adventure game" meant "Point&Click". Maybe only the PC crowd from my country did that?). But looking at this, and back at the evolution of the term, it seems its initial usage in LoZ was it... the missing Link :cool: , so to speak.

Not sure I agree about the Visual Novel part, though. Phoenix Wright has plenty of puzzle-solving! But do Japanese players truly refer to VNs as Adventure games?

On 14/04/2021 at 7:47 AM, Dcubed said:

The truth really here is that video game genre names have never been particularily descriptive of the type of gameplay seen in any particular game, even from the very beginning.  They are instead, a product of historical circumstance; and are only really useful to people who have been able to stick around and watch the medium develop from its early days.  They are a window into the history of video game creation and how games have drawn influence from each other and other places, more than anything else.

I mean, we still don't have any term for a Roguelike other than... well... a Roguelike; because it's a game like Rogue! (A game from all the way back in 1980!). It's like what would've happened if we never moved on from Doom Clone for the FPS genre (a term itself that is often misappropriated to games like Metroid Prime; which can be described as both a Metroidvania and a First Person Adventure! The whole thing is a mess!).

The point is that it's not worth getting hung up on exact genre labelling, because they have always been poor descriptors of gameplay.  That is not really what they do, but rather they are a historical footprint that showcases where a game gets its influence from.  That's the real value of a video game genre name (Co-incidentally, this is why calling Metroid a "Metroidvania" is really silly!)

As with any social sciences, I figure these naming conventions are ever-evolving, but having a grasp of how people use these terms helps when, say, describing a new game, or hearing someone else talk about it. How people come up with terms, and how they use it, is a fascinating subject for me nevertheless.

(Thank you for clarifying what you meant in the other thread, btw!)

On 14/04/2021 at 1:01 PM, Cube said:

Genres are just a handy way to categorise games, it gives you a vague idea of a game, but lots of games can utilise elements of multiple genres, and therefore can be part of many different genres. Star Wars film are sci-fi, fantasy, action and adventure - possibly more. Which selection of categories it belongs to depends on which parts of it resonate with you.

I agree that the Metroidvania name is silly, but for a different reason: Castlevania didn't start focusing on the "Metroidvania" style until Symphony of the Night, when the franchise was already 10 years old, had at least 5 mainline games and lots of spin-offs. The next main game (the 64 one) used a completely different style. I think "Exploration" could work as the games are directly about exploring the game world given to you, with the focus on the world, and it could be mixed up with other things ("Exploration Platformer" would describe Metroid quite well). 

The Star Wars comparison is a good one, because I've seen it be described as different genres, from different publications. As you say, it's what resonates most with an audience or community.

I suppose Metroidvania is just a catchier term. I've seen some try to make the term "ENG" (Environmental Narrative Genre) happen, but it doesn't catch on because "Walking Sim" just resonates more with people.

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26 minutes ago, Jonnas said:

And I'm not sure how much of an actual thing this is, but popular Anime My Hero Academia had a scene where somebody said "I faced the problem like a Role Play game [shows visuals similar to Dragon Quest / Final Fantasy], but when I thought of it as a Simulation game [the visual turns into Fire Emblem / Civilization], it started to make more sense", which indicates Japanese gamers have an entirely different nomenclatures going on.

Interesting you mention this and how Japan has its own view of video game genres because Toei's Kamen Rider Ex-Aid which came out in 2016 and ran until 2017 was a video game themed tokusatsu where all the main characters' transformations were based around certain video game genres and the plotline was about people being infected by video game viruses... anyway before I go off on a tangent the main character was based around platformers, there was another character based around RPGs and the other two main "good guys" were themed around shooting and racing games. It goes on from there too, there are forms based around survival horrorr, puzzle, fighting games, dancing... and even dating games... Ends up with a real life MMO being a plotline of the villains to turn real life into a video game and kill everyone off by allowing them to be video game characters. If nothing else, it also gives the internet this memeable image...

 

ba5hetaegjxy.gif

 

Anyway, one game that I think is a good example of blurring the lines between multiple genres is Ratchet & Clank

 

th?id=OIP.9XTwz9iVU-FQD10M17HZZwHaKc&pid

 

This is a VERY unique game by today's standards as it incorporates aspects of many different game genres. Now this series is mostly know both for being a platformer shooter hybrid but the first game, while primarily being a platformer, doesn't have any similarities in level design too much to all the platformers that were being released around the same time. Rather than being an explorable sandbox that you have to go round to collect items, this game has stricly linear level design... or does it? Because when you touch down on certain planets you are presented with a range of options to travel from your ship. And when you reach the end of the route you're taken back to your ship and can explore the other routes from there. This is because Insomniac went into this game wanting to make more of a Zelda like game and this game was their third attempt to get it off the ground. But wait, some of these routes are blocked off by certain powerups... wait a minute, that would make Ratchet and Clank more of a Metroidvania right? Should we consider this game to have that kind of level design that requires you to accumulate powerups to progress? But... its split across multiple planets so that can't be right...

 

And this is where things get curious. If you look at Metroid Prime Hunters and Metroid Prime 3, those games are set across multiple planets, albeit a fewer number but they have a very similar kind of level design. So really, Ratchet & Clank has taken aspects from many different gaming genres to form its own identity.

 

Of course, the multiple routes in planets would get replaced with just one streamlined route from Ratchet 3 onwards as the series began to be defined more as a shooter but those early games had such a strong element of exploration and you are getting stronger as the game goes along with an assortment of upgrades, some of which are useful if you backtrack to older planets to uncover new stuff. But those upgrades are sometimes one use only so in that sense its similar to Zelda and... aghhh!

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1 hour ago, Jonnas said:

Good breakdown. It's a good conclusion that you've reached (the part I bolded), but it does beg the question of whether Link's Awakening (where you need to backtrack to fulfill the trading quest) or Skyward Sword (where you need to revisit the same areas often) count. Of course, it's all about the game's focus on freeform exploration, which gets subjective.

Skyward Sword is a very interesting case of backtracking, it's done in a way that I think is actually quite engaging.

Whenever the critical path forces Link back to a previous area, something in that area has fundamentally changed that, in turn, changes how it must be tackled. (Faron Woods getting flooded, Eldin Province effectively mugging Link of his stuff, forcing him to employ stealth, etc.)

It's not quite the same thing as most backtracking. Actually, it seems like a more extreme method of how Ocarina of Time handled repeat visits. (Zora's Domain getting frozen over being the most obvious example there)

1 hour ago, Jonnas said:

To me, it just seems like Metroidvania is a game that fulfills all 3 points you mentioned... and is also a 2D platformer. Which sounds arbitrary, but I think that's how the term is used. People seem willing to overlook level design and exploratory elements as long as it "looks" enough like the references to the genre. Some people say Metroid Prime fits the genre, but only because it's Metroid. The likes of Bioshock and System Shock, despite being designed like that as well, aren't often called Metroidvanias.

I think you've hit the nail on the head there. Most people would hear "Metroidvania" and immediately think of a 2D perspective. Much like how @Dcubed mentioned Metroid Prime being incorrectly called an FPS.

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Glen-i said:

I think you've hit the nail on the head there. Most people would hear "Metroidvania" and immediately think of a 2D perspective. Much like how @Dcubed mentioned Metroid Prime being incorrectly called an FPS.

Ironically, with @Jonnas mentioning Metroid Prime Hunters... that’s a good example of misappropriation right there; because that game isn’t a Metroidvania at all! It’s a FPS; and not just any old FPS, it’s basically a full on Quake-alike!

It’s literally Quake with a Metroid skin... but with 6 characters that all play uniquely (does that also make Metroid Prime Hunters the first “Hero Shooter” as well!?).

Also @Jonnas, Ace Attorney isn’t a true visual novel (and neither are the Zero Escape games for that matter).  Those games are demarcated from the VN genre by virtue of their detective/puzzle gameplay (though you could certainly argue that they draw plenty of influence from the VN genre themselves regardless).  I’d definitely say that they’re much closer to Point n’ Click Adventure games than VNs overall though.

Edited by Dcubed
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2 hours ago, Dcubed said:

(does that also make Metroid Prime Hunters the first “Hero Shooter” as well!?).

Now that's the sort of take I like to see!

(Speaking of misappropriation, I believe @Aperson was the one to mention Metroid Prime Hunters, not me)

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If Prime Hunters was a "Hero shooter" it was an incredibly unbalanaced one! Sylux and Trace were the only worthwhile characters to play as in that game. Not to mention the online was absolutely plagued with hackers which is a shame as I used to play the game online but would get absolutely destroyed by people who were playing as Trace and hacking the game to stand INSIDE WALLS so that they could snipe everyone else from in there. Meanwhile I was just running around as Sylux because that was the only other worthwhile character due to the fact that Shock Coil heals you when you attack the opponent as well as the fact that the coil homes in on enemies. They REALLY didn't think to balance this game properly. TF2 and Overwatch HAVE to have more viable characters right?

 

But thats getting off the point of the topic now somewhat...

 

(Ironically Hunters was my first Metroid game unless you count its First Hunt Demo, so a Hero Shooter which I started playing because I was a teenager at the time and the FPS genre was popular with teenager boys helped me get into what would become one of my all time favourite franchises and shape my gaming tastes for the rest of time to the point where I don't really play a lot of the preceived "super hardcore adult" games with a lot of violence in them).

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I quite liked Metroid Prime Hunters for what it was (a good Quake style multiplayer FPS).  The single player was kinda cack (and not even remotely like a Metroid game at all), but the multiplayer was good fun! And the controls were amazing! It really did feel remarkably close to a keyboard & mouse setup!

But yeah... the online was absolutely ruined by hackers.  Literally every single online match had some idiot playing as Trace, stuck inside a wall, sniping everyone to death; and there was nothing you could do about it.

Local multi was good fun though!

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