Run-and-Gun, Beat 'Em Up, Hack-and-SlashAdrenaline-packed and action-infused, these types of games share a similar vibe, but each of them is unique in its own way. Their predecessors — arcade gaming machines — did a good job entertaining previous generations, so it is understandable why modern games in these genres also stick with 2D graphics.
PlatformersWho knew that one funny Italian plumber named Mario would become the biggest and most long-lasting icon in video gaming history? He started his career as the protagonist of one of the earliest platformers — Super Mario Bros. Deluxe (1999). In platformers, the action takes place in 2D environments segmented in multiple levels. To emerge victorious and save the princess, Mario progresses through difficult terrains infested with enemies by climbing and jumping between platforms. Hence, the name "platformer."
Puzzle gamesEveryone has tried some puzzle games, at least in real life, right? This genre originates from classic tabletop games and follows their basic concepts. Some puzzle games have really simple gameplay, but there are surprisingly addictive and cater to the masses. A prime example, in this case, would be the Candy Crush Saga series that managed to accumulate over 93 million players back in 2014. This match-three puzzle really nailed it.
RPGIn these games, you often get to create your own characters, choose their skills and decide how to progress through the story. Some titles also give you a pre-made hero(s) to begin with, but it does not make the process less fun (think of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt). Other basic mechanics involve leveling up your character, completing quests, and lots of talking with NPCs. Role-playing games are story-driven, so no wonder why they have tons of cut scenes to watch and dialogues to read.
Sports gamesTraditional sports that you can enjoy on your consoles and computers. Includes a variety of subgenres from racing and skateboarding to boxing and football. Most of these games are simulators but not all of them, of course. For example, games like Forza Horizon shift more into the arcade territory instead of simulation with hardcore physics.
Action gamesBring your reflexes, train your coordination, and build muscle memory if you want to beat modern action games like Doom Eternal on higher difficulty settings! Or just relax and play on regular ones – no one will judge you. This is probably the most extensive genre because that action element is common for many genres. Here are the main subcategories you must be familiar with:
Cel-ShadingWhen you see cel-shaded graphics for the first time, it might look weird. This is because it stands on the border between 2D and 3D and has a flat comic look with lighting and shadows. This effect is achieved by creating three-dimensional models and re-rendering them in 2D with thick outlines. However, nothing prevents artists from drawing cel-shaded assets manually by adding shadows and lighting during the initial process. To see how cel-shading looks in modern games, check Borderlands or XIII titles.
Pixel artVery common and popular 2D game art style. Titles with pixelated graphics have a distinctive look because all characters, environments, and objects are made from visible pixels. Originally such visuals were the result of technology limitations, but today pixel art brings a heartwarming nostalgic effect to old-school gamers. Games like Fez and Terraria make good use of it.
Flat ArtThe name of the style suggests that it is a prerogative of 2D games. It has a certain charm to it when everything looks as flat as possible and is made up of basic shapes. This includes all characters in the game, the world, and its objects. The artists need to go an extra mile with colors and borders to make flat shapes more distinctive. Guacamelee and Limbo are perfect examples of clever flat art realization.
RealismRealistic graphics try to recreate the appearance of our world in digital projects. The style itself is not about hyper-realistic animations or replicating human faces 1-to-1. Instead, realism brings the general atmosphere of the real world and tries to make it feel indistinguishable from reality (with some provisos).
PhotorealismWhen it comes to photorealism, we have to admit that there is still a long way to go before we are able to achieve truly photorealistic graphics in video games. Sure, artists can provide gorgeous and super detailed images and animations, but the current hardware will choke on them. Hopefully, in the nearest future, we will have more games with this 3D animation style like Microsoft Flight Simulator, which fantastic landscapes that are nearly indistinguishable from reality.
While the two last art styles were catering towards 3D, in this situation, the choice between 2D vs 3D animation is not so one-sided. There are tons of great examples on both sides: Cuphead (2D), Rayman Origins (2D), The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (3D), World of Warcraft (3D), etc. This style allows artists to create original game worlds and atmospheres, free from the bounds of total realism.