Multi-genre video game

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TRON, released in 1982, was an early multi-genre video game which combined four different mechanics.

Multi-genre video games, also referred to as cross-genre, are those video games which use multiple vastly-different play mechanics throughout the game. Multi-genre video games began pretty early in origin of the video game industry with pioneer titles like Jungle Hunt and TRON. I've noticed that a lot of gaming databases don't attempt to identify multi-genre games.

I generally find games which use a multi-genre model to be inferior to those that stick to a single genre, although, I admit that there have certainly been some good multi-genre titles over the years. I think the primary reason multi-genre games seem inferior is because the developers are unable to spend enough time to really polish the game. Typically, game designers have only a limited time in which to complete their game, and, when they stick to a single mechanic, all their efforts are concentrated on honing that single mechanic in the allotted time. However, when the developers create multi-genre games, they have to divide their resources between each mechanic, resulting in several mechanics that have a rather unfinished feel.

A good example of a multi-genre game which felt inferior is The Adventures of Bayou Billy released in 1988. As you progress through the stages, the game changes between three different genres, beat 'em up, driving, and rail shooter, however, each of the sections is pretty limited compared to other games released around the same time which focused on only one of those genres. When you compare a contemporary NES beat 'em up like Double Dragon with all its martial arts moves and various locales to the beat 'em up sections of The Adventures of Bayou Billy, you get a feel for just how primitive it felt.


Most video games employ a wide array of elements, so it's often difficult to decide which games should be considered multi-genre. My general rule for determining if a game should be considered multi-genre is to consider what percentage of the game play is spent on each genre. The closer the percentage nears equilibrium, the more likely the game should be considered multi-genre. For example, The Adventures of Bayou Billy has three genres, beat 'em' up, driving, and rail-shooter. When you calculate how much of the game is spent on each genre in an average play through, you get percentages like 40%, 30%, and 30%. These are pretty close to equilibrium, so the game is multi-genre. On contrast, the game Chrono Trigger contains a couple minigames, but they only account for about 5% of the game, while the game's main RPG mechanic is used for the other 95%. Since this is nowhere near equilibrium, it should not be considered multi-genre.

Some games are designed around a theme of minigames. These are usually considered multi-genre, but only if the games actually have different play mechanics. For example, the mini games in Mario Party all feature different mechanics, so I consider it multi-genre, but I would not consider a card game title which featured a dozen different card games to be multi-genre since they're so similar. Another consideration is the microgames trend that began in the early 2000s. Depending on the title, these can go either way, for example, despite their varying themes, the vast majority of the microgames in WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgame$! follow the same mechanic of identifying the micro game and reflexively responding to it, so I wouldn't consider it multi-genre.

Also, there needs to be a distinction between multi-genre games and compilation games. For example, Microsoft Entertainment Pack For Windows has several different games each with different mechanics, but there isn't anything holding them together, so I view it as a compilation game. However, The 7th Guest, which also has several games in its repertoire, combines them with a cohesive narrative, so I refer to it as multi-genre.


These are multi-genre video games which are important to me, for a complete list, see the category.

Title Released Developer Notes
The 7th Guest 1993-04-01 Trilobyte Includes a bunch of puzzle games, most of which have very different mechanics.
Actraiser 1990-12-16 Quintet Alternates between a beat 'em up and a real-time strategy.
The Adventures of Bayou Billy 1988-08-12 Konami A good example of a bad multi-genre game. Changes between a beat 'em up, driving game, and first person shooter.
Glittermitten Grove 2016-12-26 Twinbeard The two primary mechanics include management simulation and action-adventure, but it has a lot of minigames too.
Mario Party 1998-12-18 Hudson Soft Features a large collection of minigames, and even has a minigame for the minigames!
Pony Island 2016-01-04 Daniel Mullins Games Two primary genres are runner and logic puzzle, but has a couple other minigames.