Keep those genre mashups coming, game devs
There are a lot of video games out there in the world. Shooters, platformers, narrative adventures, fighting games — iconic genres that have almost forty years of precedence to make them what they are today. Various developers and studios have given us some truly amazing entries in all of these genres and many more, but sometimes, I find myself wondering if there’s anything new out there that will shake up the industry. Of course, this is always a silly thought, because people are endlessly creative, especially when it comes to game design. The industry has plenty of answers for keeping things moving forward, but my absolute favorite trend in games right now is genre mashup.
That’s right, it’s as simple as taking two game genres and combining them — but the outcome is almost always effective, giving us a new perspective on some gameplay systems that might have otherwise become a bit tired. Developers have been borrowing design elements from all kinds of games pretty much forever, but it seems like in the past few years, the main conceit of “this game mixed with that game” has become more prominent than ever before.
Exhibit A: Deckbuilding Roguelikes
One of my favorite examples of a genre mashup is Mega Crit’s 2017 indie darling Slay the Spire. This game has had a chokehold on me for over a year now, and in that time I’ve loaded 250 hours into it on my Switch. For those who aren’t familiar, it’s a deckbuilding roguelike, which happens to be two of my favorite genres in the first place.
You completely start your deck over with each run, and getting to know the cards and how to max out your builds makes for a really fun gameplay loop. On their own, both deckbuilders and roguelikes make learning the details of the game mechanics a core part of their design, so putting the two together is a match made in heaven. It’s like peanut butter and chocolate — two great things on their own make something even better when combined.
Deadpan Games also has a title coming up this year that I absolutely can’t wait for: Wildfrost. It’s a deckbuilding roguelike, just like Slay the Spire, only with an adorable, snow-and-ice theme. I’m honestly super excited to see the combo of these two subgenres becoming more prominent in the games space, because they make for endless fun and replayability.
Exhibit B: Neon White
Another recent game that’s been getting a lot of love recently is Neon White, Angel Matrix’s new speedrunning FPS puzzle-platformer. It’s such a unique mix of gaming conventions that you have to list at least three different genres in its description, and I think that’s beautiful. Neon White has been a standout ever since it premiered back in early 2021, and although I haven’t gotten the opportunity to play it yet myself, from what I hear it’s delivering on everything we could want from its premise.
It’s fast-paced and action-packed, but the game also requires you to think of each level like a puzzle. I love a game that gets me out of my comfort zone, and from what I can tell, Neon White will do just that. I’ve caught a few glimpses of my roommate playing, and they told me how much the game is challenging them to try new things and implement strategies that they normally wouldn’t. In the same way that Hades pushed me to find a love of real-time combat, they insist that Neon White will help me get over my trouble with platforming. Neon White wasn’t a game I was expecting to get excited for this year, but it is sitting pretty at the very top of my Steam wishlist.
Exhibit C: Eternights
We also have some more great genre mashup games on the horizon — during Sony’s State of Play last month, we got a first look at Studio Sai’s dating sim/action game combo Eternights. With some dungeon-crawling mechanics and character relationships being at the forefront, it sounds like there’s some Persona inspiration going on there.
I love action games, but when you’re bombarded with level after level of intense fight sequences, it can get a bit exhausting. On the other hand, even the most adorable of dating sims can feel like a grind to me sometimes because the gameplay doesn’t vary all that much. Now there’s obviously no way of knowing until I get my hands on it, but as of now I can imagine Eternights actually having a more agreeable pacing for me by contrasting fast-paced action moments with quieter story beats in the romance sections.
I could also imagine great character moments having to do with the mortal danger they’re in during the fights. It’s all speculation at this point, but as someone who loves both romance and action games, this is definitely one that I’m looking forward to… whenever it comes out.
The games I’ve listed here are only a few of the genre-mixing titles that I’m excited about — there are so many more out there, and you can probably find one that combines two or more of your own favorite genres. One of the things I love most about video games is how quickly this industry innovates and iterates on the ideas that keep our games moving forward, and something as simple as combining motifs from different genres is a perfect example of developers’ creativity at work.
Sometimes, all it takes to make something awesome that no one has ever seen before is combining two things that you already love. When I’m at my most cynical, insisting that I’ve seen it all before, devs from small indie teams all the way up to AAA prove me wrong with ideas like genre mashups, and I honestly wouldn’t want it any other way.