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The Difference Between Action and Adventure

I recently encountered a situation where I would have expected that an ‘Action’ game and an ‘Adventure’ game would be distinct categories, with their differences recognized and well known. Sadly these terms have become so often misused, or worse used interchangeably, that the two terms seem to mean the same thing. The distinction of these categories has become overlooked and the casual gamer has very little sense of their actual meaning. Well don’t worry casual gamer, I am here to educate you.

Why should you care? Because when games are categorized correctly, and when gamers can understand those categories, then it becomes easier for gamers to find games that they enjoy, and helps games find their audience.

Action versus Adventure

To put it very simply, an Action game is one that has physical challenges, and an Adventure game is one that has puzzle challenges.

Asteroids – An early example of an Action games.

An Action game is one that requires the player to use well timed actions, reflexes, and skilled maneuvering to accomplish the game’s goals. This encompasses sub-genres like racing games, fighting games, platforming games, shoot-em-ups, and even MOBAs. (Massive Online Battle Arenas) Most games in recent times have some element of Action. Recent examples of Action games would be Super Hexagon, or Rocket League.

Zork – One of the earliest Adventure games.

An Adventure game is one that requires the player uses problem solving skills, exploration, and attention to story and environment cues to accomplish the game’s goals. Pure Adventure games have become much less popular than they were at the dawn of the video game era. Players expect a bit of Action in their experiences now-a-days, but there are still some great ones being made. Some examples are Broken Age and the Telltale Walking Dead games.

The Action Adventure Genre

The Action Adventure genre is very likely the root of the confusion between the difference of an Adventure game and an Action game. This genre includes games that use both Adventure elements and Action elements. If it requires reflexes and puzzle solving, it is probably an Action/Adventure game.

Castle Wolfenstein – An early example of an Action Adventure game

The best examples of Action/Adventure games that I have played are in the Legend of Zelda series. However, not surprisingly this description can be attributed to MOST games. Assassin’s Creed and Fallout can both technically be considered Action/Adventure, though they tend to lean more on the Action side.

Because this category can and has been so widely attributed, the meaning of the individual categories has become less commonplace than their combination. The difference and distinction between them has become all but meaningless in the wake of the Action Adventure genre.

That is the long and short of Action versus Adventure games. Now you know how to better categorize games, and hopefully together we can keep these categories from becoming meaningless tags.

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