Action-adventure game

Last updated

An action-adventure game is a video game hybrid genre that combines core elements from both the action game and adventure game genres.


Typically, classical adventure games have situational problems for the player to explore and solve to complete a storyline, involving very little to no action. If there is action, it is generally confined to isolated instances. Classical action games, on the other hand, have gameplay based on real-time interactions that challenges the player's reflexes and eye-hand coordination. Action-adventure games combine these genres by engaging both eye-hand coordination and problem-solving skills.


An action adventure game can be defined as a game with a mix of elements from an action game and an adventure game, [1] especially crucial elements like puzzles [2] inspired by older adventure games. [3] Action-adventures require many of the same physical skills as action games, but also offer a storyline, numerous characters, an inventory system, dialogue, and other features of adventure games. [4] They are faster-paced than pure adventure games, because they include both physical and conceptual challenges. [4] Action-adventure games normally include a combination of complex story elements, which are displayed for players using audio and video. The story is heavily reliant upon the player character's movement, which triggers story events and thus affects the flow of the game. [5] Popular examples of action-adventure games include The Legend of Zelda , God of War , [4] and Tomb Raider series. [6]

Relationship to other genres

When a game stops being an adventure game and becomes an action game is a matter of interpretation. [7] There are quite a few disagreements in the community and in the media over what actually constitutes an action-adventure game. One definition of the term "action-adventure" may be '"An action/adventure game is a game that has enough action in it not to be called an adventure game, but not enough action to be called an action game." [8] In some cases an action game with puzzles will be classified as an action-adventure game, but if these puzzles are quite simple they might be classified as an action game. [4] [9] Others see action games as a pure genre, while an action-adventure is an action game that includes situational problem-solving. [8] [9] Adventure gamers may also be purists, rejecting any game that makes use of physical challenges or time pressure. [4] Regardless, the action-adventure label is prominent in articles over the internet and media. The term "action-adventure" is usually substituted for a particular subgenre due to its wide scope.


Although action-adventure games are diverse and difficult to classify, there are some distinct subgenres. Many games with gameplay [10] similar to those in The Legend of Zelda series are called Zelda clones [11] or Zelda like games. [12] [13] [14] Popular subgenres include:

Grand Theft Auto clone

Grand Theft Auto clone , is a subgenre of open world action-adventure video games in the third-person perspective. They are characterized by their likeness to the Grand Theft Auto series in either gameplay or overall design. [15] [16] In these types of open world games, players may find and use a variety of vehicles and weapons while roaming freely in an open world setting. [17] [18] [19]


Metroidvania ; a portmanteau of Metroid and Castlevania, sometimes referred to as "search action", [20] is used to describe games in this genre that generally are based on two-dimensional platformers. They emphasize both exploration and puzzle-solving with traditional platform gameplay. [21]

Survival horror

Survival horror , emphasize "inventory management" and making sure the player has enough ammunition and recovery items to "survive" the horror setting. This is a thematic genre with diverse gameplay, so not all survival horror games share all the features. [22] [23] [24] [25] The Resident Evil franchise popularized this subgenre.


Action-adventure games are faster-paced than pure adventure games, and include physical as well as conceptual challenges [7] where the story is enacted rather than narrated. [26] While motion-based, often reflexive, actions are required, [5] the gameplay still follows a number of adventure game genre tropes (gathering items, exploration of and interaction with one's environment, often including an overworld connecting areas of importance, and puzzle-solving). [27] While the controls are arcade-style (character movement, few action commands) there is an ultimate goal beyond a high score. [27] In most action-adventure games, the player controls a single avatar as the protagonist. [4] This type of game is often quite similar to role-playing video games. [28]

They are distinct from graphic adventures, which sometimes have free-moving central characters, but also a wider variety of commands and fewer or no action game elements and are distinct too from text adventures, characterized by many different commands introduced by the user via a complex text parser and no free-moving character. While they share general gameplay dynamics, action-adventures vary widely in the design of their viewpoints, including bird's eye, side-scrolling, first-person, third-person, over-the-shoulder, or even a 3/4 isometric view.

Many action-adventure games simulate a conversation through a conversation tree. When the player encounters a non-player character, they are allowed to select a choice of what to say. The NPC gives a scripted response to the player, and the game offers the player several new ways to respond.[ citation needed ]

Due to the action-adventure subgenre's broad and inclusive nature, it causes some players to have difficulty finishing a particular game. Companies have devised ways to give the player help, such as offering clues or allowing the player to skip puzzles to compensate for this lack of ability. [29]


1970s and early 1980s

Brett Weiss cites Atari's Superman (1979) as an action-adventure game, [30] with Retro Gamer crediting it as the "first to utilize multiple screens as playing area". [31] Mark J.P. Wolf credits Adventure (1980) for the Atari VCS as the earliest-known action-adventure game. [32] The game involves exploring a 2D environment, finding and using items which each have prescribed abilities, and fighting dragons in real-time like in an action game. [8] Muse Software's Castle Wolfenstein (1981) was another early action-adventure game, merging exploration, combat, stealth, [33] and maze game elements, [34] drawing inspiration from arcade shoot 'em ups and maze games (such as maze-shooter Berzerk ) and war films (such as The Guns of Navarone ). [35]

According to Wizardry developer Roe R. Adams, early action-adventure games "were basically arcade games done in a fantasy" setting. [36] Tutankham , debuted by Konami in January 1982, [37] was an action-adventure released for arcades. [38] It combined maze, shoot 'em up, puzzle-solving and adventure elements, [39] [30] [40] with a 1983 review by Computer and Video Games magazine calling it "the first game that effectively combined the elements of an adventure game with frenetic shoot 'em up gameplay." [39] It inspired the similar Time Bandit (1983). [41] Action Quest , released in May 1982, blended puzzle elements of adventure games into a joystick-controlled, arcade-style action game, which surprised reviewers at the time. [42] [43]

While noting some similarities to Adventure, IGN argues that The Legend of Zelda (1986) by Nintendo "helped to establish a new subgenre of action-adventure", becoming a success due to how it combined elements from different genres to create a compelling hybrid, including exploration, adventure-style inventory puzzles, an action component, a monetary system, and simplified RPG-style level building without the experience points. [10] The Legend of Zelda series was the most prolific action-adventure game franchise through to the 2000s. [44] Roe R. Adams also cited the arcade-style side-scrolling fantasy games Castlevania (1986), Trojan (1986) and Wizards & Warriors (1987) as early examples of action-adventure games. [36]

Games like Brain Breaker (1985), Xanadu (1985), Metroid (1986) and Vampire Killer (1986) combined a side-scrolling platformer format with adventure exploration, creating the Metroidvania platform-adventure subgenre. Similarly, games like 005 (1981), Castle Wolfenstein and Metal Gear (1987) combined action-adventure exploration with stealth mechanics, laying the foundations for the stealth game subgenre, which would later be popularized in 1998 with the releases of Metal Gear Solid , Tenchu: Stealth Assassins , and Thief: The Dark Project .

1990s to present

The cinematic platformer Prince of Persia (1989) featured action-adventure elements, inspiring games such as Another World (1991) and Flashback (1992). Alone in the Dark (1992) used 3D graphics, which would later be popularized by Resident Evil (1996) and Tomb Raider (1996). Resident Evil in particular created the survival horror subgenre, inspiring titles such as Silent Hill (1999) and Fatal Frame (2001). [8]

Action-adventure games have gone on to become more popular than the pure adventure games and pure platform games that inspired them. [45] Recent examples include the Uncharted franchise, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Ark: Survival Evolved .

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Puzzle video game</span> Video game genre

Puzzle video games make up a broad genre of video games that emphasize puzzle solving. The types of puzzles can test problem-solving skills, including logic, pattern recognition, sequence solving, spatial recognition, and word completion. Many puzzle games involve a real-time element and require quick thinking, such as Tetris (1985) and Lemmings (1991).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Platformer</span> Video game genre

A platformer is a sub-genre of action video games in which the core objective is to move the player character between points in an environment. Platform games are characterized by levels with uneven terrain and suspended platforms of varying height that require jumping and climbing to traverse. Other acrobatic maneuvers may factor into the gameplay, such as swinging from vines or grappling hooks, jumping off walls, gliding through the air, or bouncing from springboards or trampolines.

Shoot 'em ups are a sub-genre of action games. There is no consensus as to which design elements compose a shoot 'em up; some restrict the definition to games featuring spacecraft and certain types of character movement, while others allow a broader definition including characters on foot and a variety of perspectives.

Survival horror is a subgenre of horror games. Although combat can be part of the gameplay, the player is made to feel less in control than in typical action games through limited ammunition or weapons, health, speed, and vision, or through various obstructions of the player's interaction with the game mechanics. The player is also challenged to find items that unlock the path to new areas and solve puzzles to proceed in the game. Games make use of strong horror themes, such as dark mazelike environments and unexpected attacks from enemies.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Role-playing video game</span> Video game genre

A role-playing video game, commonly referred to as a role-playing game (RPG) or computer role-playing game (CRPG), is a video game genre where the player controls the actions of a character immersed in some well-defined world, usually involving some form of character development by way of recording statistics. Many role-playing video games have origins in tabletop role-playing games and use much of the same terminology, settings, and game mechanics. Other major similarities with pen-and-paper games include developed story-telling and narrative elements, player character development, complexity, as well as replay value and immersion. The electronic medium removes the necessity for a gamemaster and increases combat resolution speed. RPGs have evolved from simple text-based console-window games into visually rich 3D experiences.

An action game is a video game genre that emphasizes physical challenges, including hand–eye coordination and reaction time. The genre includes a large variety of sub-genres, such as fighting games, beat 'em ups, shooter games, rhythm games and platform games. Multiplayer online battle arena and some real-time strategy games are also considered action games.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Video game genre</span> Classification assigned to video games based on their gameplay

A video game genre is an informal classification of a video game based on how it is played rather than visual or narrative elements. This is independent of setting, unlike works of fiction that are expressed through other media, such as films or books. For example, a shooter game is still a shooter game, regardless of where or when it takes place. A specific game's genre is open to subjective interpretation. An individual game may belong to several genres at once.

Shooter video games or shooters are a subgenre of action video games where the focus is almost entirely on the defeat of the character's enemies using the weapons given to the player. Usually these weapons are firearms or some other long-range weapons, and can be used in combination with other tools such as grenades for indirect offense, armor for additional defense, or accessories such as telescopic sights to modify the behavior of the weapons. A common resource found in many shooter games is ammunition, armor or health, or upgrades which augment the player character's weapons.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to video games:

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Video game clone</span> Video game that resembles another video game

A video game clone is either a video game or a video game console very similar to, or heavily inspired by, a previous popular game or console. Clones are typically made to take financial advantage of the popularity of the cloned game or system, but clones may also result from earnest attempts to create homages or expand on game mechanics from the original game. An additional motivation unique to the medium of games as software with limited compatibility, is the desire to port a simulacrum of a game to platforms that the original is unavailable for or unsatisfactorily implemented on.

An action role-playing game is a subgenre of video games that combines core elements from both the action game and role-playing genre.

<i>Grand Theft Auto</i> clone Video game subgenre

A Grand Theft Auto clone is a subgenre of open world action-adventure video games, characterized by their likeness to the Grand Theft Auto series in either gameplay, or overall design. In these types of open world games, players may find and use a variety of vehicles and weapons while roaming freely in an open world setting. The objective of Grand Theft Auto clones is to complete a sequence of core missions involving driving and shooting, but often side-missions and minigames are added to improve replay value. The storylines of games in this subgenre typically have strong themes of crime, violence and other controversial elements such as drugs and sexually explicit content.

<i>Tutankham</i> 1982 video game

Tutankham is a 1982 arcade video game developed and released by Konami and released by Stern in North America. Named after the Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun, the game combines a maze shoot 'em up with light puzzle-solving elements. It debuted at the European ATE and IMA amusement shows in January 1982, before releasing worldwide in Summer 1982. The game was a critical and commercial success and was ported to home systems by Parker Brothers.

In video games, an open world is a virtual world in which the player can approach objectives freely, as opposed to a world with more linear and structured gameplay. Notable games in this category include The Legend of Zelda (1986), Grand Theft Auto III (2001) and Minecraft (2011).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Survival game</span> Video game genre

Survival games are a subgenre of action games which are often set in hostile, intense, open-world environments. Players generally start with minimal equipment and are required to survive as long as possible by finding the resources necessary to manage hunger, thirst, disease and/or mental state. Many survival games are based on randomly or procedurally generated persistent environments; more recently, survival games are often playable online, allowing players to interact in a single world. Survival games are generally open-ended with no set goals and often closely related to the survival horror genre, where the player must survive within a supernatural setting, such as a zombie apocalypse.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">First-person shooter</span> Video game genre

A first-person shooter (FPS) is a video game centered on gun fighting and other weapon-based combat seen from a first-person perspective, with the player experiencing the action directly through the eyes of the main character. This genre shares multiple common traits with other shooter games, and in turn falls under the action games category. Since the genre's inception, advanced 3D and pseudo-3D graphics have proven fundamental to allow a reasonable level of immersion in the game world, and this type of game helped pushing technology progressively further, challenging hardware developers worldwide to introduce numerous innovations in the field of graphics processing units. Multiplayer gaming has been an integral part of the experience, and became even more prominent with the diffusion of internet connectivity in recent years.

An adventure game is a video game genre in which the player assumes the role of a protagonist in an interactive story, driven by exploration and/or puzzle-solving. The genre's focus on story allows it to draw heavily from other narrative-based media, such as literature and film, encompassing a wide variety of genres. Most adventure games are designed for a single player, since the emphasis on story and character makes multiplayer design difficult. Colossal Cave Adventure is identified by Rick Adams as the first such adventure game, first released in 1976, while other notable adventure game series include Zork, King's Quest, Monkey Island, Syberia, and Myst.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Video games in Japan</span> Overview of video games in Japan

Video games are a major industry in Japan, and the country is considered one of the most influential in video gaming. Japanese game development is often identified with the golden age of video games and the country is home to many notable video game companies such as Nintendo, Sega, Taito, Bandai Namco Entertainment, Capcom, Square Enix, Konami, NEC, SNK and formerly Sony Computer Entertainment. Japan is currently the third largest video game market in the world after China and the United States.

A horror game is a video game genre centered on horror fiction and typically designed to scare the player. The term may also be used to describe tabletop games with horror fiction elements.


  1. Rollins, A.; Morris, D. (2000). Game Architecture and Design. Coriolis Ed.
  2. Luban, Pascal (6 December 2002). "Designing and Integrating Puzzles in Action-Adventure Games". Game Developer. Retrieved 12 August 2022.
  3. "Chap. 1 — Game Genres" (PDF). University of Beira Interior. 2014. p. 8.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Rollings, Andrew; Ernest Adams (2006). Fundamentals of Game Design. Prentice Hall. ISBN   0-13-168747-6.
  5. 1 2 Luban, Pascal (6 December 2002). "Designing and Integrating Puzzles in Action-Adventure Games". Gamasutra. Think Services Game Group. p. 2. Retrieved 5 February 2009.
  6. Gal, Viviane; Le Prado, Cécile; Natkin, Stéphane; Vega, Liliana (2002). Writing for Video Games (PDF). Proceedings Laval Ritual (IVRC). Archived (PDF) from the original on 6 July 2003.
  7. 1 2 Rollings, Andrew; Ernest Adams (2003). Andrew Rollings and Ernest Adams on Game Design. New Riders. p. 446. ISBN   1-59273-001-9.
  8. 1 2 3 4 Aya (2 August 2005). "A Brief – But Comprehensive – History of the Action/Adventure Genre". Archived from the original on 29 January 2009. Retrieved 4 February 2009.
  9. 1 2 "The Next Generation 1996 Lexicon A to Z". Next Generation . No. 15. Imagine Media. March 1996. pp. 28–42. Action-adventure – A game which is nearly all action (see action game), but that also includes a good deal of strategy and more advanced problem solving.
  10. 1 2 Travis Fahs (27 August 2010). "IGN Presents the History of Zelda – Retro Feature at IGN". IGN . Retrieved 12 May 2021.
  11. Fontes, Renan (29 December 2019). "5 Zelda Clones Better Than The Real Thing (& 5 That Are So Much Worse)". TheGamer. Retrieved 7 January 2023.
  12. Robson, Daniel (12 March 2020). "Genshin Impact: Hands-on With the Zelda Clone That's not Really a Zelda Clone". IGN. Retrieved 7 January 2023.
  13. Commerce, Stack (9 September 2020). "This Online Course Teaches You How to Create a Game Like The Legend of Zelda". IGN. Retrieved 7 January 2023.
  14. "16 Games Zelda Fans Should Try". GameSpot. Retrieved 7 January 2023.
  15. "25+ Games Like GTA (Grand Theft Auto)". Find Me Similar. 12 April 2013.
  16. Bramwell, Tom (27 March 2007). "Crackdown Community Q&A". Eurogamer. Archived from the original on 30 September 2007. Retrieved 25 July 2008.
  17. Sources that refer to Grand Theft Auto popularizing or inventing a genre include:
    i. Reparaz, Mikel (27 March 2007). "Battle of the GTA clones". GamesRadar . Retrieved 21 July 2008.;
    ii. Cifaldi, Frank (21 February 2006). "Analysts: FPS 'Most Attractive' Genre for Publishers". Gamasutra . Retrieved 21 August 2008.;
    iii. "Hunt for Grand Theft Auto pirates". BBC News. 21 October 2004. Retrieved 26 August 2008.
  18. Sources that refer to games similar to Grand Theft Auto as action-adventure games include:
    i. Parkyn, Jonathan (18 April 2006). "Review: The Godfather 3D action game". Personal Computer World. Archived from the original on 22 September 2008. Retrieved 25 July 2008.
    ii. Steve Tilley (1 April 2007). "Wii 'Godfather' for newbies only". CANOE. Archived from the original on 23 June 2007. Retrieved 25 July 2008.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link);
    iii. Bishop, Sam (16 May 2003). "E3 2003: True Crime: Streets of L.A. Update". IGN. Archived from the original on 1 February 2009. Retrieved 25 July 2008.
    iv. Will Tuttle (30 August 2006). "GameSpy Review – Saints Row". GameSpy . Retrieved 25 July 2008.;
    v. Snow, Blake (30 January 2008). "Just Cause 2 announced for Xbox 360, PS3, PC". GamePro. Archived from the original on 1 February 2008. Retrieved 24 July 2008.
  19. Navarro, Alex (2004-11-11). "Scrapland Review". Archived from the original on 10 October 2011. Retrieved 23 May 2009. Scrapland Review], GameSpot, Retrieved on 2009-6-17
  20. Romano, Sal (26 February 2019). "Touhou Luna Nights leaves Steam Early Access, version 1.0 now available". Gematsu. Archived from the original on 10 October 2021. Retrieved 10 October 2021.
  21. Nutt, Christian (13 February 2015). "The undying allure of the Metroidvania". Gamasutra. Archived from the original on 12 May 2015. Retrieved 13 February 2015.
  22. "Survival Horror vs. Action Horror". Retrieved 10 September 2013.
  23. "The Evil Within preview – 'real survival horror'". 25 June 2013. Retrieved 10 September 2013.
  24. "Horror Show – Survival Horror vs. Action Horror". Archived from the original on 21 July 2014. Retrieved 10 September 2013.
  25. "6 Upcoming Horror Games That Look Absolutely Terrifying". 21 April 2013. Retrieved 10 September 2013.
  26. Ryan, Marie-Laure (2002). "Beyond Myth and Metaphor – The Case of Narrative in Digital Media". Game Studies. The International Journal of Computer Game Research. 1 (1). Archived from the original on 2 February 2009. Retrieved 5 February 2009.
  27. 1 2 Luban, Pascal (6 December 2002). "Designing and Integrating Puzzles in Action-Adventure Games". Gamasutra. Think Services Game Group. p. 1. Archived from the original on 21 December 2008. Retrieved 5 February 2009.
  28. Bob Johnstone. "Video Games Industry Infographics". ESRB Infographics. ESRB. Archived from the original on 6 October 2014. Retrieved 1 August 2014.
  29. Luban, Pascal (6 December 2002). "Designing and Integrating Puzzles in Action-Adventure Games". Gamasutra. Think Services Game Group. p. 3. Retrieved 5 February 2009.
  30. 1 2 Weiss, Brett. Classic Home Video Games, 1972–1984: A Complete Reference Guide. McFarland & Co. pp. 119, 126.
  31. LMozejko, Michal (16 April 2009). "Superman". Retro Gamer . Retrieved 19 October 2017.
  32. Wolf, Mark J. P.; Perron, Bernard, eds. (2003). "Foreword". Video Game Theory Reader. Routledge. p. x. ISBN   0-415-96578-0.
  33. DeMaria, Rusel; Wilson, Johnny L. (2003). High Score!: The Illustrated History of Electronic Games (2nd ed.). McGraw-Hill Professional. p. 224. ISBN   0-07-223172-6.
  34. Maynard, Ashley E.; Subrahmanyam, Kaveri; Greenfield, Patricia M. (13 May 2005). "Technology and the Development of Intelligence: From the Loom to the Computer". In Sternberg, Robert J.; Preiss, David D. (eds.). Intelligence and Technology: The Impact of Tools on the Nature and Development of Human Abilities. Routledge. pp. 29–54 (38). ISBN   978-1-136-77805-6.
  35. Boardman, Krist; Bernstein, Harvey (June 1982). "Inside Gaming". Computer Gaming World . Vol. 1, no. 4. Ziff Davis. pp. 22–3.
  36. 1 2 Adams, Roe R. (November 1990), "Westward Ho! (Toward Japan, That Is): An Overview of the Evolution of CRPGs on Dedicated Game Machines", Computer Gaming World , no. 76, pp. 83–84 [83], Action adventures were basically arcade games done in a fantasy setting such as Castlevania, Trojan, and Wizards & Warriors.
  37. "Overseas Readers Column – Konami And Stern Pact On "Tutankham" Video" (PDF). Game Machine (in Japanese). No. 194. Amusement Press, Inc. 15 August 1982. p. 26. Archived (PDF) from the original on 31 January 2020.
  38. "Minority Report: Tutankham". Retro Gamer . No. 127. January 2014. p. 51.
  39. 1 2 "Fine Time in Tombs of Tut! Tutankham". Computer and Video Games . No. 26 (December 1983). 16 November 1983. p. 31.
  40. Kunkel, Bill; Katz, Arnie (December 1983). "Arcade Alley: Super Gifts for Gamers" (PDF). Video . Vol. 7, no. 9. Reese Communications. pp. 28–9. ISSN   0147-8907. Archived (PDF) from the original on 23 November 2019.
  41. "Harry Lafnear Interview". Atari Legend. 5 September 2003.
  42. Anderson, John J. (May 1982). "Atari Arcade". Computer Gaming World. Vol. 2, no. 3. p. 18.
  43. The Creative Atari. Creative Computing Press. 1983. pp. 177–178. ISBN   9780916688349.
  44. "Most-prolific action-adventure video game series". Guinness World Records . 1 January 2007. Retrieved 17 April 2012.
  45. Adams, Ernest (9 July 2009). "The Designer's Notebook: Sorting Out the Genre Muddle". Game Developer. Retrieved 12 August 2022.