Combining different genres together can either be a massive benefit to a game or something that will doom the game. The latter case usually arises as developers blindly try mixing genres they like into one big mess, and it ends up just not being well-executed. There are a few things that should be kept in mind if you do plan on going this route, and they are mentioned below.
The key thing that should be considered when combining genres is if the combination enhances the core of your game or not. Every game is trying to deliver some kind of experience on a basic level. If you mix genres together that cannot effectively deliver that core, your game will suffer massively as a result. One of the most common examples of this is implementing a levelling system into a game where the levelling doesn’t enhance your experience in any way, and either is intended to extend playtime (which is not a consumer-friendly practice), or it’s a carryover from other successful games which simply doesn’t fit in the game in question.
If you truly believe that mixing genres together will enhance your experience, there are a few questions to consider in choosing those genres. You should ask yourself what genres have similar elements and can be used to enhance your game’s core. Taking a look at Plants vs. Zombies and its minigames, you can see that although the main game and some of the mini games are radically different, they both often reinforce the core of problem-solving that Plants vs. Zombies focuses on. If two genres have “interchangeable” mechanics like that, but can still deliver on your experience’s core, it’s likely fine to use the secondary genre. Next, you should look for genres that complement weaknesses in another genre. This could include mixing puzzle games, which are all about having the player overcome some challenge, with traditional RPGs, which have strong narratives but can have a lack of challenge in their battle sequences, which are already somewhat puzzle-y. The point is that you want to create a genre mixture that’s stronger than the sum of its parts and not just haphazardly combining genres that conflict with one another.
Combining genres is often a risky endeavor. If you’re trying something innovative, you won’t really know if your end product will even be successful or not due to the lack of a frame of reference. If you end up combining genres and it doesn’t work out, that game will be doomed from the start and your limited resources will have been wasted. To avoid this, make sure that you know exactly why you’re trying to combine your genres. If you’re looking to combine genres just because it sounds cool in theory, you’re going to make a mistake eventually. You need to really analyze if the genres complement each other and not just jump in blindly if you want to have a chance of success.
Important Takeaways: The process of combining genres can completely ruin a game if performed by an unprepared developer. There are a few things that should always be considered when looking to combine genres. First, make sure that the genres you’re looking to combine actually complement the core of your game. If they don’t, your game will feel clunky and will suffer as a result. Next, see if there are any genres that share similar mechanics that tie into your game effectively. Even if the two genres play much differently in practice, if they both focus on a single principle, such as problem-solving, they’ll combine nicely regardless.
Finally, look to see if there are genres that complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses. This could include mixing puzzle games with traditional RPGs. These games have strong stories but relatively straightforward gameplay, and puzzle games often have little to no story but are often quite difficult to play “perfectly.” As you can see, they cover each other’s bases and make for a good genre combination, demonstrated by Puzzle Quest. Combining genres is risky, as a mistake early on is costly to the end product. Make sure you know why you want to combine your genres to avoid mistakes as much as possible.