6 differences between action games and adventure games


It is often difficult to distinguish between action games and adventure games. Their main qualities are different but always mix well, which complicates things even more.

If you want to better understand both genres, here’s a quick guide to what makes each one work. This will help you categorize your titles into clearer categories, as well as learn how to explain on your own how action games and adventure games are different.

What are action games?

Here’s how you can tell what an action game looks like.

1. Action games challenge you physically

As the name suggests, action games are more active. Your involvement in each story is dynamic, with a particular focus on combat, whether you use guns, swords, or tactics.

While you may encounter quieter puzzles and side quests every now and then, the ultimate goal of this genre is to challenge your hand-eye coordination, reaction time, and ability to overcome obstacles under pressure.

Related: What Does Grinding Mean in Video Games?

2. Action games have more moving parts

God of War and Call of Duty are good examples of the complexity and excitement of action games. Compared to the adventure, the graphics, gameplay and controls are much more detailed.

Some devs try to make their plots just as strong, but smooth moving from one level to the next is the priority. Think of MMOs and Battle Royales. If they weren’t for action games, they wouldn’t be as fun for gamers as they are for designers.


3. Your character can die in action games

Playing action games isn’t just about completing quests and breaking time limits. You also help your character survive the whole ordeal. This added pressure is a key characteristic that sets action games apart from adventure games.

The challenge of staying alive also adds to the thrill. The difficulty of video games increases as you level up, and some titles require your full attention to overcome certain battles and enemies.

It puts your skills to the test and gives you a sense of accomplishment when you win. However, you can end up feeling exhausted, especially when playing something very stimulating.

What are adventure games?

1. Adventure games challenge you mentally

There is action in adventure games, but it’s not as immersive. That’s because the emphasis of this genre is on interactive story, not combat.

So, an adventure game will attract you with its plot and only progress as you solve its challenges. It can be either real puzzles or a combination of actions and items that you need to use to fix something and move forward.

Related: The Best Escape Games On Android & iPhone

2. Adventure games tell a better story

Adventure game developers want you to enjoy the world they’ve built, including its characters, narrative depth, and graphic design. Classic examples are the Myst and Syberia franchises.

Even if you don’t always see the protagonist, you get involved in their journey and their surroundings. Without a fight and without the constant threat of death, you just enjoy it all and progress at your own pace.

3. The controls of the adventure games are simpler

Blue backlit gaming keyboard

In action games, you typically hammer your keyboard or controller, struggling through each battle sequence. Since adventure games are just stories, you rarely need more than a few buttons to move, look, and pick up items.

In fact, text-based adventure games to play on your browser are very popular. The beauty of the genre is that your brain and imagination see more of the action than your fingers.

It is a calm but pleasant experience which makes adventure games quite different from action games. On the other hand, no extra thrill can get boring. That’s why the two genres have joined forces: to fill the gaps in gamer entertainment.

How are action and adventure combined in video games?

Once you understand the basic characteristics of action games and adventure games, you can spot the titles where they overlap. Action-adventure is the genre that brings together the best of both sides.

The result is a combination of immersive gameplay, combat, character development, storytelling, and puzzle solving. Some games add role-playing elements to offset the emphasis on a specific predefined character.

The huge array of titles and combinations blurs the lines, but there are still fan-favorite titles like Tomb Raider and Fable that represent what action-adventure video game design can deliver.

Related: Computer RPGs vs. Classic RPGs: What Does CRPG Mean?

Get to know what makes great video games

Knowing the differences between action games and adventure games can make your life clearer, but they don’t tell you if a video game is good or not. It takes a lot more to solve this problem, from the gameplay to the difficulty system.

If the topic interests you as a gamer or developer, keep looking at the pros and cons of different styles and features of play, and even entire titles.

a PS4 controller in purple and red light

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