Action-adventure is a video game genre that combines core elements from both the action game and adventure game genres.
Action-adventure is a hybrid genre, and thus the definition is very inclusive, leading it to be perhaps the broadest genre of video games, and can include many games which might better be categorized under narrow genres. Typically, pure adventure games have situational problems for the player to solve, with very little or no action. If there is action, it is generally confined to isolated minigames. Pure action games have gameplay based on real-time interactions that challenge the reflexes. Therefore, action-adventure games engage both reflexes and problem-solving, in both violent and non-violent situations.
DefinitionAn action-adventure game can be defined as a game with a mix of elements from an action game and an adventure game, especially crucial elements like puzzles. 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. They are faster-paced than pure adventure games, because they include both physical and conceptual challenges. 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. Some examples of action-adventure games include The Legend of Zelda, God of War, and Tomb Raider series.
Relationship to other genresExactly when a game stops being an adventure game and becomes an action game is a matter of interpretation. 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." 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. Others see action games as a pure genre, while an action-adventure is an action game that includes situational problem-solving. Adventure gamers may also be purists, rejecting any game that makes use of physical challenges or time pressure. 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.
SubgenresAlthough action-adventure games are diverse and difficult to classify, there are some distinct subgenres. Popular subgenres include:
First-person action-adventurewhich make use of first-person shooter gameplay, forgoing constant action in favor of important adventure game elements such as environmental problem-solving and a complex plot. Notable examples of this include Metroid Prime, Half-Life 2, Dishonored, and Far Cry 3.
Third-person action-adventurein which gameplay is in the third-person. Notable examples include games like the Tomb Raider series, The Legend of Zelda series, the Grand Theft Auto series, the Hitman series and the Uncharted series.
- Immersive sim, typically games played from the first-person perspective that include elements of role-playing, stealth, and platform games that create numerous gameplay systems that the player can use to complete objectives in many different manners, creating a sense of player agency and emergent gameplay.
Platform-adventure games">Platform game#Platform-adventure game">Platform-adventure games
Isometric platform-adventure">Isometric adventure game">Isometric platform-adventurewhich feature freely explorable environments with three-dimensional gameplay and two-dimensional graphics using an isometric projection.
[Stealth games]which emphasize avoiding detection by enemies rather than engaging them in direct combat, leading to a greater emphasis on exploration and puzzle-solving than other types of action games. Notable examples include the Metal Gear series, the Assassin's Creed series, the Splinter Cell series and the Hitman series.
[Survival horror]which emphasize "inventory management" and making sure the player has enough ammunition and recovery items to "survive" the horror setting. Survival-horror is a thematic genre with diverse gameplay, however, so not all survival horror games share these features. The Resident Evil, State Of Decay, The Last Of Us and Silent Hill franchises popularized this subgenre and stand to date as the most popular franchises of its kind. Survival games, which have open-ended survival without the supernatural elements that can be found in survival horror games.
GameplayAction-adventure games are faster paced than pure adventure games, and include physical as well as conceptual challenges where the story is enacted rather than narrated. While motion-based, often reflexive, actions are required, the gameplay still follows a number of adventure game genre tropes. While the controls are arcade-style there is an ultimate goal beyond a high score. In most action-adventure games, the player controls a single avatar as the protagonist. This type of game is often quite similar to role-playing video games.
They are distinct from graphic adventures, which sometimes have free-moving central characters, but also 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.
Due to the action-adventure subgenre's broad inclusive nature it causes some players to having difficulty finishing a particular game. To compensate for this lack of the player's ability, companies have devised ways to give the player help, such as helpful clues, or allowing them to skip puzzles outright.
History of Action-adventure gamesBrett Weiss cites Superman as an action-adventure game, with Retro Gamer crediting it as the "first to utilize multiple screens as playing area". Mark J.P. Wolf credits Adventure as the earliest-known action-adventure game, was an adaptation of text-based adventure game Colossal Cave Adventure for the Atari 2600, with the player having the ability to fight in combat like in an action game. Castle Wolfenstein was another early action-adventure game. Allgame also claimed the following titles released prior to 1982 were action-adventure games: Rescue at Rigel, Quest for the Rings, and Venture.
According to Wizardry developer Roe R. Adams, early action-adventure games "were basically arcade games done in a fantasy setting," citing Castlevania, Trojan and Wizards & Warriors as examples.
Although noting some similarity to Adventure, IGN UK argues that The Legend of Zelda "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. The Legend of Zelda was the most prolific action-adventure game series through to the 2000s.
Games like Brain Breaker, Xanadu, Metroid and Vampire Killer combined a side-scrolling platformer format with adventure exploration, creating the Metroidvania platform-adventure subgenre. Similarly, games like 005, Castle Wolfenstein and Metal Gear combined action-adventure exploration with stealth mechanics, laying the foundations for the stealth game subgenre, which would later be popularized in 1998 by Metal Gear Solid, ', and '.
The cinematic platformer Prince of Persia featured action-adventure elements, inspiring games such as Another World and Flashback. Alone in the Dark featured the use of 3D graphics, which would later be popularized by Resident Evil and Tomb Raider. Resident Evil in particular created the survival horror subgenre, inspiring titles such as Silent Hill and Fatal Frame. Action-adventure games have gone on to become more popular than the pure adventure games and pure platform action games that inspired them.