Blog Mobile game types 101: Know your gaming ...

Mobile game types 101: Know your gaming genres


Mobile game player spending is set to reach $138 billion by 2025, according to data from SensorTower. The mobile gaming industry is still booming and many developers are eager to expand their portfolio in the vertical or even dive into the mobile app gaming business for the first time. However, mobile gaming is a vast category with many subgenres, all of which have unique audiences, mechanics, and best practices that require different approaches to UX and monetization. Let’s walk through an overview of the most popular mobile games and the different mobile game genres.

Part 1

Most popular mobile game types

Measuring downloads and revenue of apps helps to shed light on the most popular mobile game genres.’s State of Mobile 2022 report found that these subgenres accrued the most downloads worldwide in 2021:

  1. Action (Hyper casual) – 4.01 billion downloads
  2. Puzzle (Hyper casual) – 3.78 billion downloads
  3. Simulation (Hyper casual) – 3.15 billion downloads
  4. Kids (Other) – 2.57 billion downloads
  5. Driving (Simulation) – 1.63 billion downloads

However, a high number of downloads doesn’t always translate to a high revenue share. The same report reveals these to be the top subgenres by consumer spend:

  1. Strategy - $9.7 billion
  2. MMORPG - $8.43 billion
  3. RPG - $8.02 billion
  4. Casino - $5.57 billion
  5. Match - $3.92 billion

Not all gaming apps monetize via consumer spend, however. For hyper casuals, in-app advertising is the key way that revenue is generated. So while mid- and hard-core titles across the strategy, MMORPG and casino spaces pull in the most consumer dollars, they aren’t necessarily bringing the most value. Hyper casuals are quick. relatively cheap to make, and can also offer huge returns. It’s all about determining the type of app you want to make, the amount of investment you’re willing or able to put into it, and how you want to monetize. Once these questions are answered, you can pick a vertical or genre to hone in on.

With that in mind, let’s explore the different mobile game types.

Part 2

Mobile gaming genres

Don’t let the massive size of the mobile gaming industry overwhelm you. Once you select a specific gaming subvertical, you’ll be able to dive into market research based on that category and discover how to carve out your app’s niche in the marketplace.

Action games

Popular on consoles and with PC gamers, action games make up a relatively small sector of mobile gaming. Due to the dynamic elements of action games, they’re not always suited for small screens. Like many game types, there are additional sub-genres within action games, such as platform games, shooter games, stealth games, or battle royale games.

A Mobile Game of the Year winner, Immortal Rogue, has players move through the game to hunt a vampire. Leveraging the concept of in-game decision trees, the character a player selects has a direct impact on game and storyline outcomes.

Adventure games

The ‘adventure games’ category may be a bit of a misnomer. Rather than focusing on swashbuckling adventure stories, they tend to ask users to solve a puzzle within a narrative — often with little to no action. Instead, the narrative framework is integral to the game.

Developer MyTona produces games like Seeker’s Note: Hidden Mystery and The Secret Society, both of which have been in the top 10 grossing games on iPad in the U.S., Canada, U.K., and several European countries.

Arcade games

These games owe their name to the simple but arguably clunky games of yesteryear. Mobile arcade games tend to have short lifespans as users simply chase a high score or another straightforward milestone. However, many games are listed as arcade games even when they could fit into other genres, as the listing is typically based on aesthetics.

For example, Cozy Grove puts a quest-driven twist on the finite arcade genre by mapping gameplay to real-world days.

Battle Royale games

In this genre, gameplay takes place in a virtual world where players fight until only one person or team is left standing. These games have been popular for a long time on gaming consoles and computers and have also gained considerable traction on mobile.

For instance, Fortnite, one of the most popular gaming titles in the world, has made its way to the mobile space.

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Casino games

Mobile casino games, as the name suggests, are mobile versions of the games you see in a casino. From poker to roulette to slot games, these games bring simple gambling play-style mobile devices, and often allow players to bet and win real mone—an area that has been the topic of much discussion and debate.

Take a look at the popular Jackpot Party Casino which brings together a variety of slot games and titles famous in brick and mortar casinos.

Casual games

The most popular category in mobile gaming, casual games is projected to reach 17,463.7 million downloads worldwide this year. This genre consists of games with a low barrier to entry, easy rules, and short sessions that make them easy for anyone to play. This genre includes favorites like Candy Crush Saga and other simple puzzle games.

Before developing a casual game, consider your market combined with potential unreached audiences to fashion a niche for your app. Game studio Tamatem, for example, has become the top developer of games for Arabic-speaking audiences by creating successful casual games such as Fashion Queen.

Card games

Mobile card games use virtual card decks to replicate the experience of real-world card games like solitaire. However, some savvy developers have taken advantage of the tactile nature of sliding cards around on a mobile screen to up the ante and user experience for these titles.

Blackjack - Vegas Casino Real takes this one step further by recreating the experience of heading to a casino and playing one of the most popular card games globally.

Hyper casual games

These lightweight games often focus on one core game mechanic, such as dunking a ball. Short session lengths make them popular with people who like simple but challenging games that do not require a lengthy commitment. Easy to play but difficult to master, hyper casual games keep people coming back for more—usually short term. Retention rates might be low but session numbers are high, providing plenty of opportunity to monetize and direct users to other similar apps (often within the same publishing suite). That’s how game makers like Voodoo have skyrocketed to success with games like Helix Jump, in which players must take their ball through a helix tower labyrinth.

Kids games

This mobile game genre includes apps with simple gameplay and educational themes for children. When developing a gaming app for children, it’s important to avoid in-game transactions so that kids don’t accidentally make purchases during gameplay.

Minecraft is a popular game with several versions, like the Pocket Edition in the video below, that are made for kids.

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Multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA)

This relatively new genre descends from its PC predecessors. In this type of mobile gaming app, each player only controls one hero and must work in tandem with other team members to win a battle. Teams of players invade and attempt to take over another team’s side. Arena of Valor features five vs five, three vs three, and one-on-one game modes with over three dozen heroes, ten-minute matches, co-op multiplayer, and more.

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Role-playing games (RPG)

This genre is defined by games in which players advance through a story narrative, often partaking in side quests for which their characters (or party of characters) are rewarded by gaining experience that improves their characters’ attributes and abilities. For instance, Arcane Quest Legends asks players to build their character and fight their way through mobs of orcs, undead, demons, and other creatures across multiple levels.

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Puzzle games

The Puzzle genre, a cousin of hyper casual, is universally popular, with more than half of smartphone users preferring puzzle games over other mobile gaming genres. This genre includes brain-teasing games such as Dominoes, Scrabble, Sudoku, crosswords, and more.

Tetris was a popular puzzle game long before mobile app gaming was possible,  and when N3twork released its mobile version in 2020, the game quickly garnered more than 12 million downloads. Learn how N3twork Tetris teams prevented their budgets from fraud in our case study.

Racing games

The idea behind racing games is simple and familiar. Players race through a course and compete with themselves and others for the best time. These games often also fall under the arcade game category. For example, SBK16 lets gamers choose to play as racers from the official Superbike World Champion team.

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Simulation games

Designed to mimic real-life activities, simulation games offer an alternate reality. Sometimes these games are educational in nature—teaching players how to fly a plane or operate a business. Many simulation games let players experience everyday life in the gaming world like the Sims Mobile app. You can even simulate being a goat.

Family Island from Melsoft Games generated 11 million installs in its first six months and continues to grow. Read how Melsoft quickly scaled with Adjust to dominate the simulation genre.

Strategy games

Much like card games, this genre was popular long before mobile devices—or even desktop computers—existed. Contrary to games of chance, in strategy games, players' decision-making skills play a large role in determining the outcome. Players must have high situational awareness and the ability to make decisions in response to other players’ strategies.

Risk has been a popular strategy game for decades, and has moved from the board to mobile as Risk: Global Domination.

Sports games

This staple of video games has also made the transition to mobile. Whether users are into archery, hockey, football, or skateboarding there is likely a game that simulates competing in the sporting event of their choice.

Soccer shootout allows players to experience both sides of an overtime shootout— as the kicker and the goalie.

Trivia games

Similar to real-life trivia games, there are multiple trivia categories available on mobile . From pop culture to historical facts, players answer questions to earn high scores and beat other players.

Song PartyPop takes a slightly different angle on the age-old trivia format, asking players to identify songs.

Word games

As expected for this mobile app genre, the gameplay revolves around words. This vertical is filled with creative and innovative word games, from word searches to Hangman, crosswords or even new formats, as can be seen in the recent success of Wordle.

In Garden of Words, which has over 25 million installs, players search for words in a jumble of letters, improving players’ spelling and vocabulary. Learn how isCool Entertainment, the developers of Garden of Words, maximized their return on investment on user acquisition spending in our case study.

Part 3

Next step: Monetization models

Whether you decide to develop an RPG app or a trivia game app, you’ll want to ensure your game is optimized for profitability within the mobile gaming industry.. Selecting a monetization model is as integral as determining which type of mobile game you want to develop. To learn which monetization model will work best for your app, read our article Mobile game monetization strategies that work.

If you’re looking for a mobile analytics platform to help you measure the performance of your app marketing, book a demo with us to see how Adjust can help you grow your app.

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