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Iconic Game Themes

by Krystal Hayes

Cast an eye over a selection of modern games and it will soon become apparent that many follow the same theme. The theme of a game is what draws players in. Game designers look at what works already and often choose a similar theme in the hope that it will attract the same audience. The same thing happens when a movie is a roaring success – immediately, studio execs greenlight a sequel or three. If it isn’t broke, don’t try and fix it!

What is a Game Theme?

The theme is the background to your game. For example, in the Heart of the Jungle slots game, the jungle is the setting. Anyone attracted to wild animals will enjoy playing this game. In a game like Red Dead Redemption, the theme is the Wild West.

A great theme can turn an average game into a blockbuster. It also allows game designers to let their creativity run amok. And for serious gamers, it makes it easier to find games they like because all they have to do is search for games with a particular theme, such as first-person shooters or puzzle games.

Let’s take a look at some of the most enduring and popular themes in games currently available in the market today.

Swords and Sorcery

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There are a ton of games following the swords and sorcery theme, many of them inspired by blockbusters like Lord of the Rings. This genre of games tends to feature magic and heavily muscled barbarians fighting against evil monsters.

Popular examples include:

  • The Final Fantasy series
  • Elden Ring
  • World of Warcraft
  • The Elder Scrolls

If you love the idea of battling against orcs, goblins, and mages, these games are for you. The graphics are always amazing and it’s a fun way to lose many hours at a time.

War Games

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War is an enduring game theme, much loved by bloodthirsty teens that spend too much time in their bedrooms. Call of Duty, with its many successful iterations, has been around since 2003. Generations of kids have grown up learning how to operate sniper rifles and search for the enemy in desolate cities.

COD spawned a whole generation of increasingly realistic war games. Some are multi-player online games where players can join teams or take on daring solo missions in a multitude of theatres of war, some disturbingly realistic. Other games are more about strategy than aiming for the perfect head shot, such as DEFCON and Age of Empires.

Other popular examples of war-themed games include:

  • Gears of War franchise
  • This War of Mine
  • Hell Let Loose
  • Sniper: Ghost Warrior

Zombie Apocalypse

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Who doesn’t love a zombie apocalypse game? Fighting against hordes of undead is a perennially popular theme for game designers. It gives players a chance to embrace their worst nightmares, contemplate what brains taste like, and indulge in some good old-fashioned violence.

Resident Evil is perhaps the best-known. This game was a huge hit and arguably inspired the entire genre. Most people who played it late at night, in a dark bedroom, had nightmares. The Last of Us was as much about the story arc as the zombie-killing fest. It follows the character’s journey in post-Apocalypse America and is hugely addictive. If you’re new to the zombie genre and love a good story, start with this one.

Other popular zombie-themed games include:

  • Left 4 Dead
  • Dying Light
  • Dead Rising

Strategies for Creating Game Themes

When creating an iconic game theme, developers should consider both audio and visual elements, as well as other impactful aspects of design that can affect the overall feeling of a game. Here are some strategies for creating iconic games:

  1. Build on established genres – Existing genres often have certain archetypal structures which give them recognizable characteristics, such as clear goals, rules, and win conditions. Drawing from these structures can provide a great starting point for developing game themes that become iconic over time.
  2. Create solid storylines – Stories help players connect with characters in a game, and can provide an intrinsic motivation to complete levels or play through all sections of the game’s narrative arc. Incorporate interesting plot twists to keep players engaged throughout the gaming process.
  3. Design memorable imagery – Visual elements like characters, environments or artwork can have lasting impressions on players long after they have finished playing your game. Think outside the box when creating visuals that catch people’s attention and make your project stand out from other games on the market today.
  4. Incorporate music and sound effects – Music is important in conveying emotion within a game; whether it’s peaceful melodies for puzzle-solving stages or heart-pounding soundtracks during action-packed scenes, use both original compositions and audio clips from various sources to create vivid sonic experiences that players won’t forget anytime soon!
  5. Develop unique gameplay elements – Coming up with innovative ways of interacting with games creates opportunities for amazing moments that capture people’s imagination–and get them talking about your project! Brainstorm new ideas for difficulty scaling (ease into more challenging segments), variety in enemy types/mobs—or blend genres together into something entirely new!

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This is not an exhaustive list of popular game themes. Other popular themes that appear regularly include action games, adventure games like Life is Strange and Night in the Woods, and racing games like TrackMania. Iconic game themes can give players an essential part of their gaming experience which could shape their perception for years to come. Not only is it an integral part of what makes a game memorable and enjoyable, but it can also help make each character and storyline stand out from one another. With such massive potential, iconic game themes are HERE TO STAY!

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