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This is a list of genres of literature and entertainment (film, television, music, and video games), excluding genres in the visual arts.

Genre is the term for any category of creative work, which includes literature and other forms of art or entertainment (e.g. music)—whether written or spoken, audio or visual—based on some set of stylistic criteria. Genres are formed by conventions that change over time as new genres are invented and the use of old ones are discontinued. Often, works fit into multiple genres by way of borrowing and recombining these conventions.

Literary genres

Further information: Literary genre

For a more comprehensive list, see List of writing genres.

Action

An action story is similar to adventure, and the protagonist usually takes a risky turn, which leads to desperate situations (including explosions, fight scenes, daring escapes, etc.). Action and adventure are usually categorized together (sometimes even as "action-adventure") because they have much in common, and many stories fall under both genres simultaneously (for instance, the James Bond series can be classified as both).

Adventure

An adventure story is about a protagonist who journeys to epic or distant places to accomplish something. It can have many other genre elements included within it, because it is a very open genre. The protagonist has a mission and faces obstacles to get to their destination. Also, adventure stories usually include unknown settings and characters with prized properties or features.

Comedy

Comedy is a story that tells about a series of funny, or comical events, intended to make the audience laugh. It is a very open genre, and thus crosses over with many other genres on a frequent basis.

Crime and mystery

A crime story is often about a crime that is being committed or was committed, but can also be an account of a criminal's life. A mystery story follows an investigator as they attempt to solve a puzzle (often a crime). The details and clues are presented as the story continues and the protagonist discovers them and by the end of the story the mystery is solved. For example, in the case of a crime mystery, the perpetrator and motive behind the crime are revealed and the perpetrator is brought to justice. Mystery novels are often written in series, which facilitates a more in-depth development of the primary investigator.[2][3]

Fantasy

The Whirlwind Seizes the Wreath
The Whirlwind Seizes the Wreath

A fantasy story is about magic or supernatural forces, as opposed to technology as seen in science fiction. Depending on the extent of these other elements, the story may or may not be considered to be a "hybrid genre" series; for instance, even though the Harry Potter series canon includes the requirement of a particular gene to be a wizard, it is referred to only as a fantasy series.

Historical

A story about a real person or event. There are also some fiction works that purport to be the "memoirs" of fictional characters as well, done in a similar style, however, these are in a separate genre. Often, they are written in a text book format, which may or may not focus on solely that.

Historical fiction

Main article: Historical fiction

The historical fiction genre includes stories that are about the past. It takes place in the real world, with real world people, but with several fictionalized or dramatized elements. To distinguish historical fiction from any fiction that is written about an era in the past, the criterion is that the book must have been written about a time that occurred in a historical context in relation to the author of the book.[5][6] The criterion that the story be set before the middle of the previous century is sometimes added.[6] Historical fiction stories include historical details and includes characters that fit into the time period of the setting, whether or not they are real historical people.[5] This may or may not crossover with other genres; for example, fantasy fiction or science fiction may play a part, as is the case for instance with the novel George Washington's Socks, which includes time travel elements.

Horror

An Illustration of Poe's 'The Raven' by Gustave Doré
An Illustration of Poe's 'The Raven' by Gustave Doré

A horror story is told to deliberately scare or frighten the audience, through suspense, violence or shock. H. P. Lovecraft distinguishes two primary varieties in the "Introduction" to Supernatural Horror in Literature: 1) Physical Fear or the "mundanely gruesome;" and 2) the true Supernatural Horror story or the "Weird Tale". The supernatural variety is occasionally called "dark fantasy", since the laws of nature must be violated in some way, thus qualifying the story as "fantastic".

Romance

Main article: Romance fiction

See also: Mills & Boon imprints and Harlequin Enterprises romance imprints

The term romance has multiple meanings; for example, historical romances like those of Walter Scott would use the term to mean "a fictitious narrative in prose or verse; the interest of which turns upon marvellous and uncommon incidents".[9]

Most often, however, a romance is understood to be "love stories", emotion-driven stories that are primarily focused on the relationship between the main characters of the story. Beyond the focus on the relationship, the biggest defining characteristic of the romance genre is that a happy ending is always guaranteed,[10][11] perhaps marriage and living "happily ever after", or simply that the reader sees hope for the future of the romantic relationship.[11]

Due to the wide definition of romance, romance stories cover a wide variety of subjects and often fall into other genre categories in addition to romance.[10][11] Subgenres include:

Satire

In satire, human or individual vices, follies, abuses, or shortcomings are held up to censure by means of ridicule, derision, burlesque, irony, or other methods, ideally with the intent to bring about improvement.

Satire is usually meant to be funny, but its purpose is not primarily humour as an attack on something the author disapproves of, using wit. A common, almost defining feature of satire is its strong vein of irony or sarcasm, but parody, burlesque, exaggeration, juxtaposition, comparison, analogy, and double entendre all frequently appear in satirical speech and writing. The essential point, is that "in satire, irony is militant". This "militant irony" (or sarcasm) often professes to approve (or at least accept as natural) the very things the satirist actually wishes to attack.

Often strictly defined as a literary genre or form, though in practice it is also found in the graphic and performing arts.

Science fiction

Main article: Science fiction

Science fiction (once known as scientific romance) is similar to fantasy, except stories in this genre use scientific understanding to explain the universe that it takes place in. It generally includes or is centered on the presumed effects or ramifications of computers or machines; travel through space, time or alternate universes; alien life-forms; genetic engineering; or other such things. The science or technology used may or may not be very thoroughly elaborated on.

Cyberpunk and derivatives

Cyberpunk is a speculative subgenre of scifi that involves stories with a futuristic storyline dealing with people who have been physically or mentally enhanced with cybernetic components, often featuring cyborgs or the singularity as a major theme, and generally somewhat cynical or dystopian (hence the "punk" portion of the name). This is often confused or placed with techno-thriller, which is actually a separate and less specialized genre.

A category of several different subgenres have been derived from cyberpunk, normally characterized by distinct technologies and sciences. The themes tend to be cynical or dystopian, and typically involve a person, or group of people, fighting the corruption of the government.

Speculative

Main article: Speculative fiction

Speculative fiction speculates about worlds that are unlike the real world in various important ways. In these contexts, it generally overlaps one or more of the following: science fiction, fantasy fiction, horror fiction, supernatural fiction, superhero fiction, utopian and dystopian fiction, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction, and alternate history.

Suppositional fiction is a subcategory in which stories and characters are constrained within an internally consistent world, but this category is not necessarily associated with any particular genre.[12][13][14] A work of suppositional fiction might be science fiction, alternate history, mystery, horror, or even suppositional fantasy, depending on the intent and focus of the author.

Thriller

A common theme in thrillers involves innocent victims dealing with deranged adversaries, as seen in Hitchcock's film Rebecca (1940), where Mrs. Danvers tries to persuade Mrs. De Winter to leap to her death
A common theme in thrillers involves innocent victims dealing with deranged adversaries, as seen in Hitchcock's film Rebecca (1940), where Mrs. Danvers tries to persuade Mrs. De Winter to leap to her death

A thriller is a story that is usually a mix of fear and excitement. It has traits from the suspense genre and often from the action, adventure or mystery genres, but the level of terror makes it borderline horror fiction at times as well. It generally has a dark or serious theme, which also makes it similar to drama.

Isekai

Isekai (Japanese: 異世界, transl. "different world" or "otherworld") is a Japanese genre of speculative fiction—both portal fantasy and science fiction are included. It includes novels, light novels, films, manga, anime and video games that revolve around a displaced person or people who are transported to and have to survive in another world, such as a fantasy world, virtual world, or parallel universe. Isekai is one of the most popular genres of anime, and Isekai stories share many common tropes – for example, a powerful protagonist who is able to beat most people in the other world by fighting. This plot device typically allows the audience to learn about the new world at the same pace as the protagonist over the course of their quest or lifetime.[15]

Other

Western: Stories in the Western genre are set in the American West, between the time of the Civil war and the early 20th century.[16] The setting of a wilderness or uncivilized area is especially important to the genre, and the setting is often described richly and in-depth. They focus on the adventure of the main character(s) and the contrast between civilization or society and the untamed wilderness, often featuring the characters working to bring civilization to the wilderness.[16][17]

This genre periodically overlaps with historical fiction, and while a more traditional definition of westerns is that of stories about lone men facing the frontier, more modern definitions and writings are often expanded to include any person or persons in this time period that feature a strong tone of the contrast between civilization and wilderness and emphasize the independence of the main character(s).[16]

Film and television genres

Further information: Film genre

While many genres of film and television originally derive from literature, genres in film and TV are also distinctly informed by audiovisual qualities, budgets, formats, and technologies. For that reason, film and TV genres may include additional categorical characteristics to consider, even diverging in some way from their literary counterparts altogether at times.

Scripted

Action and adventure

Animation

Further information: Animation

Although animation is listed under "genres" and is classified as a genre by many film critics and streaming services, there is an ongoing debate between the animation community and the general public whether animation is a genre or a medium; and that the genres in the "Live-action scripted" genre can also be portrayed in an animated format, and the below kinds of animation are not types of stories, but simply types of ways that a film can be animated.

The American Film Institute defines animated as "a genre in which the film's images are primarily created by computer or hand and the characters are voiced by actors".[18] This classification includes:

Comedy

Main articles: Comedy film and Television comedy

Devotional

Also known as bhakti films, these are based on the lives of historical or legendary devotees.[23][24]

Drama

Main article: Drama (film and television)

Within film, television, and radio (but not theatre), drama is a genre of narrative fiction (or semi-fiction) intended to be more serious than humorous in tone,[25] focusing on in-depth development of realistic characters who must deal with realistic emotional struggles. A drama is commonly considered the opposite of a comedy, but may also be considered separate from other works of some broad genre, such as a fantasy.

Given the broad definition of the genre, listed below are subgenres of drama that are not as likely to be associated with an additional genre (such as comedy-drama befitting the comedy genre).

Hindu mythology

Refers to films based on Hindu mythology, literature and the Puranas. Also known as the puranic genre. Up to 1923, 70% of Indian films belonged to this genre. However, after a number of such films started failing, the film industry began experimenting with other genres such as historical dramas and "socials" – films with contemporary settings.[26][27][28]

Historical

Main article: Historical film

This genre includes works that deal with historical accounts or fictional narratives placed inside a historical setting. Subgenres include:

Horror

Main articles: Horror film and Horror television

Horror is a genre in which works seek to elicit a negative emotional reaction from viewers by playing on the audience's primal fears.

Subgenres include:

Horror subgenres originating from specific countries include:

Science fiction

Main articles: Science fiction film and Science fiction television

Subgenres include:

Western

Main article: Western (genre)

This genre set in the American West and embody the spirit, the struggle and the demise of the new frontier.[18]

Subgenres include:

Unscripted

By format and audience

By subject

Other television-related topics

Video game genres

Main articles: Video game genre, List of video game genres, and Game classification

Genres in video games are formulated somewhat differently than other forms of media. Unlike film or television, which are typically distinguished by visual or narrative elements, video games are generally categorized into genres based on their gameplay interaction, since this is the primary quality from which one experiences a video game.[35][36][37] In other words, the narrative setting does not impact gameplay; a role-playing game is still a role-playing game, whether it takes place in a magical kingdom or in outer space.[38][39]

Most genres from all other types of media can be applied to video games, but are secondary to the genre types described below, which are those unique to video games.

Action and adventure

Action

Further information: Action game

Action games are those defined by physical challenges, including hand-eye coordination and reaction-time.

Adventure and action-adventure

Further information: Adventure game and Action-adventure game

Role-playing game

Further information: Role-playing game

Role-playing game (RPG) is one in which the player controls the actions of a character or characters immersed in some well-defined world. This is also similar to non-video game forms of gaming that involve roleplaying, including play-by-post gaming and tabletop roleplaying games. Most of these games cast the player in the role of a character that grows in strength and experience over the course of the game. The most exemplary of this genre are the Pokémon and Final Fantasy franchises.

Simulation

Further information: Simulation video game

Simulation games are designed to closely simulate real-world activities.

Strategy

Strategy: A game centered around controlling or commanding a large group of characters, such as an army. Gameplay is centered around getting them to perform tasks or build structures so as to increase their power or numbers. Often the player's opponent has an army of their own, and in order to win the player needs to use their abilities in a strategic way so as to capture rival territory or destroy enemy structures.

Other

Technical categories

By platform and interface

Further information: Video game platform

Platforms are particular combinations of hardware and associated software through which video games are operated. As such, games are sometimes categorized by platform or interface, as differences in technology can lead to distinct gameplay and aesthetic features, etc. (Games are typically designed to be played on a limited number of platforms.)

By mechanics or other feature

Though some terms generally describe game mechanics rather than referring to a specific genre, they are often used to describe games as if it were in fact a defining genre.

By intent

Though video games are typically developed for the function of entertainment, there are some games developed for additional purposes. These include:

Music genres

Main articles: Music genre and List of music styles

Popular music

Popular music: any musical style accessible to the general public and disseminated by the mass media.

Latin and Caribbean-influenced

Other

By time period

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