Online gaming: top 10 genres in 2021

Online gaming: top 10 genres in 2021

Online gaming has come a long way since its popularization in the mid-2000s, and it’s hard to imagine our gaming lives today without some online action. Currently, the most popular games in the world are online multiplayer experiences, even being featured in major esports leagues and tournaments. What started as a new way to play with friends has evolved into one of the most important sectors of the video game industry, and one of the most popular forms of online entertainment.

Last year, as cities went under lockdowns and people had to stay home to comply with new health protocols and social distancing measures, online gaming became some kind of resort for those seeking a distraction from the world news. The possibility of playing with friends, or even with people from all around the world, made online gaming a powerful tool for us to cope with everything that happened in 2020.

Since we’re in a blooming period of the video game industry, with new titles being released almost every week, online gaming has never been so popular. From first-person shooters to multiplayer online battle arenas, from sports games to battle royales, the options are almost endless, and even if you’re not up to some PvP action there are co-op and casual games that will certainly keep the fun for a few hours. So let’s take a look at some of the most popular online gaming genres in 2021.

First-person shooters

Accounting for almost 27 percent of all video games sales in the United States, first-person shooters are unarguably the most played video games in the world today. With several titles released every year, first-person shooters are also a big part of the esports market, with some of the largest tournaments and prize pools that reach millions of dollars.

Currently, the most popular first-person shooters include the Call of Duty franchise, with its latest entries Modern Warfare and Black Ops Cold War, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and Overwatch.

Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas

Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas, or MOBAs, have become a hot trend in the past few years, thanks to success of games like League of Legends and Dota 2, which are currently the largest MOBAs in the world, with millions of players and astonishing prize pools in esports leagues and tournaments.

Combining elements of real-time strategy and action games, these games are notably popular in Asian markets, and are also ranked among the highest-grossing video games in the world. Recently released for Nintendo Switch, Pokémon Unite is attracting a lot of players, being praised for taking this successful franchise into the world of multiplayer online battle arenas.


Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games – yes, that’s a big name – or MMORPGs, are one of the most popular gaming genres for almost two decades. Having evolved a lot over these years, with constant innovations and new releases, the genre keeps refreshing itself and remains a fan-favorite in both Western and Asian markets.

For more than 15 years, World of Warcraft has been the most popular MMORPG in the world, currently boasting an astonishing 4.5 million active players. Its latest expansion pack, Shadowlands, released in December 2020, sold over 3.7 million copies on its launch day, breaking the record for biggest launch day for any PC game.

Casino games

Casino games like roulette and blackjack have been one of the world’s favorite pastimes for quite some time now. And last year, as land-based venues were forced to shut down operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, online casino games became an attractive alternative for players to keep the action going from the safety of their homes.

The offer of table and card games online is huge, and players can choose from a wide array of variants, themed tables, and bet limits. Slots, blackjack, and roulette are the most popular games, but most operators also offer other options, like poker, baccarat, and craps. There are also live dealer games, which are managed and operated by professional dealers, and streamed in real-time from land-based casinos and broadcast studios.

Sports games

Regarded as one of the oldest genres in gaming history, sports games have been one of the most popular genres since the earliest days of gaming, and have remained in the mainstream thanks to successful franchises like EA Sports’ FIFA and Madden NFL, NBA 2K, and Konami’s eFootball (formerly known as Pro Evolution Soccer).

Today, sports games are also a powerhouse within esports, with many real-life sports teams taking part in leagues and tournaments, such as the NBA 2K League, which features several NBA franchises with their own esports squads.

Battle Royale games

Taking its name and concept from the Japanese film Battle Royale, which depicts a last-man standing competition in a shrinking play zone, battle royale games have taken the world by storm in the past few years, becoming a cultural phenomenon and a staple at esports leagues and tournaments.

Combining the last-man standing gameplay with elements from survival games, titles like Fortnite Battle Royale, which recorded more than 350 million active players in May 2020, and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds are some of the most played battle royale games.

Survival games

What started as a sub-genre of action video games, has turned today into a standalone genre, with some of the most successful titles in recent years. Survival games put players into hostile, open-world environments, and require them to survive as long as possible, while crafting tools, weapons, and shelters.

Undoubtedly, Minecraft is the most successful survival game in recent years, but other titles like No Man’s Sky and ARK: Survival Evolved have garnered considerable fan-bases and critical acclaim for their innovative gameplays.

Action RPGs

Even though today many different genres feature RPG elements like character development, skill trees, and dialogue branches, action role-playing games are still among the most played genres. Featuring immersive gameplays and rich storylines, action RPGs can provide hours and hours of entertainment.

Some of the most popular online action RPGs today include The Elder Scrolls Online, the latest entry in the renowned Elder Scrolls franchise, and Final Fantasy XIV: Reborn, which accounted for more than 2 million active players in 2021.

Co-op games

Sometimes, we’re not in the mood for all this competitive, PvP action, and just want to have some fun with our friends. Well, co-op games are still a beloved genre, and some recent releases have shown us that there’s still interest for some casual gameplays.

Released last year for PlayStation 4 and Windows, Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout had an active player base of more than 1.5 million players within 24 hours of its release. Another popular choice, the Overcooked series received critical acclaim and is one of the best-selling casual games on digital marketplaces.

Mobile casual games

Mobile casual games have been trending for some time due to their straightforward gameplays. These games are usually easy to understand, but require good problem-solving skills and fast thinking. According to App Annie, casual games account for almost 45 percent of the global downloads by gaming genre, with hyper casual games representing the largest share.

Among the most played online mobile casual games are “virtual iterations” of renowned tabletop games like Monopoly, Uno, and Scrabble, as well as single-player games such as Candy Crush and Angry Birds.

Author: Gus Barge

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