For most of what I can remember while growing up playing video games, it felt like the idea of mashing up distinct genres into a single game was somewhat frowned upon. And that’s not entirely unfair, in all honesty. Some larger studios especially often take a “throw it all in” approach that can leave titles feeling like a collection of unfocused or half-baked ideas. And even if they are pulled off somewhat well, it can still feel really confusing for players as to why, say, a Sonic the Hedgehog game needed a fishing game mode that clashes pretty severely with the main gameplay.
But just like every other design decision that a game studio can make, it’s just another tool in the toolbox, and it can be done well! The answer to those two problems seems pretty obvious, in retrospect: limit your focus to just what you feel you can do well, and only include the new elements if you can find a natural way to connect it to the game’s main idea. I want to focus today on some of the different approaches that games can take to pull off a natural feeling genre mash-up, specifically through the lens of a couple of indie games that have managed to walk that tightrope and come out of the experience with some brilliant games.