Much like any other competitive market, the gaming industry has two typical flavors of games that are at the top of any genre. Those who have been recently released and had a ton of hype around said release, and those who have sat atop that throne for years, if not decades, as the king of a certain genre. Many of those games have become household names for gamers of all kinds and are often what many of us grew up playing (if you have been into gaming for over five years or so).
Within this article, I’ll be taking a look at the genre-toppers of five common genres within modern gaming. Instead of making this article opinion based, it simply goes off of the steam charts (the last number is the number of monthly players). If a game has the most downloads within a certain genre, it is that genre’s genre-topper. The genres themselves have been chosen by some of my personal favorite genres, along with some that are just inherently popular within Steam. Without further ado, let’s get into the games from the last decade or two that have set the pace for the genre they exist in:
While I have written an article on a bunch of games that are similar to CS:GO (click here if you are interested), I never got to specify what makes CS:GO the king of tactical shooters. In my eyes, there are three main reasons why CS:GO has remained at the top of this category for so many years:
First, the mechanics behind the game make it feel fantastic to play. More importantly, it has felt great to play for many, many years. This naturally created a community of competitive players and created a competitive environment that said players love to return to day after day.
Second, you should never underestimate the power of good sound effects. Whether it be in a horror game or a competitive shooter like CS:GO, audio is what makes or breaks a game's immersion. More importantly, good audio quality is vital in CS:GO as the audio is a key factor in how the game is played. A satisfying headshot sound rewards the player for a nice shot on a subconscious level, keeping players coming back to hit more!
Finally, a massive esports scene is going to have an obvious impact on the popularity of a game. The competitive side of CS:GO is almost certainly what allowed it to rise to the top of the category and remain there for so many years. Even in the modern era of gaming, CS:GO holds up to massive triple A titles like Warzone and Fortnite (not at peak, but in the long term).
There are a ton of different reasons why Dota 2 has remained the dominant MOBA within the realm of Steam, namely the lack of serious competition. The biggest competitor to Dota 2 is League of Legends (@Spo0d if you want to play, it's my main game) but that is not through the Steam client in any way. Dota 2 and League have created such polished games that any new MOBAs coming out have to be perfect in order to compete with either of them.
Outside of those reasons, Dota 2 has a couple of unique reasons in comparison to League of Legends that has allowed it to stay on top. The most notable of which is the fact that Dota 2 was inspired by (and originally a mod of) the Warcraft series, a massively popular MMORPG by Blizzard Entertainment. The Warcraft series has perhaps the most in-depth lore to any game out there which means there are a ton of fans attached to the individual characters. Getting to play them in another game meant that a ton of players gravitated over towards Dota once it came out. Combine that awesome lore with a hyper-polished MOBA and you get a chart-topper that is not going anywhere anytime soon!
Battle Royales became mainstream in the United States following the Fortnite explosion (sorry PUBG, just being honest). Since then, many different development studios have tried their hand at the genre. The most notable of which for the Steam universe comes in the form of Apex Legends by Respawn Games.
Similar to CS:GO, I believe that Apex remains popular due to mechanical smoothness and competitive spirit, but it has one more attribute that many of the other games on this list did not have for quite some time. In terms of smoothness, Apex may just have my favorite movement style of any game I have ever played (except for Crab Game, and no that is not a joke don’t @ me). The buttery smooth feeling of sliding into a jump and catching it back in a slide at the perfect time, or a perfect wall hop to keep momentum going forward makes the game feel great to move around the map. This is especially important as Apex maps tend to be quite massive (most of them, at least).
The competitive part of Apex that I believe makes it so well received by a wide variety of players is that players can climb through the ranks without having to be an aim god. Sure, more kills means more RP but so does a better placement. A lot of players may hate those that hide in a battle royale, but allowing them to gain some form of elo by avoiding confrontation is great for the game. It allows a more diverse community of players (roleplayers or immersion streamers) rather than just people who are faster than others at putting a pixelated head in the center of their screen. Also, getting better at hiding from players is a genuine skill that even kill-hungry players need to be able to do occasionally.
The final, unique, aspect of Apex that has allowed it to rise and stay towards the top of the category is only possible because of its modern release date. Streamers loved the game whenever it came out and they still are to this day. Despite there being very little hype around the game at the current moment, it still manages to stay within the top five or ten on Twitch most of the time. This is mainly due to the fact that it is a more streamable game than many others, both for entertaining chat and for keeping the streamer entertained (both equally important)!
I have written about Rust a couple of times here on ESG (mainly in this in-depth review), so I’ll stick to what gave Rust the ability to rise to the top and remain there for such a long time. I believe there are two significant aspects to Rust keeping it as the big dog of the survival genre.
The first aspect is probably the most obvious, allowing players to go on crazy adventures together. While joining just any Rust server may result in a bad experience full of toxicity, loading into a custom server with a couple of friends can be a whole new experience. If you find a server that fits your group’s playstyle, it will make the thought of grinding for a whole wipe seem much less daunting and make you actually look forward to grinding together. Even in duos, I have extremely fond memories playing with a friend of mine as we navigate the tumultuous environment that is Rust.
The other, much less obvious, aspect to Rust keeping it on top is its ability to create a story. This may sound weird at first, but a game that is always the same after a simple wipe to the server would get extremely boring after a couple of wipes. However, each wipe ends up being a whole new adventure to go on as you’ll almost certainly encounter new players, create new stories, a different map, etc. Proof for this would be the numerous entertaining YouTube channels out there like Welyn or Frost that post solely Rust content for the last five years or so. If they have been able to create engaging content (millions of subs = engaging) of the same game for half a decade, then one can conclude there is certainly something special about the game.
The fact that GTA V was released all the way back in 2013 is still currently blowing my mind as I type this sentence. Even still, it has plenty of attributes to it that makes it deserve its spot as the top open world game on Steam. The most notable of which is that it has a simple objective with the game and it accomplishes said objective almost perfectly. That objective? Allow the player to do whatever they want! Well not quite literally, but allowing the player flexibility in gameplay lets them express themselves however they wish. This has kept players coming back to GTA for years and years.
The other major reason that has brought GTA V back to the top in recent years was the addition of role-playing servers. Similar to allowing players freedom to do whatever they want, GTA creates the perfect environment for roleplaying. In its essence, GTA V is almost just like a real-life simulator except that it often involves criminality (which is quite real as well). This makes it the perfect candidate for a roleplayer and even better for a streamer. As with many modern games, streamers can make or break a game's popularity. XQC may have single-handedly put this game back on top of the category which only shows the power streamers have in the gaming realm.
As you can see, 2013 was arguably the greatest year for Steam in terms of pumping out quality games that would remain a dominant force in their respective categories for years (or decades) to come. Every game may not be up your alley in terms of gameplay/style, but you can at least be assured that the popularity of these games was not because of some random, external factor, but rather due to the sheer quality and care put into the development of them!
Heading image courtesy of xbox.com