Games that defy genre
Image: Nintendo Life

We make a lot of lists here at Nintendo Life, you may have noticed. Why? Because we've all been that person who really wants a game that's like another game they really enjoyed, and they want some more recommendations. It's easy to lump games together by genre to answer that query — but what about all the games that fall through the cracks?

Some games defy genre in interesting ways, but that makes them hard to put in nice boxes (although maybe putting things in nice boxes isn't such a great thing, anyway). Other games mix genres to create something entirely new — like metroidvanias, before "metroidvania" was a thing, or the dreaded deckbuilding roguelike — but that means that they don't quite fit in anywhere, either.

So, to solve this egregious wrong, we've put together a handful of games that we think deserve recommendation, but don't fit in your neat little categories. They're different, man. They don't conform to your standards. And honestly? That's why we love 'em.

(Author's note: Some of these games, like The Stanley Parable and Return of the Obra Dinn, are technically on other lists — Stanley made it to Best Comedy Games and ROTD is on our list of Best Detective Games — but if we're being totally honest, those lists were made so we could include those specific games. So it doesn't count.)

Neon White (Switch eShop)

Neon White is a hard game to pin down to one single genre. Part platformer, part first-person shooter, part card game, part social sim. It sounds like a risk of too many cooks in the kitchen, but Neon White has blended them all together perfectly to create a five-star meal.

From its excellent writing, music, and presentation to its intense and satisfying core gameplay, Neon White is one of the most exciting things we’ve played all year, and it’s a game we can't see ourselves putting down for a long time as we try to best our previous times.

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Part Time UFO (Switch eShop)

Part Time UFO may not have initially been made with any involvement from Nintendo, but HAL’s close links with the company shine through regardless and as a result, it absolutely feels like the sort of premium product you’d usually only expect from one of Nintendo’s own development teams. It's just sort of hard to categorise... but perhaps it doesn't need to be. It's brilliant on its own terms.

Katamari Damacy REROLL (Switch eShop)

Games are often at their best when they embrace the truly weird and wonderful. Katamari Damacy is one of the OG weird and wonderful games, in which you play a Prince tasked with rolling up stuff to create new stars, because your terrible, buff dad accidentally destroyed them all. Is it a puzzle game? Is it an action game? Who cares. It's a great game.

The Stanley Parable: Ultra Deluxe (Switch eShop)

The Stanley Parable is an incredibly meta game that relies on defying genre. You will play as Stanley, and you will not play as Stanley. You will make a choice, and you will have your choices taken from you. The game will end, the game will never end. Contradiction follows contradiction, the rules of how games should work are broken, then broken again. You are not here to win. The Stanley Parable is a game that plays you.

Do Not Feed the Monkeys (Switch eShop)

Invited to the mysterious "Primate Observation Club", your task in Do Not Feed The Monkeys is to observe "the monkeys" through a series of cameras, while reporting back on your findings to the Club by responding to their email requests for information. Feeding back your accrued knowledge gets you paid, and getting paid allows you to buy more cameras to spy on more "monkeys".

It's one of many voyeurism games, like Orwell, Hypnospace Outlaw, and Her Story... some of which are also on this list, because they're all hard to categorise in the same way!

Tux and Fanny (Switch eShop)

Tux and Fanny just want to play soccer but their soccer ball is deflated. In your quest to re-inflate it, you will play as a flea whose entire society has died, a cat who wants to eat birds, a worm who just wants to escape the digestive system it has found itself in, and the titular Tux and Fanny. This game is all over the place, in the absolute best way, with elements of point-and-click adventures that are told in bizarre, absurdist ways. It's a game about a football, but it's a game about everything else, too.

Tetris Effect: Connected (Switch eShop)

Sure, Tetris is a sort of puzzle game. But Tetris Effect is so much more — a synesthetic zen wonderland of shapes, sounds, and colours.

During gameplay, every movement, line clear or hard-drop is accompanied by some kind of aural and visual effect, and each level is set against a wonderfully animated and evolving backdrop. Some would argue that Tetris is a game that doesn't need graphical gimmicks to engage and addict, but Tetris Effect pulls out all of the stops regardless, delivering some truly gorgeous visual effects which combine perfectly with the equally beautiful soundtrack.

Return of the Obra Dinn (Switch eShop)

Arguably, Return of the Obra Dinn — like a lot of games on this list — is a "narrative" game, and a "walking simulator". But what does that even mean, really? It’s probably unlike anything you’ve ever played before and, as such, is somewhat difficult to get your head around to begin with. Like most games of its ilk though, when it begins to click you’re already sucked into the mystery and wanting to eagerly crack on to close this fascinating case.

Telling Lies (Switch eShop)

Telling Lies, from the same studio as similarly genre-defying (but not on Switch) game Her Story, has you reviewing video clips of four main characters and an assortment of support players using various video capture devices. You only hear one side of the conversation, but you have the ability to search the fictional RETINA database (the repository for these surreptitious recordings) using any word from the dialogue, and much of your detective work relies on finding the other half of a conversation, identifying that person and listening for new leads and search terms.

On paper, searching a large database of phone-filmed video clips doesn't sound too exciting, but Telling Lies offers an exhilarating few hours of detective work thanks to clever construction, strong performances and exceptional polish.

No Man's Sky (Switch)

Some games on this list are here because they don't fit neatly into one genre box. No Man's Sky, which comes out on Switch in October 2022, is here because it fits into too many boxes.

Your voyage through No Man's Sky is up to you. Will you be a fighter, preying on the weak and taking their riches, or taking out pirates for their bounties? Or a trader? Or perhaps an explorer?

The gigantic, frequent free updates to this game only add more options.

Loop Hero (Switch eShop)

Loop Hero proves to be a fascinating and creative take on an RPG, distilling the genre down to its most important gameplay elements and throwing in some fresh ideas. There's deckbuilding, tower defense, city management, timeloop narrative, boss battles, and more. It's an RPG, but it's not an RPG... it's... an RPG about RPGs? Maybe????

Head to page two for more genre-bending, label-defying video games...