6 Different Types of 2D Games – Do You Know Them All?

Disclosure: As Amazon Associates we earn from qualifying purchases. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no additional cost to you.

As someone who's into old video games, I never would have thought that there would be so many different types of 2D games. If you're looking to get a little nostalgic, or just want some interesting video game history, then keep reading...

2d video game screen

You're going to have fun with this list!

Single Screen

This type of 2D game was one of the original types of games and was made very popular with the release of the Atari. It is really easy to tell if you are playing a single screen game as each level, or sometimes the entire game, will take place on just one screen. Another feature that is common with this type of game is that while the levels will get progressively harder, each one is basically the same thing as before. This means that new enemies or treasures may appear or that the landscape or setting may go through some changes; however, for the most part, it will be easily recognizable as the same level repeated over and over again.

Some popular single-screen 2D games include Dig Dug, Frogger, and Pac-Man. These screens don’t move at all when the game is being played and only the character who is interacting with the game will be moving around.

Side Scroller

These games are a little more advanced than single-screen games as the game will move from side to side, either from right to left or from left to right. They generally involve the player character staying in just one place during the game while the background moves around the character. The game is generally viewed from a side camera angle and they are often used in platform game genres. These games generally feature the main character running, climbing, and jumping through various levels. Super Mario Bros is the most common and famous type of side-scroller game.

This type of 2D game can generally be put into one of two categories: walker games and shooter games. Walker side scrollers, such as the popular Pitfall, involve the main characters simply traveling through the levels. They must jump, run, or crouch in order to avoid dangers and to try to make it through the level without being killed.

Shooter side-scroller games usually begin with the players in charge of a ship that will fly in one direction but that can move up and down on the screen. They have to face a growing number of enemies as they try to defend their land and shoot down enemy ships.

There are some side-scroller video games that allow players to backtrack and visit a part of the level that they have already beaten. Others keep going, which means that once a player has passed a certain location, that area on the level can’t be visited again. There are still other side-scroller video games where the background moves and the player must simply try to keep up by jumping to get over obstacles and to collect objects before they pass by on the screen.


Most early video games relied on scrolling technology in order to make it look as if the game was moving. These games had a character or object that was set in place but that appeared to have motion, thanks to the movement of the background scrolling by. One of the earliest examples of this type of game is a racing game. The vehicle was stationary in the road but the road moved.

In general, these games tended to scroll up and down rather than horizontally and the player had an aerial view of the level. Players had to learn how to react quickly to any changes that were on the background so that they wouldn’t crash and they could pick up any bonuses that were present in the level. While the first scrolling video game released were driving games, as it was fairly easy to create the road and have it pass by players, other common games included skiing and climbing skyscrapers.

After the release of both scrolling and side-scroller games, video game developers quickly began making games that could scroll both vertically and horizontally. This soon made the distinction of a game being a vertical scroller less and less important.


Adventure games grew very popular because they allowed players to explore their environment and a virtual landscape, which was something that was unheard of before. These games generally had a single screen and the player character could then choose to move in any of the four directions, which led them to a new screen that had to load. Players didn’t just explore and fight enemies; they often had to engage in problem solving in order to find their way through various levels or to be able to find the equipment and items that they needed in order to progress and survive.

Originally, adventure games relied on text and players had to enter their text in order to play. However, as computers became more powerful and relied on personal graphics cards, these games had added graphics, which quickly overtook text commands and relied on point and click options instead.

While some people think that these games are the same as action games, they generally have much less action and combat. They do have some conflict but the conflict is not the primary focus of the game. They generally do require puzzle solving and the patience of players to gather various items that they need to win, which can often result in players hunting for small items amid the pixels of the game.

These games are largely driven by story and often have a lot of dialogue that is involved in the game. They were one of the first games to use dialogue and to represent it as a conversation tree where players can interact with non-player characters by selecting from pre-written dialogue and then waiting for a response from the in-game character. Since it’s possible for players to pursue an unlimited number of dialogue options, this creates a very open world with a lot of possibilities.

Each 2D adventure game has its own quest that players must try to complete but they are only able to do it one screen at a time as they move up, down, left, or right.

Platform Games

Finally, 2D games moved from requiring players to simply move their characters to the left or to the right and allowed them to jump up and down on platforms. These are a special type of side-scroller or single-screen games but have a lot more movement and provide the players with significantly more control over their characters.

These games have suspended platforms that players can reach by jumping up or falling back down but they must do so while still trying to avoid obstacles and enemies, which makes this type of game a little more difficult. The platforms generally are not at the same height and make very uneven terrain that can be difficult for some players to easily traverse. Players have control not only over the direction in which their characters will move and jump but also the distance and height of their jumps, which helps them to try to land on the platform instead of falling, possibly to their death.

In addition to requiring players to jump from one platform to another, these games often include other elements that make them much more difficult than other types of 2D games. These games can sometimes require the players to control the characters to get them to swing from items such as ropes or vines and even to bounce off of trampolines or springboards. Games where players don’t have control over their characters and where jumping is automated by the game do not fall in this category of 2D platform games.

It’s very common for platform games to be combined with other genres and types of games as this adds an element of fun and more excitement to the game overall. This means that these games are often combined with shooter or adventure games. These games used to be the most popular type of video game available on the market.

Platform games that added scrolling movement into the game mechanics proved to be much more popular than platform games without this additional movement. Jump Bug and Super Mario Bros included scrolling, which made these games much more than simply about jumping onto platforms and made it possible for players to exert incredible control over their characters.

Second-Generation Side Scrollers

After 16-bit home consoles were created, platform games were incredibly popular in most homes and video game developers wanted to create games and characters that would not only be easily recognizable but also showcased the improved abilities and gameplay of these 2D games. Sonic the Hedgehog was one of the first second-generation side-scroller games to be released. Not only did he travel along the traditional side-to-side path that so many players were familiar with but he was able to scroll in all directions over curved hills and rough terrain and even move with rolls and jumps.

This advancement led to an influx of other games and paved the way for games with smooth scrolling graphics that didn’t jerk during the game.