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The 5 Categories of Enemies in Gaming

by on February 22, 2012

Video game enemies have become standardized.  The way that I see it, there are really only 5 types of enemies.  I am not talking about the enemies motivation,  I am talking about bandits, robots, or lions.  To make their games different, game designers simply take one of the 5 types of enemies, and give it a different motivation for hating the player.  So let’s talk about what these enemies are.


Humans are the standard enemy in most video games.  In almost any game you will find yourself fighting against another person.  Almost every FPS has you fighting other people.  Look at Call of Duty Modern Warfare, you are simply put against terrorists. Humans as enemies in video games are probably the most common, simply because crafting a story around people is very simple.

a Khajiit from Skyrim


Humanoids are different from humans in that they look generally like humans, but are not human physiologically. These could be elves,  like in any fantasy game, or the Asari from the Mass Effect games. Another great example of a Humanoid enemy is the Khajiit from the Elder scrolls series.  All Humanoids stand on two legs,  have two arms, a head, a mouth and 2 eyes.  Humanoids are typically the main bad guy in games.


Robots are not normally the main enemy in video games.  They are a secondary enemy that guards a set area.  An older game that had some really cool robots in it was System Shock 2.  The turrets in the Portal series are another good example of robots as a sub enemy. Robots are becoming less popular as enemies and instead simply being put into the environment as back ground art.

Turrets from Portal


This category is very large, it can basically be boiled down to anything that is not mechanical and that doesn’t look like a human.  Now that is a very broad statement, but if you think about what comes to mind when someone says creature, you would think of the spiders in Minecraft or the Goombas from Mario. Creatures are also the standard mobs in World of Warcraft, and the wolves from Skyrim.  Creatures in video games, just like robots, are minor enemies.


I am hesitant to call this category Zombie,  it should be something more like reanimated corpses,  the zombie is just the most well known term for this category. Another example of a reanimated corpse enemy would be the necromorphs from the Deadspace games. The reanimated corpse is a very common enemy in games, The normal form of this enemy is that of a reanimated human.  Occasionally, you will have something like the dogs from Resident Evil, but there are very few reanimated animals in gaming.  Whole games and franchises have been created off the idea of a reanimated corpse. The Left 4 Dead games as well as the Resident Evil games are perfect examples of games based off of the reanimated dead.

While there are hundreds of games out on the market, there are only 5 types of enemies.  I am not asking for a completely new type of enemy, that would be almost impossible.  I simply would like the game designers to put more thought into their enemies when they are being created.  Make the creatures more intriguing.  Or give the zombies different abilities,  like Left 4 Dead did. All I want is for the enemies to be just a little bit different.

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  • I am completely lost on your interpretation of the enemies in video games. so you’re saying the video game industry makes these loosely defined cookie cutter enemies and puts no effort into it what so ever? firstly, I think you vastly underestimate the thought that goes into some of these characters. secondly, i think your categories are too broad and yet too specific. are you talking about purpose, physical appearance, or the danger they are to the player? zombies and robots fulfil the exact same purpose, they have limited intelligence and are easily defeated by themselves, but have strength in numbers, with exceptions of coarse. and why are humans and humanoids separate classes? they are almost the exact same. if you changes the appearance of a human to look more like an alien, you wouldn’t even notice most of the time. its irrelevant, the appearance only adds atmosphere. and categories like “creatures” could account for any number of things, it really doesn’t narrow anything down. one creature could be tameable and a worthy companion if captured and trained, and another is a mindless killer, more like a robot or zombie catagory. its critically flawed.
    now, what about psychological enemies, or the environment as the enemy, or fear as the enemy, or combinations of many of these categories? think beyond the superficial model of the character and more what the character means in the environment. thats what matters.    

  • Lasitaone

    No I get it. It’s akin to Shakespeare’s 5 types of stories. This is great.