Video games are now such a major part of popular culture that they can’t be ignored by tech-savvy women. Whether you are a gamer girl, the mother of game-loving kids or a video game widow, there are no doubt times you have questioned what it is that makes some people so passionate about certain games that they become a hobby in their own right, or in some cases even an addiction!

With hundreds of big titles released every year for consoles like the PS4 and Xbox One and countless more indie video games and casual games for mobile platforms and social media, there is never a shortage of new things to play. So, what is it that makes some games so colossally popular that they put everything else in their niche in the shade? Why are some seemingly low-budget games surprise hits where others fade into obscurity? Here, we take a look at some of the qualities the most popular games possess.

Repeating a Successful Formula

This point may seem kind of obvious, but it does bear some looking at. Where movie release sequels tend to be less popular, less critically acclaimed and generally make less money than the first movie (though there are some exceptions like the “Fast and Furious” franchise where the series grows in popularity), with video games quite the opposite is true. Sales on almost all of the biggest video game franchises show that a popular series will actually do better with each new release. People may ask why some developers just release new updated versions of things like Assassin’s Creed, Call or Duty and Resident Evil every year, or why the Super Mario franchise is still a huge seller when it is nearly 30 years old, but it is easy to see that giving people more of what they love is a winner for everyone — just look at all the hype around the soon-to-be-released Fallout 4 game by Bethesda … the fans can’t wait and the developers know they’ll have a huge hit!

A Completely New Idea

If you don’t have a winning formula already, (you don’t want to rip off somebody else’s) then to make your video game successful, you may need a unique idea of your own. This may sound like the hard part, but actually it is only the second hardest part. The hardest part is finding the unique idea people will actually catch on to. There are plenty of really original games languishing in indie obscurity, but when something really novel catches on, it can really set the world on fire (and then you can make your sequels).

A good example of this is Portal, which was a very unusual puzzle game that was designed more like an first-person adventure game with a story. An even better example is Minecraft. Now the best selling game of all-time, there is a whole culture around it that is still going strong as any good Minecraft server list will show you. Minecraft was completely different from anything else with no fancy graphics, no story and a lot of reliance on the user’s own creativity and willingness to grind to actually make it fun. What looked like it’d be a niche hit for only people with OCD actually captured the imagination of everyone from little kids to hardcore gamers. Thus, a phenomenon was born and thousands of copycat, sandbox-type games were spawned.

A Good Twist on a Classic Style of Game

There are some indie games that do ridiculously well just by being a very, very good example of their genre and having a nice twist such as an unusual theme or art style. A good example of this is Spelunky, which is considered by many critics to be one of the best indie games of all-time. A platformer with rogue-like elements, (randomly generated levels, permanent death) Spelunky’s twist is simply that it is way harder than it looks! With the art style of a standard platformer, (and not one of the countless “retro” platformers coming out of indie game teams) it looks like a fun game you could have aced as a child, but it isn’t. All this makes you want to keep coming back for more, because you see yourself improving, and you really want to be in the elite who have finished a run through the whole game!

These are just some of the concepts that make games best sellers, but, of course, none of them are easy to replicate.