While genres can be known for a variety of works, they don't always start out that way. Usually they start out as loads of obvious Follow the Leader copies of a Genre-Busting or making work, or a Genre Popularizer for a genre so small that this is the first time the mainstream has heard of it. Eventually many of the followers stop being that (though copies still exist), and start having loads of works that stand on their own. This is the point that you don't just have a bunch of clones, you have a full genre.
This doesn't always happen, though. Mascot Racers have yet to go past just being Mario Kart clones in spite of both Mario Kart and the clones having been around since The '90s. On the other hand, this can happen almost immediately. Tetris was such a simple game, any clone needed to set itself apart to avoid getting sued.
Compare Derivative Differentiation (which can be used to help the clones stand out on their own). A Trope Codifier can invert this, if it comes long after the Trope Maker and the original genre was relatively differentiated and well-established before then, and it's followed by a sequence of clones.
The opposite is Genre-Killer.
Examples (State the genre, popularizer, and then the turning point to full genre):
- Originally, Real Robot shows were Gundam clones. Then came Super Dimension Fortress Macross, which took the genre into more or less what we know today, and finally things like Patlabor and Armored Trooper VOTOMS that went for the very top of the hardness scale.
- Sailor Moon bears the title of being both Trope Codifier and Genre Popularizer of the Magical Girl Warrior genre, but it also started a fad of similar shows trying to repeat the formula. This led to every Magical Girl show being called a "Sailor Moon ripoff" for decades, especially in the west, even though they'd actually gone From Clones to Genre very quickly. This slowly dropped off as shows for a different audience drew the people who were calling "ripoff" into the genre and Pretty Cure, a shoujo series that kept the action of an action-adventure shonen series, kept them there... until Glitter Force, the Americanized dub of Smile Pretty Cure!, was released onto Netflix. Suddenly, people who hadn't watched anime since the early nineties were calling "Sailor Moon ripoff!" all over again, making the entire magical girl fandom groan, "We'd finally gotten past all that!"
- In Japan, the aforementioned outliers started to get so popular that they solicited cries of "clone" to other series on their own. Dark Magical Girl works get called "Madoka Clones" (Even with works that came before it like Magical Girl Raising Project), heavily actionized series get called "Precure Clones", and overly technological series get called "Nanoha Clones".
- Found-footage horror films got their start with Cannibal Holocaust in 1980. The Blair Witch Project in 1999 proved that the genre could be commercially successful, but it took the success of Paranormal Activity in the US and [REC] in Europe, both in 2007note , to prove that the style could be used to tell more stories than just riffs on Blair Witch.
- Halloween (1978) was the first official teen Slasher Movie (though Black Christmas and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre predate it). Friday the 13th (1980) was the first big imitator, and their successes spawned loads of movies featuring serial killers stalking teenagers - The House on Sorority Row, April Fools' Day, My Bloody Valentine, New Year's Evil, Sleepaway Camp etc. The genre died down towards the end of the 80s, but got revived in the 90s with the success of Scream (1996). Scream was then followed by a slew of its own imitators - thus creating the 'self aware teen slasher' subgenre.
- What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? marked the first notable time that Hollywood's former leading ladies starred in horror stories as formerly glamorous women now going mad. Imitators included Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte, What Ever Happened To Aunt Alice?, Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? and What's the Matter with Helen? - eventually creating the 'Psycho Biddy' subgenre. Almost all of the films were headlined by women who had been stars during The Golden Age of Hollywood - Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Olivia de Havilland, Shelley Winters, Debbie Reynolds, Geraldine Page, etc.
- Godzilla was the start of the giant monster era in Japan in 1954, with a legion of knockoffs coming out in the next five years. As the franchise grew, and became more interconnected with the sequels like Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, the Kaiju genre as we know it now was born. Of course, the genre has its roots going further back, with 1925's The Lost World and 1933's King Kong being early inspirations.
- The Cyberpunk and by extension all other Punk Punk Genres were all started by William Gibson's Neuromancer. The turning point was when author K.W. Jeter decided to call the genre in which he was writing Steampunk leading to, if not every other work of Punk Punk, at least the idea of Punk Punk as a category.
- Gonzo Journalism was launched by "The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved", written by Hunter S. Thompson for "Scanlan's Monthly" in May 1970. Scanlan's named what Thompson did—basically send his notebook of whiskey-soaked observations from the weekend in for publication barely edited—"gonzo", and Thompson more or less went along with it to both the style and the name. Afterward, both he and other writers aimed to reproduce the style of that one article. Today, various other authors have put their own spin on the style, transforming it from "Hunter S. Thompson clones" to "a form of journalism started by Hunter S. Thompson."
- Kids' novels taking the form of the protagonist's diary had been an established format for years, such as Jim Benton's popular series Dear Dumb Diary. The popularity of Diary of a Wimpy Kid when it got published and its lined paper design with sketches from the main character himself pushing the old diary format into found literature territory inspired a whole glut of epistolary children's novels accompanied with drawings in its wake (Dork Diaries, The Loser List, etc).
- While Trapped in Another World, Reincarnation, and RPG-Mechanics Verse stories are hardly new concepts, web novel works like Mushoku Tensei and Tensei Shitara Slime Datta Ken were popular enough to inspire plenty of independent web-serialized stories where a character ends up transporting or getting reincarnated into a JRPG-like fantasy land. They started catching steam around the early 2010's, and the handiness of the Fan Fiction Dot Net/Archive of Our Own-like platform Shousetsu Ka ni Narou to publish these series led to "Narou Isekai" ("Narou-style Parallel World") and "Narou Tensei" ("Narou Reincarnation") stories becoming considered a genre in their own right. The ubiquity of these stories getting published, adapted into various media and translated and exported out past Japan led to those specific types of stories being classified as part of the "Isekai" genre in the West.
- Twilight made quite a stir among the young adult readers and became exceptionally popular. For quite some time after Twilight's release, other "Paranormal Romance" books such as the House of Night series and the Vampire Academy series were referred to as "Twilight ripoffs". It took the movies for Vampire Academy and The Mortal Instruments being released for people to start using the term "paranormal romance" instead of calling them "Twilight ripoffs".
- Post Britpop. Started by the countless imitators of Radiohead's The Bends and OK Computer albums, of which the most defining were Travis's The Man Who for the folksy variety, and Doves' Lost Souls for the art-rock variety.
- Several critics (such as this one) have expressed skepticism of the use of the term "djent" as a generic label in its own right, arguing that all of the bands in the so-called genre have yet to move past simply imitating Meshuggah.
- Nu Metal was formed when KoRn released their self titled debut album in 1994 to unexpected success. Naturally, many bands took note of their downtuned guitars, funk-influenced bass playing, angsty lyrics, and equal use of all instrumentation, and then ran with that formula in hopes of achieving that same success. The name comes from an interview with Coal Chamber.
- While trading cards had been around for years, 1993's Magic: The Gathering made them into an actual game. It was not the first — the earliest collectible card game was published in the late 19th century — but it was the first real success. This prompted a glut of trading card games that were very similar to Magic. The turning point came in the late '90s, with the success of very different trading card games like Legend of the Five Rings and Decipher's Star Wars TCG.
- In 2008, Donald X. Vaccarino took the idea of each player using a deck, a la Magic: The Gathering, and put a new spin on it. What if, instead of players creating their deck ahead of time and bringing to the match, players had to start with the same limited deck and build it up from the same pool of cards as their opponent? Thus was born Dominion, which launched an entire genre that would be known as deck-building games. There were a fair number of forgettable clones, but games like Ascension, Thunderstone, and Marvel Legendary have established reputations as excellent games in their own right, by playing around with themes and mechanics based on Dominion's main ideas.
- The Pokémon franchise spawned craze in Japan for anything with collectable monsters, that would later be imitated by series such as Dragon Quest (via the Dragon Quest Monsters series) and Telefang (which overseas was ironically sold as a bootleg Pokemon game, after being poorly translated). The collectable monster concept proved successful as a card game as well, when the Pokemon card game was released. This success would lead to Yu-Gi-Oh Duel Monsters becoming extremely successful. The success of Yu-Gi-Oh! lead to imitators trying to get on the bandwagon of making a show about a game, so that kids will want to buy the real version. With so many shows like this out there nowadays, such as Duel Masters, Beyblade, Battle B-Daman, Medabots, Bakugan, and Chaotic just to name a few, one could say that "Card Game Animes" have become a genre. They all feature a tournament arc, talking about what the game is "truly about", and posing dramatically while playing the game.
- It should be noted that the concept of actually capturing monsters to fight with was first shown, in fact, with Dragon Quest V. The Pokémon series was in development at the time, though, and although it didn't start the trend it did refine it, becoming the precursor to what Monster Battling is today.
- Genres exist in Journal Roleplay too. Though it's still fairly different from the modern understanding, Drama Drama Duck was the beginning of "reverse jamjars", where characters meet at an interdimensional hub (though in this case it's the Internet) at their own discretion and still live in their own worlds. Island is usually credited as the first crack jamjar, and Landels, its successor Damned, and Econtra made horror into a journal game genre by developing the usual traits of a horror RP — for example, free reign for character death but having it come at a price, powers being limited or removed, a mystery the players don't know the answer to, and the event system, common in other games for silly fun, being used to break the characters' spirits.
- This is still happening now. For example, multifandom games based on existing canons began with things like Marshmallow Mateys and had Soul Campaign as the Trope Codifier, and those got more and more diverse, to the point that they've started their own genres that don't have to be based on existing properties. The two biggest instances are wide-world jamjars with player stat micromanagement (previously known as Route 29 clones) and short-term, small-cast mystery games (usually called "murdergames" and previously known as Dangan Roleplay clones).
- As in the quote, the First-Person Shooter started out with the template codified by Doom, to the point that those that came after were commonly called "Doom clones." The turning points are largely accepted to be the first GoldenEye game and Half-Life. There are a variety of FPS sub-genres, such as Tactical Shooters like Rainbow Six, ones with Role-Playing Game elements like Deus Ex, and Borderlands, and multiplayer only ones like Team Fortress 2.
- Likewise, Third Person Shooters were called Tomb Raider clones. Games like Max Payne, Syphon Filter, and SOCOMUS Navy Seals, changed that, so it was its own genre (albeit a sister genre to FPS). Later, games like Resident Evil 4 and Gears of War would popularize the "Over the Shoulder Shooter" style of third-person shooter.
- The Strategy RPG genre may be famously known through the games Final Fantasy Tactics, or Devil Survivor, but Nintendo's own Fire Emblem franchise (developed by its Intelligent Systems division) was the one that started it all, spawning a slew of imitators such as Langrisser and the Shining Series, due to how it combined RPG Elements with strategy that resembled your typical game of chess, which in the late 80's-early 90's was original, and innovative.
- The Fighting Game genre was actually well established before Street Fighter II, but after that game, almost all games in that genre quickly became clones. It got to a point where Capcom infamously sued Data East due to how similar Fighter's History was to SFII. While some games set themselves apart, like Mortal Kombat, those were through gimmicks like blood. Even later Capcom fighters were just SFII clones. The turning point to finally making the genre distinct again was Virtua Fighter, not just with the Polygonal Graphics, but adding a different style than the acrobatics and special moves of SFII. Later games like Tekken and Soulcalibur added their own dimensions.
- Now aside from Western RPGs having an open world for years (such as The Elder Scrolls series, going all the way back to Arena in 1994), Wide Open Sandbox games were largely clones of Grand Theft Auto III, until deliberate twists on the open world (such as Burnout Paradise, Crackdown and No More Heroes) made it into a full genre.
- Mobile games with an allegedly free freemium model can be identified as the clone of a more familiar example of such a game— A Rage of Bahamut clone would involve collecting and evolving cards for combat. A genre description such as "match three game" would refer to a Puzzle & Dragons clone.
- Roguelikes are an odd case; the term has been used to refer to plenty of games with wildly varied mechanics, and only two things in common: Randomly Generated Levels and item placement, and permadeath with no way to recover saved games. Everything from The Binding of Isaac to Minecraft's hardcore mode qualifies, in a way. Yet the name continues to stick because nobody's ever agreed on a better one.
- The Multiplayer Online Battle Arena genre began as a custom map for StarCraft called Aeon of Strife, and when Warcraft III and its map editor came out, several maps were created that were styled after that. The genre was popularized by Defense of the Ancients: All-Stars, followed by DotA: All-Stars. The popularity of these games spawned such MOBA games as League of Legends, Heroes of Newerth, and Dota 2. The term "MOBA" was coined by Riot Games for League of Legends as a marketing term specifically because everybody referred to the genre as "DotA clones" and they didn't want their game always being compared to DotA.
- Minecraft can be argued to have spawned (or popularised) two types of genres, voxel-based sandbox games as well as Survival Sandbox games. While the concept of building blocks in a video game was not new by any stretch of the imagination note , Minecraft put it together in such a unique package that it was bound to attract imitators, such as FortressCraft, to games inspired by it, such as Terraria. However such a plethora of games with similar concepts but large twists are coming out now (Ace of Spades, GunCraft, Mythruna, etc), that it is far too many to count, and many of them are standing up on their own merits.
- The term Metroidvania is used to describe platformers that have a large continuous map, and the progress is governed by acquiring new abilities rather than through Event Flags. The term is now used as a genre, but was originally used to refer to the Castlevania games that used this formula, in the same sense that they'd be called Metroid clones, since Metroid did the formula first.
- The Platform Fighter genre started with Super Smash Bros., and early attempts to copy its success were merely just that, pale copies with no attempt to shake up the formula. Later, Play Station All Stars Battle Royale, while still unapologetically being a clone, at least shakes up the formula with a different life and super system, contributing to making itself distinct. Air Dash Online, while being the Trope Namer, brought focus to the genre's competitive viability after Melee's accidental success in the area, followed by Super Smash Bros. tributes Super Smash Flash 2 and Project M, and the genre is only continuing to grow with Rivals of Aether diversifying the formula further with implementing a parrying system and removing focus on grabs and recovery.
- Games in the same vein as Dear Esther were frequently compared to it, or described using the dismissive label "walking simulators." Eventually these games became varied and populated enough to be considered a genre in their own right, under the term Environmental Narrative Games.
- The "battle royale" genre of deathmatch/survival multiplayer games was pioneered by mods for DayZ and Minecraft (themselves influenced by the films and books Battle Royale and The Hunger Games), popularized by PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, and turned into a genre by Fortnite, which managed to defy the "PUBG clone" label (despite the protests of PUBG's developer) through its faster-paced gameplay, Lighter and Softer art design, and incorporation of shelter-building mechanics.
- Dark Souls and its predecessor Demon's Souls have given rise to a new form of Action RPG featuring low-execution high-stakes combat and an overall tough but fair sense of difficulty. This template has been taken and modified ranging from straight-up clones like Lords of the Fallen to more unique takes like The Surge and Nioh and even 2D versions like Salt and Sanctuary.
- Random Assault: First as a homage to Talk Radar, Random Assault then became it's own thing like PCN-Gen, KGB, GNA, and Pixel Heroes.
- Nowadays, concepts used in the Journal Roleplay are no longer seen as ripoffs of previous games.
- Sages of Chaos, initially a Kingdom Hearts-styled "dressing room" (essentially a way to test out playing characters), was the first "multiversal dressing room" game (meaning characters from all canons were welcome). Nowadays, these sorts of communities are the norm.
- Island RP was the first game to use the concept of the "closed world" RP game or "jamjar." Nowadays, "Jamjars" or even "spooky jamjars" are quite the norm.
- Drama Drama Duck was the first game to do the reverse and create a "nexus", where canons can all meet together without getting stuck in another universe. This one isn't used just as much.
- The Sky Tides was the first game to take an AU route with their characters. This one is just as used as "Jamjars".
- Dangan Roleplay was the first game to utilize the "murdergame" or the murder mystery RPG style in the same vein as Dangan Ronpa. This one is starting to gain in popularity.
- Rap Battles. First, there was Epic Rap Battles of History. Then, Epic Rap Battle Parodies. Then, Video Game Rap Battles, Harrypotter285, Epic Rap Battles of Cartoons, Princess Rap Battles, Infinite Source Rap Battles, Epic Crap Battles of History, ad nauseum.
- The Abridged Series. Started by Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series, now a genre unto itself with multiple variations.
- Virtual Youtuber personalities. Popularized by the self-styled "first virtual youtuber" Kizuna Ai, later got to the point that official 3D model developers and media companies started lending assistance to them to bring them up to the level of real life internet stars.