What Are the Four Types of Games in Game Theory?


Diego Sanchez

Game theory is a field of study that deals with strategic decision-making. It is used in various fields, including economics, political science, and psychology, to understand how individuals and groups make decisions in different situations.

In game theory, there are four types of games: simultaneous games, sequential games, zero-sum games, and non-zero-sum games. Each type of game has its unique characteristics that influence the strategies that players use and the outcomes that result.

Simultaneous Games:
In simultaneous games, players make their decisions at the same time without knowing what their opponents will do. This type of game is common in situations where two or more parties have to make a choice simultaneously. An example of a simultaneous game is the prisoner’s dilemma.

Prisoner’s Dilemma:
The prisoner’s dilemma is a classic example of a simultaneous game. In this scenario, two suspects are arrested for a crime but are held separately with no means of communication.

The prosecutor offers each suspect a deal: if one confesses to the crime and implicates the other suspect, they will receive a reduced sentence while the other suspect will receive a harsher sentence. If both suspects remain silent, they will each receive a moderate sentence.

This game illustrates how rational individuals may not cooperate even when it’s in their best interest to do so.

Sequential Games:
In sequential games, players make decisions one after another while taking into account their opponents’ past moves. This type of game is common in situations where two or more parties interact repeatedly over time. An example of a sequential game is chess.


In chess, each player moves one piece at a time until one player captures the other’s king. Players must anticipate their opponent’s moves while also planning their own strategies.

Zero-Sum Games:
In zero-sum games, the gains of one player are offset by the losses of another player. This type of game is common in situations where the total gains are fixed, and one player’s gain is another player’s loss. An example of a zero-sum game is poker.


In poker, players bet on their hands, and the winner takes all. The total amount of money on the table remains constant, and any winnings by one player come at the expense of others.

Non-Zero-Sum Games:
In non-zero-sum games, players can both benefit or both lose from their decisions. This type of game is common in situations where players can cooperate to achieve a mutually desirable outcome. An example of a non-zero-sum game is international trade.

International Trade:

In international trade, countries can benefit from trading with each other by specializing in producing goods that they have a comparative advantage in. Both countries can benefit from increased efficiency and lower costs.

In conclusion, understanding the different types of games in game theory is crucial for analyzing strategic decision-making and predicting outcomes. Each type of game has unique characteristics that influence how players make choices and interact with each other. By understanding these characteristics, individuals can make better decisions in various fields like economics, political science, and psychology.