CoinGecko has identified the top eight crypto narratives that generated the highest returns in Q1 2024, led by memecoins, real-world assets (RWA), and artificial intelligence (AI).

Between Jan. 1 and Mar. 31, memecoins as a category of cryptocurrencies that are primarily based on jokes saw 1,312.6% returns on average across the top 10 memecoins by market cap, making it the most profitable crypto narrative. BRETT, a memecoin on layer 2 blockchain network Base, returned 7,727.6% in the quarter, followed by Solana-based token, dogwifhat (WIF), which gained 2,721.2%.

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“Notably, the memecoin narrative was 4.6 times more profitable than the next best performing crypto narrative of RWA, and 33.3 times more profitable than the Layer 2 narrative,” which sits at 8th place, according to the author of CoinGecko’s study, Lim Yu Qian.

A chart showing the average price returns of the top 10 tokens in each crypto narrative. (CoinGecko Research)
A chart showing the average price returns of the top 10 tokens in each crypto narrative. (CoinGecko Research)

RWA, as a narrative based on representing physical assets on a blockchain network, took second place generating a 285.6% return in Q1 of 2024, while artificial intelligence placed third with a 222% return. The top performers in the AI narrative were AIOZ Network (AIOZ) and (FET), according to CoinGecko.

DeFi, a sub-ecosystem of the crypto space where people can access financial services without traditional intermediaries, “achieved moderate returns of 98.9%,” led by Uniswap (UNI), Ribbon Finance (RBN), Jupiter (JUP), Maker (MKR), and The Graph (GRT). 

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Following DeFi’s fourth place ranking ws decentralized physical infrastructure, or DePIN. Despite being in the red for the first half of Q1, the DePIN narrative, marked by the use of crypto-incentives to develop physical, technological infrastructure, finished Q1 with an 81% return. Top performers in the DePIN category were Arweave (AR), with a gain of 292.5%, followed by Livepeer (LPT) at 133.7% and Theta Network (THETA) at 124.5%. 

Read more: What Are DePINs in Crypto? A Beginner’s Guide

The L1 narrative, which includes Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH), Solana (SOL), and Toncoin (TON), among others, recorded a return of 70% in the first three months of 2024, the sixth most profitable crypto narrative. In seventh and eighth place, respectively, were financial gaming (GameFi), generating a 64.6% return and the L2 narrative, which saw a 39.5% gain.

The top GameFi performers were Echelon Prime (PRIME) at 124.0%, Gala (GALA) at 123.0%, and Ronin (RON) at 112.3%, while the top L2 tokens were Stacks (STX) and Mantle (MNT) with returns of 142.5% and 95.8% in the quarter, respectively.