The 30 Best Rhythm Games
The main task of any game is to teach something new to a person in an easy, entertaining way. Video games put entertainment at the forefront and rarely teach anything new. Against this background, only music video games stand out, whose concept in many ways requires an understanding of music and implies learning new skills.
Music video games remain a rarity despite the active development of the gaming industry: games in which musical skills are the main part of the gameplay are seldom released, and most of them appeared only in the 2000s. In many ways, the appearance of such games is associated with the development of technologies, the level of which is often not enough to create something interesting (although the inability of developers to come up with something interesting also plays an important role).
However, players’ interest in music video games remains consistently high. People are not averse to combining business with pleasure and learning something new in an accessible way.
Here I will show you the most famous rhythm games on PC or Playstation. In this list, there will be not only new music games but also good old atmospheric ones.
1. AUDIOSURF (1 and 2)
A fascinating rhythm arcade game in which the player has a kind of supercar and a track that needs to be driven, gaining the maximum number of points. It would seem that everything is simple. But! The trick is that the tracks are created based on the music imported by the player. Thus, you take your favorite track, add it to the game, and voila ‒ you have a track with a unique geometry based on the analysis of the music file. The shape of the track, its height, and saturation with objects reflect the dynamics of the melody.
The originality of the gameplay, in contrast to the classic races, also lies in the fact that in the process of passing the track, the player needs to collect colored blocks that fall into the so-called “glass”. Three or more identical blocks, adjoining by the sides, are destroyed, and the presence of the entire column nullifies it and takes 1/10 game points. The second part slightly changed the gameplay, but the essence of the game has not changed much. The game supports local co-op, so you can compete in perfect trails with a friend.
2. BEAT SABER
Rhythm game for VR with an impressive 98% positive rating on Steam. The gameplay of Beat Saber is utterly banal ‒ lightsabers appear in the player’s hands, with which he must break the blocks flying at him to the beat of the music. But for all its primitiveness, the action drags on in earnest: the rhythm captures from the first second, the destruction of blocks is accompanied by vivid special effects, and the track library can be replenished with songs from your library.
3. JUST DANCE 2017
A dance game that contains over 40 hot hits from popular artists. You won’t be able to play it while sitting at the computer: you have to get up, pick up your smartphone, and dance, repeating the movements of the characters on the screen. If you wish, you can also sing along to the songs ‒ whether you know the words, of course. Up to six players can participate in the dance battle on one computer, and competitions with dancers from different countries are available in multiplayer. On PC, you can download only one game in the series, Just Dance 2017, for the rest you will have to purchase a console.
A musical MMO is a game in which players look for friends, communicate, and compete with each other in dance duels accompanied by fiery music. Here you can buy and equip your own house and layout a blooming garden nearby. Nice graphics and advanced character customization are a bonus.
5. GUITAR HERO SERIES
The first Guitar Hero was released in 2005 on the PlayStation 2. The game quickly gained success among players and musicians and turned into a full-fledged franchise. Today, the Guitar Hero series has 19 games across multiple platforms. Guitar Hero became such a popular phenomenon that annual tournaments with cash prizes were held on it, and one of the South Park series was even dedicated to the game itself (the joke about playing Guitar Hero in acoustics is one of the best in the series).
Musical games of the Guitar Hero series are an opportunity to feel like a guitarist in a rock band and perform all the world’s rock hits. The 4-button guitar controller comes in a variety of shapes that mimic the look of popular guitars. Realizing that this is a gold mine, publishers and developers began to release additional controllers in the form of a microphone and a drum kit, and in the game it became possible, together with friends, to create a full-fledged group, where everyone plays the part of a certain instrument.
In 2009, the series decided to expand its audience with the release of the DJ Hero spin-off, which focused on electronic music and replaced the guitar controller with a turntable controller.
6. ROCKSMITH SERIES
Rocksmith builds on Ubisoft’s unreleased Guitar Rising project and is the first of its kind. While other music video games suggested using fancy controllers, Ubisoft suggested that players connect a real guitar to the console via a special cable (plugged into a computer, it is defined as an external sound card ‒ you can record!).
The developers themselves positioned Rocksmith as a guitar learning tool that will teach beginners to play from scratch, and allow experienced guitarists to improve their skills (or just have fun). In addition to the compositions, the game offered a lot of useful information: lessons on playing the instrument, an explanation of playing and sound production techniques, stories about guitar equipment. Players could create their pedalboard from various effects and wind up the desired guitar sound.
Over time, the original game was expanded, allowing the songs from the tracklist to be played on bass. In 2014, in the wake of the popularity of Rocksmith, Ubisoft issued a re-release of Rocksmith 2014 with several technical improvements and additions, however, the most visual display of notes and what needs to be played was never fixed. Now nothing is known about the future of the series.
A shoot’em’up the project in which you will fight your way through your music collection, captured by a mysterious evil entity. You have a ship hung with cannons at your disposal, and you need to destroy enemies and bosses, collect upgrades and pump weapons to defeat the invaders. At the same time, the choice of musical style will affect the difficulty of the battle.
8. Rock Band Series
Harmonix Music Systems, which previously worked on the popular Guitar Hero, moved under the wing of Electronic Arts and MTV in the mid-2000s and created a clone of Guitar Hero in the face of Rock Band. The principles of the game are the same: a guitar controller, a neck on the screen, illuminated rectangles, a set of points, and many rock hits. To date, there are over 2000 tracks in the game database (available in all parts).
Besides, the developers have made some changes in comparison with Rock Band. For example, in addition to controllers in the form of a guitar, microphone, and drums, Rock Band 3 can connect real synthesizers and guitars to the console through a special adapter.
In 2009, the series received an offshoot of the Lego Rock Band, where all the musicians were replaced with Lego figures. The gameplay has not undergone any changes.
9. CRYPT OF THE NECRODANCER
An original indie project that combines elements of the roguelike genre and a musical rhythm game. The player moves through random dungeons and fights opponents, and the better he falls into the rhythm of the music, the more efficiently the actions are performed. Opponents also act to the rhythm of the music, as a result of which the player simply does not have time to think, because delay promises a loss of movement.
There is no pumping as such, but the game boasts an advanced inventory system. In particular, the hero can be equipped with many different things, each of which has its characteristics. There are also a lot of weapons, the different operational principles. The music deserves a special mention, which is simply gorgeous!
A kind of musical survival horror in which the player, as a space bug, has to overcome various rhythm-based levels and slay a devilish evil head from the future. Race along a long track, demolishing obstacles, master new techniques, and fight bosses ‒ all along with a stunning and incredibly powerful soundtrack!
The advantages of the game include the support of Virtual Reality and the Steam Controller, however, everything goes well without these devices, and no worse than with them. In general, you will find a dark visual design, a tense rhythm section, devilishly good music, and addictive gameplay without a trace. The best thing that happened in the world of music games since Audiosurf!
A music game that is a casual DJ simulator designed for virtual reality glasses (you can play without them). The player’s task is to mix various music compositions and arrange the coolest virtual DJ party.
The game has good animation, excellent special effects, and a large selection of different instruments that allow you to change tracks, adding various sound effects, etc. The interface is intuitive, and for the convenience of beginners, there is a little training, which, however, does not reveal the full potential of the offered instruments.
A psychedelic arcade race in which a creature rushes down an audiovisual tube to mesmerizing music. The game will amaze you with a riot of colors, the dance of geometric shapes, and billions of bright flashes, as well as the dynamism of melodies that set the rhythm of the race. But at the same time, not everyone will like Dyad’s flashy visual style, so before buying it is worth familiarizing with the gameplay videos in detail.
An arcade musical fighting game in which your character is in the center of a kind of arena and numerous enemies attack him. The main task is extremely simple ‒ to fight off adversaries to the beat of the sounding music. The soundtrack here is beyond praise ‒ the game contains the best tracks of the best performers in various genres. There is also the ability to import your audio recordings.
The gameplay here is simple and intuitive. It is best to play with a gamepad, however, you will not have any problems with the passage on the keyboard. The developers were not too lazy and screwed some kind of plot, which, of course, is not stellar, but it significantly diversifies the gameplay. You do not just poke buttons to the beat of the music, but also watch the story of the difficult everyday life of the monastery ministers of the music saviors.
A very original game that visualizes music and creates a variety of game levels based on the tracks or compositions on the player’s computer. You have two colored shields in your hands, with which you should hit the balls of the corresponding colors flying at you. The task is extremely simple ‒ while the track is playing, prevent the colored balls from touching the floor of a kind of musical arena, blocking them with your shields.
The main feature of this game is that it is tailored for Virtual Reality, i.e. all the “buzz” you get with HTC Vive or Oculus Rift headset. However, on the monitor, this product is very playable and interesting, and will certainly entice you for several evenings. On Hard difficulty and above, the game can make you sweat!
A colorful rhythm puzzle in which you need to press buttons on time, collect points, and color levels. Moreover, there are both prepared locations and custom ones. Quite unusual, even a little strange, but at the same time addicting game.
16. AVICII INVECTOR
A musical game in the spirit of Audiosurf, dedicated to the work of DJ Tim Bergling, better known under the pseudonym AVICII. During his lifetime, the musician participated in the development of the game, and part of the proceeds from its sales are transferred to a fund created to combat mental illnesses. Players wait for 25 hit tracks that they have to overcome on three levels of difficulty.
17. MUSE DASH
A fun anime-themed rhythm game in which cute chan fight enemies with perky j-pop. Several difficulty modes, vivid pictures, and rhythmic gameplay will surely appeal to fans of the genre, but it is worth considering that the basic set of tracks significantly loses to the variety of songs from the expensive DLC.
18. DOUBLE KICK HEROES
If Muse Dash is dedicated to Japanese pop music, then with Double Kick Heroes the situation is reversed ‒ here you will find powerful guitar riffs, adrenaline races, and crazy battles with zombies. To successfully fight off monsters, you need to get into the rhythm of the music, and each next race will help you improve your skills.
19. SAYONARA WILD HEARTS
A charming musical arcade game about love and broken hearts in which you will drive a motorcycle, shoot lasers, swing a sword, and try not to lose your head in the crazy rhythm of synth-wave. One thing is missing in this breathtaking piece of art ‒ the ability to add your tracks.
20. MUSIC RACER
A racing game in neon retro 80s style where tracks are built around your music. There are no trials in front of you, except for easily bendable obstacles, so all that remains for you is to enjoy your favorite music and stunning landscapes that open up during the racing.
21. JUST SHAPES & BEATS
A music game with bullet hell elements, executed in a minimalist style and built on rhythm. You control a cube that needs to go through various levels, performing all this to the rhythm of the music that is playing at the moment.
The passage of the levels is as follows ‒ various geometric objects are flying at you, and you, following the rhythm, need to make smooth and sharp movements, dodging attacks. From time to time, there are mini-bosses at the levels that require a special strategy. Here, the death does not throw the player into the menu but is a kind of rewind for a small segment back.
In 2008, the music game Lips was released on the Xbox 360, invented by the Japanese Keichi Yano. The game is an ordinary karaoke with some differences: for example, you can sing any songs from your music collection on the Xbox hard drive, as well as involve friends in the game as musicians.
The game required a special controller-microphone that responds not only to the voice but also to the player’s movements. You can play music in Lips together with friends, who use the usual joysticks of the console to play various musical instruments and create accompaniment.
Japanese music-rhythmic game in anime style. The gameplay component is quite simple, the player has to keep the cursor behind the ball jumping on the game elements. Notes ‒ the circles that you need to press, Sliders ‒ Swipe the ball over a certain area, Spinners ‒ Rotate the spinner as quickly as you can to get as many points as possible. The difficulty lies in the fact that the ball will not wait for you, and for each missing element, the life bar will tend to zero.
But don’t worry, the game offers a huge variety of maps of varying difficulty, the number of which is replenished every minute. A map editor is built into the game, so it can be the hardest rhythm game. There is a multiplayer game where you can compete in speed and reaction with your friends.
24. BEAT HAZARD
A fascinating two-dimensional rhythm indie game, which gameplay is somewhat reminiscent of the infamous arcade Asteroids, but more with its own unique “chips” and modified gameplay. The gameplay directly depends on the music imported by the player ‒ the louder and more intense it is, the harder your weapon will shoot, but there will be many more enemies (as well as colorful special effects).
Under the control of the player comes a small starship with a top view, which resists various asteroids and other space debris that disintegrate from shots into smaller debris. There are also spaceships and bosses in the enemy camp. The spaceship always moves to face the mouse cursor and shoots at the enemies there. Besides, to enhance turrets with music, the player can pick up bonuses to strength and volume, and also enter a special battle mode “Beat Hazard”.
25. COSMIC DJ
An exciting rhythm arcade game ‒ a kind of casual space DJ simulator, in which we are given a choice of one of several musical instruments with four different variations. By alternating sounds, the player creates his unique melody, which can later be saved and listened again.
The animation in the game is pleasant to the eye, and there is a fair amount of humor. There are many sounds for your tracks, while tracks can be saved in MP3 format. Talking about the minuses, it is worth noting the short duration of the game ‒ 5 levels are enough for just a couple of hours. All creative and musical personalities must be familiarized!
A dynamic and fairly hardcore musical arcade game in which the task, at first glance, seems extremely simple ‒ listen to the sounding music and hit all the notes. But! It turns out that the game requires you to have an outrageous reaction and hearing, and even passing level 1 ideally is quite problematic (for this you have to almost learn every note of the composition). A mistake in this rhythm game is not forgiven!
Of the project’s features, it is also worth noting the ability to create your levels or import them from the Steam workshop. The game also includes multiplayer, the ability to customize the game with rare items, achievements, as well as leaderboards with the best players!
A dynamic musical rhythm arcade game in a minimalist style, in which the player will have to destroy the villains that have the same color as the background of the levels to a musical rhythm. You are a square with other squares running from four sides. The task is to destroy them without touching those who differ in color from the background of the level. At the same time, the background colors are constantly changing, which means you never know in advance who will be in front of you ‒ an ally or a villain! Despite the extreme minimalism of the game, there are various events in it, for example, a split or a blind spot.
In general, the game is not for everybody. It is complex, it is minimalistic, it will certainly appeal to those with a good reaction and strong nerves, but everyone else can test their strength in it. Can you last 64 seconds?
28. MUSIC WARS
A browser-based role-playing game in which players, as fans of different musical styles, fight with adherents of other musical tastes to prove that this is exactly their direction. Nice hand-drawn graphics and good humor, ridiculing various subcultures, are present.
There are 4 groups available to players: Rockers, Urbanists, Clubs, and Karaoke fans. Each group has its characteristics. Players travel through the districts, complete quests, upgrade their characters, and fight their opponents in various skirmishes, including arena tournaments. Districts constantly come under the control of one group or another, which entails even more frequent and violent clashes.
29. GROOVE COASTER
A musical rhythm game in which you have to press certain keys to the rhythm of the sounding music. The project has pixelated minimalistic graphics with many neon effects that appear in time to the music. The game features 36 original tracks in various musical genres (from pop to rock).
The gameplay looks like this ‒ we have a bright point that flies in space along a given trajectory. On this trajectory, other points indicate the pressing of one or another key. All the action takes place to certain music and the most important thing here is to adjust to its rhythm. The game has two modes ‒ one-handed and two-handed. The second mode is significantly more difficult. The visual component of the levels can be customized.
30. MTV MUSIC GENERATOR SERIES
In 1999, under the auspices of MTV, an interesting project MTV Music Generator, also known as Music 2000, was released on PlayStation One. The game is a kind of DAW with a Piano Roll, a database of 1500 loops, and 3000 sound effects, as well as the ability to digitize samples from CDs … The whole gameplay is no different from working in a DAW ‒ we create a project, add loops and samples, and get a finished track.
Later, the developers released an updated version of the game for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox, which offered improved sound quality and extended DAW functionality. The game also added licensed compositions that could be used in your projects. Unfortunately, no such music video games were released for consoles after that.