Rhythm games have always been popular due to their accessibility and easy-to-learn difficult-to-master mechanics. They’re all as varied as the music they feature, ranging from guitar and band simulators to games with overly simplistic rhythm mechanics (timed button presses and screen taps/swipes) combined with over-the-top stories and characters. Whether we’re working up a sweat busting a groove, or tapping away to create some solid tunes, these 10 Best Rhythm Video Games will always have a place in our collections.
One of a handful of functional (and fun) Kinect games, Dance Central 3 is a great example of simple mechanics with polished gameplay and a very dancy soundtrack to boot. The gameplay doesn’t reach Dance Dance Revolution levels of technicality and speed, and the soundtrack is familiar to anyone that has listened to a radio in the past two years, with plenty of classic dance tracks thrown in. Not only is it a fantastic party game, but a great demonstration of how good motion controls can make a game like Dance Central 3 more than just a cheap gimmick.
Theatrhythm Final Fantasy
A spinoff game in the Final Fantasy series, Theatrhythm feels like a cross between a traditional Final Fantasy game and Elite Beat Agents. The game has different character classes as well as stats and a level up system. There are stages with different sections to beat, consisting of battles, cutscenes, and overworld sections. Theatrhythm focuses mostly on the franchise’s iconic soundtrack for music, spanning almost all of the games in the series. All told, it combines the two best parts of rhythm games and Final Fantasy games in a unique and fun way, making this a very memorable experience.
This game is a cult classic of sorts, with high acclaim despite lackluster sales and popularity. Elite Beat Agents is centered around three special agents whose job it is to help people in dire situations by dancing to music and providing encouragement. The soundtrack for EBA is greatly varied and features tracks spanning multiple genres and decades, allowing players unfamiliar to older and more obscure appreciate different kinds of music. The gameplay consists of tapping numbered buttons on the DS touch screen to the rhythm of the music, which sounds easy but the difficulty ramps up greatly in later stages. It’s a fun way to get your fix on the go, too.
While Game Freak is mostly known for the Pokemon series, they have tried their hand other games and projects. HarmoKnight was one of those games. HarmoKnight combines sidescrolling action with rhythm mechanics much like Bit.Trip titles but with Game Freak’s signature art style and a much more whimsical and less techno-oriented musical offering. With branching pathways and even unlockable tracks from different Pokemon games, HarmoKnight offers a lot of replayability in a seemingly small package.
Dance Dance Revolution Supernova
Dance Dance Revolution is the go-to rhythm game for a lot of people. It combines casual gameplay mechanics with very high difficulty and more technical gameplay at later levels. The soundtrack to this game, and other DDR games is famous for having very fast paced and catchy pop songs from many different countries that lots of first timers won’t be familiar with. This games might the most physically involved on this list, since it requires fast paced foot movements, especially at higher difficulties, and some stages might even seem impossible, but the satisfaction of hitting all your marks at a high difficulty in DDR is unmatched.
While Guitar Hero might hold the title of popularizing the guitar game and peripheral, Rock Band took it to another level by including the rest of the band and fleshing out the gameplay with a full tour mode instead of just playing through a playlist of increasingly difficult rock and metal songs. Because all members of a traditional rock band are present, songs aren’t limited to just being guitar or bass heavy. Some songs are difficult to sing, or have very complex drum sections, giving everyone a chance to improve and shine. Rock Band 2 has a much more varied and overall better selection of music than the previous entry which is what secures its place on this list.
This game is a more bite-sized and disconnected game than the other games on this list. Similar to games like Warioware, Rhythm Heaven Fever is a collection of minigames but all set to music and simple rhythm mechanics such as screen taps or swipes. Rhythm Heaven Fever is a very colorful and fast paced game, which is perfect for players wanting a smaller and more compact experience. The minigames are all great and the music is simple and catchy enough that most games can be played repeatedly without growing tired of any of the songs.
PaRappa the Rapper 2 falls into the cult classic category more so than other games on this list. While some may remember the first PaRappa the Rapper game, even less know of the sequel. The plot follows PaRappa as he tries to find out why all of the food in the world in the world is being turned into noodles, which is terrible if you hate noodles. The gameplay is a Simon Says style system in which you listen to a character recite lyrics and repeat them with timed button presses. PaRappa’s great characters, art style, and comedic storyline are all what make this game as much of a classic as the original.
Bit.Trip Presents the Runner2
Bit.Trip Presents Runner2: Future Legend of the Rhythm Alien is a game that has as much charm as it does words in the title. This is very fast paced and action oriented sidescroller, with branching paths and even some boss battles thrown in for good measure. The music in Runner2 does a great job of setting the tone for each level and pushes you along just right, and every action you perform in the game changes the music slightly. This adds a bit of depth to the gameplay, since the songs in the game change along with how you play. Bit.Trip games provide a fun challenge that any rhythm fans or even sidescrolling fans should definitely try.
The Guitar Hero series is one of the most popular rhythm games ever, and Guitar Hero 2 is easily the strongest entry in the series. With a fantastic song list and gameplay that polishes and expands on what the original introduced, this game is truly one of the best purely musical rhythm games ever. The guitar peripheral has become iconic and synonymous with Guitar Hero games, despite being used in many other rhythm games. The pick up and play aspect of this genre is present here, but the scathing difficulty of the more technical tracks is in full force as well. This game is highly recommended to fans of rock and metal music, as well as the few people left on earth that haven’t played a Guitar Hero or Rock Band game.