There are a lot of video games out there and in this era of mobile and home-based gaming, the choices have never been greater. So how do you cut through the noise and find the “Best of” for any chosen topic?
Well, we’re here to help celebrate and shine a spotlight on some of the latest, greatest and unforgettable games through the years.
For our ongoing series of articles depicting the best video games, our attention this time turns to the best music games of all time. From wacky mini-games to simulated experiences, there’s a good choice to whet your appetite.
Of course, if we’ve missed any of your favorites, feel free to comment below and we’ll get them added on when we can!
Cadence of Hyrule
Cadence of Hyrule merges what fans loved about Crypt of the NecroDancer and The Legend of Zelda under one marvelous roof. With its invigorating rhythmic gameplay, beautiful 2D visuals, and energetic atmosphere, you can’t go wrong with this gem.
In this game, you follow Crypt of the NecroDancer’s protagonist Cadence who gets warped to Hyrule by the Triforce and wakes up alongside Link and Zelda. The two groups have differing goals. While Cadence seeks a way back home, Link and Zelda must travel across Hyrule to find and defeat Octavo’s four champions.
This game will have players move and attack at the beat of the music when the enemies are present on the screen. Each enemy harbors a different attack pattern to entice players to ponder their moves carefully. The music in Cadence of Hyrule features many classic Legend of Zelda tracks that’ll tug at fans’ nostalgia bones.
It may take some fans time to master the controls. The title offers a grave challenge because of its controls. If you can spend time learning the game’s formula, you’ll enjoy what Cadence of Hyrule delivers.
Rhythm Heaven (Series)
This is one of Nintendo’s underrated series. This game offers incredible rhythmic gameplay, soothing and energetic music, and quirky characters worth your time. It’s a mini-game bonanza with a lot of love and passion put into each release and will keep you engaged.
There isn’t really a protagonist you follow in these games. The mini-games vary in theme but lean into musical beats and rhythm. For example, one game will have you cutting down logs while another has you interviewing a masked wrestler. Each game requires you to carefully press buttons at certain intervals to score points.
While its gameplay loop is repetitive, many will enjoy playing through the title’s different scenarios. If you’re looking for a fun mini-game compilation game with a focus on rhythm and music, I’d check out the Rhythm Heaven series.
Dance Dance Revolution (Series)
Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) revolutionized the rhythm and music video game genre. Its developers at Konami invented a gameplay formula that’s addictive, competitive, and casual enough to get anyone to hop on a dance pad and strut their stuff.
Each entry in the DDR series includes iconic and niche tracks from well-known to obscure bands and musicians. Some games offer a music video backdrop for those songs which is a neat touch. For those unaware, you’ll control the game via a dance pad.
Once you select a song, you’ll be taken to a screen featuring four arrows pointing up, down, left, and right. Arrows appear below the screen and work their way to the top. You must tap the arrows on your dance pad as soon as the ones on the screen connect with the static arrows.
It’s a fun gameplay loop that never gets tiresome or dull. Fans will enjoy playing this title with their friends or relatives. It’s also a great way to get your exercise in for those that don’t want to visit a public gymnasium. If you ever stumble upon a DDR machine at a bar or have an old gaming system lying around that supports DDR, I’d recommend seeking this gem out.
Guitar Hero (Series)
Considering DDR’s popularity, it made sense for more studios to create music-themed games. Enter Guitar Hero, a brilliant music-themed game brought to you by Activision. This game is jam-packed with many rock n’ roll-themed soundtracks and came equipped with a plastic guitar peripheral.
This peripheral served as your controller and is how you’d interact with the game. The guitar controller has five-different colored fret buttons, and a strum and whammy bar. Essentially, you’d select a song that you adore from its list and will be taken to a scenario where a band performs for a crowd. You must match the notes that scroll down the screen via a fretboard.
To hit the notes, you must hold down the corresponding colored note and toggle the strum bar at the same time. This game features a variety of notes where you’ll be asked to press and hold occasionally. You can perform some neat tricks by tampering with the controller’s whammy bar too. In the end, you’ll be greeted with a screen highlighting your achievements and missed opportunities.
This is a great rhythm game that got many people into playing instruments. It delivers a satisfying gameplay loop and spawned numerous follow-ups. Like DDR, if you have an old console lying around that supports Guitar Hero like a PlayStation 2 or Xbox 360, I’d look around your area for a copy of Guitar Hero.
PaRappa The Rapper
PaRappa The Rapper is one of PlayStation’s obscure but well-beloved mascots. Not only does it have likable characters but many adored the game’s paper-like aesthetic. There’s a good reason why many want PlayStation to create a follow-up to 2001’s PaRappa The Rapper 2.
In PaRappa The Rapper, players control the anthropomorphic dog PaRappa who must overcome his obstacles by rapping. Playing the game involves forcing PaRappa to rap in response to his teacher’s song by pressing buttons that correspond to his teacher’s lines.
Like DDR and Guitar Hero, players attain several ranks based on their performance. This game’s rankings vary from Awful to Cool, which matches the world’s 90’s hip-hop aesthetic. You must maintain a Good ranking or higher to clear the game’s stages. Don’t worry about failing, though.
PaRappa The Rapper gives you opportunities to replay levels if they fall below that ranking. This is one of those games that offers some challenges but feels rewarding to complete. If you’re curious to see what other gems PlayStation cooked up during the late 90s and early 2000s gaming era, check out PaRappa the Rapper.
Elite Beat Agents
DDR and PaRappa The Rapper’s influence in the music-gaming genre is not to be taken lightly. Without them, fans wouldn’t have gotten to experience obscure Nintendo games like Elite Beat Agents. This is another rhythm action game where you’ll utilize the Nintendo DS’s stylus to tap different beat pads on the console’s bottom screen.
This game’s storyline is as nonsensical and charming as the game’s cover art. It follows a group of agents who rescue people in trouble by dancing. Each scenario feels different but reaches a similar conclusion. The story’s told via an anime and manga mixed format. This adds to the game’s comedic nature and makes for some worthwhile entertainment.
The songs in this game are game-like interpretations of classic music from our world. For example, this game features music like Steriogram’s Walkie Talkie Man and ABC from the Jackson Five. In some respects, this game feels like a love letter to the stellar artists and musicians of the past and present. This game’s developers at iNiS pushed the boundaries of the Nintendo DS and crafted a timeless product.
If you have a Nintendo 3DS or DS system in your household, I recommend picking this game up.
Sayonara Wild Hearts
Even if you die multiple times, the game never wants you to feel like a failure. For instance, the game rewinds you a few seconds later. This helps Sayonara Wild Hearts retain its replay value. Clearing the game’s gold rank can serve as another enticing aspect for those wanting a challenge. If you’re searching for a game that mixes rail shooters with music, then check out Sayonara Wild Hearts.
With how popular Guitar Hero was getting at the time of its release, it made sense for another company to push out a similar product. This is where EA’s Rock Band entered the fray. This game features licensed music, fun game modes, and neat peripherals for people to use.
Besides guitar playing, Rock Band wanted players to feel like phenomenal vocalists, drummers, and keyboardists. Like Guitar Hero, players were required to pull off well-timed button presses that correlate with their screen’s notes.
The notes would scroll down a panel like Guitar Hero and have colored indicators informing you of which button to press. Rock Band included bonus notes where players could earn extra points and a ranking system that highlighted their achievements and failures. This game emphasizes teamwork more than Guitar Hero.
Rock Band became popular enough to warrant special collaborations with famed bands. Unfortunately, a new Rock Band title hasn’t seen the light of day. However, if you’re someone who still has an old PlayStation, Xbox, and Wii system in your household, I’d scout your neighborhood or online for a copy of Rock Band.
Beat Saber aimed to fill in the void left in Rock Band and Guitar Hero fans’ hearts. This game introduces a modernized take on both series and can be played in VR. This game boasts wonderful replay value, smooth controls, and energetic gameplay that’ll make you sweat consistently.
In some respect, the game’s a lot like Fruit Ninja. Instead of slashing fruits, you’ll be slashing your way through music notes that come flying at your screens. This game encourages fitness and can be a great way for people to lose weight.
For those worried, the game offers different difficulty options that’ll make it feel less taxing on your body. Since 2018, this game’s formed a kind-hearted community of gamers who enjoy adding more things to the title via mods and updates.
If you’ve been clamoring for a game with a decent mix of rhythmic and party gameplay, check out Beat Saber.
Thumper is an easy-to-learn but difficult-to-master rhythm game. It’ll improve your reflexes but leave you in various fuming states. Unlike most rhythm games, Thumper is a tricky devil that will be playing against the player and lead them astray on purpose.
While the title offers some in-game prompts to lead players down a path, it only does so occasionally. Mostly, the game wants to challenge the player’s rhythmic ability and expectations by throwing them off course. In this game, players control a metallic beetle-like monster who must propel themselves forward on a rail.
You’ll be surrounded by psychedelic visuals and lit squares you must destroy. The game includes more obstacles for you to overcome and new moves for you to perform. Timing attacks and moving across the rails feels invigorating in this game’s different levels.
So, there we have it, our pick for the best music-themed video games through the years!
What do you think of our picks? Do you agree? Are there any notable omissions? Let us know in the comments below!