There's something endlessly appealing about tapping buttons or busting out dance moves to a catchy song or phat beat. Throughout the years and decades, various games have taken advantage of this very primal desire to move that body and feel the rhythm. This is part of the reason why this genre of video games has such a wide appeal. People from all walks of life - even those who may have never picked up a controller - have found themselves rocking a plastic guitar or hopping around a dance pad.
Despite the rhythm, dance, and music craze somewhat fizzling out lately, thanks to the decline of megahits Guitar Hero and DDR, this genre will always endure with their intuitive, addictive gameplay. Even with the lull in these types of games, there are a plethora of music titles to choose from.
So let's hit tap our feet and hit that dance floor as we break down the top 10 rhythm and dance games ever made.
10 Donkey Konga
Rhythm and dance games are known for their weird accessories, which help to augment the experience and act as a tool to help break it down. But unlike a typical dance pad or plastic guitar, Nintendo managed to push boundaries with its pair of plastic bongo drums. While there were a couple other obscure games that used this peripheral - even a Donkey Kong platformer - the Donkey Konga games were the main focus, and it worked marvelously.
The game managed to simplify the idea of the rhythm game by boiling down the inputs to only a handful of commands - hit the left, right, or both bongos to the rhythmic cues, and throw in a clap every now and then. The premise is basic but delightfully appealing, and the setlist offers a diverse lineup of enjoyable tunes. These range from various kids songs to Nintendo hits like the Pokémon Theme to Blink 182.
9 Parappa The Rapper
Younger gamers might only recognize this quirky Playstation game from a cheeky Robot Chicken spoof. Yet, back in the '90s, this was one of the go-to rhythm-based hits for those who didn't want to work up a sweat in DDR.
The game contains some cute cell-shaded graphics and a simple, but engaging narrative about a dog who wants to become a rapper - because why not? During the rapping romps, the player will train with "Master Onion" and face off against a diverse array of opponents which include a chicken man. One may find it tough to hold back a smile as they rap their way through a number of crazy scenarios and rattle off cheesy lines. Though the actual mechanics boil down to hitting the right buttons at the right time, the presentation is uniquely enjoyable and the gameplay is appealing.
8 Just Dance 2014
Whether one is waggling with the Wii remote, or dancing with the Kinect's full-body motion sensor, the Just Dance series by Ubisoft has proven a fun way to get fit and get dancing. Considering the series has become the gaming equivalent of "Now That's What I Call Music," cranking out release after release, it's tough to pinpoint the best one. At the end of the day, though, this 2014 iteration is probably the series at its peak.
The game features a super robust setlist which is arguably the best in the series, along with new crazily awesome backgrounds, improved controls, fun new modes, and plenty of unlockables. Oh, and it actually contains the famous song by Lady Gaga which shares the name of the franchise.
7 Elite Beat Agents
The DS would seem to be an ideal machine for creative rhythm-based games, given its unique ability to recognize touch input all over its screen. iNiS' Elite Beat Agents was certainly on a mission to prove this to be the case, and they've succeeded.
The game contains a laughably goofy premise, even by the standards of rhythm games, in which one must bust out dance moves to appease a trio of agents who appear to come straight out of Men in Black. The player is prompted with a variety of inputs to tap, slide, and hold down with the stylus, which is decorated with some amusing cutscenes in the background. The versatility of the touch screen adds an interesting dynamic that allows the game to break the shackles of the more straightforward rhythm games.
6 Space Channel 5
One of the few notable rhythm titles for Sega's short-lived Dreamcast, Space Channel 5 makes a name for itself with its zany premise and unique sci-fi set designs. The player will take the role of a slender, sparsely dressed reporter named Ulala. The mission? Dance the way to victory against an invading force of aliens who have forced Ulala and her fellow humans to dance the night away.
The game mixes rhythmic directional movements with button pushes, which must be hit in a sequence rattled off by the aliens. This trigger's Ulala's zapper to shoot (or "chu," as the aliens cutely chirp) at these little guys each time the player taps a button. Despite - or perhaps partly because of the bizarre presentation - Space Channel 5 proves a fun little rhythmic romp.
5 Cadence Of Hyrule: Crypt Of The DecroDancer Featuring The Legend Of Zelda
Who would have thought an indie rhythmic-action hybrid based on The Legend of Zelda would end up being one of the most notable music games? This odd musical adventure blends the concept of Brace Yourself Games' Crypt of the NecroDancer with Zelda themes and sensibilities. Cadence Of Hyrule contains the enriching atmosphere of Hyrule, which is further enhanced by some ear-candy remixes from gems like Ocarina Of Time.
The rhythmic-based gameplay - which translates to Link trekking along, slashing baddies and nabbing rupees - is simple, intuitive, and satisfying. Cadence melds action, time-based movement, and a tinge of tactical gameplay, making for a uniquely memorable adventure.
4 Rhythm Heaven Fever
Though games like Gitaroo Man and Just Dance interweave complexity with accessibility, Nintendo's Rhythm Heaven Fever reminds us that simplicity is often part of the draw of this genre. This charmingly cute and goofy rhythm game puts the player in a number of random rapid-fire scenarios that force them to peck the A and or B buttons on their Wii Remote to the varying rhythms.
The game lives up to its title - as gunning for perfect scores becomes feverishly addictive and intense once the player gets into the swing of things. This sequel to the breakout DS hit takes things up a notch, with a more robust, more inventive lineup of scenarios. There are even competitive and co-op multiplayer missions, which include having to work in harmony with a friend as one navigates a rowboat through treacherous waters.
The PC and Steam service don't get a ton of love when it comes to rhythm games, partly thanks to the accessories and multiplayer focus that lends itself to home consoles. Yet, Audiosurf shows that awesome rhythm-based games can and do exist for the computer as well.
The rhythmic elements of the game are fairly straightforward, yet appealing with the array of color-coordinated blocks flung at the player. The mechanics feel like a satisfying blend of Guitar Hero and F-Zero. Audiosurf's strengths lie mainly in the hypnotically trippy visuals, as well as the cool ability to insert their own songs into the game which have their own leaderboards. This essentially makes for an unlimited setlist that one can tailor to their own musical tastes.
2 Guitar Hero III: Legends Of Rock
While it's largely gone the way of the Tony Hawk series in terms of its decline in popularity, there was a time when the Guitar Hero series was synonymous with music-based games. And there was a good reason for this, as the games - with their fun and intuitive plastic guitar peripherals - made for endlessly enjoyable multiplayer escapades.
While Guitar Hero II is largely pointed to as the series' peak, the breadth and strength of the tracklist in this 3rd game puts it over the top. Not only is the diversity of material better than ever, but most of the tracks are the real renditions rather than disappointing covers like 1 and 2 had. Even the campaign mode is more fleshed-out, with unique scenarios and even boss face-offs. The fact that one must battle the devil himself whilst playing a hard rock version of "The Devil Went Down To Georgia" alone makes this GHIII memorable.
1 Dance Dance Revolution
As far as iconic rhythm and dance titles go, the famed Dance Dance Revolution is usually the game that most comes to mind. This has become a sort of timeless activity to engage in when visiting the local arcade - and for good reason. Its exciting and interactive nature makes it more of an experience than a mere game.
While Konami has cranked out a number of renditions over the years - which even included a Mario version - the original arcade and PS1 hits were never truly matched. The adrenaline-pumping J-Pop tracks are bangin', the controls are solid, and the multiplayer features make for a great time.