In a video game with Musical Gameplay, the sound effects are
the music. Or at least contribute to the music.
In games with a Variable Mix
, the background music subtly alters in response to certain events. This can perhaps be considered the ultimate conclusion of that philosophy—every event, from hitting an enemy to taking damage, produces not a sharp bleep or a hiss of static
, but a clear musical note, chord or flourish. As the game is played, a rich tapestry of music is created, unique to this particular game session.
But, Musical Gameplay doesn't occur in what is an otherwise silent void. Usually, there is a simple backbeat playing as a conventional background track, to provide a rhythm and context to the musical sounds.
Compare Mickey Mousing
, which is a similar idea applied to non-interactive media. See also Variable Mix
, in which the sound effects are normal but the background music smoothly changes with the action.
- Dig Dug is quite literal about this as the music only plays as the character moves.
- Taz-Mania for the Genesis varies the amount of instrumentation in the music depending on what is happening on-screen. If Taz is standing still, it will be sparse, but moving adds more percussion.
- Done in Chibi-Robo, as all of Chibi-Robo's motions are punctuated by different musical sounds, including walking, scrubbing floors, and shooting a blaster. An interesting note on the walking: the sounds change depending on what surface the little guy is walking on.
- In King's Quest VI, when Alexander climbs a cliff, each step is punctuated by two notes with an overall rising pitch, and when he momentarily loses his balance, a teetering little melody plays.
- Proteus has you walking on an island where the entire environment, including plants and animals, reacts to your movements musically. In fact, it is the only way you can interact with your environment: the only actions your avatar can perform are walking and sitting.
- Def Jam Icon uses the music of whatever artist you're controlling to distinguish who has the upper hand. People who have the music on their side are given a whole plethora of attacks from the environment, which, subsequently, reacts to the beat of the music. And boy, does it ever.
- Skullgirls has a character, Big Band, whose medium punch involves him pulling out a trumpet and playing it with proper finger placement for each note. Since the trumpet stays in play as long as the player chooses, there are some impressive videos of people utilizing this feature.
- Street Fighter III on Third Strike, the background music becomes more intense and accelerated as a fight advances more rounds.
- Killer Instinct 2013 when an Ultra Combo is performed: a variant of the executing character's theme song plays little by little as it lands every different hit possible until the last hit of the Ultra climaxes the end of the song.
- In Left 4 Dead 2, the music changes when certain special infected appear, giving you a chance to adjust your tactics. Unfortunately between the gunfire, sounds of melee weapons and your three other party-members giving tactical updates, these musical changes are very easy to miss. And then there's a tank beating you to death.
- The pinball machine Radical! has a simple bass riff and a bit of percussion as its background music. Instead, shooting anything on the playfield, including ramps, will provide instrumentation specific to that object (with a different sound for ramps depending on if the ball makes it all the way or not). As Radical! was made in 1990, this makes it one of the earliest examples of this trope.
- In De Blob, when you paint the scenery, an instrument in the background music gets a brief solo. The instrument depends on what colour you are. For example, paint a building green, and you get a flourish on the piano, but red will bring out the saxophone. In addition, many actions, such as liberation Graydians, produce special voices that match up with the background music.
- Super Mario Galaxy does things similar to the Wind Waker example above; the game has a normal soundtrack playing at all times (though several levels use Variable Mix), and every time a coin pops out of a block or a bush, its sound effect will match the backing music in pitch and tempo.
- There's also a galaxy in Super Mario Galaxy 2 that has platforms that alternate existing and not existing to the beat of the music. Levels like this are also in Super Mario 3D Land.
- There are platforms in both games that toggle between blue and yellow as Mario steps on them. The sound they make is set to match whatever chord the background music is playing at that moment.
- When fighting King Kaliente, if you hit a coconut, the music changes so a note is played whenever you or the boss hits it. The notes rise in pitch until either you miss it or get hit (which returns the music to normal), or he gets hit (which results in a flourish that starts the music over). This happens whenever you fight him, including in the second game.
- The Sling Stars that rocket Mario between different parts of a level play a harp trill in tempo and harmony with the music track, even if the stage music has been replaced with a power-up track. The larger stars have longer trills.
- The Music Note Blocks in New Super Mario Bros. 2 will play a jingle when Mario leaps off of it. This jingle is an arpeggiated chord that matches the key of the background music, and whose first note is the same as the main melody of the background music. Also, when you run through a gold ring or are Gold Fire Flower Mario, there is a constant tinkling and chiming in the background matching the background music.
- In Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus, the boss fight with Mz. Ruby completely revolves around the music. You have to act with the beat of the music to stay alive. Also, whenever in stealth mode, violin strungs are plucked staccatto in time with every step Sly takes.
- In Donkey Kong Country Returns, there is a level called "Music Madness," which is a factory-based level where the obstacles are in sync with the music.
- Jak and Daxter and its sequels did this. While in Haven City, the music is very ambient, but pulling out a gun will add a percussion line, getting guard's attention will make the entire piece start moving. This is done so naturally that one usually doesn't notice it until they're pretty far in the game.
- One of the first (non-leaked) trailers for Rayman Legends showcases a co-op stage based completely around this.
- This is basically the entire point of Sound Shapes.
- The premise of HarmoKnight. The goal of the game is to time your actions, such as jumping and swinging your weapon, to the beat of the music.
- Lumines performed this beautifully. The sound-effects made as you dropped blocks or cleared areas of the screen tied into the trance-inducing music, which changed constantly as you progressed through the levels. The effect became increasingly hypnotic.
- Meteos has a basic background theme for each level. As you make matches, a different riff is inserted into the theme, which changes with every level of a combo. This is done smoothly enough that it's hard to tell the riffs aren't part of the basic music unless you check in the sound test.
- Xbox Live Arcade game Chime is a similar deal to Lumines, with sounds tying in to the music as you place blocks and make quads.
- Groovin' Blocks gives you bonus points for clearing blocks by hard-dropping your current block set to the beat of the song.
- Music Minesweeper does this.
- Portal 2 does this with the Thermal Discouragement Beams. Each time you align a beam with its receptacle, the receptacle emits a continuous musical pattern that syncs up with the background music. If there is more than one such beam in a test chamber, they will all play different patterns that mesh together.
- Some ports of Lemmings, for instance the Macintosh version, have each skill button play a different note when selected.
- Need for Speed Hot Pursuit had a subtle version of this: Whenever you wrecked particularly hard or hit an obstacle head-on, there would be a cymbal crash at the moment of impact, followed by a brief section where everything but the bass was cut out of the music as your car reset itself. The music also gets more upbeat when you are winning. Most Wanted (2005) plays the more upbeat phrases of the pursuit Variable Mix when you're losing the cops.
- Mario Kart:
- The music speeds up and raises in pitch slightly when you are on the last lap.
- Starting with Mario Kart Wii, some tracks have a Variable Mix for different sections of the course. For example, when you enter the underwater tunnel in Wii’s Koopa Cape, the music becomes synthesized, the melody drops out, and the bass becomes more prominent.
- Mario Kart 7 adds drums to the background music when you are in the lead. And one of its stages, Music Park / Melody Motorway, has jumping musical notes for obstacles, that jump in time to the background music. They even speed up their jumping to match the sped-up music in the last lap.
- On-rails shooter Rez uses heavily-sequenced themes that are affected by, and themselves affect, the gameplay. Firing a shot produces a drum tap, lock-on combos create a phrase of notes. Defeating a large enemy will produce a crash or similar, or even abruptly start a new bar/measure in the music. Advancing to a new area in the level is delayed to coincide with the start of a new phrase of the theme. Ditto for Child of Eden, the spiritual sequel.
- The BIT.TRIP series for WiiWare. BIT.TRIP BEAT and BIT.TRIP FLUX are "rhythm Pong" games, BIT.TRIP CORE is "rhythm Missile Command", BIT.TRIP VOID is a "rhythm Bullet Hell", BIT.TRIP RUNNER is a "rhythm platformer" and BIT.TRIP FATE is a "rhythm shmup". Oh, and each game is about 1000 times faster and harder than you're thinking. And it's Retraux.
- In Patapon, you play a rhythm in order to control your very own walking eyeball army who start singing along to your beat. However, if you don't keep the time, the Patapons start getting annoyed with you.
- The Famicom Disk System game Otocky has the main character shooting out notes which make sound, depending on the direction they were fired at and the current instrument the player has.
- Any game where you are "making" the music (Guitar Hero, Rock Band, etc) will mute out the music if you stop playing and\or make off-key sounds if you hit the wrong input. beatmania goes the extra mile by actually playing the sounds exactly when the button is pressed, so each sound will actually be early or late to the song in line with the player's timing.
- Literally the entire point of Beatbuddy: Tale of the Guardians.
- Sound Voltex plays with this. Hitting non-hold notes and long BTN notes won't influence the background track, but hitting long FX notes and following the VOL notes will create filter effects that "mix" the track. If you don't hit any of these notes at all, the track will sound as intended, while doing so will give the impression of mixing a track as part of a DJ's set.
Shoot 'em Up
- The point of Mother 3's "Sound Battle" system. Hitting an enemy (or an enemy hitting you) causes small melodies to be spliced into the backing music, and timing your hits right allows you to deal powerful combos. Also, all these melodies speed up or slow down to match the beat of the battle music. This system also often serves to provide hints regarding the true identities of some of the characters you meet., such as Fassad being the Locria, the seventh Magypsy; given away by the distorted version of the Magypsies' theme he plays through his musical horns when he returns as New Fassad, and, for those who are really paying attention, the Masked Man being Claus; in the single battle from the start of the game that you control Claus for, the electric guitar strums that play as he attacks are the same as the Masked Man's.
- Ar Tonelico 3 has the R.A.H. system, in which your Reyvateils' songs change during battle based on your actions. This has a variety of effects on combat.
- Pokémon Black and White have several areas where certain actions such as walking add music or percussion effects to the BGM.
- Space Invaders Extreme, notably in the DS version. Firing and destroying enemies triggers musical sound effects a la Rez and Lumines. Collecting powerups, going into a Round, activating Fever mode, or going into a boss battle will more dramatically alter the background music. In some stages, destroying the boss will bring the music from a frantic state to a more relaxed mood.
- This is done more effectively in the sequel since the main game is not interrupted by Rounds or Fever start.
- The Indie game Everyday Shooter has an electric guitar track in the background, with various other musical elements coming in whenever you shoot an enemy.
- And that's just the first level. Each different level has its own musical theme.
- Zillion Beatz, a Shmup, has this as the main gimmick: the bosses' attacks are perfectly in sync with the BGM.
- Inverted in Beat Hazard, where the BGM you choose affects the difficulty.
- Freelancer plays a faster and more percussive variation of your local system's theme when enemies are nearby, and a quieter variation when you're inside a debris field.
- SSX games take this trope to a higher level, in which the in-game music would go to a slight change when the player would hit big air heights. Also, at the conclusion of a race, the music would come to a down-toning end.
- On SSX 3, all the music happens to be on a "Radio BIG" throughout the game. This can lead to wondering of "how did they predict all this big air or dramatic cave fly-bys in their songs? And how did they time it so it'd end when I got to the end of the level?"