Most Rhythm Games follow a simple premise: The game will flash commands, and you have to input the same. This may sound [[SimonSaysMiniGame easy and familiar]], but [[TitleDrop Rhythm]] is where the trickiness comes in; the commands have to inputted in time with the music, within a certain '''timing window''' which varies from game to game. If the input is made too early or too late, the player misses. The size of the timing window can hugely impact the game; for example, both ''Guitar Hero 3'' and ''Rock Band'' have one "hit or miss" timing window, but ''RB'''s is much smaller, demanding better timing. Some games like ''Dance Dance Revolution'' have multiple timing windows, giving the player a different score depending on timing accuracy. To summarize: [[ButtonMashing hitting all the buttons as fast as you can]] is a surefire way to fail as fast [[EpicFail or faster]] than doing nothing.

Traditionally the commands are represented with little '''markers''', such as arrows or gems. Over time, the markers scroll toward a '''target zone'''. If the correct input is hit with good timing as the marker passes by the target zone, the marker disappears or [[MadeOfExplodium blows up]] indicating success. Missing is usually represented by the marker drifting past the target zone unharmed.

This highly involved game of Simon saw a particular boom in the late [[TurnOfTheMillennium Oughties]], which subsequently faded early into TheNewTens, especially in regards to rock-band-in-a-box games ''VideoGame/GuitarHero'' and ''VideoGame/RockBand''. Earlier, around the year 2000, ''DanceDanceRevolution'' and its ilk became well-known through PopculturalOsmosis and it still appears in the occasional movie with [[PacManFever varying degrees of accuracy]].

The actual device used for input varies greatly; there's the famous Dance Pad, a "buttons on the floor" setup which requires a quite a bit of physical activity on higher levels, then there's plastic versions of musical instruments, [[ actual]] [[ musical]] [[ instruments]], full-motion cameras, and even *gasp* a regular controller or touch screen.

As a game style, they're similar to {{Bullet Hell}}, in that they are very much about practice, and often feature extreme difficulty curves with very high skill ceilings, so a wide range of difficulties spanning from EasierThanEasy to HarderThanHard is the norm. Similarly, GameplayGrading exists in almost every rhythm game alongside the conventional LifeMeter, so perfectionists can differentiate themselves from those with looser playstyles. Like bullet hell, there are (at higher difficulties) countless things flying around the screen in a manner that looks like chaos to the uninitiated. Unlike a Bullet Hell, in which the object is to avoid all those things, you have to ''catch'' them all here.

Not all rhythm games use a conventional interface of discrete inputs. Singing games usually use lines that go up and down with pitch, with the goal of singing with the same pitch as the line passes through the target zone. A new wave of dancing games have no markers at all, instead providing flashcards and animations to cue the player on what to do. These are usually called "dance games" or similar, but soon may come the day that rhythm games with markers are dubbed "classic rhythm games" to avoid confusion.

Most full rhythm games (as opposed to UnexpectedGameplayChange rhythm minigames) feature licensed soundtracks. Most companies apply CulturalTranslation when bringing the games to the US, serving up a soundtrack of mostly popular hits. Licensing popular music can cost a non-trivial chunk of a game's budget, and in some [[TheProblemWithLicensedGames unfortunate cases]], a publisher will try to sell a substandard game based on the song list alone.

In rhythm games, Syncing the audio, video, and gameplay altogether is very important, and lag in either the audio or video is very noticeable to long-time rhythm game players, and can frustrate new players as well. Fortunately, modern games have calibration control to make up for this. The small downside to calibration for experienced players is that the TV still won't know if you were successful in hitting a marker until after the fact, so the marker will explode too late and past the target zone, but at least it'll give full points. The downside for casual players is that setting it up is hard, though some games like RockBand have controllers that have light and sound sensors that attempt to find the calibration for you (fan opinions vary wildly on how accurate these methods are, but for casual play it's usually good enough). Older CRT setups with built-in speakers (or simple speakers with no middle-man device) are the best in this regard, though most don't go so far as to BreakOutTheMuseumPiece since the audio-visual quality is generally lower.

See also: MusicTropes. Compare {{Exergaming}}. The nature of Rhythm Games often evokes the CentipedesDilemma, even more so than other Action genres. When you can plug your own music collection into a Rhythm Game, you have the unique form of playable crack known as a MusicPlayerGame. Because of songs' tendency to repeat a part of themselves, the rhythm equivalent of ThatOneAttack can occur multiple times in the same song.

Because Rhythm Games often have large varieties of songs, there's bound to be at least one [[AwesomeMusic song you really like]] in many of these sorts of games.

For other interactions between music and gameplay, see MusicalGameplay and the video game section of MickeyMousing.
!!Notable games in this genre:
* VideoGame/EightBeatStory
* VideoGame/{{Aikatsu}}
** VideoGame/AikatsuPhotoOnStage
** VideoGame/AikatsuStars
* VideoGame/{{Audiosurf}}
* VideoGame/AuditionOnline
* VideoGame/BeatHazard
* VideoGame/{{beatmania}}
** beatmania IIDX
** beatmania III (which is really just Beatmania with extra effector options and a foot pedal)
* VideoGame/BeforeTheEcho (formerly Sequence)
* VideoGame/BitTrip
* VideoGame/BustAGroove
* VideoGame/{{Chunithm}}
* VideoGame/CrossBeats
** crossbeats REV. (the arcade counterpart)
* VideoGame/CryptOfTheNecrodancer
* VideoGame/{{Cytus}}
* VideoGame/DanceCentral
* VideoGame/DanceDanceRevolution
** VideoGame/StepMania, the open-source version
*** [[VideoGame/InTheGroove In The Groove]]
*** VideoGame/{{Mungyodance}}
** VideoGame/DanceDanceRevolutionMarioMix
* VideoGame/{{Deemo}}
* VideoGame/{{DJMAX}} Online
** VideoGame/{{DJMAX}} Portable
** VideoGame/{{DJMAX}} Technika
* VideoGame/DonkeyKonga
* VideoGame/FlashFlashRevolution
* VideoGame/FreQuency
** {{Amplitude}}
* GitarooMan
* VideoGame/{{Gitadora}} (''[=Guitar Freaks=]'' and ''[=DrumMania=]'')
* VideoGame/GrooveCoaster
* VideoGame/GrooveHeaven
* ''VideoGame/GuitarHero''
** ''VideoGame/DJHero'' (spin-off)
*** ''VideoGame/RockBand'' (SpiritualSuccessor and [[DuelingGames rival series]])
*** ''VideoGame/RockBandBlitz'' (spin-off of Rock Band)
*** ''VideoGame/RockBandWorld'' (worth mentioning because it's the companion app, but otherwise doesn't count)
*** ''VideoGame/RockRevolution'' (Konami's [[/index]] attempt to cash in on the [[RecursiveAdaptation phenomenon]])[[index]]
*** ''VideoGame/FretsOnFire'' (the open-source version)
*** ''VideoGame/PowerGigRiseOfTheSixString'' (another rival series which touts a real guitar for a controller)
*** ''VideoGame/{{Rocksmith}}'' (another real guitar game)
* VideoGame/HarmoKnight
* VideoGame/HatsuneMikuProjectDiva
* VideoGame/IChu
* VideoGame/TheIdolmaster
** VideoGame/TheIdolmaster2
** VideoGame/TheIdolmasterCinderellaGirls Starlight Stage
* VideoGame/JamWithTheBand
* VideoGame/{{Jubeat}}
* VideoGame/JustDance
* VideoGame/KaraokeRevolution series
** {{Performous}}, an open-source version (with bits of ''[=StepMania=]'' and ''Frets On Fire'' thrown in for good measure)
* {{Keyboardmania}}
* VideoGame/KickBeat
* VideoGame/LoveLiveSchoolIdolFestival
* MadMaestro
* VideoGame/{{maimai}}
* VideoGame/MelodysEscape
* VideoGame/{{Minubeat}}
* VideoGame/{{MUSECA}}
* Videogame/MusicTimes
* VideoGame/OneFingerDeathPunch
* Videogame/OsuTatakaeOuendan (UsefulNotes/NintendoDS)
** Videogame/EliteBeatAgents (UsefulNotes/NintendoDS)
** [[VideoGame/{{Osu}} osu!]] (a freeware version)
* {{O2Jam}} (a Massive Multiplayer Online Rhythm Game)
* VideoGame/ParaParaParadise
** VideoGame/DanceMasters
* VideoGame/PaRappaTheRapper: Seen as the [[TropeMaker first]] [[TropeCodifier definitive]] rhythm game.
* VideoGame/{{Patapon}}
* VideoGame/Persona4DancingAllNight: A SpinOff based on the RolePlayingGame ''VideoGame/{{Persona 4}}''.
* VideoGame/PopNMusic
* ''VideoGame/PumpItUp'': Think DDR only Korean, full of Hip-Hop and Classical music, and using five mats instead of four. Also has been around about as long as DDR.
* VideoGame/ReRave: a rhythm/action game for [[IOSGames iOS]].
* VideoGame/ReflecBeat
* [[VideoGame/RetroGrade Retro/Grade]]
* VideoGame/RhythmHeaven
* VideoGame/RhythmThiefAndTheEmperorsTreasure
* VideoGame/{{Rocksmith}}
* VideoGame/SambaDeAmigo
* VideoGame/ShowByRock
* VideoGame/SenranKagura: Bon Appétit
* VideoGame/SoundVoltex
* VideoGame/SoundtrackAttack
* VideoGame/SpaceChannel5
* VideoGame/SuperCrazyGuitarManiacDeluxe
* VideoGame/{{Synthesia}} (a rhythm game/piano learning tool)
* VideoGame/TadpoleTreble
* VideoGame/TaikoDrumMaster
* VideoGame/TheatrhythmFinalFantasy
* VideoGame/ToneSphere
* VideoGame/TokyoSeventhSisters
* VideoGame/UmJammerLammy
* VideoGame/VibRibbon
* VideoGame/{{VOEZ}}
* VideoGame/WeCheer

Games which contain rhythm elements:
* ''VideoGame/AntiIdleTheGame'' has the ''Mute Mute Revolution'' MiniGame, which is a rhythm game but--as the title suggests--with [[FakeDifficulty no music]].
* ''VideoGame/AsurasWrath''. No, really. Special Quick time Events called Synchronic Impacts utilize the timing aspect of Rhythm games to do powerful Cutscene based attacks. Skipping them is a choice, but you loose points for not doing them, and even uses Good, Great, and Excellent rankings, just like an actual RhythmGame.
* ''VideoGame/BrooktownHigh''
* ''VideoGame/BrutalLegend''
* ''Videoagame/{{Bully}}'' (music class minigame)
* VideoGame/ChildOfEden (Releasing the lock-on button with all 8 shots locked on and on a quarter beat will result in a multiplier bonus.)
* VisualNovel/DanganRonpa (During the 'Machine Gun Talk Battle' debates.)
* ''VideoGame/{{Drakengard}}'' is for the most part a completely straightforward Hack and Slash Game. then once you reach [[spoiler: the TrueFinalBoss]] you are suddenly forced to participate in a very difficult Rhythm Battle in which the slightest mistake can kill you in the later stages.
** ''VideoGame/{{Drakengard 3}}'' has this [[spoiler: again as the TrueFinalBoss]]. But this time it messes with the [[CameraScrew camera]] to make you miss as often as possible. Oh and if you miss at any time? Game Over!
* ''VideoGame/DreamCClub'', a series which mostly presents itself as a DatingSim with hostess, but it also has an extensive singing idol mode which seems completely borrowed from ''The iDOLM@STER'' series.
* VideoGame/DonkeyKongCountry1 (The GBA port of the first game has a rhythm minigame)
* ''VideoGame/DubWars'', a [[VideoGame/{{Robotron2084}} twin-stick]] ShootEmUp where the player's weapons fire to the beat
* The ''Elvis'' {{pinball}} machine has a VideoMode involving pressing the flipper buttons to the rhythm of the song. It plays like an extremely simplified ''Dance Dance Revolution'', consisting only of slow-moving left and right arrows.
* VideoGame/GrandTheftAutoSanAndreas (the dancing dates and lowrider competition)
* ''VideoGame/KingdomHeartsII'' - [[Disney/TheLittleMermaid Atlantica]] is entirely made of five rhythm minigames, including its boss, though it's optional.
** ''VideoGame/KingdomHeartsBirthBySleep'' - the "Ice Cream Beat" mini-games in Disney Town are also rhythm, though it's only mandatory for Ventus.
* ''VideoGame/KirbyTripleDeluxe'' has a rhythm mini-game called ''Dedede's Drum Dash''.
* VideoGame/{{Lumines}}, a game somewhat like ''VideoGame/PuyoPuyo'' where matched blocks don't disappear until they get passed by a line that sweeps from left to right over the playfield every 2 measures of the music
* In ''VideoGame/MarioAndLuigiBowsersInsideStory'', one of the arm minigames requires you to hit balls of energy with Mario and Luigi to the same beat that they were fired.
%%* ''VideoGame/MarioAndSonicAtTheOlympicGames'' (some of the synchronised events)
* ''VideoGame/{{Mother 3}}'' (All battles have rhythm sequences, though the maximum number of hits you can do with such a "sound battle" is 16)
* ''VideoGame/MOTHER4'' (All battles have rhythm sequences, though the maximum number of hits you can do with such a "sound battle" is 16)
* ''VideoGame/TheNightmareBeforeChristmasOogiesRevenge'' (Boss battles have optional (except for the final boss) rhythm sequences for massive damage.)
%%* '' VisualNovel/PrincessDebut''
%%* ''VideoGame/{{QWOP}}''
%%* ''Rayman: VideoGame/RavingRabbids''
* Each game in the ''Franchise/SlyCooper'' series would have at least one mission done via rhythm.
** ''VideoGame/SlyCooperAndTheThieviusRaccoonus'' - the boss battle with [[NeverSmileAtACrocodile Mz Ruby]] requires Sly to dodge oncoming symbols by pressing the correct buttons.
** ''VideoGame/Sly2BandOfThieves'' - the tango dances with Neyla and Carmelita are done via rhythm.
** ''VideoGame/Sly3HonorAmongThieves'' - Bentley's duet with Octavio is also done via rhythm.
** ''VideoGame/SlyCooperThievesInTime'' - Murray's Geisha Dance and Carmelita's Belly Dance are both done via rhythm, with [[EarWorm awesome music]] playing in the background. Also, during the boss battle with The Grizz, to deal damage to him, you have to press the same buttons he pressed in time with when he pressed them.
* ''SonicChronicles''
* ''VideoGame/SonicPinballParty'' invokes this twice in the ''VideoGame/SambaDeAmigo'' pinball table:
** During "Song Play", the player must shoot balls in specific directions in time with the music.
** Then there's "Fever mode", a minigame where the player must press the flipper buttons to shake maracas in time with the onscreen action.
* ''VideoGame/SuperMario3DLand'' has two levels where blue, red, and yellow blocks appear and disappear in time with the beat of the song.
* ''VideoGame/SuperMario3DWorld'' does the same, except there are only red and blue blocks, and the music is much funkier.
%%* ''VideoGame/ToejamAndEarl in Panic on Funkotron''
* ''Franchise/TokimekiMemorial 2 Substories: Dancing Summer Vacation'', a VisualNovel containing the ''VideoGame/DanceDanceRevolution Tokimeki Mix'', which is a GameWithinAGame serving as the center of [=DSV=]'s main storyline and as [=DSV=]'s mini-game.
* ''TheUrbz'': a SpinOff game from ''TheSims''. (One of the mini-games)
%%* ''VideoGame/WarioWare''
%%* ''VideoGame/ZackAndWikiQuestForBarbarosTreasure'' (as an optional minigame)

{{Licensed game}}s:
* VideoGame/HatsuneMikuProjectDiva
** ''Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA 2nd''
** ''Hatsune Miku: Project Diva Extend''
** ''Hatsune Miku: Project Diva F''
* Manga/KOn Houkago Live!!
* VideoGame/LooneyTunesCartoonConductor
* MermaidMelodyPichiPichiPitch
* Music/MichaelJackson: The Experience
* WesternAnimation/HappyFeet

Notable licensed songs that appear in several rhythm games:
%% Let's try to keep these to well-known songs that appear in more than one *company's* rhythm games... might as well be in alphabetical order too
* "Let's Dance" by David Bowie: ''VideoGame/DanceDanceRevolution'', ''Lego VideoGame/RockBand'', and ''VideoGame/EliteBeatAgents''.
* "Night of Nights" by COOL&CREATE: ''VideoGame/{{Jubeat}}'', ''VideoGame/{{maimai}}'', ''VideoGame/GrooveCoaster'' & ''VideoGame/TaikoDrumMaster''