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Rhythm Game

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Most Rhythm Games follow a simple premise: The game will flash commands, and you have to input the same. This may sound easy and familiar, but 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: hitting all the buttons as fast as you can is a surefire way to fail as fast 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 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 Oughties, which subsequently faded early into The New '10s, especially in regards to rock-band-in-a-box games Guitar Hero and Rock Band. Earlier, around the year 2000, Dance Dance Revolution and its ilk became well-known through Popcultural Osmosis and it still appears in the occasional movie with 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 Easier Than Easy to Harder Than Hard is the norm. Similarly, Gameplay Grading exists in almost every rhythm game alongside the conventional Life Meter, 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 Unexpected Gameplay Change rhythm minigames) feature licensed soundtracks. Most companies apply Cultural Translation 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 unfortunate cases, a publisher will try to sell a substandard game based on the song list alone. Other ways to build up a songlist are to commission third-party artists to produce music for the game and to have in-house talent make it (which is extremely rare amongst small development studios due to requiring proficiency in two entirely different fields, and even amongst commercial studios; you'll rarely see in-house music in games not by Konami or Taito).

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 Rock Band 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 Break Out the Museum Piece since the audio-visual quality is generally lower.

See also: Music Tropes. Compare Exergaming. The nature of Rhythm Games often evokes the Centipede's Dilemma, 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 Music Player Game. Because of songs' tendency to repeat a part of themselves, the rhythm equivalent of That One Attack 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 song you really like in many of these sorts of games.

For other interactions between music and gameplay, see Musical Gameplay and the video game section of Mickey Mousing.

Notable games in this genre:

Games which contain rhythm elements:

  • Anti-Idle: The Game has the Mute Mute Revolution Mini-Game, which is a rhythm game but—as the title suggests—with no music.
  • Asura's Wrath. 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 Rhythm Game.
  • Brooktown High
  • Brütal Legend
  • Bully (music class minigame)
  • Child of Eden (Releasing the lock-on button with all 8 shots locked on and on a quarter beat will result in a multiplier bonus.)
  • Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc (during the 'Machine Gun Talk Battle' debates.)
  • Drakengard is for the most part a completely straightforward Hack and Slash Game. then once you reach the True Final Boss you are suddenly forced to participate in a very difficult Rhythm Battle in which the slightest mistake can kill you in the later stages.
    • Drakengard 3 has this again as the True Final Boss. But this time it messes with the camera to make you miss as often as possible. Oh and if you miss at any time? Game Over!
  • Dream C Club, a series which mostly presents itself as a Dating Sim with hostess, but it also has an extensive singing idol mode which seems completely borrowed from The iDOLM@STER series.
  • Donkey Kong Country (The GBA port of the first game has a rhythm minigame)
  • Dub Wars, a twin-stick Shoot 'em Up where the player's weapons fire to the beat
  • The Elvis pinball machine has a Video Mode 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.
  • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (the dancing dates and lowrider competition)
  • Just Shapes & Beats doesn't explicitly require the player to do anything to any sort of beat, but the stages are matched to music tracks and are named after the tracks they use.
  • Kingdom Hearts II - Atlantica is entirely made of five rhythm minigames, including its boss, though it's optional.
  • Kirby: Triple Deluxe has a rhythm mini-game called Dedede's Drum Dash.
  • Lumines, a game somewhat like Puyo Puyo 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 Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story, one of the arm minigames requires you to hit balls of energy with Mario and Luigi to the same beat that they were fired.
  • Mario Party Star Rush has a game mode called Rhythm Recital, which recommends you to press the A button or tap on the instrument you choose in time with the music.
  • Mother 3 (All battles have rhythm sequences, though the maximum number of hits you can do with such a "sound battle" is 16)
  • MOTHER 4 (All battles have rhythm sequences, though the maximum number of hits you can do with such a "sound battle" is 16)
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas: Oogie's Revenge (Boss battles have optional (except for the final boss) rhythm sequences for massive damage.)
  • Each game in the Sly Cooper series would have at least one mission done via rhythm.
    • Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus - the boss battle with Mz Ruby requires Sly to dodge oncoming symbols by pressing the correct buttons.
    • Sly 2: Band of Thieves - the tango dances with Neyla and Carmelita in "A Starry Eyed Encounter" are done via rhythm.
    • Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves - Bentley's duet with Octavio in "Opera of Fear" is also done via rhythm.
    • Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time - Murray's Geisha Dance and Carmelita's Belly Dance are both done via rhythm, with 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.
  • Sonic Chronicles
  • Sonic Pinball Party invokes this twice in the Samba de Amigo 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.
  • SongBird Symphony
  • Super Mario 3D Land has two levels where blue, red, and yellow blocks appear and disappear in time with the beat of the song.
  • Super Mario 3D World does the same, except there are only red and blue blocks, and the music is much funkier.
  • Thumper combines rhythm elements with an endless runner.
  • Yakuza: the karaoke minigame that's been part of the series since Yakuza 3, plus the disco minigame from Yakuza 0

Licensed games:

Notable licensed songs that appear in several rhythm games:


Video Example(s):


"Pretty and Pinker"

Murray's Geisha sequence in "Pretty in Pinker".

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Main / RhythmGame