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Rhythm Game

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The Rhythm Game genre is a Video Game Genre that challenges the player's sense of rhythm. Boiled down to a fundamental mechanical level, a rhythm game is in many ways just a fancy chain of Simon Says and Quick Time Event prompts: the game will display timed commands in a sequence that the player must input accordingly and on time.note  Here's where the Rhythm comes in: the commands needs to be synced with the background music in order for the game to be a true rhythm game.

The core mechanics of a rhythm game can be dissected further to show the ways rhythm games innovate and differ from each other.

  • Interface: Traditionally, the commands on the screen are represented with markers, such as arrows or gems, which move towards a target zone, typically by scrolling over a clearly displayed set route. The moment when the marker hits the target zone is when the player has to perform the correct input.
    • 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.
    • Dancing games typically have no markers at all, instead providing flashcards and animations to cue the player on what to do.
    • 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.
  • Input: The actions that the player must input varies greatly depending on the medium of the game.
    • Arcade Rhythm Games following in the footsteps of the famous beatmania typically features a series of buttons that the player uses for input. Aside from a few odd cases of analogue inputs (like Sound Voltex's knobs) or the arcade machines that employ motion sensors, most of the input methods are just alternate forms of buttons; DanceDanceRevolution's famous Dance Pad are just buttons for the feet, while beatmania's turntable is a button that you press by spinning it.
    • Console Rhythm Games typically just use the buttons on their controllers, or employ special instrument-shaped controllers (like on the famous Guitar Hero) for the same button inputs.
    • Mobile Rhythm Games uses their touch screen for inputs. Some arcade rhythm games also use touch screens to supplement their buttons.
    • Dancing games like Just Dance uses full-motion cameras, with making dance moves being the equivalent of a "button pressing" action.
    • Singing games rather obviously use a microphone for their inputs.
  • Scoring/Health: Almost all rhythm games employ scoring and/or Life Meters to provide feedback to the players and encourage higher-level performance. Typically, the commands have a certain timing window around the moment of their input. If the player's input is made outside of the timing window, the player misses and does not receive the action's score and/or loses parts of their life meter. This means that hitting all the buttons as fast as you can is a surefire way to fail as fast or faster than doing nothing.
    • Many games employ grading within the "hit/miss" timing window to further differentiate the scoring. The player will receive a different score depending on their action's timing accuracy. The closer the action is to the perfect timing, the higher score is.
    • Some rhythm games also feature a bonus for maintaining a streak of notes without missing any. This is commonly called a "combo" (although it is different from Combos in the way that Fighting Games popularized them) or a "chain". Usually this comes in the form of a Score Multiplier, or a bonus that is awarded on the highest combo that the player built up during the song.

Having the player perform precise rhythm-matched controls is the core of the rhythm game experience. Games that generate content according to musical rhythm, but do not force the player to perform rhythm-matching, are not rhythm games.

The genre originated in Japan and was popularized there in the 1990s, and later went on to find a core audience in Japan and other East Asian countries. In the west, rhythm games 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, DanceDanceRevolution and its ilk became well-known through Pop-Cultural Osmosis and it still appears in the occasional movie with varying degrees of accuracy.

Rhythm games may feature licensed soundtracks, commissioned tracks from third-party artists, or, most rarely, original soundtrack from in-house artists (primarily for major rhythm game companies like Konami or Taito).

As an East Asian subculture, rhythm games and the music artists associated with them had an immense influence on the creation of the Japanese hardcore techno (J-core) scene.

Rhythm games by developers from the Asia Pacific, particularly starting in the late 2010s, often source their songs from BMS musicians (BMS standing for "Be-Music Source", a file format for beatmania simulators, and there are frequent contests to make original songs for these simulators), due to having cheaper costs for licensing and sounding closer to the sort of music expected of rhythm games.

In The New '10s, a new subgenre of rhythm game opened up, known as the "idol rhythm game" or "gacha rhythm game", with Love Live! School Idol Festival and THE iDOLM@STER: Cinderella Girls Starlight Stage being some of the earlier and more popular examples. These games typically revolve around idol groups and the player can earn cards of the charcters of varying rarity and power through the gacha mechanic. By equipping these cards, the player can gain passive abilities (such as health recovery or a boost in point gain when hitting notes), and each card has stats that dictate how many points the player will get for each note (in additon to any possible combo bonuses). As such, simply doing well enough in these games will not earn the player a good score; it's common for an experienced rhythm game player to start one of these games, nail a perfect run, and not even fill the scoring meter halfway due to having low-power starter cards. Idol-based rhythm games are typically on mobile platforms and are free to start, which makes them popular for budget-conscious players, although there are a few available on PC such as Tap Sonic Top and for arcades such as an arcade port of LLSIF and O.N.G.E.K.I..

Compare Exergaming. For other interactions between music and gameplay, see Musical Gameplay and the video game section of Mickey Mousing. To gush about your favorite rhythm game music, see AwesomeMusic.Video Games.

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    Traditional Rhythm Games 

These games are the traditional "pure" rhythm games where the core gameplay exclusively focuses on making specific inputs that are timed with the music, and the player's performance is judged solely by their accuracy of inputs and input timing. They're also known as rhythm action games or rhythm-matching games.

    Non-Traditional Rhythm Games 

    Action Games with Rhythm-Matching Controls 

These games are hybrids of traditional Action Games and rhythm games. Their fundamental gameplay involves a player-controlled character performing actions within a 2D/3D game space, but one or more parts of the player character's controls must be performed in sync with the music's rhythm for maximum effectiveness.

    Action Games with Rhythm-Matched Environments 

These games are primarily 2D/3D action games (usually platforming games) where the player characters have free (but usually autoscrolling), non-rhythm-locked controls, but the environments are structured in such a way as to force the player to perform precise rhythm-matched actions.

Because the rhythm matching in these games stems not from how the player character is controlled, but from how the environment is constructednote , they are usually considered to be music games rather than "proper" rhythm games.

    Games with Rhythm Game Mini Games 

In these games, the core gameplay mechanic is not related to rhythm games, but these games feature Mini Games that play like traditional rhythm games.

To aid with documentation, please also at least identify the name of the rhythm game minigame when adding examples to this section. Please also make sure that musical rhythm plays a part in the minigame, and that the minigame isn't just a series of QTEs unrelated to the music.

    In-Universe Examples 

  • The Pet Girl of Sakurasou: Nyaboron, the video game that the residents of Sakura Hall develop for the School Festival, is a Co-Op Multiplayer game where the audience plays by all raising one or both hands, or shouting, as instructed by the screen and Nanami's voiceover. It's less focused on music, though.
  • Scott Pilgrim vs. The World has Ninja Ninja Revolution, a ninja-themed Affectionate Parody of Dance Dance Revolution played by Scott and Knives twice in the movie where the players must make "ninja poses" in time with the music instead of stepping on arrows.


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