Dance Central is a launch title developed by Harmonix for the Xbox 360's motion controller, Kinect. This dancing game involves moving your body according to the indicators, but thanks to the sensors on the camera, it can read your whole body. This both adds more movement required for the player, but also means the moves had to be simplified compared to other dancing games to avoid physical strain.
The soundtrack is a bit narrower than other dance games, where most of the songs have a variety with the 2000s, but the songs from The '80s and The '90s are almost all hip hop, likely to fit with the urban dancing mood of the game.
The game also lacks local multiplayer, although it doesn't prevent friends from dancing along with you.
A sequel, Dance Central 2, was released on October 21, 2011 in Europe and October 25 in North America. It improves upon the original by adding true two-player gameplay in both competitive and cooperative modes, as well as the ability to create playlists, a freestyle-off option for DC2 on-disc songs and future DC2 downloadables, voice commands, and a more in-depth practice mode, allowing players to select specific moves in a routine to practice. Additionally, users can import songs from the original game, both on-disc and downloadable.
Dance Central 3 was released on October 16, 2012. It has a time-travel focused story mode, introducing numerous songs from the 1970s to the 2010s, as well as two new modes: Crew Throwdown mode, in which two teams attempt to outdo each other in dancing minigames, and a Party Mode. Both modes allowed more people to play the game.
Dance Central Spotlight was released on September 2, 2014 for the Xbox One as a download-only title.
Dance Central VR was released on May 21, 2019 for the Oculus Rift and Quest.
Kinect Star Wars is technically part of this line as well as the dance game portion, Galactic Dance Off, was developed by employees from Harmonix and likewise uses their gameplay interface.
This game provides examples of:
- All Your Base Are Belong to Us: After Flash4wrd's era in DC3's story mode, DCI HQ was hacked by Dr. Tan.
- And Your Reward Is Clothes: There are alternate costumes to unlock.
- April Fools' Day:
- Art Shift: The model in Dance Central Spotlight looks notably different from the usual.
- With Dance Central VR Harmonix brought the art style back to the 2D of the original Dance Central opening.
- Book-Ends: The song list of the first game starts with "Poker Face" and ends with "Just Dance", both Lady Gaga songs, and both of which are from her debut album "The Fame".
- Boss Rush: The showdown with Dr. Tan and his minion in the second game onwards, where you have to dance the rep songs/era songs of all the dance crews in a row. Lampshaded by Dr. Tan himself in DC2 who calls the showdown "another boss to battle".
- Challenge Run: Playing with the flashcards off.
- Character Blog: Each crew member has a Twitter account, but only one is a legit account made by Harmonix themselves.
- Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: Every team in Dance Central 2 have their own predominant colors:
- Riptide Crew: red.
- Flash4wrd: green and yellow.
- Lu$h Crew: blue.
- Hi-Def: brown, subverted since their clothes are multicolored.
- The Glitteratti: black and white.
- In Dance Central 3, the DCI are this in black and purple. M.O.C. as well, but with black and blue.
- Cover Version: There's one in DC2 of Britney Spears's "Toxic". It is also the only cover version ever done on the game.
- Downloadable Content: Several songs can be bought and downloaded.
- Exergaming: There is a mode to track calorie counting.
- Extended Gameplay: Like the original Dance Central, Dance Central Spotlight requires you to unlock the other routines. In order to do this, you need to collect dance flashcards, which can only be obtained by performing a Flawless on a move. Collecting more flashcards will eventually unlock all 8 routines.... BUT unlocking all the flashcards on each routine for one song will present a golden boombox under the name. Depending on how many songs you have, you will be here for a while.
- Gameplay and Story Integration: There are two places in Dance Central 3's story mode where you need to dance freely to progress. These sections have no flash card prompts.
- Gameplay and Story Segregation: DC3's story mode, where it's said that creativity (swag) is more important than methodical dancing. In a rhythm game where dancing not according to prompt costs you points.
- Government Agency of Fiction: In DC3, Dance Central Intelligence recruit the Lu$h, Hi-Def, Flash4wrd, and Riptide crews to thwart an evil plot.
- Gratuitous Ninja: Ttiw Tolrep, aka "The Pink Ninja". This was changed to Shinju and added Kichi aka "The Blue Ninja" in the second game onwards.
- Guest Fighter: Of all things, Nisha and Claptrap from Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel! on Spotlight, unlocked by mashing Y or X a few times on the character selection screen. Claptrap doesn't have feet, however.
- Harder Than Hard: A majority of the higher tiered songs in Dance Central 2, 3, and its DLC. It takes a lot more than just practicing the routines through Rehearse. Some moves are just way too fast, such as the Toe Tapper move in OMG. which also is labeled as the hardest song not just in Dance Central 3, but the entire series. You're even awarded an achievement for 5 starring the song.
- Idiosyncratic Difficulty Levels: In DC3, the seven levels of song difficulties are thus named: Warm-Up, Simple, Moderate, Tough, Legit, Hardcore, Off The Hook. Averted in Dance Central Spotlight, where there are no skill level ratings at all (other than the different difficulty routines for each song).
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Some dancers make remarks on stars, scores and other geeky stuffs after dances.
- Mecha-Mooks: Most of the games have robot dancers created by Dr. Tan to challenge you as the Final Boss of the series, except Dance Central 3 where you've to battle Dr. Tan himself.
- Old Save Bonus:
- If you own older Dance Central games, you can import their songs into newer games (for a fee).
- If you import the original DC soundtrack into Dance Central 2, you'll unlock Mo's outfit from the first game (The other four returning characters have their own DC Classic outfits unlocked through controller cheat codes).
- Painting the Fourth Wall: At the start of DC3's story mode, a laser beam scans the player at DCI HQ. At the same time, the Kinect sensor also moves up and down.
- Sequel Difficulty Spike: Dance Central's difficulty spike became more obvious during Dance Central 2, and even more so in 3. Harmonix was well aware that the fans wanted complex routines and boy oh boy, it shows.
- Shout-Out: Many of the retro character and costume designs in Dance Central 3 were meant to be based off of real life celebrities.
- Miss Aubrey's 70's look was supposed to resemble that of Farrah Fawcett.
- Glitch's 80's outfit is reminiscent of Michael Jackson's outfit in his Thriller music video, while Mo looks LL Cool J.
- Flash4wrd's flashy, colorful 90's outfits resemble those of TLC (who actually appear in-game with their song "Ain't 2 Proud 2 Beg")
- Emilia's 2000's look is a nod to Vanessa Minnillo, while Bodie in his 2000's look looks like Aaron Carter.
- Stealth Pun: Why's that crotch-grabbing pelvic thrust in "Sexy and I Know It" called "Wednesday"? Because Wednesday is Hump Day. (Ba dum tss...)
- Stock Poses: Some of the dancing moves are well known poses, likely Just for Fun.
- Time Travel: The Story Mode of the third game is about Dr. Tan stealing famous dance steps from past decades, so the DCI hires you to get these steps back, travelling to The '70s, The '80s, The '90s and the Turn of the Millennium, where the game characters helps you to get them by dancing (and also rescuing Dare and MacCoy, DCI agents who were kidnapped).
- Unlockable Content: Costumes and songs can be unlocked, as well various Secret Characters during the series, mostly the robots.
- Virtual Paper Doll: Multiple costumes are available for the characters.
- Working Out Their Emotions: In the opening, Emilia ends up taking her anger out on a punching bag after getting off the phone with Miss Aubrey. While there is no dialogue in the scene, Emilia has some colorful thoughts about her ex-friend and, later on, it's revealed that the two can't stand each other.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Dare, Oblio, and MacCoy are absent from Dance Central 2. Subverted in that the third game brings them back as playable, unlockable characters and explains where they've been. Dare and MacCoy have been captured by Dr. Tan, and Oblio is revealed to be Dr. Tan's son and is under his Mind Control (that is, until the player breaks him free through some dance offs).