While most gamers are busy shooting zombies, slaying dragons, or blaming RNG card draws, you’ll usually find me relaxing with some music and hitting buttons. Rhythm games have a reputation for being extremely difficult and intimidating thanks to videos circulating on the internet, such as Staiain’s Stepmania showcase at AGDQ 2016. Either that, or they’re called samey and boring because all you do is hit buttons.
But rhythm games are more popular, accessible, and enjoyable than you might think. Do you remember the last time you went to an arcade and saw Dance Dance Revolution? Konami released another sequel this year with music from artists like Pharrell Williams and Ariana Grande, and Osu has a whopping 9 million registered users and several thousand beatmaps available to play.
Here are my top 10 reasons for why you should give rhythm games a try today.
1. You’ll discover new music, games, and even shows
Rhythm games have a plethora of different musical genres and artists. If you’re feeling adventurous, download some beatmap packs for Osu and you might end up finding a new genre or artist that you enjoy listening to.
One of my favourite songs for Stepmania is Emerald Sword by Rhapsody. I wasn’t too fond of metal music when I was a teenager, but it was a challenging song that was great for practice. Playing Emerald Sword all the time piqued my interest in metal music, and I started listening to bands like Metallica and DragonForce.
Stepmania also introduced me to the classic Playstation RPG, Chrono Cross. I had Time’s Scar, the opening theme, in my collection and the song amazed me so much that I had to search for more music from the game, which eventually lead to me playing it. I’ve also been introduced to many television shows, movies, and anime series from playing rhythm games and looking up where my favourite songs came from.
2. There’s an endless amount of content that will never get old
Every rhythm game comes loaded with a huge list of songs for you to play. Additional songs are usually added at a later date, and the frequent updates can help to extend the replay value. Arcade titles, such as Konami’s lineup of Bemani games, receive monthly updates that add new songs and events for players to participate in.
Some rhythm games, like Osu and Stepmania, come with built-in editors so you can create your own content for the game and share it with the world. Osu is updated with new ranked beatmaps every day, and Stepmania has a long history of player-created content that spans over 15 years—that’s a lot of extra songs to play! Some dedicated players will even produce art and music to be used specifically in rhythm games.
The endless amount of content is also free from things like power-creep and outdated information. There’s no levelling or gearing required in rhythm games—if you take a break, you’ll come back to loads of new songs that are just waiting to be played. In contrast, taking a break from an MMORPG usually means you’re going to fall behind because of gear or levels, and when you return you could’ve missed some dungeons that are no longer relevant. The mechanics of a rhythm game will also never change (or at least, rarely) so it’s not like a MOBA where an extended break means re-learning the abilities of every hero that was changed, or realising that a crucial card in your Hearthstone deck was nerfed in to the ground.
3. They’re accessible to anyone
Whether you’re a seasoned veteran or an absolute beginner, there’s a difficulty designed for you. Most arcade rhythm games have beginner settings that won’t kick you off the machine if you fail, but they also reward skillful play with extra songs or hidden bonus stages. Rhythm games usually have multiple difficulties per song, so if you find a song that you like but can’t complete, there’s probably an easier difficulty for it somewhere.
A lot of rhythm games have zero cost attached to them. In addition to Osu and Stepmania, Rayark’s lineup of mobile rhythm games are completely free (at least for Android, sorry iOS users!) so there’s no investment required to try them. There’s also simulators for a lot of popular rhythm games that are either paid or hard to find, such as K-Shoot Mania for Sound Voltex, Frets on Fire for Guitar Hero, and Lunatic Rave 2 for Beatmania IIDX.
4. They’re entirely skill based
If you’ve ever solo queued in ranked League of Legends or drawn a bad hand in Hearthstone, you’ll understand the frustration of being unable to win because of bad luck, or other factors that are out of your control.
There’s no luck or randomness involved with rhythm games—it’s just you vs the machine. Did you miss a circle on Osu? Work on your aim. Do you feel like you’re too slow? Work on your finger speed. Are you getting tired stomping on arrows in DDR? Improve your fitness and stamina. You’re completely in control of the outcome, which brings me to the next point…
5. You’ll always see and feel improvement
Raiding for 4 hours straight in World of Warcraft and not getting a single piece of loot is extremely disheartening. Likewise, opening 10 packs on Hearthstone and not getting a single useful card is frustrating and discourages me from spending more time to grind gold.
In rhythm games, progress is entirely down to how much you play and what kind of goals you set. If you’re struggling on a song, you can lower the difficulty, practice, and you’ll get further each time. As long as you keep playing, you’ll see your scores improve and your rank increase. Scoring a new personal best or passing a song that you previously couldn’t gives a satisfying feeling of accomplishment, and with the incredible amount of songs available it’s a feeling you’ll get all the time.
6. The skills you learn can be applied to other things
The main skills you pick up while playing rhythm games are: improved hand-eye coordination, enhanced finger dexterity, and the ability to maintain a rhythm. Improving these three skills makes it easy to learn other rhythm games, but there are also some real-world applications too.
I won’t say that playing Guitar Hero will improve your actual guitar playing (Rocksmith might, however), but any amount of rhythm training will assist you in learning to play an instrument or produce music. Dance Dance Revolution is sometimes used as a weight-loss and stamina-building tool, making it a fun alternative to traditional exercise.
Rhythm games can also train your skills in other video games. Your reaction speed will increase, you’ll be able to process information on the screen faster, and your finger dexterity will assist your twitch reflexes. Playing Osu with a mouse will also help improve your cursor control in genres like MOBAs and FPS.
7. They’re convenient to play
Whether you’re on the train with your phone, lounging in bed with a tablet, or waiting for a dungeon queue to pop in an MMO, there’s a rhythm game that will suit your device and the amount of time you have. You don’t have to dedicate lots of time to each session either—songs can be anywhere from 30 seconds to 30 minutes, and you can always pause the game or quit whenever you want—it’s the perfect genre for a quick dose of fun. The lack of investment required (in both time and money) also means you can freely try out other rhythm games, and their relatively small size means you won’t be waiting to download.
8. There are friendly communities
You don’t have to play rhythm games on your own. Osu has a bunch of social features such as a spectator mode, multiplayer vs, multiplayer co-op, an integrated chat client, and even annual world cups that are streamed live on Twitch.tv. You can keep up with (and stalk) your friends, meet new people to play with, and form rivalries that’ll motivate you to improve.
Outside of Osu, there are other helpful and friendly rhythm game communities, such as /r/rhythmgames, VSRG, and FlashFlashRevolution. No matter what rhythm game you play, there’s bound to be an active community that shares the same interest.
9. They can be fused with other genres
Rhythm games can be more than just hitting buttons to music. For example, Crypt of the Necrodancer is a clever fusion of dance game and rogue-like RPG. You tap the arrow keys (or stomp on your dance pad) in time with music to explore dungeons, defeat enemies, and collect loot. With over half a million owners on Steam, it’s an extremely popular title that boasts addictive gameplay and an awesome soundtrack.
Rez Infinite, a remake of the 2001 rail shooter/rhythm game hybrid Rez, recently launched for Playstation 4 as a VR-supported title. The game’s creator, Tetsuya Mizuguchi, uses the theme of synesthesia to create hypnotic rhythm game hybrids like Child of Eden and Lumines that are well-received in the gaming industry.
There’s also indie runner games such as Melody’s Escape, which uses your music to create abstract obstacle courses to navigate, and Geometry Dash, a popular action-platformer with a unique soundtrack and level editor.
10. It’s unadulterated fun
Having fun is underrated. There’s far too many games that persuade you to play with mechanics like daily quests, gear treadmills, and unlock systems where the “fun” is hidden behind a wall of grinding. While it might be fun in the beginning to slave away for gear upgrades or the chance to pull a legendary card, it eventually gets boring to work hard for a small chance of something useful. Being lured by a shiny gem on a stick isn’t fun—that’s coaxing.
Though the gameplay is simple, it’s satisfying to watch arrows fly from one side of the screen to another, then explode in a bright light as you hit the correct key and rack up your score and combo. There’s immediate feedback as you press keys or stomp on arrows, so you’ll know right away if you missed or hit it—there’s no waiting around for a response from the game. If you fail a song, you can jump right back in to try again with no penalty, or take a break and choose another song to play from the thousands available.
If you’ve come this far, you might be wondering what kind of rhythm games you should try out.
If you enjoy Asian music (I’m talking anime music and Japanese/Korean pop), I recommend giving Osu and its four different modes a try. There’s an active community, thousands of playable songs, leaderboards, and plenty of social features. If you’d prefer a DDR-like experience with more song variety, then Stepmania will be the perfect match for you.
For mobile and tablet games, I recommend Deemo, a relaxing piano-themed game; Cytus, a circle-tapping game with a huge variety of music genres, VOEZ, a stylish anime-themed game with a unique swipe mechanic, and O2Jam U, a straight forward note-tapping rhythm game with a huge selection of music.
If you’d prefer a full-blown arcade experience, then check out Zenius-I-Vanisher‘s arcade locating tool to help you find local spots to play rhythm games, or to plan future trips to other countries.
Go on—give one a try today.