music and rhythm video games

What are the best music based video games?

Music based video games have become very popular since their inception.

In conjunction with the high level of skill needed to master them at their apex, the feeling of being a rock star on stage pulling off a face melting solo from your favourite band is quite something, even if it is only you playing pretend.

Great fun on their own, they have the vast potential for being party titles that bring people together and can create true moments of fun and enjoyment, whether that’s from your tipsy friends messing up the words to Dido’s “White Flag” or being completely out of tune when belting out “We Are The Champions”.

Here are five great music based video games that everyone should check out should they get the chance.


SingStar! (PS2/PS3/PS4)

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Who doesn’t love a bit of karaoke?

The servers may not be live any more, but SingStar still lives on (most strongly in its PlayStation 2 incarnations) on PS4 with SingStar Celebration and SingStar: Ultimate Party .

SingStar marries the joy of crooning along with pop songs with the magic of video games by letting you wail into the microphone controllers to a number of musical favourites like “Take On Me”, “I Believe In A Thing Called Love”, “Suspicious Minds”, and “Like A Virgin”.

You just have to sing along to your chosen tunes as close to the original pitch as possible to score points.

SIngStar has a lot of different versions, with genre specific games and titles dedicated to entire bands like Disney, Queen, and Motown.

Having many a game pumped out in its PS2 and PS3 days, like many other games of this ilk it now has been developed into an app that acts as the microphone for the PlayStation 4, so you don’t necessarily need a whole heap on extra controllers to let your friends sing along with or against you.

If playing pretend instruments isn’t your thing, SingStar in one of its many forms is a great alternative party game.

Rock Band 3 (Xbox 360/PS3/Nintendo Wii)

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In the raging war between Rock Band and Guitar Hero for constant supremacy in the race to be the number one console music/band performance game, there was an eternal back and forth which eventually looked like it would sway in favour of Guitar Hero, especially after it broke into the Harmonix developed home and stole its multi-instrument mechanic with the release of Guitar Hero World Tour .

However with Rock Band 3, the MTV Games and EA collaboration came out swinging and landed a devastating body blow.

A quick recap for people who have been wedged firmly under a rock (no pun) for the last decade or so, the Rock Band (and Guitar Hero ) games allow you to do an instrument karaoke of sorts, giving you notes to be played in time with the actual song with varying degrees of difficulty. Songs can be played on lead or rhythm/bass guitar, drums, or vocals, as long as you have the corresponding peripheral or equipment to do so.

Sporting over 80 songs in varied genres with tunes like Jimi Hendrix’s “Crosstown Traffic”, Marilyn Manson’s “Beautiful People”, and Queen’s legendary “Bohemian Rhapsody”, you’d be extremely hard pressed to find a piece you didn’t want to jam too.

A new instrument also entered into the mix in the third instalment, that being the keyboard which added yet another dynamic to how songs could be played and also helped other genres into the game.

Another huge draw was Rock Band 3’s Pro Mode which went way beyond the standard guitar’s charting of the five coloured notes (which aren’t that easy to master on their own) and created the songs faithful to actual guitar finger placement, requiring accurate fretwork and getting as close to mimicking the real movements as possible.

Pro Mode was also allocated to drumming meaning you had to differentiate between snare and cymbals, and keyboard players had to be on absolute point to nail the full utilisation of the notes.

Rock Band 3 covers practically all music genres and is incredibly accessible thanks to its range of difficulties and instruments, but will require a fair bit of monetary investment if you want to be the proud owner of a full band kit.

Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock (Nintendo Wii/PS2/PS3/Xbox 360/PC)

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You can make a case for any of the Guitar Hero games to be featured in any “best of list”, but my personal favourite (and my personal jumping on point with the series) was the brilliant Guitar Hero III.

GH3 isn’t the easiest game to take on right off the bat as the songs are often cited among the series as being “overcharted”, meaning that the notes used to recreate the songs actual notes were either too difficult or excessive.

That said, if you can master the songs included in Guitar Hero III , you’ll be well-equipped to take on pretty much anything the other games can throw at you.

If you can make it “Through the Fire and Flames”, you can make it through anything.

Legends of Rock is mostly full of classic rock and metal tunes, with tracks from bands such as Metallica, Iron Maiden, The Who, Queens of the Stone Age, Slipknot, and Rage Against the Machine having timeless tunes featuring in the game.

Musical maestros Tom Morello and Slash also made an appearance as in-game “bosses”, writing their own respective duelling tracks.

For fans of pop, indie, or softer rock, Guitar Hero 5 or even Band Hero might be a better fit.

Fans of the bands Van Halen, Metallica, or Aerosmith are also in luck with each band having their own Guitar Hero game. If you’re after a more well-rounded set of songs with extra instruments to boot, Guitar Hero World Tour might be more your bag.

Guitar Hero 3 has a great list of songs for the standard rock and/or metal fan and I think is a good introduction to the series, comes with a wireless guitar controller (in the right bundle), and has the most solid note mechanics of the series with respects to timing windows (it’s hard to convey exactly what that means but if you’ve played other music games that should make some kind of sense).

Alternatively, check out the free to download Clone Hero for PC.

Beat Saber (PS4, Oculus, PC)

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Bringing the same air of freshness to music video games the way games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band birthed a genre we didn’t even know we needed, Beat Saber is not only a fantastic music-based game, but is one of the best VR games you can own right now (and it doubles as a great arm workout , especially during a pandemic).

Playing like a cocktail of Guitar Hero , Fruit Ninja , and the originally arcade-based series Dance Dance , Beat Saber gives you a red and blue lightsaber for your left and right hand respectively and tasks you with slicing blocks flying at you in tandem to the beat.

The player will occasionally have to avoid obstacles like not striking mines or dodging walls by ducking or moving to the left or right.

Beat Saber has been modded by its community to incorporate numerous popular songs from a gamut of different musical categories. You can play songs from ABBA, Eminem, Bruno Mars, Motorhead, Knife Party, Michael Jackson, heck even the meme song Coffin Dance is in there, so there’s sure to be something in there that takes your fancy.

Playable in solo mode or (where it truly shines) party/multiplayer mode, B eat Saber shows
the true innovation of virtual reality and what it can offer gamers.

Just Dance (Xbox One/Xbox Series X/PS4/PS5/Nintendo Switch/Stadia)

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If you get the chance in an arcade, I would definitely recommend checking out Dance Dance Revolution/Dancing Stage , one for the workout and two for the experience of jumping around in public and not looking like a (complete) lunatic.

In the meantime, a great party game to get everyone involved with are the Just Dance games, a great home console parallel to DDR .

The core of Just Dance is simple: copy what the on-screen dancers do as accurately as
possible to a song and difficulty of your selection.

Whilst formerly only available to owners of peripherals like Xbox’s Kinetic or the Nintendo Wii’s motion controls, JD now has a smartphone app that uses your device to read your movements as long as you keep it in hand.

Used by almost everyone as a way to loosen people up at a house party and more than likely played after a few adult beverages, Just Dance does have a single player mode and a Quick Play option as well for the lone schmoover.

The most recent title (JD2021 ) has a tracklist featuring songs from artists like Harry Styles, Billie Eilish, The Weeknd, Sean Paul, and even Randy Newman (yes it does a song from  Toy Story ).

The latest game also supports “Just Dance Unlimited”, a service which provides newer and updated songs.

Like SingStar, Just Dance has a number of niche and specific spin-offs to capture particular fans, but any of the main games will satisfy the vast majority of people.