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Music has been an important part of video games since specialised sound chips made composing and playing back music possible during the advent of 8-bit home computers in the 80s. This gave many games a unique sound, but it was how the music interacted with gameplay that was really interesting.We worked on this list of games where music is integral to play with Andreas Zecher. He runs the amazing Polylists resource, a website for those working in games to share lists of recommended games under self-chosen topics. His list, here, features games where music goes further than just providing a great soundtrack. In these games, music is at the core of the player’s experience. Some put players in a state of flow, and others react to the player's every action like an instrument being played.The sensory experiences of Tetris Effect Connected or Thumper would not be possible without the music that they are based on. Everyday Shooter and Sayonara Wild Hearts let players interactively experience a lo-fi indie rock and frenzy pop music album respectively. Sound Shapes is a clever platformer that doubles as a 16-step sequencer, common in the creation of electronic dance music. These games spark curiosity in how music works as they explore rhythm, harmonies and the joy of performing and actively listening to music. This list includes 53 games from the last 27 years, with 269 likes. They come from a range of different genres and play-styles and are all good games if you want to .
Release Date: 23/06/2006
Out Now: PS Vita, PS4 and PSP
Skill Rating: 6+ year-olds
Components: 2D Side-On, Cartoon and Hand-Made
LocoRoco is a traversal puzzle game in a world of plants and creatures to investigate. The novelty, besides the character’s singing and cute aesthetic, is that you control the game with just two buttons, tilting and bumping your characters through...
Release Date: Coming soon
Coming Soon: PC
Skill Rating: 8+ year-olds
Components: 3D First-Person and Day and Night
Miska is a relaxing narrative adventure game about the flora and fauna of Australia. Rekindle your connection to family and nature through acts of restoration.
Release Date: 23/01/2023, updated in 2024
Out Now: PC, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox X|S
Skill Rating: 9+ year-olds
Components: 3D Third-Person and Cartoon
Hi-Fi Rush is a rhythm fighting game where wannabe rockstar Chai uses the beat to fight an evil corporation. You play by exploring the world and fighting enemies. The twist is that everything moves to the beat, and you must attack in time to do the most...
Release Date: 05/12/2023
Out Now: PC and Switch
Components: 2D Side-On and Cartoon
A Highland Song is a narrative adventure where you explore a maze of crisscrossing routes through the hills of the Highlands. You are 15-year-old Moira who lives with her mum on the edge of the hills and receives a letter inviting her to come to the...
Release Date: 07/03/2024
Coming Soon: PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One
Skill Rating: 7+ year-olds
Components: 2D Overhead, Cartoon, Hand-Made and Open World
Snufkin: Melody of Moominvalley is a musical adventure game where you restore the harmony of Moomin Valley from grotesque parks. It's the variety of play and the beloved characters that make this game a great experience for small (and not-so-small) kids.
Release Date: 21/06/2018
Out Now: PC, PS4, Stadia and Switch
Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds
Components: 2D Side-On and Pixels
Just Shapes & Beats is a two player rhythm game where you dodge bullets in time with the music. As well as this unusual premise, play extends the novelty as you have to both avoid the various shapes and move to the Beats. It’s a new spin on the shoot...
Release Date: 10/08/2023
Out Now: PC, PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox One and Xbox X|S
Stray Gods: The Roleplaying Musical is a tongue-in-cheek narrative game set in a world where Greek Gods live among us. You play by talking to (and singing with) people and deciding who you can trust. It stands out not only for the branching narrative...
Release Date: 28/04/2009, updated in 2018
Out Now: Mac, PC, PS3, PS4, Switch, Wii, Wii U, Xbox 360 and iOS
Bit Trip (Bit.Trip) is a series of games with a focus on simple game-play, retro visuals and chip-tune music. The games range from pong to platforming but each one requires you to play in time to the music.
Release Date: 06/09/2022, updated in 2022
Out Now: Android, Mac, PC, Switch and iOS
Components: 2D Overhead and Grid
Railbound is a track-bending puzzle game where you lay track, switch points, and use tunnels to get the carriages to the engine in the right order. Although it's the puzzles that keep you playing, there's also a real joy in connecting tracks and seeing...
Release Date: 31/10/1997
Out Now: PS4 and PSP
PaRappa the Rapper is a bizarre rhythm game where you play a paper-thin rapping dog trying to win the heart of a flower-faced girl. You do this by pressing buttons to rap in time with the music to impress her. It creates a silly yet endearing game about...
Release Date: 13/06/2019
Out Now: Switch
Components: 2D Overhead and Pixels
Cadence of Hyrule is a Zelda-infused version of a popular rhythm-action indie game called Crypt of the NecroDancer. Like the original, you go on an adventure viewed from above and progress by moving, attacking and dodging in time with the music.
Release Date: 15/12/2022
Melatonin is a rhythm game where you press buttons in time with surreal pastel scenes. You play by deciphering the animations and sound cues to know when to press buttons. It stands out as a rhythm game that manages to keep you in time without any...
Release Date: 25/05/2022
Out Now: PC
Components: 2D Overhead and Blocks
Sonority is a fantasy adventure where you progress by solving musical puzzles. You help Esther explore a lost world to collect musical notes and playing arrangements next to blocks to unlock the way forward. What's clever is the connection between the...
Release Date: 11/01/2002, updated in 2020
Out Now: Android, Oculus, PC, PS2, PS4 and Xbox 360
Components: 3D First-Person
Rez Infinite is a shooting game where you fire musical energy rather than bullets. As you guide a figure through the darkness of space you bring down enemies in time with the music. Rez is novel for its use of music and vibration feedback to create a...
Release Date: 09/12/2023
Out Now: Android, PC, PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox One, Xbox X|S and iOS
Fortnite Festival is a rhythm action game in Fortnite, created by the people who made Rock Band. Play involves picking a song to play, and then pressing buttons in time with the music like Guitar Hero. It's a novel way to reprise the popular play style...
Release Date: 10/10/2016, updated in 2019
Out Now: Android, PC, PS4, Stadia, Switch, Xbox One and iOS
Components: 3D Third-Person
Thumper is a rhythm game where you guide a beetle-like creature through music track by pressing buttons in time. Unlike other music games, the focus is on impact and combat rather than soaring tunes. It's described by the developer as a rhythm-violence...
Release Date: 16/10/2013, updated in 2020
Out Now: PC, PS4, Switch, Wii U and Xbox One
Components: 2D Side-On
140 is a sliding, rolling and jumping game where you control a changing geometric shape to traverse a minimalist world. It's challenging for the timed jumps and reactions but keeps distractions to a minimum with its abstract colorful graphics.
Release Date: 08/11/2005, updated in 2015
Out Now: Apple TV, DS, Mac, PC, PS2, PS3, PS4, Wii, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One and iOS
Guitar Hero is a series of rhythm games where you tap buttons in time to all sorts of songs using plastic instrument-shaped controllers. In the latest game, Guitar Hero Live, you play along to real-life recorded performances filmed from the lead...
Release Date: 11/06/2019
Out Now: Mac, PC, PS3 and PS4
Skill Rating: 5+ year-olds
Joust Mania is a movement-sensitive game of tag that is played in the real world, holding PlayStation Move motion controllers. First appearing as one of the games in the Sportsfriends pack, and then evolving as Joust Mania with more modes and up to 16...
Coming Soon: PC and Switch
Project Timi: Sasha's curse is a rhythmic platform game where you lay traps and defeat enemies in time to the beat. Set inside a small child's dream, you need to save Lucity Town from the nightmares and restore peace in a unique combination of puzzles,...
Release Date: 31/07/2008, updated in 2016
Out Now: 3DS and 2DS, DS, GBA, Wii and Wii U
Rhythm Paradise (also known as Rhythm Heaven, Rhythm World and Rhythm Tengoku) is a Japanese rhythm game where you perform everyday action in time with a musical beat.
Release Date: 26/03/2018
Out Now: Android and iOS
Supertype is a puzzle game you play with letters, but isn't about making words. You use the peculiar shapes of these most familiar of symbols to cover one or more dots on the level. Each letter has different uses as you try and get them to land where...
Release Date: 09/11/2018, updated in 2021
Out Now: Oculus, PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One
Tetris Effect: Connected is a tile-matching puzzle game (just like the original Tetris) but with a surprisingly powerful aesthetic twist. The game places each level in a themed area and ties gameplay to the beat of the music across its thirty different...
Release Date: 11/04/2017, updated in 2018
Out Now: PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One
Aaero is a rhythm game where you control a spacecraft with one stick and target with the other. At times it's like flying an X-Wing on a trench run while at others it's like soaring high and free targeting enemies in a Starfox game. It's an on-rails...
Release Date: 06/10/2015, updated in 2017
Out Now: PS4 and Xbox One
Rock Band 4 is a music rhythm game. Play along with licensed music using specially made plastic controllers acting as guitars, drum kits and microphones. The game comes with 65 songs spanning the 1960's to 2010's. The music appears as coloured blocks...
Release Date: 04/03/2022, updated in 2022
Components: 2D Overhead, Blocks and Grid
Triangle Strategy is an action role-playing game that combines a complex branching plot with grid-based battles like Fire Emblem or Advance Wars. It stands out not only for its unusual diorama visuals, but by creating an intertwining story of many...
Release Date: 14/09/2016, updated in 2019
Out Now: PC, PS Vita, PS4, Switch and Xbox One
Conga Master is an action dancing game about getting the most people to join your conga line. It's like the classic Nokia game Snake with an unusual dancing twist. Play involves using two buttons to steer left or right. You dance your way around a club,...
Release Date: 07/08/2012, updated in 2013
Out Now: PS Vita, PS3 and PS4
Sound Shapes is simple rolling and jumping game where you make music by completing the levels. It features music from artists such as Beck and visual elements from other games and game makers. Originally on the Vita, it uses that systems touch screens...
Release Date: 28/10/2015, updated in 2017
Out Now: Switch and iOS
Super Sports Beat is a sports rhythm game where you move your character in time with the music to swing, volley, and score points in different events.
Release Date: 08/12/2022
Out Now: PC, PS4, PS5 and Switch
Components: 2D Overhead
The Forest Quartet is a puzzle adventure about the band's lead singer who passed away in an ancient forest. You play her spirit travelling through the forest to create three final acts unique to the members of her band for a final concert. It's an...
Release Date: 20/01/2008
Out Now: Wii
Skill Rating: 2+ year-olds
Wii Music is a rhythm-music game where you use Wii Remote motion controller to play different instruments. Unlike other music games, here you collaborate on playing arrangements of existing songs. The result is a super-approachable music game that's...
Release Date: 11/02/2020, updated in 2021
Out Now: PS4 and PS5
Art's Dream is an adventure game featuring different game styles, including running and jumping, combat and puzzle solving. It's particularly unusual as it has music threading through it like a musical. You play as Art, a depressed double bass player,...
Release Date: 27/01/2023
Out Now: PC, PS4 and Switch
Atone: Heart of the Elder Tree is a traversal narrative game set in a Norse-inspired world where combat is a rhythm rather than a reaction challenge. You explore the world as Estra a young warrior on a quest through Midgard to discover the truth behind...
Release Date: 09/06/2014, updated in 2014
Entwined is a rhythm-action game where you play a bird and a fish dancing to the music on a quest to unite their souls. Unusually, you control each character with a different joystick on the gamepad and must move them around the screen simultaneously to...
Coming Soon: Xbox X|S
Harmonium: The Musical is an adventure where you play a young girl who became Deaf when she was very young as she goes on a grand expedition. You explore a fantastical world where music is seen as much as heard and use sign language and gestures to...
Release Date: 23/08/2021
Skill Rating: 12+ year-olds
Heartbeat: Regret is a horror rhythm-typing game. It's a tough game where you are hunted in a mansion by a dark monster. Unusually, you need to press buttons in time with the audible heart beat to move around and then type directions to take specific...
Release Date: 06/12/2017
Moshi Kids: Stories and Games is a collection of play, stories, and other activities for preschool children. You can solve simple puzzles, play hide and seek, listen to narrated stories and lullabies, and relax with meditative music. It helps foster...
Coming Soon: PC, PS5, Switch and Xbox X|S
Ratatan is a rhythm game from the team behind Patapon, where you tap buttons in time with the beat to control your little army in a real-time battle. In this way, you use instruments to issue commands to your troops as they defeat powerful enemies and...
Release Date: 11/05/2022
Out Now: PS4, Switch and Xbox One
Soundfall is a dungeon exploration, collection and brawling game where you use rhythm and timing with the music to land the perfect attacks. You are a Guardian of Harmony and must battle the forces of discord with up to four friends to restore harmony...
Release Date: 17/06/2020
Across the Grooves is a narrative adventure where you play Alice as her uneventful life is turned upside down when a magical record throws her back into her own past. You play by making choices about her interactions that not only change the past she is...