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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 .

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LocoRoco

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...

Miska

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.

Hi-Fi Rush

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...

A Highland Song

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...

Snufkin: Melody of Moominvalley

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.

Just Shapes & Beats

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...

Stray Gods: The Roleplaying Musical

Release Date: 10/08/2023

Out Now: PC, PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox One and Xbox X|S

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

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...

Bit Trip (Series)

Release Date: 28/04/2009, updated in 2018

Out Now: Mac, PC, PS3, PS4, Switch, Wii, Wii U, Xbox 360 and iOS

Skill Rating: 8+ year-olds

Components: 2D Side-On and Pixels

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.

Railbound

Release Date: 06/09/2022, updated in 2022

Out Now: Android, Mac, PC, Switch and iOS

Skill Rating: 7+ year-olds

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...

PaRappa the Rapper

Release Date: 31/10/1997

Out Now: PS4 and PSP

Skill Rating: 7+ year-olds

Components: 2D Side-On, Cartoon and Hand-Made

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...

Cadence of Hyrule

Release Date: 13/06/2019

Out Now: Switch

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

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.

Melatonin

Release Date: 15/12/2022

Out Now: PC and Switch

Components: 2D Side-On and Cartoon

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...

Sonority

Release Date: 25/05/2022

Out Now: PC

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

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...

Rez Infinite (Series)

Release Date: 11/01/2002, updated in 2020

Out Now: Android, Oculus, PC, PS2, PS4 and Xbox 360

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

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...

Fortnite Festival (Fortnite)

Release Date: 09/12/2023

Out Now: Android, PC, PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox One, Xbox X|S and iOS

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

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...

Thumper

Release Date: 10/10/2016, updated in 2019

Out Now: Android, PC, PS4, Stadia, Switch, Xbox One and iOS

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

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...

140

Release Date: 16/10/2013, updated in 2020

Out Now: PC, PS4, Switch, Wii U and Xbox One

Skill Rating: 9+ year-olds

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.

Guitar Hero (Series)

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

Skill Rating: 7+ year-olds

Components: 2D Overhead and Grid

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...

Joust Mania

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...

Project Timi: Sasha's Curse

Release Date: Coming soon

Coming Soon: PC and Switch

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

Components: 2D Overhead and Grid

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,...

Rhythm Paradise

Release Date: 31/07/2008, updated in 2016

Out Now: 3DS and 2DS, DS, GBA, Wii and Wii U

Skill Rating: 7+ year-olds

Components: 2D Side-On and Cartoon

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.

Supertype

Release Date: 26/03/2018

Out Now: Android and iOS

Skill Rating: 8+ year-olds

Components: 2D Side-On

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...

Tetris Effect: Connected

Release Date: 09/11/2018, updated in 2021

Out Now: Oculus, PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One

Skill Rating: 7+ year-olds

Components: 2D Side-On

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...

Aaero

Release Date: 11/04/2017, updated in 2018

Out Now: PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

Components: 3D First-Person

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...

Rock Band 4 (Series)

Release Date: 06/10/2015, updated in 2017

Out Now: PS4 and Xbox One

Skill Rating: 8+ year-olds

Components: 2D Overhead and Grid

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...

Triangle Strategy

Release Date: 04/03/2022, updated in 2022

Out Now: PC and Switch

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

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...

Conga Master

Release Date: 14/09/2016, updated in 2019

Out Now: PC, PS Vita, PS4, Switch and Xbox One

Skill Rating: 6+ year-olds

Components: 2D Overhead and Pixels

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,...

Sound Shapes

Release Date: 07/08/2012, updated in 2013

Out Now: PS Vita, PS3 and PS4

Skill Rating: 8+ year-olds

Components: 2D Side-On and Cartoon

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...

Super Sports Beat

Release Date: 28/10/2015, updated in 2017

Out Now: Switch and iOS

Skill Rating: 5+ year-olds

Components: 2D Side-On and Cartoon

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.

The Forest Quartet

Release Date: 08/12/2022

Out Now: PC, PS4, PS5 and Switch

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

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...

Wii Music

Release Date: 20/01/2008

Out Now: Wii

Skill Rating: 2+ year-olds

Components: 2D Side-On and Cartoon

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...

Art's Dream (Dreams)

Release Date: 11/02/2020, updated in 2021

Out Now: PS4 and PS5

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

Components: 3D Third-Person

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,...

Atone: Heart of the Elder Tree

Release Date: 27/01/2023

Out Now: PC, PS4 and Switch

Skill Rating: 8+ year-olds

Components: 2D Side-On and Pixels

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...

Entwined

Release Date: 09/06/2014, updated in 2014

Out Now: PS Vita, PS3 and PS4

Skill Rating: 7+ year-olds

Components: 2D Side-On

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...

Harmonium: The Musical

Release Date: Coming soon

Coming Soon: Xbox X|S

Skill Rating: 6+ year-olds

Components: 3D Third-Person and Cartoon

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...

Heartbeat: Regret

Release Date: 23/08/2021

Out Now: PC

Skill Rating: 12+ year-olds

Components: 2D Side-On and Pixels

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...

Moshi Kids: Stories and Games

Release Date: 06/12/2017

Out Now: Android and iOS

Skill Rating: 2+ year-olds

Components: 2D Side-On and Cartoon

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...

Ratatan

Release Date: Coming soon

Coming Soon: PC, PS5, Switch and Xbox X|S

Skill Rating: 8+ year-olds

Components: 2D Side-On and Cartoon

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...

Soundfall

Release Date: 11/05/2022

Out Now: PS4, Switch and Xbox One

Components: 3D Third-Person

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...

Across the Grooves

Release Date: 17/06/2020

Out Now: PC and Switch

Skill Rating: 12+ year-olds

Components: 2D Side-On and Cartoon

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...

Taming Gaming Book Written by parents for parents, the database complements the in-depth discussion about video game addiction, violence, spending and online safety in the Taming Gaming book. We are an editorially independent, free resource without adverts that is supported by partnerships.

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