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Music Powered Play

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 putting players in a state of flow, and others reacting 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 13 games from the last 24 years, with 45 likes. They come from a range of different genres and play-styles and are all good games if you want to .

DetailsList Details

PEGI Ratings: PEGI 3 to PEGI 12
ESRB Ratings: ESRB EVERYONE to ESRB EVERYONE 10+
Genres: Action, Adventure, Creative, Fighting, Physically Active, Platform, Puzzle, Rhythm, Shooting and Turn-Based
Total Likes: 45
 

 

LocoRoco

Content Rating: PEGI 3

Skill Rating: 6+ year-olds

Release Date: 23/06/2006

Platforms: PS Vita, PS4 and PSP

Genres: Platform

Accessibility: 1 feature

Developer: @SonyJapanStudio

Players: This is a single player game

This creates 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 each level.

PaRappa the Rapper

Content Rating: PEGI 12

Release Date: 31/10/1997

Platforms: PS4 and PSP

Genres: Rhythm

Developer: @NanaOn_Sha

Players: You can play with 2 players in the same room

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...

Joust Mania

Content Rating: PEGI 7

Release Date: 11/06/2019

Price: Free

Platforms: Mac, PC, PS3 and PS4

Genres: Action, Fighting and Physically Active

Developer: @AdAngert

Players: You can play with 16 players in the same room

This movement-sensitive game of tag 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 players, it’s an...

Thumper

Content Rating: PEGI 7

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

Platforms: Android, PC, PS4, Stadia, Switch, Xbox One and iOS

Genres: Action, Fighting and Rhythm

Developer: @MarcAFlury

Players: This is a single player game

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...

Cadence of Hyrule

Content Rating: PEGI 3

Release Date: 13/06/2019

Platforms: Switch

Genres: Action, Adventure, Fighting, Rhythm and Turn-Based

Developer: @BYG_Vancouver‬

Players: You can play with 2 players in the same room

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 progressed by moving, attacking and dodging in time with the music.

Rez Infinite (Series)

Content Rating: PEGI 7

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

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

Platforms: Android, Oculus, PC, PS2, PS4 and Xbox 360

Genres: Physically Active, Rhythm and Shooting

Accessibility: 25 features

Developer: @Mizuguchitter

Players: This is a single player game

Rez 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 sense of...

Rhythm Paradise

Content Rating: PEGI 7

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

Price: 70% off

Platforms: 3DS and 2DS, DS, Wii and Wii U

Genres: Rhythm

Developer: @tsunkuboy

Players: This is a single player game

Rhythm Heaven (also known as Rhythm Paradise, Rhythm World and Rhythm Tengoku) is a Japanese rhythm game where you perform everyday action in time with a musical beat.

Bit Trip

Content Rating: PEGI 3

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

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

Genres: Action, Platform and Shooting

Developer: @TotallyChoice

Players: This is a single player game

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.

Tetris Effect: Connected

Content Rating: PEGI 3

Skill Rating: 7-16 year-olds

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

Platforms: Oculus, PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S

Genres: Puzzle and Rhythm

Developer: @Mizuguchitter

Players: You can play with 4 players in the same room and up to 4 players online

Tetris Effect 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 stages.

140

Content Rating: PEGI 3

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

Platforms: PC, PS4, Switch, Wii U and Xbox One

Genres: Platform and Rhythm

Accessibility: 1 feature

Developer: @CarlsenGames

Players: This is a single player game

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.

Aaero

Content Rating: PEGI 7

Skill Rating: 10-14 year-olds

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

Platforms: PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One

Genres: Action, Rhythm and Shooting

Accessibility: 10 features

Developer: @MadFellowsGames

Players: This is a single player game

Aaero is a rhythm game where you control a spacecraft with on 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 targetting enemies in a Starfox game. It's an on-rails...

Everyday Shooter

Content Rating: PEGI 3

Skill Rating: 10-13 year-olds

Release Date: 14/02/2008

Platforms: PC, PS Vita and PS3

Genres: Action and Shooting

Developer: @Mango_Lychee

Players: This is a single player game

Everyday Shooter is a collection of shooting games presented as a music album. The shooting action is familiar but here the dissolute sounds of destruction are replaced with guitar riffs harmonizing over the soundtrack. The visuals join in the...

Sound Shapes

Content Rating: PEGI 3

Skill Rating: 8-13 year-olds

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

Platforms: PS Vita, PS3 and PS4

Genres: Creative, Platform, Puzzle and Rhythm

Developer: @Mango_Lychee

Players: This is a single player game

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...


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