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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 42 games from the last 25 years, with 131 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 16
ESRB Ratings: ESRB EVERYONE to ESRB TEEN
Australian Ratings: G to M
Genres: Action, Adventure, Brain Game, Creative, Fighting, Narrative, Open World, Physically Active, Platform, Point-and-Click, Puzzle, Race, Rhythm, Role-Play, Sequencing, Shooting, Simulation, Sports, Stealth, Strategy, Traversal and World Building
Total Likes: 131
 

 

Everyday Shooter

Release Date: 14/02/2008

Platforms: PC, PS Vita and PS3

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

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...

140

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

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

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.

Thumper

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

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

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

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...

Just Shapes & Beats

Release Date: 21/06/2018

Platforms: PC, PS4, Stadia and Switch

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

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...

LocoRoco

Release Date: 23/06/2006

Platforms: PS Vita, PS4 and PSP

Skill Rating: 6+ year-olds

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

Release Date: 31/10/1997

Platforms: 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...

Railbound

Release Date: 06/09/2022

Platforms: PC

Skill Rating: 8+ year-olds

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...

Cadence of Hyrule

Release Date: 13/06/2019

Platforms: Switch

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.

Joust Mania

Release Date: 11/06/2019

Platforms: Mac, PC, PS3 and PS4

Skill Rating: 5+ year-olds

Joust is a 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,...

Project Timi: Sasha's Curse

Release Date: Coming soon

Platforms: PC and Switch

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

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,...

A Highland Song

Release Date: Coming soon

Platforms: PC and Switch

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...

Miska

Release Date: Coming soon

Platforms: PC

Skill Rating: 8+ year-olds

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.

Rez Infinite (Series)

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

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

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

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

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

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

Skill Rating: 7+ year-olds

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.

Rock Band 4 (Series)

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

Platforms: PS4 and Xbox One

Skill Rating: 8+ year-olds

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...

Supertype

Release Date: 26/03/2018

Platforms: Android and iOS

Skill Rating: 8+ year-olds

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...

Melatonin

Release Date: 16/09/2022

Platforms: PC and Switch

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...

Aaero

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

Platforms: PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

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...

Art's Dream (Dreams)

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

Platforms: PS4 and PS5

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

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,...

Heartbeat: Regret

Release Date: 23/08/2021

Platforms: PC

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...

Sound Shapes

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

Platforms: PS Vita, PS3 and PS4

Skill Rating: 8+ year-olds

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

Platforms: Switch and iOS

Skill Rating: 5+ year-olds

Super Bear Sports is a sports rhythm game where you move your character in time with the music to swing, volley, and score points in different events.

Tetris Effect: Connected

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

Platforms: Oculus, PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One

Skill Rating: 7+ year-olds

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.

Triangle Strategy

Release Date: 04/03/2022

Platforms: Switch

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

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...

Bit Trip (Series)

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

Platforms: 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.

Conga Master

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

Platforms: PC, PS Vita, PS4, Switch and Xbox One

Skill Rating: 6+ year-olds

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,...

Melodyssey

Release Date: Coming soon

Platforms: PC

Skill Rating: 8+ year-olds

Melodyssey is a music puzzle game in a calm stress free exploration adventure. You play a young child journeying through a musical landscape looking for musical inspiration. It stands out for the pastel presentation, simple block moving thinky puzzles...

Onde

Release Date: 17/03/2022

Platforms: PC

Skill Rating: 3+ year-olds

Onde is an ethereal movement and exploration game where you dive into a fluid world full of sounds. As you move through the abstract landscapes they respond with notes and music. It's an unusual experience because the interactions invite you not only to...

Sonority

Release Date: 25/05/2022

Platforms: PC

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

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...

Soundfall

Release Date: 11/05/2022

Platforms: 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...

The Lullaby of Life

Release Date: 24/07/2020

Platforms: iPhone, iPad

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

The Lullaby of Life is a rhythm puzzle game where you use music as the catalyst to trigger new lifeforms. You float around to explore a music-driven world. To progress through different areas you need to use the three notes you have on your creature,...

Bandapes (Sokpop)

Release Date: 03/04/2019

Platforms: Mac and PC

Skill Rating: 8+ year-olds

Bandapes is a turn based fighting game where you gather a team of fighting apes who fight using musical note combinations in a turn-based battles with other ape squads. It's a wacky and unusual combination of rhythm and turn taking battle simulation.

HarmoKnight

Release Date: 28/03/2013

Platforms: 3DS and 2DS

Skill Rating: 5+ year-olds

HarmoKnight (Rhythm Hunter: HarmoKnight in Japan) is a rhythm based running, jumping and whacking game. You play a boy named Tempo who is fighting enemies with a musical note staff. You are joined by an archer named Lyra, a buff warrior named Tyko, and...

Theatrhythm Final Bar Line (Series)

Release Date: 16/02/2012, updated in 2023

Platforms: 3DS and 2DS, PS4, Switch and iOS

Skill Rating: 7+ year-olds

Theatrhythm is a series of rhythm games where you hit notes and perform actions in time to the music. In Theatrhythm Final Bar Line, you play along to tracks from the famous Final Fantasy Series and other [link to...

Audio Wizards

Release Date: 01/09/2019

Platforms: Android and iOS

Skill Rating: 8+ year-olds

AudioWizards is an adventure where you battle enemies with elemental spells. It's unusual for offering an adventure experience for blind and visually impaired players. You play as an apprentice who travels with a seasoned wizard called Saundaman....

Ecstatic

Release Date: 14/06/2022

Platforms: PC

Skill Rating: 13+ year-olds

Ecstatic is a fast and hard retro shooting game where you control a mechanical Spider that freezes time and shoots rockets. You need to both keep moving and keep shooting to stay alive. It's like what are sometimes described as bullet-hell games,...

Oddada

Release Date: Coming soon

Platforms: PC

Skill Rating: 5+ year-olds

Oddada is a game where you make music with toys in a miniature blocky world. You set-up your little world and then take your train through different landscapes, machines and buildings to collect melodies and rhythms.

Robobeat

Release Date: Coming soon

Platforms: PC

Skill Rating: 12+ year-olds

Robobeat is a shooting game where you maximise your damage by shooting on the beat. More surreal than other rhythm shooter games, the focus here is on musical flow as you wall run, grapple hook, slide, and bunny hop your way through the crazy world.

Snufkin: Melody of Moominvalley

Release Date: Coming soon

Platforms: PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One

Skill Rating: 7+ year-olds

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.

Solas 128

Release Date: 25/01/2021

Platforms: PC and Switch

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

Solas 128 is a thinking puzzle game where you redirect rhythmic pulses of light to restart an ancient machine. You rotate and position mirrors to connect light sources and unlock further puzzles. The novelty, beyond the retro visuals and rhythm is that...

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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