When rhythm video games come to mind, you probably think of plastic instruments for Guitar Hero and dance mats for Dance Dance Revolution. And while these games are fun, having to use special peripherals is annoying. Especially due to the space required.
Thankfully, there are some great rhythm games that you can play with nothing more than a normal controller. So here are the best rhythm games you can play with just a controller, saving you from having to buy and store annoying plastic peripherals.
1. Superbeat: Xonic
If you’re looking for a straightforward rhythm game with a wide variety of music, Superbeat is a great choice. It features over 50 tracks across genres like indie pop, electronic, and even metal.
The game originally released on PlayStation Vita and let you take advantage of the device’s touchscreen. However, it’s now available on all modern consoles with controller support. You’ll have to tap the right buttons in time with the notes in three levels of difficulty: 4 TRAX, 6 TRAX, and 6 TRAX FX.
4 TRAX only uses four buttons (plus control sticks) for the notes, making it great for beginners. 6 TRAX adds an extra button on each side of the controller, while 6 TRAX FX takes it further by adding the shoulder buttons. You can change the speed at which the notes appear and even add handicaps to further adjust the challenge.
As you play, you’ll unlock challenges in the World Tour mode to test your skills and unlock more content. There’s also DLC available for purchase if you want to pay for more tracks.
The Persona series has received a number of spin-off titles, with Persona 3, 4, and 5 each getting their own dancing game. Each one is very similar: use the face buttons and control sticks to hit the beats in time with the music. You can customize your character’s outfit and pick from a number of remixed tracks from each game.
Be warned that because they each take place after the stories of their respective Persona titles, playing them will spoil the mainline games. So if you have any interest in the Persona series, play a game before you jump into its Dancing counterpart.
These games are definitely made for fans of the series, but rhythm enthusiasts will still have fun with them. If you don’t care about Persona, which Dancing game you should play comes down to the music you like best. And you can give the soundtracks a listen on YouTube to find out.
Notably, Persona 4 Dancing has a proper story mode; the others are more barebones. Unfortunately, Persona 4 Dancing isn’t available as a standalone download on PS4. The only way to get it on PlayStation 4 is to buy the Persona Dancing: Endless Night Collection, which includes all three games.
Buy: Persona 3: Dancing in Moonlight for PS4 | PS Vita Buy: Persona 4: Dancing All Night for PS Vita Buy: Persona 5: Dancing in Starlight for PS4 | PS Vita Buy: Persona Dancing: Endless Night Collection for PS4
Thumper is an interesting beast; the developers call it a “rhythm violence game.” In it, you guide a beetle down a track and have to use the right button inputs to avoid danger. This includes jumping over obstacles and turning to navigate sharp bends.
You’re scored on your performance for each section and stage, so arcade fans will enjoy trying to beat their high score as they improve. The game is available on several platforms, with VR support as an option if you have an Oculus, HTC Vive, or PSVR (have a look at the best free Oculus games if you just got a VR headset).
If you like rhythm elements but want something a little different, this is one to try.
Rhythm Heaven is a lesser-known Nintendo franchise that focuses on rhythm gameplay. It’s made up of mini games where you use the buttons (or touchscreen) to keep the action flowing along with the music.
For example, Ringside tasks you with responding to a reporter’s questions after a wrestling match; you must hit the button a certain number of times depending on what she asks. Each game has its own rules, but they’re all guided by music. Rhythm Heaven is made by the same team behind the WarioWare series, so they share a quirky sense of humor.
The most recent entry is Rhythm Heaven Megamix, which serves as a compilation of favorite mini games from past titles along with some newcomers. It’s thus a great starting point if you’re new to the series.
VOEZ was originally released on mobile devices before coming to the Switch shortly after launch. Due to its roots, you can play the game entirely on a touchscreen. It also works with a controller, but this isn’t the ideal way to play.
It’s a simple rhythm experience; notes drop from the top of the screen and you must tap, hold, swipe, and perform other actions on them in time with the music. The aesthetic is clean, and the game features three difficulty levels so you can play at your preferred skill level.
Notably, VOEZ on Switch packs in all of the tracks sold separately in the mobile version. With over 100 songs and a story to discover, there’s a lot to enjoy here. The music favors electronic and pop music from East Asia, so there’s not as much variety as there is with Superbeat, though.
Download: VOEZ for Android | iOS (Free, in-app purchases available)
6. Crypt of the NecroDancer
Crypt of the NecroDancer is primarily a roguelike game, but it has heavy rhythm elements that make it a must-play for anyone interested in both genres. In it, you’ll crawl through dungeons containing all sorts of enemies, traps, and upgrades.
What sets this game apart is that you must move to the beat of the music for the best results. If you misstep, you’ll lose your beat multiplier, which has several negative consequences.
Crypt of the NecroDancer features punishing difficulty; you have to restart from the beginning of the stage if you die, and it will take you dozens of attempts to learn enemy behaviors and the best strategies to succeed. Since it’s randomly generated, you can’t just memorize dungeon layouts, either.
If you don’t mind a challenge, you’ll enjoy exploring the game’s crypts as you move to the beat. The game’s soundtrack is excellent and allows you to switch to several remixes in various genres.
Cytus comes from Rayark, the same developer as VOEZ. The game was initially released on Android and iOS, where you can also play the sequel. Cytus Alpha is a Switch remake of the original title.
The gameplay revolves around a horizontal line that moves up and down the screen. You’ll need to input a tap, hold, or drag as the line passes over each note; the color determines whether you should hit it on the upswing or downswing. Like VOEZ, you can use the touchscreen or controllers to play.
In addition to 200+ songs, Cytus Alpha packs in a story mode as well as online battles, so there’s a lot to do. However, this is also the most expensive rhythm game on the list, coming in at $50. You should try one of the mobile versions first to see if you like it enough to grab the definitive Switch version.
Buy: Cytus Alpha for Switch Buy: Cytus for Android (Free, in-app purchases available) | iOS ($1.99, in-app purchases available) Buy: Cytus II for Android ($1.99, in-app purchases available) | iOS (Free, in-app purchases available)
Ditch Those Plastic Peripherals!
We’ve looked at several great rhythm games that don’t require any special peripherals or a lot of space. Allowing you to just play using a standard controller. So whether you want to tap buttons in rhythm with the music or see how another genre crosses over with rhythm elements, these games will get you tapping your feet.