games / Columns

The Top 8 Music Games

August 10, 2021 | Posted by Marc Morrison
Rock Band 3 Drummer

Welcome all to another edition of The 8 Ball! This week I’m here to talk about music games. I’ve talked about games in the past but like with everything else, tastes always change, new things are added or old picks can be shifted around. Let’s begin:

#8: Rez

Rez is kind of low on here because the music doesn’t mesh 100% well with the actual game. Like, the music is great, but it doesn’t seem like it is completely in style with the action that you’re doing on the screen. You could just play the game on mute and still have a pretty solid experience with it, overall. You could make the case for the other games Tetsuya Mizuguchi makes, Child of Eden, Lumines and Tetris Effect. All are have some seriously great music but the soundtracks are almost incidental to the actual gameplay.

#7: Audioshield

Audioshield, to me, completely blows Beat Saber out of the water. Beat Saber is fast and frantic but it has a bunch of music/songs that I couldn’t give a damn about. You can kind of add in custom music to it, but it’s a pretty hacked up process to do it. Audioshield’s (and Audiosurf) whole purpose is for you to plug in whatever song you want and play a level that is extrapolated from it. While it’s not as in-depth as a typical Beat Saber level, it does use music that you’ve actually heard of/like, because IT’S YOUR MUSIC. Too bad the two games can’t combine into the uber-VR music game.

#6: Persona 5 Dancing in Starlight

I recognize that Persona 4: Dancing All Night is probably a “better” game. It has more actual gameplay, like earning money, buying stuff, customizing your characters and what not. Oh, it also has a story, which is nice. For me though, I just recognize and like the music in Persona 5 over Persona 4 (or 3). It’s probably because I played Persona 5 so much, so those songs are basically burned into my memory at this point. From a rhythm game perspective, both games are functionally the same, I just like the stuff going on in Dancing in Starlight more.

#5: Cadence of Hyrule

I actually think Cadence might be the best Zelda game in the past decade. It is a rogue-like Zelda game mixed with NecroDancer combat and it works amazingly well. You have to move and attack with the beat of the song and if you do it well, you get stronger the more you are in time with the music. Even if you aren’t good at it, you can turn this mechanic basically off and still play this as an old-school Zelda game and it’s great. The best part is actually the music though with Danny B remixing classic Zelda songs to make them stand out even more. It’s still bewildering that there’s no “full” soundtrack of this game for people to buy.

#4: Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: All-Star Carnival

So this is the arcade version of Theatrhytmn, not either of the 3DS ones and I had a blast playing it. I gather it’s probably the same for the portable versions but you have four lanes of notes and you have to press the buttons in time with the beats while also manipulating the up/down direction buttons when need be. You fight random enemies and bosses, all the while having power ups and limit breaks popping off when you are doing well. The version I was playing was a tad out of date, it didn’t have the Nier: Automata music in it, but it had all the regular music in it alongside a lot of the other downloadable Square music, which made it a fantastic machine to spend time on.

#3: Taiko no Tatsujin

God, I wish I could actually find a copy of this game in the States. This is another arcade game but it’s had a long history of home releases. The problem is, for the PS4 version, they never actually released the drum controller over here. I did import a copy earlier this year but part of the drum was busted (the outer ring on the right side), so it made the game functionally unplayable because of this. The game itself is a drum game with four areas, two inner and two outer, but it is amazingly fun to play, if you can actually find a place that has it.

#2: Rock Band 2

Rock Band 1 was kind of a good first attempt but Rock Band 2 is where it really solidified things for me. The best thing about it was having an online career system for you and your friends. I think they finally realized that most people don’t have 3 people locally around to play Rock Band with, so having an actual online system was handy. Also, while Rock Band one and Guitar Hero 2 had downloadable songs/packs, Rock Band 2 is where it really got huge and was a huge money maker for years to come. Also, I kind of liked the “No Fail” mode, since it could actually teach you how to play the songs without being pressured by bombing or being awful.

#1: Guitar Hero 1

Guitar Hero 2 had better, or more recognizable, songs, but I always have a place in my heart for the first Guitar Hero game. Even if the songs aren’t the original bands singing them, they still generally work. Plus it was just a fun game to play. It pretty much started the music genre, at least when it came to the mainstream appeal. Plus, it was a great party game when you had two guitars and could play with your friends or other people. The genre got complicated quickly by business and such but the first Guitar Hero was a quaint and innocent game to play.

For comments, list your favorite music games and why.

Also, list your favorite franchises. It’s part of the next topic.

Next Issue
Top 8 Games in Franchises, submitted in the comments