Music in Video games – Music Games

Mario on the back burner

Hi all, Kingblunkers here. Taking a break from our look at Mario in music because its the holidays so everyone’s a little busy. So instead I wanted to specifically talk about a few music oriented games. There are video games with music… and then there’s music games.

Here’s a look at some of my favorites and what I liked about them.

Guitar Hero/Rockband series

Guitar Hero

I know for many of you comparing these two might be a sin, but for my purposes here, they are close enough. Guitar Hero of course leading the way for games like Rockband. The series was very fun and I think unfortunately, for me was ruined by online eShops. But I played a lot of Guitar Hero 1,2,3 and Rockband 1,2. If you never encountered either of these games the premise is that you would play a fake instrument and try to coordinate your fingers in correct timing to popular music to mimic the real music. In the case of the first couple Guitar Hero games, it was only guitar and bass. For Rockband they piled on drums and vocals.

Learning from the legends

These games gave exposure! There are so many classic rock bands/songs that i never knew existed until these games. Jane’s Addiction, Boston, ZZ Top, and many others. All things that I likely would not have encountered without these series. I have since learned more music and understand why older people rave about these groups. Personally, I have this strong theory that you don’t have to LOVE a band for its influence in the past, but you SHOULD respect it. I don’t LOVE Metallica music, but I have to respect that they did change the scene, and games like this shoved that music in my face and made me see some of their music for what it did to the music industry.

I also attribute Rockband as the reason I know how to play drums. While the Guitars in this game don’t really build real skills, the drums are not far off from an actual drum set. Playing these games with a visual helped me see the beat, not only was it super fun to play drums, but I now have a life-long skill out of it.
With the rise of digital downloads, I think this game actually became less novel. It then turned into almost any song was available to port into the game… at a price. For someone like me who had no extra money outside of the game itself, i was not going to be able to buy all these extra songs. There was something super exciting about hearing the next installment was coming and seeing the track-list. A few I knew and couldn’t wait to play, and others would be new and always welcoming the possibility of a new hit.

Donkey Konga

Donkey Konga

This game, will likely not go down in history as one of the greatest, but I did love what it did. Again if you aren’t familiar, like Rockband, you could buy these Bongo drum controllers to accompany the game and beat the pads or clap in rhythm to the music as it showed on the screen.

As someone who didn’t have any real musician in my life, my outlets for music were pretty limited. No one in my family played anything, so when I had these interest in learning music, Donkey Konga was a slight gateway into that. Not to brag… but I was pretty darn good at all these games. And it was an amazing way for me to combine my love of video games and music. And as I was growing into an angsty teen, I loved playing Sidewalks by St. Louis’s own “Story of the Year” on the awkward and goofy Congo drums.



Space Channel 5

Space Channel 5

This one goes way back for me. I love the Sega Dream-cast,  it has a weird little part in video game history. I think the Dream-cast did a lot of interesting things, but just didn’t have enough love/support for it to continue it, but i think it did things that advanced the video game industry even if it didn’t live to see it. One of these gems was a weird little game called Space Channel 5.  I never played PaRappa The Rapper, but these games are pretty similar, this one was just waaaaay less known. The plot was essentially TV stations were fighting for ratings, and these aliens came and started kidnapping everyone. You saved the world by dancing and shooting to the beat.




New age of music games

I say new, but the last three games i want to talk about aren’t really new. But in terms of music games what you see more and more isn’t a direct music to control. Its almost a subliminal synchronization between the music that reaches our ears and the actions our hands output through out controller.



This game came out in 2010. The actions are pretty simple jump and duck to dodge obstacles as your character automatically runs. Collect all the treasure for a bonus challenge. And unlike some of the games of old. the music is complex, so its not like your performing an action on every down beat or like playing Simon with music. This makes for an eerie and fun connection between your mind and hands.
Because you can almost feel the beat more than you hear it.







Geometry Dash

Now I play a lot of mobile games, but most of them aren’t very good. I feel its more just to pass the time if I am stuck waiting somewhere and want to avoid talking to people. (introverts unite!) Geometry Dash still does that weird disconnect/connection thing between syncing your actions up in a syncopated manner. But this one started on Mobile! But the difference I’d say here is that the Geometry Dash music is more… consumable. BIT TRIP Runner has great music. But I don’t think I’d ever be comfortable playing it on a playlist while riding in a car with friends. Geometry Dash has amazing that doesn’t honestly sound too different than some of the EDM music that is very popular these days.



Crypt of the NecroDancer

In terms of music games, This one is on a whole other level. Imagine an adventuring game like Skyrim but every step you take and every swing of your sword had to be synced up to some awesome thumping beats… That is what This game is. Adventure through some old school dungeons that are modified with light up floor tiles and singing shopkeepers. The music is really good too (playlist here)

Future possibilities

As someone who is a litte more musically inclined, I cannot wait until we can see more traditional games get beefed up with music. I know there are games like Osu, but I am not interested in just clicking with my mouse. Is a music version of Portal possible? I want to have Music Racing! Music Sports games, Why not?! And for any developers with the same goal, learn from this game.

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