The best stories in the Rhythm Game genre


Rhythm games have come a long way since the arcade scene in the late 90s and early 2000s. Back then, there was no story or characters to worry about, we were only there for two things: the music and the satisfaction of tuning the music to our steps.

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But now, gameplay is mostly just a means to an end; a device for delivering different kinds of stories to the player that makes sense of the unique way rhythm games could. This is a celebration of strong narrative rhythm games. Each one deserves a look or two.


8/8 Channel 5 space

Space Channel 5 - Rhythm Games w Stories - Ulala saves people

A game that’s as much about style as it is about pacing, Sega Dreamcast’s Space Channel 5 begins with main character Ulala as she battles a crushing alien invasion and rescues the victims of an alien abduction.

The story is a fun moment, but by no means deep, and that’s okay. Sometimes we just want to get away and shoot aliens to the beat of Michael Jackson. Yes, that’s a real thing in this game. It’ll get you in the mood to dance by the time you reach the end of Ulala’s journey to becoming a famous hero.

7/8 Arcea

Arcaea - Best Narrative Games - hardest song in game

Arcaea’s history isn’t clear and can be a little vague if you’re unfamiliar with its lore, but just because it’s a bit difficult to piece together doesn’t mean it’s not worth the glance. It deals with heavy subject matter as well as the concept of being trapped in a cycle of fighting and pain. Knowing the truth about what’s going on won’t save you, because you have to live it anyway.

The only real downside to this entry is that most of the story is locked behind a paywall, which means F2P folks are out of luck outside of the free songs available.

6/8 Parappa Le Rappa

Parappa The Rapper - Narrative Games - Earn your money to fix the car

A classic entry, and probably many gamers’ first foray into the rhythm game genre, Parappa the Rappa has a relatable coming-of-age story of being a teenager just trying to figure out who you are and how you can -get you a car as fast as possible to impress your crush.

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Many of the jokes and story beats still hold up to this day, and the music boobs as well as it did when it was first released. The remastered version is the ultimate way to experience this classic, just make sure you follow this cake recipe correctly or else you’ll have to answer Cheap Cheap.

5/8 Kingdom Hearts Melody of Memory

Kingdom Hearts Melody of Memory playing Dark Dominion - Hard Song

Good old Kingdom Hearts has decided to branch out into the rhythm game genre. It’s no surprise to Square Enix, given how good Final Fantasy Theatrhythm was. But what many Kingdom Hearts fans feared when Melody of Memory was announced has come true: it’s part of the Official Kingdom Hearts canon.

But let’s face it, were we really surprised? Every upcoming game in the franchise is canon. Every mobile game, every Nintendo game that exists, explains the world and intrigues it to some degree. There’s even a canon game for why King Mickey didn’t have a shirt at the end of Kingdom Hearts. Lore buffs will have a great time trying to figure out where this game takes place in the timeline while logging into Kingdom Hearts’ catalog of classical music.

4/8 Demo

Deemo - Narrative rhythm games starting a level

Deemo has a lot of heart embedded in every part of its presentation. It stands out purely for its music, with most of its songs having a more melodic tone as it is a piano-based game, while others of the same genre tend to lean towards the electric side of the piano. musical spectrum. There’s nothing wrong with electronic music, but sometimes you just need some soft piano music to feel warm.

At its core, Deemo is a story of grief and how despite the pain and emptiness you feel after losing a loved one, you have to move on and find a way forward and honor those who loved you. It’s a touching and beautiful game with a bit of sadness in its heart.

3/8 Lanota

Lanota - Narrative Rhythm Games: Title screen on the left, gameplay circle on the right

The world stopped spinning and stagnated. All sound has ceased to exist and the people who were unlucky enough to stay have lost most of their memories. The only hope for the world rests on the shoulders of two friends with the power to cleanse the world of Al Niente, the mysterious entity/substance responsible for the current state of the world.

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You explore themes of sacrifice, secrets, and futility in the game, and sometimes you wonder if the journey you’ve made so far is worth it. Are you just delaying the inevitable? The circular interface you use during gameplay is called Notalium Tuner and is directly responsible for your rhythmic purification efforts.

2/8 lost in harmony

Lost In Harmony - escape the nightmare with your love

Wanting to escape the difficult things you are going through in life is a normal response, and some people do whatever they can to get as far away from thoughts and sadness as possible. Kaito, the protagonist, is no different. He looks at his sick friend and he can’t do anything but visit her. So he does the best thing he can think of: dreaming.

Most of the gameplay takes place in the dream world of Kaito with his friend (girlfriend?). All of his dreams start peacefully enough, she stands on his back as he skates on his board towards their future, but things never stay peaceful for long as all sorts of dangers including tsunamis chase them away to remind him its inevitable reality. . If you’re in the mood to cry, this might be the one for you.

1/8 eternity

Everwood - fight the automated terrorist machine

Everhood deserves much more recognition. Not only is it a fun reverse rhythm game – dodging notes instead of touching them to the beat – but it comes with an art style that’s a mix of Undertale-like pixel art with psychedelic 3D backgrounds during combat which spoil your perception while you are playing.

You start the game as Red, a wooden doll who has acquired sentience and goes in search of her missing arm. As they encounter new characters, they eventually accumulate a following and eventually gain the ability to speak to the universe itself. Not a bad deal to give up your implied humanity. The music is phenomenal and matches the style of the graphics and gameplay to the letter.

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