There’s a couple of possibilities as to why these music games are no longer that attractive in the public’s eyes. Maybe it’s the cost? The equipment required? Or maybe the amount of space taken up by all those plastic instruments? Despite this decline, the PC’s various free takes on the genre are doing rather well. You don’t need cash, you don’t (necessarily) need to purchase extra equipment and the only room you’ll be clearing will be hard-drive space.
Easily the best-known guitar sim for the PC, Frets on Fire will feel very familiar to anyone who has picked up or watched Guitar Hero. The idea is to hit the coloured notes at the right moment by holding down the appropriate button and “strumming”.
If playing a virtual guitar with a keyboard seems a little lacklustre, you’ll be delighted to know it is possible to use guitar controllers with Frets on Fire. There are individual instructions for each system on this wiki page. The game features the awesome ability to import your own tracks (or simply download the community’s efforts) and import songs from Guitar Hero 1 and 2 (all you need is your original disc).
The music game is available for Windows, Linux and Mac OS X. If you have questions, bug reports, ideas or fancy downloading some new songs try the community forum. Don’t forget to check out FoFiX, a modded version with plenty of enhancements (including drums) over the original.
If you’ve ever wanted to bring an arcade Dance Dance Revolution-style experience into your home then Stepmania is the software to help you achieve this goal. The engine has already been used in two other commercial arcade games, In The Groove and Pump It Up Pro, and the latest version (3.9 stable, at the time of writing) packs in some serious features.
The community is doing its usual stellar job of propping up the project with new songs, art and themes. The ability to use a proper dance mat (which you can get pretty cheap on eBay these days) should vastly improve your experience, though if you want to play with the arrow keys on your keyboard you’re fully able to.
The latest (pre-release) builds of what the community has dubbed “Stepmania 5” even supports online play. You can download Stepmania now for Windows, Linux and Mac.
An open-source rewrite of the popular UltraStar, Perfomous probably provides the most feature-packed “band experience” here. Whilst the rest of this software concentrates on specific aspects such as playing the guitar and dance, Performous combines several different aspects under one package.
You can sing (think SingStar, Lips), play the guitar, play the drums or dance using Performous, and the peripheral support isn’t bad either. You can find everything you need in the documentation to connect your guitar controller, drum kit (this also works with posh, MIDI drum kits) and dance mat to your PC.
If you’ve ever played any Japanese rhythm action games (notable titles include Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan and Elite Beat Agents) then you’ll already be familiar with this genre of game. Osu! is a free version of the popular Nintendo DS rhythm games, where players must complete on-screen gestures and hits in time with the music.
This usually involves tapping a lot of hit boxes, sliding a slider over the duration of a note or spinning a wheel frantically with sugary J-Pop blasting out in the background. Osu! is all of these things, but with the added bonus of a community continuously coming up with new songs (or beatmaps, as they are known).
Who said you need a console to enjoy music games? Even if you don’t own guitar controllers or a dance mat you can still take part, try out the software and see what the community has come up with. Some of these (Frets on Fire and Stepmania especially) are blatant party games – simply combine with friends, beer and volume for some guaranteed fun.
Don’t forget to check out our other collections of free games and gaming articles, we love wasting time as much as you guys do!
Have you tried any of the music games featured here? Did you use your console controllers? Any good? Let us know in the comments below.
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