Singing along to your favorite songs, matching the bassline and classic hits with plastic instruments, or dancing your heart out with the heavy-hitters of the industry is fun and all, but what of the rhythm games looking to put you through their paces? It can be entertaining to watch people play Guitar Hero and games of its ilk, but it’s even more fun to watch skilled gamers blaze through titles meant to make you feel totally inadequate.
They can be bested, but these are the games that end up with you having thrown the controller through the TV and seeking out something a little less punishing, like a night at a karaoke bar where you’re not being scored. Here are five relentlessly challenging rhythm games that you probably won’t hear much about in popular games blogging circles — and we definitely need more to talk about in a post-plastic guitar world.
Project Diva F 2nd (2014, PlayStation Vita)
Though digital diva Hatsune Miku has been sweeping the nation as of late, the Project Diva series that concentrates on her biggest hits isn’t exactly booming in popularity here in the West, though it should be. The series’ latest, Project Diva f 2, hit the States recently to fanfare from die-hard Vocaloid followers, and brought with it a collection of pop, nu-rave, rock, and techno hits that challenge even the most hardcore rhythm fans.
There’s no special peripheral required or anything to learn beyond the layout of the PlayStation controller, though the speed and intensity of the note tubes and bubbles flying across the screen on the highest difficulty setting is enough to ensure any rhythm game fan has a challenge on their hands.
There’s an unusually high rate of accuracy required from players to pass a stage, so you must play close to perfectly or you won’t be able to access additional songs or content. It can be limiting in that regard, especially if you plan on playing on higher difficulties.
Project Diva F 2nd is available as a digital download from the PlayStation Store.
Para Para Paradise (2000, PlayStation 2)
This unique Japanese title is special in that it doesn’t require a controller at all. Instead, you use only your arms for the nuanced motion controls facilitated by the sensors the console version comes packaged with. Much like Dance Dance Revolution and Stepmania, which allows you to play Dance Dance Revolution on PC, it uses stepcharts that follow the rhythm of the game’s several songs.
The game is meant to mirror “Para Para” dancing, popularized in the late ’90s and early 2000s to Eurobeat and techno music, and it may seem like a cakewalk, but your arms will most certainly tire out a few songs in, even on beginner-level courses. Crank it up to a higher difficulty and you’re soon left with songs that you’ll play resembling someone swatting away at a swarm of bees.
Dance Central 3 (2012, Xbox 360)
Like the title implies, you’re actually meant to dance with this game, and not repurpose terrifying moves from your high school prom. The Xbox-exclusive music title forces you to memorize actual dance moves and choreography in order to progress through the game.
If you’re no dancing fool or find that you have two left feet, the Kinect-powered dance-off will have you singing the blues (or looking for something you can better showcase your skills with.) Adding a new level of polish between each iteration, Harmonix’ Dance Central 3 is as challenging as it is beautifully executed.
Dance Central 3 is available as a digital download from the Xbox Live Marketplace.
Beatmania US (2006, PlayStation 2)
Have you ever wanted to become a DJ? Forget Activision’s copycat DJ Hero and check out one of the many iterations of Beatmania, a sensation in Japan that not only finds players spinning a plastic record on a special turntable controller, but hitting the black and white keys on the board in time to the music on-screen.
There’s little fanfare, only you, the music, and a heaping helping of notes that fly by in rapid succession as you’re meant to “spin the disc.” Even at lower levels this can be a chore due to the nature of the controller and the fact that your key presses make noise within the song. If you’re late, that’ll just throw you off for the rest of the track. And all of that is before you hit up higher difficulty modes.
Rhythm Heaven (2008, Nintendo DS)
Nintendo’s quirky and cartoony addition to the ever-growing list of rhythm titles may seem simple due to its bite-sized games and objectives, but it can be some of the most difficult exercises in hitting the downbeat, ensuring you can mesh with different melodies of a number of songs all at once during medleys, and learning to let go by pressing just one button as opposed to many.
It all seems like fun and games, but by the last “Remix” session in the game you’ll be wondering how you ever made it that far to begin with. It’s a classic case of schooling people who judge a game by its inviting, unassuming graphics. It may be cute, but it’s a killer. It’s also responsible for one of the most effervescent video game soundtracks ever.
Sharpen Your Skills
This list obviously excludes the many difficult rhythm games out there lurking in Japanese arcades, custom titles, and other excellent yet tough music games out there, so let us know which ones you like. In the meantime, you can listen to some awesome game soundtracks while you practice to get even better!
Check out the aforementioned titles and see if they help you brush up on your rhythm game technique in the meantime!
Do you have a favorite difficult rhythm game? Comment below to let us know!