Looking for the best rhythm games on PC? There are few things in life better than music, so obviously there are even fewer things in life better than music and rhythm games. Music evokes more emotional responses than any other and usually does so within a few short minutes. Games can make us feel things over time, but music is often much more immediate. With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of the best rhythm games around, that are guaranteed to stay with you long after the last note plays.
From 2D indie games with a solid beat to lightsaber-wielding VR games, our list of the best rhythm games spans all genres. Some can teach your how to play a particular instrument, while others allow you to repurpose your own music library. We should also mention that Tetris Effect was considered for the list but arguably doesn’t make rhythm its focus, so it misses out. In any case, you really should play Tetris Effect. Seriously.
Here are the best rhythm games on PC in 2023:
Friday Night Funkin’
This is one rhythm game that’s really made a name for itself recently. A completely free browser game, it sees you playing as a character called Boyfriend who enters rap battles and singing contests in order to win over Girlfriend. With a vast array of strange, otherworldly opponents, a charming visual style, and some truly wonderful pieces of music, it’s really easy to see why Friday Night Funkin’ has resonated with so many players.
The gameplay is very similar to something like Dance Dance Revolution, except that instead of foot pads, you’re just using your arrow keys. You coincide these with arrows moving past in the game, and each correct hit makes Boyfriend sing a note – while his voice is strange (kind of like an Animal Crossing character) it’s also pretty appealing too, and his strange vocalisations really help bring the music to life. It’s a truly free PC game (with no microtransactions) and everyone should try it at least once.
Metal: Hellsinger is the latest entry in the rhythm FPS genre, and by far the most well-received. Step into hell as The Unknown, a human-demonic hybrid on a quest for vengeance that takes you on a journey across the infernal planes. You have a number of weapons at your disposal to fight off the demonic hordes, but their efficacy depends on your ability to time your attacks to the pulse-pounding metal soundtrack. The soundtrack itself is unique to Metal: Hellsinger, composed by a range of seasoned musicians from a range of acclaimed metal bands, including System of a Down, Trivium, Lamb of God, among others. There’s also plenty of mods to expand the FPS game’s musical repertoire, including Sweet Home Alabama. As our Metal Hellsinger review attests, this is one hellish soundtrack we never want to end.
Let’s get one thing out of the way. Trombone Champ will not teach you how to play the trombone. What it will do is provide endless comedic value as you try and fail to perform a rootin’-tootin’ trombone cover of revered classical pieces, folk melodies, and more. It includes the usual trappings you can expect from a rhythm game, such as combo streaks and a high score, but the truth is that even when you’re hitting the perfect streak it will sound both terrible and hilarious. Ever wanted to hear the hardest Guitar Hero song aced on the trombone? Well, now you can.
While Trombone Champ boats 20 built-in tracks, its Freeplay Mode is where the game really shines. Thankfully, you don’t have to source your own plastic trombone à la Guitar Hero – all you have to do is move your mouse back and forth in the manner of a trombone to match the pitch of the song. It’s a remarkably accessible rhythm game, and the better you play, the more ‘toots’ you earn. They serve as currency to unlock cosmetics and (dare we say it) lore, offering an incentive to keep playing long after the Trombone Champ’s gimmick factor has worn off.
Beat Saber has taken VR by storm and helped put the fledgling tech onto the heads and into the hands of many new players. Beat Saber is so simple in concept: using two different colored lightsabers (yes, like in Star Wars), you slash blocks of the corresponding color in the direction the game tells you to – making you feel like a Jedi in full flow (although you do tend to look a bit silly to everyone else in the room).
The game’s original soundtrack is excellent, but the PC version is the only one that supports the importing of custom songs – so you can bring Duel of the Fates in if you’re so inclined, and why wouldn’t you?
Thumper is a “rhythm violence” game, and while that may make it sound a bit aggressive, that’s due to the soundtrack being full of percussion, loud bass drops, and almost terrifying sound effects. We wouldn’t say it’s oppressive, though – sending your little beetle protagonist hurtling around tracks at what feels like a million miles an hour is still great fun, although playing it in VR is arguably a little more unsettling.
Crypt of the Necrodancer
A top-down roguelike game might seem an odd fit for rhythm-based mechanics, but developer Brace Yourself Games has stumbled upon gold with Crypt of the Necrodancer.
Every action in this dungeon crawl needs to be performed on the beat of the music – with different enemies following different beats. It takes some time to get your head around it, but for bonus points, you can actually play the entire game with a dance pad if you fancy breaking a sweat.
Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock
2007’s Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock lives long in the memory, with the carefully curated soundtrack including bangers from the likes of Rage Against The Machine and Slipknot, all the way to Kiss and ZZ Top. Every song in the game can be played cooperatively, featuring rhythm guitar and bass depending on the track.
While this entry marked a high point in the general difficulty of the settings, Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock still scales well to a broad range of players, with easier difficulty settings and slow songs for newcomers to get acquainted with before moving onto solo-heavy anthems. The fact that this series still has a thriving Twitch community over a decade after release tells you everything you need to know about its lasting appeal.
If you’re willing to put up with the clutter in your home of multiple plastic instruments, there’s still no finer way to jam out on with a group of friends, unless of course you’re actually in a rock band.
Tetsuya Mizuguchi’s first appearance on this list, Lumines was originally a PSP game that was remastered in 2018 and brought to PC. Playing almost like a musical Tetris, players have to align shapes of varying colored blocks that, when clustered together, will be removed when a “Time Line” passes over them – with this line being set to the musical accompaniment. The rows you clear add fresh layers to the game’s sublime soundtrack, too – a reward in and of itself.
Lumines: Remastered represents that rare instance of a puzzler that’s strangely relaxing, frantic, and euphoric all at once – especially as the blocks start to pile up and you’re scrambling to stay on top of things.
Sayonara Wild Hearts
Ever wanted to experience an entire pop album as an arcade game? Sayonara Wild Hearts has players battling against giant wolves, riding motorbikes, and dance battling to the groove of an amazing custom-written pop soundtrack.
There are elements of Sayonara Wild Hearts that aren’t strictly rhythm-based, but that’s part of what makes the game so brilliant. You never know what you’re going to get as you make your way through 23 unique levels, each featuring a different catchy song to dance along to.
Have you ever played a rhythm game and thought, ‘wow, this would be great if I knew some of these songs?’ If the answer is yes, then Audiosurf 2 could be just what you’re looking for.
Whatever the backing track, you’re fired along a track at a blistering pace and charged with collecting as many pickups as possible without colliding with any of the obstacles in front of you. It’s not exactly a novel concept, but Audiosurf 2 supports importing your own songs to turn them into a futuristic highway of notes. Just try not to get too familiar – there are still obstacles to dodge in this futuristic racing game.
Rocksmith 2014 Remastered
The awkwardly titled Rocksmith 2014 Remastered is a re-release of the original Rocksmith 2014, itself a sequel to the first Rocksmith title. Still with us? Unwieldy title aside, Rocksmith 2014 Remastered is a rarity – it’s fun and educational, allowing users to plug in their own instruments (guitar and bass) and learn to play a multitude of songs.
While Rocksmith doesn’t offer the pick up and play accessibility of most rhythm games, you’d be hard pushed to find a music game with the same degree of scalability. Once you’ve mastered the content in the game, you can pick from over a thousand fully-licensed tracks as DLC – so the game can last as long as your blistered fingers can.
Easily the most obscure of all the rhythm games on this list, Rhythm Doctor sees players dole out medication to patients by, er, hitting the spacebar on the seventh beat of every bar, over and over again despite a cavalcade of audiovisual distractions.
Calling itself “the hardest one-button rhythm game you’ll ever play”, Rhythm Doctor plays with your expectations in fun and inventive ways, forcing you to push everything out of your mind in order to concentrate on the rhythm. As you heal patients your screen might glitch, or there might be some kind of lag to accommodate. Even better, your screen may go blank – forcing you to count the beat in your head. You might want to invest in a metronome for this one.
Remember 2001? No, not the movie, the year? Rez launched on the original PlayStation, with unique (and frequently impressive) wireframe visuals breathing life into an on-rails shooter/rhythm games hybrid. 20 years later and PC players can finally join in on the action with the expanded Rez Infinite, yet another masterful rhythm game helmed by Tetsuya Mizuguchi.
Every action in the Rez Infinite affects the soundscape, and vibration when playing with a gamepad only heightens the feeling of synaesthesia – Rez Infinite is all about breaking down the barriers between the senses, and it’s mad that it gets even remotely close to such a lofty goal. Yes, it’s abstract and a tad pretentious, but it’s also achingly beautiful from start to finish. We’d also recommend it to people who like on-rails shooters like Star Fox.
BPM: Bullets Per Minute
BPM earns a spot on this rhythm games list based purely on the fact that it does something very different with the genre. Rather than mashing buttons to the right rhythm or letting synaesthesia wash over you, BPM ports the music and melody over to a retro-style FPS rogue-like, where you blast demons to smithereens to the tune of wailing guitars.
Pistol Whip combines first-person shooters with a high-intensity soundtrack to make you feel like an action movie star. Each pulse-pounding song has a handcrafted level filled with gun-wielding enemies. The stage constantly moves throughout the length of a song, allowing you to focus entirely on shooting enemies.
Mastering a song not only requires you to avoid incoming bullets, but you’ll also need to take down every enemy on the stage. Once you manage to find the rhythm, your shots behave similarly to a drum beat that accents keynotes. Pistol Whip provides a very different, yet familiar experience that is sure to please any rhythm game fan.
And there you have it, our pick of the best rhythm games on PC. We’re pretty fond of list features here at PCGN, so there’s plenty more like it, including our round-up of the best open-world games and the finest RPG games on PC. Now, if some bright spark would please make a rhythm game with role-playing mechanics set in a massive open map then we could merge them all into one.