What are music games called?

Music games cover a wide range of interactive entertainment and software that involve elements of music and rhythm. In recent years, music games have exploded in popularity due to the rise of rhythm games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band. These games let players feel like they’re performing in a band by hitting notes on plastic instruments along with popular songs. Other popular genres include music trivia games that test your knowledge of songs, artists, and albums, and music management games where you discover and promote new talent. In this article, we’ll explore the various names and types of music games that have captivated audiences.

Rhythm Games

Rhythm games challenge players to tap, press, or move in time with music and visual cues. They require a combination of rhythm, coordination, and reaction time to hit notes at the right moment. The most popular rhythm games include:

Guitar Hero and Rock Band, where players use guitar-shaped controllers to hit notes in sync with famous rock songs.

Dance Dance Revolution (DDR), which uses a dance platform and challenges players to hit arrow notes with their feet in time with dance music.

Other examples are Beat Saber, Audiosurf, Rhythm Heaven, Osu!, and Friday Night Funkin’. Rhythm games exploded in popularity in the 2000s and new titles continue coming out across multiple platforms.

Music Trivia Games

Music trivia games test players’ knowledge of music through a series of questions and answers. Some popular examples of music trivia games include the Rock Band and Guitar Hero spinoff games like Rock Band Unplugged and Guitar Hero: On Tour. These games use trivia questions about music history, songs, artists, and albums in lieu of rhythm-based gameplay.

The Rock Band series has produced several trivia-focused spinoffs for handheld consoles, including Rock Band Unplugged (2009) for PSP and an iOS app called Rock Band Reloaded (2010). Players answer multiple choice questions about bands, songs, and music history. The games feature officially licensed songs that players can unlock by scoring points with correct trivia answers [1].

The popular Guitar Hero franchise also launched Guitar Hero: On Tour for Nintendo DS in 2008, using a miniature guitar grip peripheral. The game asks players music trivia questions with multiple choice answers. Another Guitar Hero mobile app titled Guitar Hero III Mobile focused entirely on multiple choice music trivia without any rhythm gameplay when it launched in 2008.

Other music games like MusiQuiz (2010) for the Wii and recent mobile apps like SongPop 2 have expanded the music trivia genre further. These games allow players to compete with friends by testing their knowledge of songs from various genres and eras.

[1] https://parade.com/1143195/jessicasager/music-trivia/

Music Making Games

Music making games allow players to compose and produce their own musical creations. Some of the most popular music making games include Rock Band 3, Electroplankton, and Music Generator. https://www.thegamer.com/video-games-make-music-creation/

Rock Band 3 featured a pro mode that allowed players to play real MIDI keyboard, guitar, and drum parts using special controllers. This gave players more freedom to create their own music like a real musician rather than just following on-screen prompts. Electroplankton for the Nintendo DS consisted of various music-making “plankton” that players could manipulate to generate different melodies and rhythms.

Games like Music Generator and Mixcraft 8 Studio allow players to sequence and mix loops and samples into full musical compositions on their PC. Players can choose from a wide selection of realistic-sounding instruments and effects. These types of open-ended music creation games give players the tools to unleash their creativity.

Music Management Games

Games where players manage a record label, band, or music career have become a popular subgenre of music games. One of the earliest and most iconic examples is Rock Star Ate My Hamster, released in 1988, where players take on the role of a band manager trying to guide their artist to stardom. More recent examples include the BandFuse series, a spinoff of the hit franchise Rock Band, where players take on managerial duties like promotion, booking tours, and hiring staff in addition to playing music mini games. Fans on Reddit have also recommended indie games like Kudos Rock Legend and Rising Superstars for their detailed focus on all aspects of band management and label operations.

Rhythm Tap Games

One of the most popular genres of music games are rhythm tap games, where players tap along to the beat and rhythm of songs. Some key examples of rhythm tap games include:

Tap Tap Revenge – This was one of the first hugely popular rhythm games on mobile devices, debuting on iOS in 2008. Players tap colored circles in time to the music. It featured hit songs organized into playlists and supported multiplayer leaderboards.

Magic Piano – Launched in 2011, this mobile game plays like a virtual piano that you tap along to hit notes for well-known songs.

Pianista – Similar to Magic Piano, this game turn your phone into a piano with songs that fall down the screen to tap along to.

Beat MP3 – Focusing on EDM and Techno, this mobile rhythm game has players tapping to the beat of fast-paced electronic dance music.

Love Live! School Idol Festival – Based on the anime multimedia franchise Love Live!, this popular free-to-play mobile game has players tap in rhythm to J-pop songs.

Lanota – A more recent mobile rhythm game praised for its unique circular gameplay and expansive music library spanning different genres.

Overall, the simplicity of tapping along to the beat of popular hit songs has made rhythm tap games widely appealing and addictive to play on mobile devices.

Virtual Instrument Games

Some music games give players a chance to perform and play songs using virtual instruments. These types of games usually focus on popular instruments like guitar, drums, and piano. Players use specialized video game controllers shaped like real instruments along with the game software to simulate the experience of playing in a band.

One of the most popular virtual instrument game series is Guitar Hero. In Guitar Hero games, players use a guitar-shaped controller to press colored buttons that correspond to notes on the screen. By hitting the correct buttons in time with the music, players can mimic the experience of playing songs on a real guitar. As songs increase in difficulty, more buttons need to be pressed in quick succession, making for engaging gameplay that challenges rhythm and coordination skills.

The Rock Band series is another example that allows virtual performance across multiple instruments like guitar, bass, drums, and vocals. By playing together in a band setup, friends can enjoy a collaborative multiplayer experience and achieve a collaborative sound. Other examples of virtual instrument music games include Dance Dance Revolution which focuses on dance pads as controllers, and music education games like Rocksmith that can help teach real guitar technique.

Overall, music games with virtual instruments open up musical performance and creativity to wider audiences. Players get to engage with music in a more visceral, interactive way than just passive listening. The games provide a fun way to experience playing popular songs across a range of different instruments, which can potentially inspire deeper musical interests and skills.

Jukebox Games

Jukebox games allow players to browse through a library of songs and select which ones they want to listen to or play. The jukebox mechanic gained popularity in the 2000s with games like the SingStar series and the Rock Band franchise. In these games, players can build a playlist of songs to perform from an in-game library of licensed pop and rock hits. As the player progresses and unlocks more songs, the virtual jukebox expands. This gives music fans agency in choosing the soundtrack for their gaming sessions. Other examples of jukebox games include the Just Dance series, where players pick songs to dance along to, and the DJ Hero games that let players mix and scratch their favorite tunes. While not as complex as music creation or rhythm games, the jukebox mechanic taps into the joy of compiling playlists and accessing vast libraries of music on-demand.

Composition Games

Composition games allow players to create their own original music. These games provide tools and interfaces to compose melodies, harmonies, and rhythms. Some popular composition games include:

Songsmith by Microsoft is a composition tool for the Xbox 360 that automatically generates accompaniment to match a sung or hummed melody. Players can then edit and customize the generated music. Songsmith allows novice composers to easily create original songs without formal music training.

Wii Music for the Nintendo Wii lets players conduct on-screen musicians by waving the Wii remote. Players can experiment with different instruments and tempos to compose their own songs. Wii Music also includes minigames focused on melody, rhythm, and harmony.

Music games like Electroplankton for the Nintendo DS provide audio looping and sequencing tools. By manipulating visual objects on the touchscreen, players trigger and layer musical clips to produce electronic compositions.

Other games like MTV Music Generator and Rock Band 3 include modes for composing instrument tracks or full songs. Custom composed songs can then be saved and shared.

Overall, composition games open up music creation to wider audiences. By providing accessible interfaces instead of traditional sheet music, these games allow anyone to enjoy the creative process of making original music.


In summary, there are many different types of music games that have evolved over the years. Some of the main genres include rhythm games, music trivia games, music making games, and virtual instrument games.

Rhythm games like Dance Dance Revolution and Guitar Hero require players to tap buttons or perform actions in sync with the music. These games exploded in popularity in the 2000s with the release of guitar and drum peripherals. While the peripheral craze has died down, rhythm games continue to thrive on touch screens and using motion controllers.

Music trivia games like Rock Band and Lips test players’ knowledge of songs, artists, albums, and more. These games encourage players to expand their music knowledge and appreciation.

Music making games like Rock Band 3 and Bandfuse: Rock Legends provide tools for players to compose their own songs. Games are also incorporating music creation features, like Fortnite’s addition of synced emote dances.

Virtual instrument games let players simulate playing real instruments, honing their skills. Games like Rocksmith help players learn guitar and bass using real, playable in-game instruments.

Over time, music games have leveraged new technologies while keeping music and interactivity at the core. The future will likely bring even more immersive and platform-agnostic experiences that aim to make playing, creating, and enjoying music fun and inclusive for all.

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