Rhythm game or rhythm action is a genre of music-themedaction video game that challenges a player's sense of rhythm. Games in the genre typically focus on dance or the simulated performance of musical instruments, and require players to press buttons in a sequence dictated on the screen. Doing so causes the game's protagonist or avatar to dance or to play their instrument correctly, which increases the player's score. Many rhythm games include multiplayer modes in which players compete for the highest score or cooperate as a simulated musical ensemble. While conventional control pads may be used as input devices, rhythm games often feature novel game controllers that emulate musical instruments. Certain dance-based games require the player to physically dance on a mat, with pressure-sensitive pads acting as the input device.
The 1996 title PaRappa the Rapper has been deemed the first influential rhythm game, whose basic template formed the core of subsequent games in the genre. In 1997, Konami's Beatmania sparked an emergent market for rhythm games in Japan. The company's music division, Bemani, released a series of music-based games over the next several years. The most successful of these was the 1998 dance mat game Dance Dance Revolution, which was the only Bemani title to achieve large-scale success outside Japan, and would see numerous imitations of the game from other publishers.
Other Japanese games, particularly Guitar Freaks, led to development of Guitar Hero and Rock Band series that used instrument-shaped controllers to mimic the playing of actual instruments. Spurred by the inclusion of popular rock music, the two series revitalized the rhythm genre in the Western Market, significantly expanded the console video game market and its demographics. The games provided a new source of revenue for the artists whose music appeared on the soundtracks. The later release of Rock Band 3 as well as the even later Rocksmith would allow players to play the songs using a real electric guitar. By 2008, rhythm games were considered to be one of the most popular video game genres, behind other action games. However, by 2009, the market was saturated by spin-offs from the core titles, which led to a nearly 50% drop in revenue for music game publishers; within a few years, both series announced they would be taking a hiatus from future titles.
Despite these setbacks, the rhythm game market continues to expand, introducing a number of danced-based games like Ubisoft's Just Dance and Harmonix's Dance Central that incorporate the use of motion controllers and camera-based controls like the Kinect. Existing games also continue to thrive on new business models, such as the reliance on downloadable content to provide songs to players. The introduction of the new generation of console hardware has also spurred return of Activision's Guitar Hero and Harmonix's Rock Band titles in late 2015.
Many rhythm games, such as Frets on Fire, use a scrolling "note highway" to display what notes are to be played, along with a score and a performance meter.
Rhythm game, or rhythm action, is a subgenre of action game that challenges a player's sense of rhythm. The genre includes dance games such as Dance Dance Revolution and music-based games such as Donkey Konga and Guitar Hero. Games in the genre challenge the player to press buttons at precise times: the screen shows which button the player is required to press, and the game awards points both for accuracy and for synchronization with the beat. The genre also includes games that measure rhythm and pitch, in order to test a player's singing ability, and games that challenge the player to control their volume by measuring how hard they press each button. While songs can be sight read, players usually practice to master more difficult songs and settings. Certain rhythm games offer a challenge similar to that of Simon says, in that the player must watch, remember, and repeat complex sequences of button-presses. Rhythm-action can take a minigame format with some games blending rhythm with other genres or entirely comprising minigame collections.
In some rhythm games, the screen displays an avatar who performs in reaction to the player's controller inputs. However, these graphical responses are usually in the background, and the avatar is more important to spectators than it is to the player. In single-player modes, the player's avatar competes against a computer-controlled opponent, while multiplayer modes allow two player-controlled avatars to compete head-to-head. The popularity of rhythm games has created a market for speciality input devices. These include controllers that emulate musical instruments, such as guitars, drums, or maracas. A dance mat, for use in dancing games, requires the player to step on pressure-sensitive pads. However, most rhythm games also support more conventional input devices, such as control pads.