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What is a "rhythm game"?

Which of the following are rhythm games?

  • DDR, played as intended

    Votes: 5 71.4%
  • DDR, played with the sound turned off

    Votes: 4 57.1%
  • A glitched or broken copy of DDR with no sound

    Votes: 4 57.1%
  • A DDR game where the sound doesn't work, on any copy, because of a programming error

    Votes: 3 42.9%
  • A DDR game that has no sound by design

    Votes: 3 42.9%
  • A DDR game that has no sound by design, played on a muted TV

    Votes: 3 42.9%
  • A game with the music from DDR and everything else, including note charts, from Guitar Hero

    Votes: 2 28.6%
  • R-Type

    Votes: 2 28.6%
  • If you really think about it, everything is a rhythm game, man

    Votes: 2 28.6%

  • Total voters
    7
Like, philosophically, what does the phrase mean? It's used to refer to games where you press buttons, or perform some kind of input on some kind of controller, in time to music. But if the inputs are the same and the music is different, is it not a rhythm game anymore? Imagine a game called Guitar Hero Revolution, which is exactly like Guitar Hero, even down to the note charts, but the songs are from Dance Dance Revolution instead. So like, you could pick Killer Queen in the menu, and the note chart and background video would all be from that song as it appears in Guitar Hero, and you'd play it with the guitar controller, but the song you'd hear while doing it is Boom Boom Dollar. It seems wild to say that the genre of a game could change just because its soundtrack did, but can you really say you're playing a rhythm game if you're pressing buttons not in time to music?

What if you took a widely accepted rhythm game - let's say DDR - and played it without sound? Would it matter why there was no sound? It seems even wilder to say you could change a game's genre by muting the TV, but if a DDR game were published without sound, whether by accident or by design, there would be no way to play it by performing inputs in time with the in game music whether the TV was muted or not... which means it would be impossible to distinguish between that hypothetical silent DDR game played on a muted TV and a real DDR game played on a muted TV.

What about other autoscrolling games, like shooters? There's a limited set of inputs over a fixed length of time that lead to passing a stage, with all others resulting in failure, just like in DDR. Is R-Type a rhythm game?
 

Ixo

"This is not my beautiful forum!" - David Byrne
(Hi Guy)
I have played some intentionally muted DDR with the aim of improving accuracy. Chart reading is like reading sheet music in a way. Watch the step zone’s pulsing for your BPM and know which color means what (on beat, half, quarter, etc) for your arrows and you’re good to go. There’s even a training mode option that removes the music and optionally replaces it with a metronome or a clap when each arrow crosses the step zone. It’s easier to hear the pattern of what you’re supposed to be doing that way.

By your logic, if Guitar Hero inputs set to completely unrelated DDR music is a rhythm game, (a set of timing dependent inputs independent of the current soundtrack.) then the entirety of fighting games as a whole are also rhythm games. I will happily accept my Bad Take award now.
 

Kirin

Summon for hire
(he/him)
I don't think sound is critical, but having to match a pre-determined beat is. Fighting and shooting games make you respond to what opponents are doing, and unless they're a rhythm-hybrid genre you don't have to be on a set beat. You *might* have to stick to a rhythm to continue a combo, so you could consider the combo to be a mini-rhythm-game, but you can generally *start* a combo at any time, so I don't think the game as a whole would count.

For a strict rhythm game, I'd also say you're matching a pre-determined chart (step chart, sheet music, etc) which also excludes anything where you have a bunch of different options on what inputs to do. (Some strict rhtyhtm games have "freestyle" sub-sections where you can mix things up, but they're not the main focus.) But of course there's definitely a rhythm-hybrid genre where you *do* have to be on-beat, but *don't* have to follow a pre-determined chart, like NecroDancer, which is kind of its own thing.
 
By your logic, if Guitar Hero inputs set to completely unrelated DDR music is a rhythm game, (a set of timing dependent inputs independent of the current soundtrack.) then the entirety of fighting games as a whole are also rhythm games. I will happily accept my Bad Take award now.
Not necessarily; Guitar Hero inputs set to DDR music still involves pressing buttons in time to music, just not the music provided by the game. I do think I'd say that if R-Type is a rhythm game, then the one player arcade mode in Street Fighter is also a rhythm game. If you're playing against someone else, the set of inputs that results in "passing" changes depending on what they do... like when you play a custom note chart? So I guess that's a rhythm game too? Better yet, custom note charts are asynchronous fighting games!

I don't think sound is critical, but having to match a pre-determined beat is. Fighting and shooting games make you respond to what opponents are doing, and unless they're a rhythm-hybrid genre you don't have to be on a set beat. You *might* have to stick to a rhythm to continue a combo, so you could consider the combo to be a mini-rhythm-game, but you can generally *start* a combo at any time, so I don't think the game as a whole would count.
What is the genre-defining difference between starting a song in a rhythm game, which then requires a bunch of inputs that match a beat, and starting a combo in a fighting game, which might then require the same inputs? Or to put it another way, why isn't playing a song in DDR also just a minigame within the larger game of navigating menus?
 

JBear

Internet's foremost Bertolli cosplayer
(He/Him)
It's simple! I just follow this easy test:

Is my SO bewilderingly bad at it? Then it's a rhythm game.
 

Lady

something something robble
Fighting games aren't rhythm games because the inputs are not consistent. While you might get into a rhythm in a match, your opponent will almost certainly use a different series of moves the next time. That is to say, you can play them with rhythmic techniques, but that doesn't make them rhythm games.

Rhythm is a pattern in time. Mario levels would be more like a rhythm shit I've seen the first rhythm too many times and I can't tell what the right spelling is anymore.

Anyway, having consistent inputs is the first requirement, and second, the inputs (speaking of the notes on screen here) should be predictable. If you can play part of the game without seeing the inputs because of an organized structure, that's a rhythm game. See WarioWare games when they start hiding parts of the puzzles
 

Bongo

excused from moderation duty
(he/him)
Staff member
Not necessarily; Guitar Hero inputs set to DDR music still involves pressing buttons in time to music, just not the music provided by the game. I do think I'd say that if R-Type is a rhythm game, then the one player arcade mode in Street Fighter is also a rhythm game. If you're playing against someone else, the set of inputs that results in "passing" changes depending on what they do... like when you play a custom note chart? So I guess that's a rhythm game too? Better yet, custom note charts are asynchronous fighting games!


What is the genre-defining difference between starting a song in a rhythm game, which then requires a bunch of inputs that match a beat, and starting a combo in a fighting game, which might then require the same inputs? Or to put it another way, why isn't playing a song in DDR also just a minigame within the larger game of navigating menus?
Synchronization with music.
 

SabreCat

Sabe, Inattentive Type
(they/them)
I don't think sound is critical, but having to match a pre-determined beat is.
This.

But remember, when you're talking about genre, it's a mistake to go looking for essential rules and bright-line divisions. Genre is a family-resemblance category. Does describing a game as a "rhythm game" get you and whoever you're talking to closer to a mutual understanding of what the game is about? In most cases, describing Super Street Fighter Ultra Turbo Combo Heaven V as a "rhythm game" is going to lead to confusion and more questions than it answers. But doing the same within a conversation about Bullets Per Minute or Crypt of the Necrodancer will help move you and your interlocutors into the same neighborhood of thought.
 
It's simple! I just follow this easy test:

Is my SO bewilderingly bad at it? Then it's a rhythm game.
Yep. I can be the additional replicate for this study.

I will note one loophole: guitar/bass in guitar hero. Drums and keyboards, yep the usual terrible-ness but I'm decent at the guitar controller.
 
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