Dance games popped off in the early 2000s

ALMOST a relic of the past, dance (and rhythm games) were all the rage in the early 2000s. Its success was largely thanks to Konami and its Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) games, which propelled the subgenre’s popularity.

The turn of the century was a weird one for video games. There were a lot of consoles but it was not in the huge numbers that are currently in circulation and ownership. Due to that, most people – mainly kids and teenagers – were still going to arcade centres. These places were cheaper, more accessible and had a great variety of games, and in poorer countries, they were a blessing.

Circling back to DDR, the version that popularised the franchise and dancing as a means of gameplay were the huge arcade machines for the game. Players would get on the machine, start the game and begin vigorously dancing on the dance pad.

Movements or the “arrows” that players hit have to match the arrows that were scrolling on the machine’s screen and doing so would score points. The speed the arrows can be made to go faster to increase the difficulty.

The electric mix of dance music and athleticism made DDR an instant hit. This also differentiated the games from contemporary games, because it made players physically move, rather than having them sit down with a game controller in their hands for hours like regular games.

Now, these dance games are relegated largely to arcade centres – yes, those still exist – and are not developed for consoles similar to how it used to be.

As today is International Dance Day, here are some of the greatest titles from the genre and can still be played if copies of the game and consoles can be secured.

Beat Saber

Platform(s): PC, PS4 and PS5

The sensible evolution to rhythm type of games is Beat Saber, which incorporates virtual reality into the dance experience. Unlike regular dancing, the game has players cutting their way through incoming blocks, timing it with background in-game music.

Dance Dance Revolution: Mario Mix

Platform(s): GameCube

One of the many different versions of the original DDR released on consoles, Mario Mix was a popular release by Nintendo that blended dance moves with the franchise’s two iconic plumbers. Players can choose either Mario or Luigi as they tear up the dance floor with music from the Mario franchise. At release, the game was bundled with a dance pad controller.

DDRMAX: Dance Dance Revolution 1+2

Platform(s): PS2, Arcade

Unlike the original DDR game, the DDRMAX variants included all the songs from the original games, including several new ones. For those that wanted an updated tracklist of the original with turn of the century tunes, these games were it.

Guitar Hero 3: Legends of Rock

Platform(s): PS2, PS3, Wii, Xbox 360

Truly a piece of the past, the Guitar Hero brand is more or less in a coffin in 2024. But back then, the series was synonymous with music-based games. Where the DDR genre of games built its reputation on players dancing on dance pads, the Guitar Hero games had players shredding rock and metal ballads on plastic guitar-shaped controllers, either alone or with friends in the same room.

This clearly is not a dance game like DDR and many of its off-brand clones, but it is impossible not to bust a move or two while shredding in Guitar Hero 3.

Dance Dance Revolution

Platform(s): PS1, Arcade

DDR has seen many variants across its lifespan, but the original game for the arcade and PS1 is unbeatable. The J-pop songs continue to slay, the controls and feedback remain crisp and the multiplayer aspect is timeless.

At home, the game could be played by just connecting the dance pad to the PS1 console. Though the game is a homegrown Japanese franchise, it pioneered a global genre for a decade based purely on how good it was.

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