2023 was a big year for unique rhythm games. There were at least four on the Nintendo Switch! Which is four more than we get most years! So, in the interest of promoting what is easily one of my top ten genres (it’s above ball-based), here is an overview of the biggest rhythm games of 2023.

Theatrhythm Final Bar Line

Available for: Playstation 4, Nintendo Switch

Play it again SamWhat do we have here: The long-awaited sequel to previous Theatrhythm titles! Tap along to your favorite Final Fantasy songs! You can play as many of your favorite old heroes and heroines, and beat all those nefarious villains into the next stanza with the power of song! As you overwhelm Chaos, so to will you be overwhelmed by nostalgia for decades of Final Fantasy.

Will you recognize these songs: If you have been playing Final Fantasy titles since 1987, you certainly have a leg up here. But whether you started on the NES or Nintendo DS, there is something here for you with FF’s magnificent music. This was released before Final Fantasy 16, but every other game and spinoff is represented in some capacity right out of the box.

Are there different control schemes: We used to have a stylus available, but now we are just sticking to buttons. If you are playing on Switch, definitely grab a pro controller.

Is it challenging: The single player mode expects you to not only complete the songs with precise aptitude, but many of the challenges are based on properly analyzing your available characters and optimizing their stats and abilities. It gets hard ya’all. But if you enjoy weighing the magical stats of your various mages against each other, it is heaven. Also: if you lose, your party dies. That probably has some level of psychological impact.

Collectibles: You earn experience points, Rhythimia, and items to help your characters in battle. But we also have randomly dropped collectible cards featuring all sorts of FF nonsense. At least one probably showcases your favorite protagonist! Probably! And you can also earn different designs for your customizable “Proficard”. … Would it take too long to call it a “Profile Card”? You are only dropping one syllable…

Make a better gamePlay with friends: Head-to-head is available online. 4-players, even! It works not unlike a versus puzzle game, with the ability to perform well to send obstacles over at your opponent. That said, everyone that has ever played this online is far too good, and your gentle ego will probably be happier staying local.

Any DLC? Yes! Oodles of additional songs have been released all year, with tracks from Nier, Xenogears, Mana, and Chrono Trigger/Cross all making the roster. SaGa titles are also available for those masochists in the audience. Final Fantasy 16 did eventually arrive here, too.

Favorite Song: I am damned to pick something from Final Fantasy 6, so let’s go with Edgar & Sabin’s Theme. I will not be taking any further questions on this matter.

Will this game make you reconsider your life choices: You can listen to Eyes on Me only once before remembering the overwhelmingly embarrassing fact that you inscribed those lyrics on a t-shirt in high school. You somehow thought this would be cool. You have never understood the concept of cool.

Trombone Champ

TrombonerAvailable for: PC, Mac, Nintendo Switch

What do we have here: Become a trombone champion by playing nature’s most perfect instrument (it’s the trombone). Give or take the presence of some baboons and devils, the world is not at stake here, so just have fun tromboning along to your favorite tunes. Complete with a free improvisation mode, this “rhythm game” feels less like tapping along to a beat, and more like playing an actual instrument (which is the trombone).

Will you recognize these songs: You will recognize these songs. Your grandma will recognize these songs. Trombone Champ features a collection of songs that are firmly in the public domain, which means there are an awful lot of tunes that have not been new for a century (or, in the case of the likes of Auld Lang Syne, centuries). That said, no other game in this article includes Hava Nagila, so mock the classics at your own peril.

Are there different control schemes: Playing with a basic analog stick is an option, but you can also use the AR function of a switchmote to simulate pushing and pulling a trombone slide (apparently known as a “slider”). This is how you prove yourself to be a true Trombone Champ in front of your friends and family.

Is it challenging: This depends on your definition of “challenging”. Trombone Champ will not boot you out of a song for playing poorly. That said, absolutely nailing an S rank feels nearly impossible sometimes, as properly sliding across notes at higher tempos requires dexterity far beyond that of mortal man. Also: you’re playing a trombone, so even perfect pitch means you are still playing an instrument that, you know, sounds like a trombone.

Collectibles: You can purchase collectible card packs with your hard-earned Trombone Champ toots. There is a whole little system here that will allow you to save the world/earn new trombones, but what is important that you obtain the Blue Eyes White Baboon card. Get three of those, and you will become the ultimate champion.

Pick it up pick it up pick it upPlay with friends: Four players can play along. There are even multiple trombone pitches available to make it more interesting! One could argue that this is a competitive mode, but when people are playing trombones together, are they really battling? Perfect harmony.

Any DLC? The original PC release has received some fresh, free songs. The Nintendo Switch version has yet to see anything new, though. “Absolutely zero microtransactions” is an advertised feature on the official website…

Favorite Song: SkaBird is an original ska song, and it is always good to promote the existence ska. But I am going to go with Also sprach Zarathustra, as that is the one song that truly proves it was always meant to be played on trombone.

Will this game make you reconsider your life choices: Oh man. Remember band? Remember how much effort you put into playing an instrument? For, like, eight years? Do you even know where your trumpet is anymore? You could have done something with that skill, stupid, but nope. Here you sit, writing about trombone games on the internet…

Samba de Amigo Party Central

Dance alongAvailable for: Nintendo Switch and… Meta Quest? Seriously?

What do we have here: After years of rereleases, Samba de Amigo finally gets its first official sequel since the Sega Dreamcast. Amigo’s universe has been updated for the TikTok’ed world of 2023, and now you can shake your maracas to all sorts of tunes.

Will you recognize these songs: We’ve got an eclectic mix of old and new here. Karma Chameleon and La Bamba are right there beside Break Free and XS. Also, please do not tell me how many radio hits I recognize as “new” are actually ten years old.

Are there different control schemes: Samba de Amigo was the originator of the infamous Dreamcast Maracas, so it is only natural you are expected to get a full body workout by swinging your joy-cons all over the place. You even have to pose along! Or run like a maniac during (mid-song) roulette minigames! The good news is that you can also use the analogue sticks to simulate getting off your butt, so you can play as lazily as you please.

Is it challenging: Our story mode tells the tale of a simple monkey working to become the national StreamiGo! ambassador for whatever crazy fictional country maracas hail from. This demands an awful lot of random requirement challenges, and they ramp up in difficulty amazingly quickly. Complete a specific song on Hard Mode and only miss two notes? No thank you. I’m going to go back to freeplay where I don’t have to be popular now.

Collectibles: You earn currency and experience points here, but they both seem to be a route to earning new ways to customize your monkey. Want Amigo to crap rainbows and shake his stuff in a suit? That is available! Don’t forget to customize your profile card (see? Was that so hard to spell out?).

Play with friends: Four players can shake what their monkeys gave ‘em in a head-to-head mode. It seems like some of the roulette games works as status effects (or whatever you want to call that) here. “Everything is smaller” may as well be “blind” to those still playing monkey games with old man eyes. Eight player “World Party” is available online, but this game is less interesting when there are not a pile of people ramming into each other in your basement.

PosersAny DLC? Oddly enough, the DLC seems to be more esoteric than you would expect from a game that already includes Ariana Grande. We’ve got packs featuring tracks from Sonic the Hedgehog, Space Channel 5, Rhythm Thief (!), and Like a Dragon. And then there’s a K-Pop and “Japanese” selection (including at least one Vocaloid). I’m not complaining, but I was expecting something more like “The Walking Dead is now crossing over with Tekken” than “new Fire Emblem character in Smash”.

Favorite Song: Carly Rae Jepsen’s I Really Like You is a banger, and I don’t care who knows it. And, hey, Good Time with her and Owl City is on here, too!

Will this game make you reconsider your life choices: Haha! First sequel since 1999? What have you done in the last 24 years, Amigo? A bunch of dumb cameos? Haha! … Wait. Can I say I have done anything as important as Sega Superstars Tennis in two decades?

Super Crazy Rhythm Castle

This makes sense in contextAvailable for: Got a whole pile for this one! Nintendo Switch, Steam, Playstation 4/5, Xbox X/S, and even Xbox One. You have options!

What do we have here: Konami decided to make a videogame or two this year, so we have a rhythm game that is part adventure-quest, and part guitar hero. Every song challenge involves hitting three buttons along to the beat, but there are also “mini challenges” that exist almost entirely to distract and/or perplex you. You will enjoy this if “play a rhythm game that is actively working against you” sounds like a good time. When you are conquering a Fire Emblem or Dynasty Warriors-type game, do you appreciate seeing your meticulous strategies go to pot when reinforcements arrive out of nowhere? It’s like that.

Will you recognize these songs: The average person likely will not. The songs are “real” songs by real indie artists, but we are not talking about anything you would hear on the radio. They are bops, though! And I hope the likes of Lizzy Ashliegh or Ghillie Suess blow up thanks to being featured in a game that will totally be remembered forever. Also, there is a garage full of Konami remixes, so if the phrase “Bloody Tears” mean anything to you, you are definitely going to recognize one song.

Are there different control schemes: You can remap the button layout, but there is nothing that takes advantage of motion controls or whatevertheheck was happening in other games. Guess that’s the downside of being on every system known to man and baboon.

Is it challenging: The good news is that the game grades on a curve, and you can miss like 25% of notes, and still be granted two out of three stars with completion. The bad news is that mercy is there because some of the minigames can be baffling, and you might need a few tries to really sus out what you are supposed to be doing/prioritizing in the first place. So it is a bit of a tradeoff.

Collectibles: “Collecting” the right to play these songs as “just” rhythm challenges without the associated minigames seems to be a thing. The previously mentioned Konami tracks also also collectible. There are also a series of treasure chests that only unlock by playing the tunes “straight” without errors. Other than that, SCRC plays like a collectathon all on its own, so basically try to find all 120 stars.

Damned BelmontPlay with friends: Super Crazy Rhythm Castle is all but built for two players, and four players are definitely on the table. There are even some mini games that feel downright wrong as only one player. So grab those friends you used to play Guitar Hero with, and make them run around and grab coins for you like a dog (it makes sense in context).

Any DLC? Apparently not!

Favorite Song: Hippo and Frog is emblematic of the “chill/funny” vibe of Super Crazy Rhythm Castle. This one is not going to hop onto the Top 40, but it is a relaxing ditty to listen to while feeding beans to an elder god. Ya ya yaaaaaaa.

Will this game make you reconsider your life choices: I’m sorry? Did I just spend the last year playing silly rhythm games? When I could have been playing real AAA experiences like Final Fantasy 16 or Starfield? Ugh! I can’t even do my hobbies right…

SBC #20 Sonic the Hedgehog & Samba de Amigo Party Central

Sonic the Hedgehog in Super Smash Bros Ultimate

Gotta fight fast

  • He any Good? Here is a shocker: Sonic is super-fast. The hedgehog can astonishingly pull off a few powerful moves, but he otherwise excels at dashing all over the stage, and collecting every handy item that appears. He clearly learned some technical skills from Tails.
  • That final smash work? Super Sonic zooms back and forth, making the exact middle of the stage impassible. If you know what is coming (Chaos Emeralds), you know to duck. If you do not see it (unbridled death) coming, you’re going to get smashed.
  • The background work? As a bit of a shock to the fastest thing alive, Green Hill Zone is very cramped. The occasionally collapsing floor is not much to write home about, but the sound of the checkpoint balloon being spun is lovely for the fans. Getting smacked around by a checkpoint is confusing, though.
  • Classic Mode: Sonic beats classic mode At the Speed of Sound. First, it looks like it is just going to be a fast character showcase. But then Kirby appears in “Heroes” colors, and it is clear that this is some kind of faux exploration of Sonic’s franchise history. And I guess Sheik is supposed to be Silver? It all ends with the hands, though. Maybe that is a reference to how Eggman wear gloves?
  • First Appearance: Is chipping away until the Smash Ball appears a valid strategy? Sonic is weaker back in Brawl, but his final smash will absolutely obliterate everyone. Sometimes twice! Is it appropriate that his homing dash doesn’t seem to work 100% correctly in an earlier game?
  • Smash Trivia: There is some alternate universe where everyone got their $^&@ together, and Sonic was included in Melee. He premiered in Brawl, though, and has been the only playable third-party character to appear in every Smash game since. Sorry, Snake, but Sonic is the real MVP guest fighter.
  • Staying still

  • Amiibo Corner: Look at him run! Sonic has one of the few amiibos that is not distinctly looking up in any way. Makes the dude come off as… horizontal? Whatever. Look at that blue blur go.
  • Does Smash Bros Remember Today’s Game? Look, I get that Sonic the Hedgehog is, at best, cameoing in Samba de Amigo for one Dreamcast-originating song. But would it kill the Smash Bros franchise to remember that Amigo exists? I know Fox would likely shoot the monkey on sight, but that doesn’t mean he can’t dance along with Bayonetta and Palutena.

Sonic the Hedgehog in Samba de Amigo Party Central

  • There he isSystem: We are just looking at the Nintendo Switch version here. The virtual reality version sounds like an excellent way to give yourself neck trauma. The Apple Arcade mobile version is not even worth mentioning.
  • Number of players: Four for (maraca) fighting.
  • Make it all worth it: I will never get tired of watching Max the hip-hop cat leader of the underground music resistance attempting to break dance to Fugue in G Minor. He pulls it off surprisingly well!
  • Favorite Roulette Minigame: “Punch” seems like something that would get me into playing more Wii Fit games. Punch air. Faster! Harder! Try not to fall over (you will fall over).
  • Favorite Amigo amigo: Linda the Butterfly samba dancer seems to be Amigo’s best dance partner. Amiga is nice an’ all, but the way Linda tangos so dedicatedly to any song is admirable.
  • Favorite customization option: Amigo can shake Mjolnir replicas instead of maracas. I cannot imagine a better choice for the little monkey.
  • Did you know? Samba de Amigo had a cousin game, Shakatto Tambourine, which was an arcade game with a tambourine controller. The love bugWeirdly enough, despite being released in 2000, it never made its way to a Sega console. It was on the Playstation 1 in Japan, though, as MiniMoni Shakatto Tambourine! Dapyon! Hooray?
  • Would I play again: I would play any of today’s featured rhythm games again. It is so nice to have a collection of eclectic “dance party” titles immediately available on the Nintendo Switch. Now if we could only merge all the song lists together into one giant event…

What’s next: Christmas is here, so we will have a special, non-smash based holiday special. It may be marginally depressing. Please look forward to it!

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