There Are No Music Games, Only Rhythm Ones

There Are No Music Games, Only Rhythm Ones

PaRappa the Rapper designer Masaya Matsuura has been called the father of music games. Thing is, he doesn’t believe there are music games.

“Strictly speaking I do not believe that ‘Music Games’ as a genre really exists yet,” Matsuura recently told Kotaku. “We just have Rhythm Games.”

This isn’t the first time Matsuura has said this, but it’s worth bringing up again, due to the broad brush strokes that rhythm games are painted with. Matsuura, a musician himself, is acutely aware of the difference between music and rhythm.

Before Matsuura made classic titles like PaRappa and Vib-Ribbon, he was a recording artist with Sony, releasing numerous albums and playing stadiums.

Matsuura’s music, such as “Angel Night”, was used for anime and TV dramas.

Currently, Matsuura and his studio NanaOn-Sha are finishing up Kinect title Haunt for Xbox Live. It’s set in a haunted house, and, while not a straight up rhythm game, it does have rhythm elements.

“We can’t really grow the genre until we have some games that explore areas of music other than just rhythm,” Matsuura added. “I really want us to help overcome this deficiency.”

When asked hypothetically what type of game he’d like to make, Matsuura replied that he be keen to do “something that features extremely accurate musical performance animation.”

“As an example, if we could zoom in and see lifelike fingerwork in an animated pianist, the opportunities afforded to uncover and develop new methods of playing beyond the capabilities of humans would be a crucial step in musical evolution,” said Matsuura. “The ability of ‘games’ to allow us to take part in such advances is crucial.”

And it’s crucial to have creators like Matsuura make those advances happen.

Top photo: Brian Ashcraft/Kotaku


  • Agreed that “music” games are all really “rhythm” games. With the possible exception of sing-along games which require you to have at least some sense of pitch (at harder difficulties anyway).

    I reckon the trouble with a transition to “proper” music games is that controllers will have to emulate actual instruments more closely, which means a device which is technically more complex, expensive and prone to breaking. The idea does have merit though: as a kid I was much more interested in my Game&Watch than my piano lessons. If my piano lessons had more in common with the videogames I already loved, I’m sure I would have been more enthusastic about them!

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