The 9 Best Music Video Games You’ll Ever Play

Photo: 10’000 Hours (Getty Images)

Music video games enjoyed a gigantic explosion of popularity in the early 2000s with Guitar Hero and later Rock Band crashing dorms and living rooms across the country.

Complete with plastic instruments and killer soundtracks, they did a pretty good job of making you feel like a rock star without any of the hangovers or hours of practice.

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While their heyday has passed, the impact of music games cannot be understated. Here are the nine best music video games we’ve seen so far:

9. Def Jam: Vendetta

One of the strangest but coolest fighting games ever made, Def Jam allowed players to battle Def Jam Records artists like Method Man, DMX, Ludacris, and Ghostface Killah.

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The game had over-the-top wrestling moves and a plot that had the player basically take on the entire roster, one by one (and in tag teams). Simply seeing some of the greatest names in hip-hop was cool. Being able to suplex them was even better.

8. Rez

A spaced-out shooter that had a soundtrack that evolved with your performance, Rez was instantly loved when it came out. The trippy graphics and mindblowing soundtrack were an instant hit, and it continues to be an example of music games done right.

7. Space Channel 5

Featuring the purple hair and go-go boots of main character Ulala, the game sends its intergalactic reporter into increasingly bizarre hostage situations in which the only way out is dance. Seriously.

Combining rescue missions for kidnapped co-workers from aliens alongside a catchy, funky soundtrack proved Ulala knew how to throw down.

6. Dance Dance Revolution

The ultimate rhythm test, DDR became synonymous with high-energy video games. Playing this dance game on higher difficulties would quickly leave you sweaty, tired, and defeated.

The game’s simplicity (how hard can it be to step on arrows?) and many sequels mean there’s a dance pad nearby if you feel like exposing your lack of moves.

5. Tetris Effect

How it took this long to combine Tetris with an amazing soundtrack, we don’t know, but the results are perfect. The beats react to your piece placement, and the various worlds mean no two boards look the same. When everything’s in concert, it’s an amazing experience.

Tetris is one of the best games ever created, and adding visuals and music improves the formula in every way.

4. Rocksmith

A video game that can double as a guitar lesson, Rocksmith is the rare game that feels productive to play.

Using a real guitar as a controller, the game seamlessly blends play with teaching you the ins and outs of everything from finger placement to tempo changes. You may actually learn some songs while playing this game, which is extremely cool.

3. DJ Hero

Featuring over 100 remixes, two controllers, and an amazing number of game modes, DJ Hero brought the rock experience to disk jockeys everywhere.

The controllers made you feel like you were really scratching vinyl, and the incredible soundtrack helped sell the entire package. Gone far too soon, DJ Hero brought something new to the music game genre.

2. Guitar Hero

The OG, Guitar Hero, became an instant classic upon release. Not only was it a blast to play, but its soundtrack featured the right mix of old and new.

The innovative controllers made everyone feel like a rock star. Millions battled over who got to play next, and entire tournaments were dedicated to the best video game guitarists. This game spawned an empire.

1. Rock Band

While Guitar Hero made players feel like rock gods, Rock Band got your friends in the mix. Instead of having two guitars, this game included guitars, drums and a microphone for hours of group jams.

The game could make any group of friends feel like they were one lucky break away from recording an album and going on tour. Pretty good for a bunch of plastic instruments.