Dance games used to be everything. Back in the early 2000’s, it wasn’t uncommon to enter an arcade and see a dance pad with flashing lights, a crowd watching as someone stepped on the arrows to fast paced techno music. This was Dance Dance Revolution, a game that not only set an example for later dancing titles, but changed the idea of active gaming as a whole.
Instead of sitting on a couch with a controller, players were invited to stand and attempt to move their feet to a vast and memorable soundtrack filled with J-Pop tunes, trance, Euro pop, popular remixes, and more. Not only did this change the way games were played, it offered a new aerobic workout, and even became an official sport in Norway. Since then, games like DDR have led into newer titles such as Just Dance and Dance Central, allowing players to move their entire bodies in front of a motion sensor. Although the series had the best dancing games, DDR‘s home console popularity has severely declined, leaving players to track down arcade cabinets for newer versions and songs.
However, despite there not being a home console release since 2011, the legacy still lives on and home releases are cheaper than ever. Below is a list of home releases of memorable dancing titles throughout the years that still are fun until this day. The games below can be played with a dance pad and a console at home. This list does not include other rhythm games or motion sensor based dance games. Let’s Dance!
Here are the 10 best dance games to play:
1. Dance Dance Revolution (1999)
The game that started at all, the original Dance Dance Revolution home release for the PS1 set the stage for future releases, featuring some of the most iconic songs in the franchise, such as “Butterfly” by Smile.dk and “Paranoia” by 180. Instead of having to track down an arcade that had a cabinet, fans were finally given an option to practice at home. Growing up, this is probably the game most fans played. For the graphical limitations of the PS1, the original DDR both looks and plays great. Although there are only 16 songs, they still never get old, even 15 years into the future. The popularity of this game resulted in many PS1 sequels and remixes. However, the original still has it’s definite charm that will be loved for ages to come. The used version of this game can be found for as low as three dollars, but if you want it new, you’ll have to shell out some extra cash for this classic.
2. Stepmania (PC/Mac)
Imagine Dance Dance Revolution, but the freedom to play and create original songs and steps through an active online community. Stepmania, originally released as a free open source program in 2001, provided dance fans with another opportunity to practice their moves. It is a clone of Dance Dance Revolution’s arrow based gameplay, and has gained popularity over the years since it’s release, with several updates. The unique part about Stepmania is that it is absolutely free and has a wide variety in song choices since it is 100% created by the users. The only downside is that Stepmania will never make it past the computer screen and into arcades due to copyright issues. This doesn’t matter too much, because Stepmania still exists and thrives today, and is definitely the most cost effective way to dance, as well as having the most options to groove to.
3. Dance Dance Revolution Mario Mix (Gamecube)
Is it possible to combine the quirkiness of the Mario franchise with a dancing game? Anything is possible. This random, unexpected crossover came to the Nintendo Gamecube at the height of the dancing games era, 2005. Music tracks consist of remixed Mario songs that are undeniably fun to dance to. Much like the soon to be released title, Persona 4 Dancing All Night, it’s a title that nobody really asked for but was pleasantly surprised by the result. Sometimes weird dancing crossovers can be good, and Mario Mix definitely surpasses expectations. This game isn’t perfect, but dancing off against Bowser has never been more fun.
4. Dance Dance Revolution Ultramix series (Xbox)
Ultramix is an interesting title. Instead of being released in Japan initially and then being localized, the series was made for an American audience. Those who did not own a PS1/PS2 or a good computer for Stepmania were finally able to play this series. All in all, there is not too much of a difference between Ultramix and it’s PS2 counterparts, besides announcers, voices, and certain songs. One of the landmark features of this series of games was the ability to have up to 4 players plug in their controllers at once, which was perfect for parties or to hang out. It still has the gameplay that many have grown to love, and will remain a great title until this day.
5. DDRMAX/DDRMAX 2 (PS2)
After the great success of the Playstation 1 titles and the release of the PS2, Dance Dance Revolution took a step forward with the release of DDRMAX and DDRMAX 2. Not only was the game’s library of songs expanded, new modes and features revolutionized the series, setting the format for the games to come. Graphics improved as well. DDRMAX 2‘s library of music, including Dream a Dream by Captain Jack and The Whistle Song by DJ Alligator Project, are just a few examples of great and memorable hits these two games have to offer. The sequel sold millions of copies worldwide, making it both a memorable and profitable game for the series. Both games are great beginnings to the Playstation 2 era of Dance Dance Revolution.
6. In the Groove (PS2)
An American version of the DDR series, In the Groove proves to be another memorable dancing title. Gaining popularity in arcades around 2005, ITG provided anew experience for dancing fans who were looking for something more hardcore than DDR’s 4 (or 5) basic difficulty levels. This resulted in more steps, faster paced songs, and difficulty levels that would take years to master. The tracks are a different feel from Dance Dance Revolution’s, with an array of techno songs that were probably never heard of before until this game, and that’s not a bad thing. At the point of time this game came out, fans were looking for something new, and Roxur Games created In the Groove to counter this. However, there are some definite legal problems with this title that resulted in a lawsuit by Konami for copyright infringement due to this game being much too similar to the original dancing series. This resulted in Konami buying the company and registering it as Intellectual Property. Will In the Groove ever see another release? That is very uncertain, but this niche title sure is worth picking up for your PS2.
7. Dance Dance Revolution Hottest Party series (Wii)
One thing that all dance fans encountered was the question of what to do with your arms while playing the landmark series. There’s a dance pad with arrows, but how can the gameplay be more like a dance and less like a robot? Dance Dance Revolution Hottest Party aimed for something new for the dying series, by combining the Wii’s motion controls with the valued, well known gameplay. Players used the Wiimote and Nunchuck controllers to move their hands while moving their feet on the dance pad. This resulted in a fun, new twist for the series. However, the Wii Balance Board mode left something to be desired, but at least these titles are ones to be remembered.
8. Pump It Up: Exceed (PS2)
When thinking of dance games, it’s easy to classify the basic controls as using four arrows, up, down, left, and right. However, in Pump It Up, a Korean dance game, there are five arrows, four diagonal ones and one in the middle. While other dancing games have the same type of format and gameplay, PIU stands alone as a unique dancing title. Learning how to play with five arrows is not an easy venture, but it sure is worth it for those who really want to try something new. The music in PIU is divided into several music channels and songs vary by difficulty. Forewarning, Pump It Up is probably one of the most difficult dancing games available and it requires a separate dance pad in order to play. Those who are fans of DDR and have mastered Light or Standard mode shouldn’t have any problem adjusting to the five steps, but trying anything past Hard mode on PIU is reserved for hardcore dancers only.
9. Dance Factory (PS2)
While critics and reviewers like to bash Dance Factory, this small title offers something different than any of the other dance games. Burn or buy a CD, put it in your PS2, wait a few minutes, and you have an entire playlist to dance to based on generated steps and moves. This means that there is no limitations to what songs can be played. This is a great alternative to Stepmania for those who want a quick console game without downloading the program and finding specific songs. From a workout standpoint, Dance Factory offers a very strenuous option because songs will last however long the track is rather than the one minute-thirty second DDR tracks. The only downsides include the front two arrows being switched from other dance games, which can cause confusion for new players, while some steps do not match up to the beat. However, this title is under a dollar (new) online right now, so it’s worth the price by far.
10. Dance Dance Revolution Extreme and Extreme 2 (PS2)
The series has had a lot of titles throughout the years, but nothing sticks out more than the Extreme series for the Playstation 2. Having the best tracks in all of the games combined, it wasn’t uncommon to see one of these two games wherever there was a dance mat. The first game had exceptional tracks, improved graphics and interface over predecessors, character selection, and an improved workout mode. Extreme 2 introduced even more, an extensive story/challenge mode, new songs and remixes, a broad character selection, and a virtual store to unlock all kinds of features. One of the best additions to the sequel was that after playing three songs, the players could continue on rather than being forced back to the main menu. The Extreme series are definitely two titles to remember, since they can be played for hours on end to workout or have fun.
The Future of Dance Pad Games
DDR was a craze. Like karaoke games and instrument based games, it lived its time and has severely decreased in popularity. Since motion based controls and sensors took over, games that involved moving your entire body took center stage, but even those fun titles have begun to die out.
So, what’s next? Dance Dance Revolution and similar titles have not had a home release in 4 years, without any news on if they will be returning. This may be because many of the newer games were received more negatively due to changes in gameplay and song choices. Even with this, they are still worth checking out. However, there is hope. Anime and gaming conventions across the country will bring cabinets of all of the popular rhythm games for attendees to play. Whenever I have walked into a game room, there’s always someone on a dance machine or a contest going on. The appeal is still there, and the influence hasn’t died just yet.
What is even better is that Rockband, a rock instrument game whose popularity declined severely around 2009, is seeing a new release for the next gen consoles. The last Rockband game was released in 2010, but is still seeing a new release five years later. What does this mean for DDR? It means that even if something dies in popularity, there is still a definite probability that it will come back again. With new arcade cabinets still being released every year, it is not out of the question that this lovable and nostalgic series will receive another home release. However, for now, we can only hope that dancing games will continue to live on and still be a fun way to exercise and game for the years to come.