Friday Night Funkin’ & 8 Other Rhythm Games That Hit the Right Note

Photos Courtesy (from left): Awe Interactive; Sony Interactive Entertainment; Cameron “Ninjamuffin99” Taylor, PhantomArcade, KawaiiSprite & EvilSk8er/Newgrounds; Background Graphics Courtesy: Konami

When a group of artists got together to create the Dance Dance Revolution-inspired rhythm game Friday Night Funkin’ (FNF) back in 2020, they probably didn’t know they had such a hit on their hands. Currently available to download for free on Mac, Windows PC and Linux, Friday Night Funkin’ became a real viral smash thanks to its browser version, which is available on Newgrounds — an entertainment site that hosts user-generated games, films, audio and artwork. 

With its throwback, cartoony art and fun bops, Friday Night Funkin’ is one of Newgrounds most popular games. According to Polygon, FNF has hit “15 million plays on Newgrounds alone”. And it’s not just popular with players. In fact, modders and animators alike enjoy making content using the game. In turn, that’s made it a viral sensation on both YouTube and TikTok.

Whether you’re new to the Friday Night Funkin’ craze or a passionate supporter of the developers’ Kickstarter for a full version of the game, stick around. We’re delving into everything you need to know about FNF, and spotlighting a few other must-play rhythm games. 

What Is Friday Night Funkin’?

In its current incarnation, Friday Night Funkin’ is a colorful rhythm game about a boyfriend character — aptly dubbed Boyfriend — who’s trying to impress his girlfriend. But, before he can kiss her, he has to prove himself through a series of rhythm challenges, obviously. It’s a tale as old as time.

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Super easy to play and incredibly accessible thanks to Newgrounds, Friday Night Funkin’ has you use your computer’s arrow keys in time with the scrolling arrows on screen. If you’ve ever played Dance Dance Revolution or a similar rhythm or dance game, you’ll be right at home. 

Photo Courtesy: Cameron “Ninjamuffin99” Taylor, PhantomArcade, KawaiiSprite & EvilSk8er/Newgrounds

It’s easy to sink a ton of time into FNF, which, of course, prompted the creators to launch a Kickstarter to raise funding for a full retail version of the game. Initially, their goal was to raise $60,000; soon enough, Friday Night Funkin’ fans helped that total balloon to over $2 million worth of funding. 

So, while you’re waiting for the full version of FNF, keep your skills sharp by playing it on Newgrounds — and by checking out these other must-play rhythm games. 

osu!

Photo Courtesy: Dean Herbert/ppy
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If you’re a fan of rhythm games, then osu! is another one that’s worth checking out. The free-to-play music game tests your skills on different “beat maps”, requiring you to use your mouse or touch screen to tap, drag, or rotate a series of circles that appear on screen. Of course, all of these movements must be done in time with the beat of the song that’s playing. Part of osu!’s popularity stems from the fact that players can create their own beat maps and share them with others. 

Quaver

Quaver is a community-driven, open-source rhythm game that serves up quite the challenge. Featuring two game modes and competitive leaderboards, Quaver appears to be straightforward — and the gameplay is, in concept, simple.

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Photo Courtesy: Swan/Steam

A series of images or shapes — representative of notes — appear on screen, scrolling by as music plays; tap one of the four buttons that match the given notes at the right time and you’ll earn points. Easy enough, right? Well, Quaver may seem like any other rhythm game, but it’ll really put your reflexes to the test. 

Dance Dance Revolution (DDR)

Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) is likely one of the games on this list you’ve probably heard of, even if you aren’t a gamer. Whether you’ve played it at home on one of those funky mats or jumped around in an arcade, any encounter with DDR you’ve had probably left you breathless — and either really exhilarated or a little frustrated. 

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From left: Xee Moua and Pang Moua play the Dance Dance Revolution game in the Penny Arcade near the Grand Stand as a crowd watches at the State Fair in Minnesota, circa 2002. Photo Courtesy: Joey McLeister/Star Tribune/Getty Images

 First released as an arcade game in the late 1990s, DDR took the world by storm and made fans of everyone from gamers to fitness enthusiasts. As arrows appeared on screen, you’d step on the corresponding game pad arrows to complete a series of dance moves. These days, you can buy the game, and accompanying dance pad, for pretty much any gaming system. And, yes, practicing in the comfort of your own home is a lot less stressful — trust us! 

StepMania

Photo Courtesy: StepMania Team
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StepMania is a free Pump It Up and Dance Dance Revolution simulator for Windows, Mac, and Linux. The cool thing about it? It’s super customizable. You can input your own songs and, in turn, create your own steps. Plus, there are two different methods of gameplay — one of which is compatible with a dance pad. The other method lets you use your keyboard if getting on your feet and grooving isn’t exactly your thing.

PaRappa the Rapper

One of the first true rhythm games, PaRappa the Rapper is a delightfully unique rap game that was first released for the PlayStation back in 1996. It’s since been remastered for the PlayStation 4, inviting a whole new generation of players to join PaRappa the dog as he attempts to rap his way into the heart of his crush, Sunny Funny.

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Photo Courtesy: Sony Interactive Entertainment

Along the way, he learns to refine his skills by studying with musical mentors, including Chop Chop Master Onion, Instructor Mooselini, and Cheap Cheap the Cooking Chicken. As an added bonus, the game features a vocals-to-button press mechanic. Between the quirky characters, catchy tunes and colorful art, PaRappa will provide hours of fun for players of all ages. 

BPM: Bullets Per Minute

Photo Courtesy: Awe Interactive/Steam
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Can’t decide between playing a shooter or a rhythm game? Well, there’s no need to make a choice thanks to Bullets Per Minute (BPM), a game that combines the fun of both genres. In BPM, which is available on everything from Steam to PlayStation 4, you’ll take on the role of a Valkyrie who must stop the forces of evil from invading Asgard. Like a traditional first-person shooter (FPS), you’ll shoot, dodge and fight your way to victory — but all in tune to an epic soundtrack. 

Muse Dash

Photo Courtesy: PeroPeroGames/X.D. Network Inc./Steam
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Wanna save the world with a rhythm game twist? Look no further than Muse Dash. The colorful anime-inspired game, which centers on three heroines, combines cute art, delightful parkour and catchy music. Available on iPhone, Android and the Nintendo Switch, Muse Dash plays out like a side-scrolling platformer — a platformer with 30+ tracks that sync up perfectly with the on-screen action. 

Beat Saber

Photo Courtesy: Beat Games/Steam

If you’ve ever wanted to smash things, Jedi-style, while listening to a blood-pumping soundtrack, the VR hit, Beat Saber, is the game for you. Here, you’ll wield two lightsaber-like swords, one red and one blue. As oncoming red and blue obstacles come your way, you’ll want to hit them with the saber of the corresponding color. What really makes the game special, however, is that the whole thing plays out to an adrenaline-fueled soundtrack.

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