I have always loved rhythm games as someone who grew up in arcades with DDR blasting its attract mode sound at me while I was playing Street Fighter. I would sneak away to those corners and dance away the salt from losing, burning calories and staying fit in the process. At the ripe age of 35, I can still knee drop on Saints Go Marching.
Fast forward a decade or so, and here we are in VR, where rhythm games have made the most satisfying of comebacks for me. The genre feels fresh, there are a ton of titles to choose from, and almost all of them are moddable.
I find the rhythm genre essential to fitness. Who doesn’t like music when they work out? Why wouldn’t you push yourself harder jamming to the tunes you enjoy? Dancing has always been a great workout, VR just contextualized it.
If you don’t have a favorite VR rhythm fitness game, let me persuade you to find one. Your routine will be forever changed for the better.
VR Rhythm Games Scale Well
The primary reason I love VR rhythm games as a workout tool is that they scale well. Plateauing is the number one fear for fitness heads because it’s tough to overcome and quickly leads some of the most dedicated to failure. Not so with rhythm games. Finding a new song you like or a fun new beatmap to play is extremely exciting. That shot of dopamine accompanies the satisfying feeling you get of completing that awesome beatmap.
As you get better, you’ll find new custom beatmap challenges waiting for you in most major titles. Soundboxing is a great example of this at play, where weekly and monthly playlists provide everyone the chance to dive into whatever the community is playing at the moment.
VR Rhythm is Easy to Play and Tough to Master
Easy mode for most rhythm games is doable for people with decent hand-eye coordination. Most people who have trouble in my experience learn to adapt pretty quickly, and some games offer an easier beginner experience. BoxVR is extremely beginner-friendly and is a favorite among people who do not consider themselves gamers.
There’s really no ceiling in the rhythm genre because someone is always out there making new beatmaps. As long as people are playing the game, someone is customizing a beatmap. The new and challenging content forces players to work harder, often physically exerting themselves to finish a song. Not only do you need excellent hand-eye coordination, but you also need to build up stamina for long cardio sessions.
The custom beatmaps in each game differ in functionality. Beat Saber, for instance, requires players to download third-party tools and songs to mod the game. BoxVR, by contrast, can import songs from the main menu with randomly generated beatmaps.
We created a tutorial on making beatmaps in Soundboxing. The process isn’t terribly difficult, and every beatmap is a new entry in the community’s library of songs to choose from.
High-Intensity Rhythmic Workout
Music has a few important benefits to our fitness. It allows our brains to focus, it shuts out other distractions, and it provides a rhythm for us to pace ourselves. So much of a good workout is how we pace ourselves, especially as we age.
Rhythm games provide that rhythmic high-intensity workout. My highest BPMs from testing almost always come from rhythm or boxing titles (or titles that combine the two). Punching, dancing and squatting all make for a high-intensity workout.
Rhythm is Easy Cardio
Who can think of a more natural way to get your cardio in than dancing? I realize that runners get addicted to the feeling of running, but as someone who suffers from shin splints and pain from poor footing, I just can’t get on that train.
Rhythm games offer the cardio I want without the high-impact of running or jogging. Ideally, you leave the house from time to time as well, but rhythm games are an easy way to replace or supplement time you spend on the treadmill. Especially when they have a higher tolerance for failure, like Soundboxing or Beat Saber. The best rhythm games for cardio don’t interrupt you and force you to grind your way to perfection. They score you based on your performance and allow you to persevere to the end of the song.
Full Body Workouts in VR
Every rhythm game I’ve sampled has been a full-body experience. Not all of them force me to squat, they may have me reach high or sidestep incoming obstacles, but all of them engage my entire body. One of the obvious strengths of VR is that it gets us up and moving. When we play rhythm games, we’re not just using our hands as controllers. We’re using our full-body, and that makes a difference in workout potential.
Few VR games manage to work our bodies rhythmically, and as quickly at high intensity than rhythm games. Shooters and melee fighting games always have some built-in downtime. You need to guard or sit behind cover to wait for the right moment to strike. Once you begin a song, you’re at the mercy of the game, and your body doesn’t get a lot of rest time within the workout.
Build Your Routine Around Rhythm
I hope I’ve convinced you to add a rhythm game to your routine. The genre is growing, and there is a ton of choice. Whether your passion is modding or you want a great experience out of the box, you’ll find a title that suits you and challenges you.
Our most recommended titles here at VRFI include:
What are your favorite rhythm games in VR?