The definitive list of the best mobile rhyhtm games, definitively.

I love rhythm games. If I had to pick one genre of video games to play for the rest of my life, it'd probably be RPGs, because I love stories in games and I could always go play real instruments. But rhythm games are a close second!

So with that on the table, it's no surprise that I think one of the best things about this age of smart-devices is that it's provided a platform where rhythm games can thrive and are made available to play on the go. After all, touch screens are perfect for rhythm games! It's just like pressing buttons or hitting percussion instruments, there's no way that could go wrong, right?

WRONG. Just like every other mobile game genre, there's a ton of trash out there in the rhythm game genre. This list is not about those games. This list is about talking about the mobile rhythm games that get it right and the ones that almost get it right with some caveats.

Now a big factor in how I'm ranking these games is their control scheme and thus it's relevant to let you readers know that I'm mostly playing these games on a tablet, specifically an iPad Mini. What this means is that I'm generally playing with my fingers, rather than just my thumbs, with the tablet resting on some surface rather than being held up. I've played some of them on the phone and I'll note the differences in quality depending on platform where relevant.

The other big factor is obviously soundtracks which play a large part in your enjoyment of rhythm games so this is definitely a subjective list. It is simply the definitive list of my favourite mobile rhythm games.

That being said,I haven't seen any other GB lists on this subject so I'm going to go ahead and say I'm basically the foremost expert on mobile rhythm games, thus making this list pretty much definitive and 100% factual. Completely objective.

If it all goes according to plan, I'll be going through and writing actual reviews of each of these games but consider this list as a quick reference for now.

Feel free to leave a comment and tell me if you think differently! (You're wrong) Definitely tell me about your favorite mobile rhythm games though, especially if it's not on the list yet.

Thanks for reading!

Really though, this list is basically for my own personal reference but if you get something out of it that's good too.

List items

  • This is probably the most 'traditional' game on this list, which probably explains why I have it at the top. The control scheme is classic note highway style with notes coming from the top down, so all the action takes place at the bottom of the screen. I think that ultimately, this is the style of control that I prefer the most, it's simple and versatile. There's 7 lanes of notes so there's a lot of room for variation. I play this game on a tablet and it's a lot of fun but I've seen videos of people doing incredibly well with just thumbs on a phone so you should be good too if that's your style.

    This game also managed to make me a believer in swipe notes. After hating them in basically every mobile rhythm game I've played, the way this game does it made me enjoy their inclusion. There's only one direction to swipe in, it's very responsive, allowing for quick swipes, and they're charted mainly on crashes and other accents to make it fit very well.

    The soundtrack is pretty much all J-pop rock, which I think is good. I don't actually listen to any of that music in my day to day but I think it works incredibly well for rhythm game soundtracks. It's a bunch of original music because it's part of a whole multimedia franchise but there's also a pretty large amount of anime music covers if you're into that. There's some songs in here that I find pretty grating to listen to but there isn't a song yet that I haven't found fun to play on expert.

    What's really great about this game though, is that this is a great example of how to do a free-to-play rhythm game right. Ok maybe not exactly right. There's a CCG metalayer that I'll just gloss over because it can be ignored. There's a gacha system that is predatory in all the standard ways gacha systems are but crucially, it doesn't get in the way of you actually playing the game. If you don't care at all about placing high on the event leaderboards, you can basically ignore the gacha aspect and still get access to all the songs through playing normally. There is an 'energy' system but all that really does is lmit your rate of meaningful progress through the game's story, of which about maybe 15 or so songs are locked behind. There's no need to spend money on them though, you'll have them unlocked easily before you go through the starter songs. What you're left with, after all this, is the ability to freely play nearly all of the songs as many times as you want. It sounds like an obvious decision but there are many games that fail on this front, some which even feature lower on this list.

  • The highest ranked Rayark game on the list. Again, this game has a nice, classic control scheme, tapping notes as they hit the line at the bottom. The motif here is that of you playing a keyboard and that bleeds into the control scheme where there aren't any defined lanes like in a traditional note highway, just one big blank space. In practice, this means there's a fair amount of leniency in where you can tap to hit notes as it just has to cover any part of the incoming note and I think this does a great job in capturing the feeling of playing on a keyboard/piano in execution. I've tried this on both a tablet and a phone, both were pretty good ways to play it. Also, there's no swipe/flick notes, which is a huge plus, and the charts manage to stay varied and difficult enough without them.

    The soundtrack and note charting also do a good job in getting behind the piano motif. There's good pure piano pieces mixed in with some Taiwanese pop ballad stuff that I'm not a huge fan of (and I'm Chinese!) but I will say that even for the songs I don't care for, the charting on them is excellent and makes most of them fun to play even if not that fun to listen to.

  • If you've ever played DJMax Technika in arcades, this is that game but on a smart device. For those who haven't, Technika is basically a touchscreen arcade game so it's basically perfect for smart devices.

    Your screen gets split into two halves, with a line moving across the top half from left to right, then from right to left across the bottom half. You have to touch notes as the bar passes over them which makes for some really frenetic action, requiring a lot of movement across the whole screen. I played a fair amount of this in the arcade and it feels pretty good on mobile too, though I can't imagine it'll be that great to play on a small screen phone.

    If there's one gripe I have with the controls of this game, it's that there are just too many note types. You've got taps, holds where you follow the line, holds where you don't follow the line, taps where you tap the one spot multiple times as the line passes over successive beats and sliding holds following the line. It gets to be pretty fun once you're used to it but having to differentiate all those types on sight makes for quite a learning curve. Then again, it's a DJMax game so hard is par for the course.

    The soundtrack is pretty standard DJMax fare. Good mix of different styles of electronica, K-Pop/Rock remixes and the ilk. If you've ever played a DJMax game on any platform then you know what to expect. It's not my favourite but it makes for good rhythm gaming.

    There's a fairly limited selection of songs for free which isn't great, but it's not too crazy expensive to get more songs. There's also a rotation of free songs available but you have to watch an ad before every play which gets real tiresome real quick. It's not the worst system, they're very generous with what they allow you to 'try' in this manner, but watching an ad with every retry for a full combo gets old fast.

  • I really like the controls in this game. You have a 4-lane note highway with taps and holds and 'air notes' of taps and holds that you have to press above the note highway. It's like this weird, touchscreen based mix of Chunithm and Sound Voltex which are two of my favourite arcade rhythm games. It feels really good, right up until it doesn't. The game is very peculiar about hitting those air notes. It's not imprecise, it's just precise in a very particular way which you have to learn. Specifically, I've found that if I press with the flat of my finger, it tends to pick up the lowest point of contact which makes for mistakes at times. It takes a lot of getting used to but I've found it to be a very fun control scheme. Not better than the games which it seems to be cribbing from, but still fun.

    Unfortunately, I think the soundtrack in this game is average at best. I've played about 20+ songs so far and I like less than half of them. It's predominantly a mix of techno and house, with some poppier tracks here and there, which I'm fine with but a lot of it is just bad techno/house. The charting on some songs (there are about 2 main chart writers between the songs, this is a problem for 1 of them) is also incredibly inconsistent about which parts of the song you're playing along with in a way that can be quite jarring. It's not the worst thing in the world but it was enough for me to notice it frequently. I will note that I've had less problems with this on the highest difficulty though so YMMV.

    Unlocking songs also takes forever. You start with about 15 songs, which is fine and playing them across different difficulties makes for a good amount of content, but unlocking the other free songs is gated by an energy system and takes a long time. You can still play without energy, which is a huge plus point, but you'll run out of songs fairly quickly. There's a lot of difficulty to keep you busy here though, I still can't pass of the harder songs.

  • I think this game does a great job of taking advantage of the mobile platform. There's a a sort of cylinder on the screen that you're looking into and notes come out of the deep center toward the outer edges of the cylinder, like maimai with depth. The catch though, is that the cylinder rotates at specific points in the song, essentially requiring you to move your hands all around the screen. It sounds confusing, but the beauty of it is that you're only really ever focusing on, at most, a semi-circular portion of the cylinder at a time although that area of focus shifts along with the rotation, meaning sometimes you're basically playing the game upside down. It's hard to explain, you should go watch some gameplay. Or better yet, go play it. It feels incredibly good, and that's very important.

    The soundtrack is also wonderful. From what I've played of it so far, it's almost entirely instrumental tracks with a good mix of both electronica and piano ballads. There's a wide variety of styles in though so you're likely to be able to find quite a bit that appeals to you. Initial purchase gets you 24 songs with more available to buy after that. I only have the base stuff but it all seems to be of quality and with good charting.

  • The visuals in this game are fantastic. Everything about the style, from the song visualizations to the notes on screen comes together in a way I really appreciate. This game is also hard. It's a full screen control game where circle notes appear all around the screen that you have to hit in time with them filling up, similar to Jubeat if you've ever played that. I am terrible at these types of games. That being said, I still feel comfortable in saying that this is a pretty hard one of those. Confession time. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to play the hardest songs on Expert in this game, unless I put in more time than I have at my disposal. That being said, this game is still incredibly fun to play, even on the lower difficulties! This is definitely a game to play with more fingers than just your thumbs though so phone users take note.

    The soundtrack is weird. I really like it actually. It's mostly electronica, as is common with many games on this list, but it has a funktronica bent to a lot of the track list that I can get behind. The developers are also doing a pretty good job with consistently adding tracks to the game and they've all been pretty good from what I've heard of them.

  • Idolmaster. It's a big franchise that I only have a vague awareness about but hey they made a pretty damn good rhythm game. 5 lane setup here but the difficulty gets punishingly hard at the highest levels. There's not much else to say about the controls other than they're good, they work. You might have noticed a trend by now that I vastly prefer the classic top to bottom structure.

    I will add that if you're a fan of Idolmaster this game is probably amazing. There's 3D visuals of the characters performing whatever song you're playing and they look pretty good.

    The soundtrack is a whole bunch of J-pop of the idol pop variety. I think it's mostly original stuff, though I could be wrong about that. Does Idolmaster do original music? It probably does. Anyway the songs themselves aren't really my jam but they are by and large very fun to play.

    Also, there isn't a Western release of this game yet so you'll have to navigate Japanese menus. I've pretty much ignored all the management/CCG aspects of this and still enjoyed it quite a bit.

  • They made Jubeat for touchscreens. If you've played Jubeat, this is Jubeat but on a touchscreen, it feels great. I am terrible at Jubeat. I find Jubeat extremely fun and it's a very good idea but I am complete trash at it. This has not changed on touchscreens. This is still a good game, if you've never tried Jubeat you should go out to an arcade and try it. People who are good at Jubeat are savants.

    I realise I should probably give a quick description of the controls for those who don't know. Jubeat is a DJ Beatpad simulation. There's 16 squares in a 4x4 arrangement that you must tap as they fill up with colour along with the music. It's a lot to pay attention to and when you get in the groove it feels amazing but man, it is hard.

    Common to all the Konami games on this list is that you only get 3 free songs and have to purchase the rest. Prices are reasonable, and there's a good selection to choose from but just keep that in mind. It's still a lot cheaper than grinding it out at the arcade.

  • Control in this game is a cross between DJMax Technika and Tone Sphere. It's a full screen control game with notes appearing wherever but it's matched with a time bar moving up and down the screen that shows you when to hit the notes. It's a good fit if you think what you've seen of Tone Sphere looks a little too overwhelming. It's good, not my favourite control scheme but it's functional for what it does and if you like the full screen-pay attention to everything style then this is pretty good.

    The soundtrack is...electronica. Yeah. It's very Asian electronica which I realise is a pretty meaningless thing to say but that's how I think of it in my head.

  • Love Live is an anime I have zero desire to ever care about but this game is alright and got me dangerously close to watching some of the anime out of curiousity. This game has a 9 lane highway, but arranged in a semicircle with the notes coming out of the center. Think maimai but only a semicircle instead of a full one. I'm honestly not a big fan of this control scheme, I think it makes it too hard to visually recognise which notes are coming before each other. Synchronous notes are denoted with a line through them, which is fine but often doesn't help all that much in my experience. It also does the thing I do not enjoy of the notes appearing fast and slowing down as they reach the point where you need to hit them.

    What exacerbates my problems with the controls is the soundtrack though. It's a lot of idol pop, which again, not my jam but what ends up happening as a result of that is that the charting isn't matching up with anything concrete. It's long stretches of singing where you're hitting notes that are on beat but with not much logic beyond that. There are more instrumented, produced songs on the tracklist and I have a much better time playing those but there's also a lot that isn't that. If I had to pick an idol game, I'd go with Idolmaster.

  • Thumper has a mobile version. Full disclosure, I've never played the mobile version of Thumper. But Thumper is incredibly good and I'm told that this is the exactly the same except with a different control scheme. Thumper is amazing so this can't be that bad. Probably. If I had actually played it this might be at the top of the list, although playing Thumper on the go sounds like a recipe for disaster.

    Hey, if it's bad I'm sorry ok?

  • Another Konami arcade to mobile port. Reflec Beat was Konami's first touchscreen bemani game, so it translates to smart devices well, it's pretty much exactly the same game as it is in the arcades. What makes Reflec Beat fun is that it's exclusively a head-to-head rhythm game. You can play against a CPU of course, which means it's functionally no different from any other rhythm game, but it's set up to basically be a game of rhythm air hockey. You hit notes that come down to the bottom line of your half of the screen to reflect them back to your opponent which creates this great, symphony of sounds between the both of you hitting stuff. I truly love this concept and by and large I think Reflec Beat is a great game.

    It's also an incredibly chaotic game too, with notes flying literally everywhere around the screen at all angles. This is where the problem is for me. In addition to the main line at the bottom of the screen, there are two (or 3 at higher difficulties) circles a few cm above the bottom line that are additional input points where green-coloured notes will go to. With the chaos of notes flying at all angles, it's incredibly challenging to pick out those notes. This sounds like I'm just griping about the game being hard, but basically I'm mentioning this because I found it a lot harder to hit these notes on my tablet compared to playing it on the arcade cabinet. I suspect this has to do with the colours not popping as much on the mobile version combined with the smaller screen, but I'm not entirely sure. Anyway, if you've played Reflec Beat I'd say you mostly know what to expect but, like me, your mileage may vary with whether it feels exactly the same.

    Soundtrack, similar to Jukebeat, is actually sort of bad. I did some reading and apparently for the international version they Konami removed all the licensed music so it's all originals left in here. The originals are fine for what they are but there were a lot of good songs that were removed.

  • Groove Coaster is a very neat concept for a game. It's a single track that you 'run' down that has notes along the way you hit as your on screen avatar reaches them. Where this game breaks down for me is that I think the controls suck. There are tap notes, hold notes, and 'beat' notes where you have to rapidly tap for a duration. Then you have swipe notes (in all 4 directions! The worst!!!), and rub notes where you have to rub back and forth for a duration. On the face of it, these controls aren't a problem. When paired with the game's visual presentation though, it creates a big problem. As mentioned above, your avatar is running down a patch on which there are notes, and this path twists and turns in crazy ways. Go watch a video of this game, it looks great. The visuals are honestly fantastic, but I found playing this game a whole lot of fun up until the difficulty got to the point where it was frantic enough that my swiping and rubbing was obscuring the rapidly approaching rest of the notes. Having to see the screen and having to touch the screen are two opposing needs and they just don't go well together.

    In a rare occurrence, this mobile game actually got ported to arcades later. I think it works so much better as an arcade game. The cabinet has two fat pseudo-joysticks that you can press down on and move in 4 directions for swipe notes and it works so much better when your hands are separated from the screen. I love this game in arcades and I wish I loved it more as a mobile game.

    The soundtrack is pretty good though. It's got some game soundtracks mixed in with all the Japanese Electronica which is the main bulk of it. It sounds good and it definitely fits the aesthetic of the game.

  • Zyon has the problem of splitting your attention in a bad way. There's a circle in the middle with notes coming from the center outward, like maimai. In addition to that, there's 4 circles at the corners of the screen that you hit in time with them filling out, ala Jubeat or Tone Sphere. That description was a mess because that's kind of what the game feels like, messy with a whole bunch of things going on. I'm bad at it, to be sure, but I think it's way too much to pay attention to. It's worse than other full screen games because you're having to pay attention to different types of visual cues on top of the raw real estate you have to look at. It's just a little bit too much to contend with.

    Soundtrack is a lot of rave and house from the bits that I've played.

  • Look, this game is good. It has great controls, a good soundtrack and decent rate of unlocking songs for a free-to-play game. This game should be a lot higher, but it's a complete maimai rip-off.

    maimai, for those unaware, is a Sega arcade rhyhtm game where notes radiate out from the center of a circle to 8 different points. I've referenced maimai in describing some other games on this list but this game rips the maimai control scheme in its entirety in a real shameless way. Hell it even apes maimai's name, calling itself Hachi Hachi. I would have this game way higher but I don't feel that I want to support it. Go find an arcade with maimai and play that, it's great. If you don't have any near you, I'm not going to judge you for playing this but just know where the idea comes from.

    Also, even if I were to disregard my distaste with the rip-off, this control scheme loses something when it's just fingers on a touch screen compared to the full arm movement activity that is maimai.

  • Voez is a game I wish I liked more because it has a very cool hook. It's a 2D note highway but it has moving lanes. The lanes change colour and move about the screen, essentially forming the song visualizations while simultaneously showing the note highway. This is a great idea and really gives the game a great visual flair that is missing from other note highway games. What VOEZ gets wrong though, is that it sometimes moves the lanes way too fast, with no warning, while notes are coming down. In practice, this means that the lane you need to hit can jump, with no visible animation, from the middle of the screen to the far left side 1 beat before you need to tap it. It sucks, because at that point it basically becomes a requirement to memorize where the lanes move in any one song. It sucks because a lot of the time the game does it right, with the lane moving smoothly along the screen, allowing you to track it, but the instances of lanes instantly jumping around as a note is being played are too frequent to be fun.

    Memorization plays a role in all rhythm games but VOEZ emphasizes it to such an extent that sight reading is near impossible on the higher difficulties. That isn't fun.

    The soundtrack is also way too much house and industrial for me. If I liked the controls better I'd probably say that despite my not liking the style of music, they make for great fun to play but I just don't think the controls are that fun.

  • Look! It's a Western game! Tap Tap has the distinction of having a bunch of Western top 100 hits and the like in its many iterations. I'm just grouping the franchise together as a whole because there's way too many versions to keep track of. So yeah, Tap Tap has a good soundtrack if you're into pop and rock hits. I think that sort of music tends to translate pretty poorly into rhythm games but that's just me.

    Tap Tap's controls though, are boring. It's a 3 lane highway and honestly it does nothing interesting with it. It's fine for what it is, it's functional and responsive, but it's just boring.

    Also, it breaks your combo if you tap on the screen when it's empty. That's a bad idea for a touchscreen based game. Empty hits on Guitar Hero breaking your combo make sense because it's two deliberate actions, having your full combo break because your finger lightly brushed the screen is just bad. Touch screens these days are responsive.

  • I don't actually know if this belongs on this list becuase it's half rhythm game, half runner and I think it's bad at being both of those. You're running into the screen. PS1 mascot platformer style. That is all.

  • Beat Fever has some weird non rhythm aspects to it which are bad free-to-play garbage but the rhythm part is also sort of lackluster. It's a 4-lane note highway that is about as boring as Tap Tap. Honestly I didn't put too much time into this one but it looks bad.

  • I have nothing really to say about this game other than it's that piano tiles game. It's functional, and it can be pretty fun but it's not really quite a rhythm game. The piano playing is cool but I vastly prefer the structure of having concrete songs to play through rather than just endurance mode or whatever.