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Energetic Music: The Dance Game Playlist Showdown

For this week’s music feature, I’m digging back into a part of my teenage years. During my 7th-9th grade years of school, I was hopelessly addicted to dance games. They were pretty much all I did. Recently I’ve been getting back into them, so I figured I’d do a playlist showdown between the three major games in the genre.

When I was 12 years old, my home town finally got something that gave kids something to do – it got an arcade. While it has since been shut down, back in the day it was one of the most fun places to go after school. My friends and I used to go there all the time and play the regular games – the Simpsons arcade game, Hydro Thunder, House of the Dead, etc. One day, I ended up there by myself out of boredom and found this weird-looking game called Dance Dance Revolution. On a whim, I tried it out and eeked out a terrible score on the lowest difficulty. Oddly, though, I didn’t decide to quit – I kept playing.

As I got better, I got pretty addicted; no other arcade game could hold my attention anymore. Eventually, I got a console version of the game and started playing it at home. Then I got another, and another, and then started finding other dance games.

I think this was a pretty good addiction to have, though. For one, the game is really good exercise; if I remember correctly, I lost about 10 pounds playing it. I also gained a lot better balance. I was born with a small defect in my left foot that caused me to trip a lot as a child, but I was actually able to completely fix this by playing DDR (along with all the skateboarding I did).

Anyway, enough about my childhood. The reason I’m writing this article is because I also think the music from these dance games is really good. To that end, I’ve created three playlists, each for a different game, and embedded them here. You can decide for yourself which you like best.

Dance Dance Revolution

DDR is the original dance game. Created by Konami in 1998, this game has spanned dozens of releases, including arcade editions and home editions for consoles. DDR’s play style involves the popular four-button mat that uses standard up, down, left, and right arrows. DDR is easily the most popular dance game in existence, and has even been incorporated into some public schools’ physical education programs.

The music in DDR is varied (especially since it’s had so many releases), but a good majority of it is electronic. Due to the game’s popularity, however, it does feature some licensed music from popular musicians. For example,  DDR SuperNova has the song “Battle Without Honor or Humanity“, which was featured in Kill Bill. Other artists that have been featured in the game include Fall Out Boy, Darude, and Fatboy Slim. For the most part, though – and especially in the older versions  – DDR’s music was created in-house. Check out the playlist to the right for some of my favorites.

Oh, and here’s a video of some guy playing. I remember watching this eight years ago… wow, I feel old.

In The Groove

So, if DDR is a dance game, In The Groove should be thought of as a football practice drill. By that, I mean this game is way harder than DDR. In The Groove was released in 2004 by Roxor Games, and it’s strikingly similar to DDR; the same four-button setup is used. In fact, this setup is so similar that Konami sued Roxor and ended up getting the intellectual rights to the game.

Copycat issues aside, In The Groove is a great game for hardcore players. If you were to take the hardest song from DDR (which would be Paranoia Survivor Max), it’d be a medium-difficulty song in this game. Whereas DDR is well-suited to freestyle players, In The Groove is for people who want to go for technical proficiency and, quite possibly, early death.

In The Groove also has some great music, and much of it is electronic as well. However, it’s an American-made game, and you can definitely tell the difference from the game’s typical electronic music as opposed to that of DDR. Check out these songs and see what you think.

Oh, and here’s a couple of insane dudes:

Pump It Up

In my opinion, Pump It Up is the best dance game ever made. Pump It Up is a Korean game made by Andamiro, and it was first released about a year after DDR first came out.

Pump It Up, unlike In The Groove, is most certainly not a copy of DDR; rather, I’d classify it as an improvement. PIU uses a unique five-button setup, including four diagonal arrows and a center button. This is better than DDR’s four-button setup for two reasons:

  1. A 5-button setup allows for a more natural dance style, and most button combinations orient your body towards the screen better
  2. Having five buttons instead of four means songs can have more complex stepcharts. Songs can also become much, much more difficult, even if the number of steps and BPM remain the same.

I started playing PIU when I was 16, and honestly the only reason I haven’t ditched DDR is because it’s way harder to find PIU machines. I believe there’s only one in my entire state.

Pump It Up’s music is quite different from DDR and ITG’s. Since it’s a Korean game, most of the music is K-Pop or has a Korean influence. Banya, the in-house artist who created about a third of the game’s music, tends to create music that’s more inspired by the classical and rock genres than by electronic music. Check out PIU’s music in the playlist to the right.

Here’s another insane dude – remember when I said the 5-button setup allows for more difficult songs. When playing doubles, this applies, well, doubly. You play with ten buttons instead of 8.

Wrapping Up

Since this article is a “showdown” of sorts, I should probably declare a winner. Well, even though I consider Pump It Up to be the superior game, I still pick DDR’s music as the best. Maybe it’s the nostalgia factor, but I just prefer it to the music of the other games. However, that’s not to say I don’t like the other games’ music – I think both have really good offerings, and I frequently listen to music from all of them.

So what’s your take? After listening to a few songs from each playlist, which is your favorite?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments!