Guitar Hero may remain benched and music games viewed by some as industry pariahs, but several new acoustically-inclined digital diversions still hope to have rhythm gaming fans partying like rock stars this holiday season.
Available on every platform from computers to smartphones, tablet PCs and home consoles like the PlayStation 3, Wii and Xbox 360, all further aim to refute critics' claims regarding the genre's supposed "death."
Larger cultural issues aside though, rest assured each of the following selections will keep rumps shaking, toes tapping and devil horns happily waving through December and beyond, their ultimate commercial impact be damned…
Rocksmith (UbiSoft, PC/PlayStation 3/Xbox 360) – Strikes a power chord with actual musicians and critics of the medium who decry its lack of realism by allowing aspiring soloists to plug in a real guitar and strum along with on-screen prompts. Marketed as much as a teaching tool as proper game, it's a shame that actual talent is sold separately.
Dance Central 2 (Microsoft, Xbox 360) – Expands on Kinect camera support to not only track full body movement, so you can physically jiggle as in real-life, but also do so simultaneously with two players competitively or cooperatively. Also featuring voice-activated menu controls, a wider range of challenges and deeper party play options, just be careful not to crush the dog as you awkwardly gyrate to Bruno Mars' "Grenade" or Sir Mix-a-lot's "Baby Got Back."
Skillz (Playpen Studios, iPad/PC/Android) – Translates the DJ Hero formula onto tablet PCs, letting you scratch or remix tracks in time with colored prompts by jabbing touchscreen-powered buttons, record platters and crossfaders instead of fumbling with an oversized turntable controller.
Just Dance 3 (UbiSoft, PlayStation 3/Wii/Xbox 360) – Suburbia's hip-wiggling simulation of choice, the multimillion-selling pop smash expands its repertoire here by adding custom routine creation, Kinect and Move motion-sensing support and even more excuses to get the family up off the couch and sweating.
Say What?! (8linQ, iPhone and iPad) – Challenges you to tap objects that match Euro-centric dance tracks' song lyrics as random items scroll by on a conveyor belt, providing a few minutes of frantic fun while waiting at the bus stop. What it lacks in depth in makes up for in novelty.
Everybody Dance (Sony, PlayStation 3) – Lets up to 20 hoist a gesture-tracking PlayStation Move controller and, after taking virtual dance classes or creating personalized routines, boogie woogie in front of the PlayStation Eye camera. Capable of recording and sharing photos and videos via Twitter and Facebook, it invites you to give friends and family the gift of abject humiliation this fall.
Get Up and Dance (O-Games, PlayStation 3/Wii) – Switches up the usual footloose formula by adding options to play in groups, survival contests and break down classic disco or contemporary hits, ensuring that it's best experienced in the company of well-lubricated sidekicks.