Without me telling you this, we all know there is a bunch of Japanese music that goes undiscovered regardless of how exceptional the music may be. So I came up with the idea of sharing my favorite rhythm games to hopefully allow you to discover great music in an entertaining way. These games offer a big variety of Japanese music you most likely wouldn’t otherwise have come by, so definitely give them a try!

1. Cytus II
Price: $2/free (offers in-app purchase)
Excellent music in many genres
Story-rich
Stunning artwork and graphics
Offline play

Starting off with the number one pick, since this game definitely deserves your rhythmic attention! Cytus II offers exciting gameplay, and in my opinion, the best graphical interface any rhythm game has to offer on mobile. Unlike traditional rhythm games, the notes may appear at any spot on the screen while the judgment line scans up and down. As difficult as it may sound, this is the charm of the game as it keeps it incredibly lively and fun!

One of the many features contributing to Cytus II being a top seller in 100 regions is the story development and its elegant artwork. Currently, there are more than 20 main characters in the story; each character can be viewed as a song-pack that includes about 15 songs. As you play through their songs, you’ll reveal more of the story from the perspective of each character. You can even find the inclusion of Hatsune Miku and virtual YouTube singers such as Kizuna AI, and Kaf.

The unique feature about Cytus II—in comparison to any other top picks—is that it can be played offline, making this a great travel companion!

Cytus II includes about 200 excellent songs in various genres; pop, electronic, hardcore, metal, symphonic, rock, and jazz. About 40 songs are available out of the box, the rest can be purchased for a fair price, typically what an album costs, $1 per song. The entry price for Cytus II is free on iOS, but $2 on Android.

Alternatives to Cytus II

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Cytus
(Android and iOS)
The original Cytus has the same game mechanics although it feels less refined compared to Cytus II. The best part is that the original Cytus comes with 100 free songs to play!
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Cytoid
(Android and iOS)
Besides the fact that the game is free, its main selling point is the aspect of it being a community-based game. That means song charts can be created by anyone!
2. Arcaea
Price: Free (offers in-app purchase)
Excellent symphonic electronic music
Unique and fun 3D arc game mechanic

Arcaea preserves a standard five-lane layout at the bottom in addition to a unique upper “sky input” zone! The notes appearing in the sky input zone are referred to as “sky notes” and “arc notes”. Fundamentally, sky notes are the same as regular notes, you just hit them to score. However, with arc notes, you will have to tap and hold and follow its shape. The arc itself can take various shapes and even twist at times, making the entire game much more dynamic and entertaining.

Currently, there are about 200 songs available in Arcaea with more songs added continuously, the majority of the songs take on a symphonic electronic theme. Pricing of the song packs is reasonably priced, like Cytus II, it sits around $1 per song.

Alternatives to Arcaea

Lanota
(Android and iOS)
Similar to the swiveling arc notes in Arcaea, Lanota provides a rotating experience where the playing field gravitates toward different cardinal directions, and at times, even changes size!
3. HATSUNE MIKU: COLORFUL STAGE!
Price: Free (offers in-app purchase)
Fantastic music selection from the Vocaloid, niconico, and anime scene.
Unlock songs for free
Virtual live shows

“HATSUNE MIKU: COLORFUL STAGE!” provides an arsenal of splendid songs from the Vocaloid, niconico, and anime scene, but also trendy pop and rock songs. At first glance, the gameplay might look like your typical traditional rhythm game, although, the charts (level designs) are typically very creatively built as each note can vary in size on the horizontal length. Sometimes we see rather unusual and interesting charts because of this.

Perhaps the best part of it all is that you can unlock all of the songs without spending a penny. As long as you don’t care about the gacha (loot box) aspect of the game, it’s completely free to play.

On top of the gameplay itself, there are weekly events that progress the story. The stories are voiced and told through animated characters using Live2D which allows for an immersive experience. More fun can be found through the scheduled virtual live shows that people all over the world can attend. These shows are performed by the characters in the story alongside impressive choreography.

Alternatives to HATSUNE MIKU: COLORFUL STAGE!

BanG Dream!
(Android and iOS)
BanG Dream! combines a visual novel journey with a rhythm game. The immersive animated characters and the voice-acted story eventually lead you to the core game, the rhythm game. This game is definitely worth a try if you’re into anime music as its musical arsenal consists of many great anime cover songs.
Love Live! School idol festival
(Android and iOS)
A vivid and cheerful game that allows you to manage your idol group and play through a story. The gameplay is simple and easy to learn, but unlike many of the other rhythm games, the tappable areas are plastered with the cute faces of the idols.

Honorable mentions
VOEZ
(Android and iOS)
Large song library
A super elegant and refined game following the orthodox layout of vertical rhythm games where notes rain down. Well, except that all these freaking judgment lanes are shuffled around as you play, increasing both the difficulty and enjoyment! The game is very straightforward and easy to learn—but like with every rhythm game—hard to master.
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Hachi Hachi
(Android and iOS)
Interesting gameplay
Hachi Hachi offers an easy and unique game mechanic with eight hit zones placed around a ring (hence the name “hachi”, eight in Japanese). It is however hard to play on a smartphone due to the large numbers of hitboxes being too tightly placed. You will certainly enjoy the game more on a tablet, or in Japanese arcade centers where its originator “maimai” can be played on large tactile buttons.
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RIDE ZERO
(Android and iOS)
Shoot ’em up meets rhythm game!
RIDE ZERO combines the elements of “shoot ’em up” (shmup) and rhythm games to create a unique experience. Fight enemies with your rhythmic skills! The core game in itself is pretty solid and fun, but the user interface is bloated and confusing.