The end of September will see the release of Persona 4: Dancing All Night, the rhythm-action game based on the popular JRPG franchise about anime teens who travel to a world inside the TV to meet a stuffed bear and solve a serial murder case. Expect Persona 4’s charismatic cast and funky, J-Poppy, extremely danceable music.
We here at Paste are wholeheartedly in support of this idea of dancing-based spin-offs of popular game franchises, and we think it’s an idea that’s ripe for emulation. Surely Persona isn’t the only game series capable of supporting a dancing game! In fact, we can think of at least nine series that are obvious choices for what is sure to become the hot new trend in gaming.
1. Mass Effect
Okay, so it’s officially part of the Mass Effect canon that Commander Shepard is a terrible dancer. But what if you took that as a starting point for an all-new journey of self-discovery and galactic friendship? Shepard could hit every club this side of the Omega-4 Relay as she learned to step to funky alien beats. The Mass Effect trilogy has at least as many fantastic characters as Persona 4—isn’t it easy to imagine Garrus Vakarian popping and locking? Haven’t we all spent long hours thinking about Urdnot Wrex doing the salsa? Best of all, a Mass Effect dancing game could have branching dance choices: Will you dance like a peppy, proud Paragon? Or a raunchy, ribald Renegade? Give me a call, BioWare. I’ve spent some time thinking this one through.
2. Saints Row
Saints Row IV had a dubstep gun and a quick-time event where you did a sexy dance in a strip club. Gat Out of Hell had a full-on Disney-esque musical number. The series is so close to a dancing spin-off it’s practically wearing tap shoes. (I think you can probably buy and wear tap shoes in Saints Row IV.) Most importantly, the Saints Row games have been steadily building a cast of characters who are immensely fun to be around—remember that mission in Saints Row: The Third where The Boss and Pierce just drove around town singing to Sublime? A dancing game that captured that feeling of hanging with your homies (to use the series’ preferred terminology) would be the feel-good game of the year. The Saints games have always been good at using licensed music to superb effect—this one seems like a no-brainer.
This one might seem like a stretch at first, especially because the world’s desire for Castlevania spin-offs should be satiated by this erotic pachinko machine, but think of it this way: Persona 4 arrived at rhythm games after taking a detour into fighting games (with Persona 4 Arena and its sequel Ultimax), and Castlevania is only one step behind! Castlevania Judgment for the Wii proved that the series has a cast varied and interesting enough to sustain a dancing spin-off—after all, who can forget iconic characters like “Death” and “Golem”? Castlevania has one of the deepest libraries of danceable music in all of gaming, as a quick trip to the ol’ OC ReMix archives quickly proves. Konami, if you’re reading this: A Castlevania dancing game is the surefire way to save your company from its slow slide into obsolescence. Get on it!
Borderlands’ humor isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, but those with certain sensibilities might argue that it’s a series that has charm oozing out its ears. (I feel like things ooze a lot in Borderlands.) Whatever the case, it certainly has a knack for using pop music in its intros, and over the course of three games has built up a small army of charming (and not-so-charming) heroes, anti-heroes, and comic relief characters. Can’t you just imagine a dancing game starring Claptrap? Or… or anyone else! It doesn’t have to be Claptrap! Maybe we should set Claptrap aside. Just imagine the Borderlands loot system applied to dance—maybe you pick up “dance mods” that would make the on-screen prompts slow down, or give you score multipliers, or make other dancers violently explode! Maybe after every dance you get to open a big chest full of new dancing gear. Are there any purples? Aw, shucks. Maybe next dance. You can’t tell me that a company that produces a trailer with “a moon dance break brought to you by Harmonix” hasn’t at least flirted with the idea of a dancing game spin-off.
5. Final Fantasy
I can hear you already: “Nate, what are you talking about? Final Fantasy doesn’t just have one rhythm-action game, it has TWO.” Dear reader, you are correct. Taken together, Theatrhythm and Theatrhythm: Curtain Call are a completely exhaustive archive of Final Fantasy’s legendary scores. But you know what they don’t include? Dancing. There’s room in this world for two rhythm-action games and a game where we get to see Lightning, Squall and Cloud Strife bust their funky moves to remixes of Nobuo Uematsu’s fabulous orchestral music. Heck, Square Enix already rendered them all in 3D for those PSP fighting games! They’ve got a bunch of assets lying around that they could immediately put toward this noble, noble cause. Don’t tell me you don’t want to see Balthier and like 15 different Cids get down to some sick beats. I guarantee you that whatever Square Enix is doing with the Final Fantasy franchise right now, it is 100% not as great as this hypothetical game would be.
6. Sonic the Hedgehog
If you know anything about Sonic the Hedgehog on the internet, you know that there is a subset of gamers who would each buy ten copies of a Sonic the Hedgehog dancing game in the hope that it would herald the resurrection and salvation of Sega’s speedster. Tip for Sega: Throw in a character-creation engine (“Make Your Own Hedgehog!”) and watch the money come rolling in.
7. Streets of Rage
Yuzo Koshiro’s music for the Streets of Rage games doesn’t just borrow heavily from the best club music of the ‘90s—as far as I’m concerned, it is the best club music of the ‘90s. A Streets of Rage dancing game (“Beats of Rage”? “Streets of Rave”?) would not only be able to capitalize on the best tunes to ever come out of a Sega Genesis, but would also provide an opportunity for Koshiro to do some remixing of his own work. He’s still actively composing for games—mostly for the Etrian Odyssey series and some stuff that didn’t make it stateside. Why not ask him to don his techno hat once more and bless us with some sweet rhythms?
8. Street Fighter
Varied, well-loved cast of characters? Check. Instantly-recognizable melodies ripe for remixing? Check. Zangief doing the Cossack Dance? Double check. Street Fighter has all the elements necessary for a perfect dancing-game spin-off. Yoko Shimomura’s soundtrack from Street Fighter II has been lodged in the collective consciousness of gaming for two decades, and few game series have rosters so stuffed with beloved characters. Even if you haven’t played a Street Fighter game since you poured quarters into your local pizza joint’s arcade machine as a lass, you almost certainly still have a favorite. Want to see Blanka do the samba? Ken Masters in a disco suit? A break-dancing Dan Hibiki? Of course you do. And if that isn’t enough to entice you, just think: Hot Ryu on the dance floor. Now that’s something we can all get behind.
9. Rocket League
I know, I know. You’ve been reading this whole list, asking yourself with increasing anxiety: When is he going to get to Rocket League? Well, fear not. I would never dream of finishing up my list without including gaming’s premiere car-based soccer simulator. There’s no getting around it: Rocket League is so hot right now. Psyonix, there’s never going to be a better time to give your burgeoning esport the dancing spin-off it deserves. Take that EDM soundtrack, break it free from the game’s menu, and get some cars dancing. I mean, they can jump, right? They can double-jump? They can boost? I’ve seen the highlight reels on YouTube. Those cars are already dancing. All we need is a new mode to make it official.
So start your letter-writing campaigns. Start picking your fantasy tracklists. Cross your fingers and hope that at least some of these developers have a deep, undeclared love of getting down and getting funky. With any luck, by this time next year, there won’t be a game series that doesn’t have a dancing game. In the meantime, we’ll be here with Persona 4: Dancing All Night, waiting for the rest of the games industry to get up their courage and step onto the dance floor.
Nate Ewert-Krocker is a writer and a Montessori teacher who lives in Atlanta. His first book, an adventure novel for teens, is available here. You can find him on Twitter at @NEwertKrocker, where he mostly gushes about final boss themes from JRPGs.