Best Beat Saber Alternatives in 2023
You've mastered Beat Saber's Expert+ songs, downloaded and conquered custom songs and transformed into a god of rhythm. Still, this uber-popular title has been out for over two years and slicing up musical blocks has to get repetitive after a while. Thankfully you'll find plenty of other VR games to fill its niche. Whether you're more interested in the nonstop action, daily exercise, hopping music or just slicing and dicing things, we know what your next VR purchase should be.
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While Beat Saber tires out your wrists with constant swiping motions and other dance titles focus on exercise or striking "real" dance poses, Synth Riders offers an excellent, freestyling alternative. You'll need solid hand-eye coordination to move your hands to match the fast-paced choreographed levels, but you can move your body in whichever way feels natural (or fun) to you. You'll dance through the 30+ core levels, tons of modded custom content levels, and livestreamed VR workouts.
I know Gun Fu
Channel your action hero fantasies in this excellent on-rails shooter. In each level you float forward as polygonal enemies appear in all directions. You have to shoot as you go, creating your own beat based on when (and how often) you shoot. True pros will aim to create a good rhythm as much as kill all the baddies. Pistol Whip compels you to squat and dodge your way around slow-moving bullets towards a high score, with the nonstop bullet barrage distracting you from how sore you'll feel after just a few minutes.
This Early Access game checks many similar boxes to Synth Riders — similar cyberpunk aesthetic, dance-centric gameplay, customization tools — with some key differences. Kinemotik Studios uses licensed music from household names like deadmau5 and Lady Gaga, and the fast-moving triangular targets offer a tougher, more aerobic workout. Get ready though for a higher difficulty curve in Audio Trip though, since it requires much more active movement.
Music meets gunplay
Harmonix has an impressive slate of music VR titles like Rock Band VR and Dance Central VR, and Audica continues this tradition with gameplay that has you shoot targets with dual pistols to match the bass of the (mostly EDM) soundtrack. Most rhythm games place their targets dead center and approach them from a distance, but Audica challenges your reflexes with colorful icons that appear randomly across your entire field of vision, and with special targets that move across the screen and must be continuously hit.
Battle of the beats
Another Synth Riders / Audio Trip rival, Dance Collider distinguishes itself by focusing its gameplay on dance "battles" with opponents, giving narrative meaning to the random colored blocks that always appear in these types of games. Each opponent's barrage of colorful attacks will challenge you to hit different types of dance moves and routines. Unique avatars, trash talking, custom levels, and the 45+ original songs all give Dance Collider a lot of value at an affordable entry point.
Beat enemies with sabers
This neon-infused roguelite action game doesn't fit in with the rest of these games at first glance, but it simply shifts the emphasis from the beat to the saber. With its excellent synthwave soundtrack blaring, you'll easily break a sweat hacking and slashing at challenging enemies. Combat requires skill and strategy to win, and with each defeat you'll upgrade your hero so you can take on greater challenges. It offers an amazing change of pace from beating up inanimate objects and colored balls.
Most rhythm games offer custom modes for matching gameplay to your music library, but what if you want to customize music instead? Enter Electronauts, which turns you into an amateur DJ and lets you fiddle with music in various genres like EDM, hip hop, and trap. It's not as realistic as other VR apps that actually walk you through using a deck and mixer, but it lets casual music nerds remix and freestyle with the 80+ tracks.
Thumper will take you on a mental trip with psychadelic visuals that explode in the vacuum of space, with truly freaky boss monsters you must defeat with quick reflexes before they destroy you. Originally designed for 2D, it lacks the motion controls you'll find in most entries, or maps set to custom songs. However, the breakneck speed of gameplay matched to a great original soundtrack make this a must-buy despite these drawbacks.
Punching shapes in mid-air is a nice warm-up, but if you want to translate your VR dancing into real-life skills on the dance floor, you'll want to try Dance Central. The in-game avatar shows you exactly how you should be positioning your body to perform actual dance moves. Unfortunately, the game only tracks hand and head movements so it won't grade how well you move your full body, but despite that, it's a very enjoyable experience by yourself or with friends.
Hole in the Wall
Another post-striking dance/exercise game, you'll need to move fast and work your core muscles to make it through each workout. Along with contorting your body to squeeze through each hazard, you'll reach out for collectibles, dodge walls, and punch through obstacles. You can customize workouts to fit your own music library or work out using other people's routines beyond the 20 or so available from the developers.
While we haven't played this title yet, it looks like it will offer a promising spin on the new rhythmic shooting subgenre. You must time your shots to match with the icons on screen, as you would for most rhythm games. Simultaneously, though, you must also fully control your character, aiming at enemies and trying to match the rhythm of the music to properly aiming at each enemy charging at you.
Bust a move
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Beat Saber has been so successful in part because of its simplicity. You move your motion controllers to hit blocks and move your head to dodge obstacles. Other games aiming for its rhythm throne usually challenge it by adding more complicated mechanics, or focusing on specific areas Beat Saber only touches on like dancing or exercise routines. So whichever games you pick next as a possible Beat Saber replacement, think carefully about what specifically you're hoping to get out of it.
If you're looking for a new workout routine to replace Beat Saber's cardio for a more comprehensive, total body workout, consider Audio Trip. You'll still have fun memorizing and mastering expert routines, but you'll work up much more of a sweat by the end of it. There's also Synth Riders, which is an immersive blast without being as overtly difficult.
For those considering something a bit more action-oriented, Pistol Whip will switch things up drastically, without giving up the excellent soundtrack and movement-heavy gameplay you're used to. Or, if you want to cut up more than musical blocks, Until You Fall will help you master the rhythm of combat.
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Michael spent years freelancing on every tech topic under the sun before settling down on the real exciting stuff: virtual reality, fitness wearables, gaming, and how tech intersects with our world. He's a semi-reformed Apple-to-Android user who loves running, D&D, and Star Wars. Find him on Twitter at @Michael_L_Hicks.