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The Best Exercise Games for the Xbox Kinect

Gangnam Style by Korean rapper PSY is a, by all accounts, a phenomenon. On YouTube, as of this writing the official music video has 1 billion, one hundred ninety three million, three hundred forty thousand, four hundred and ninety-four view. And counting. The video is approaching 7 million “likes”. The video is so popular that even YouTube designed a special icon just for this song.

dancing-psy

My friend Jack (who’s always on top of these things) actually tipped me off to this song when it still had only a couple hundred thousand views on YouTube. I rewarded him a few months later by making him, as my best man, walk into our wedding reception to the music. By then, the whole crowd recognized the song and were clapping along.

On my recent honeymoon to Taiwan, I met my wife’s uncles, aunts, cousins, nephews, and nieces for the first time. She had a 8 year old cousin who didn’t speak English, and my Chinese is really bad. But the second he started doing the Gangnam Style “horsey” dance, I joined in and we bonded instantly.

Similarly, the other night we were at a friend’s house for a dinner party. Their 3 year old daughter started jumping up and down when they played the song. It’s a song that seems to know no boundaries.

Unlike previous one-hit wonders like the Macarena and Who Let the Dogs Out, for some reason Gangnam Style has captured the imagination of the world. Chalk it up to a catchy tune, an easy-to-learn dance, the power of social media, and a song (and performer) that manages to be so ridiculous that it’s somehow cool. No less than British Prime Minister David Cameron and President Barack Obama have admitted to dancing to it. And UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon even called it a “force for world peace”.

No, I don’t pretend to understand the phenomenon :)

PSY himself probably knows that he is never, ever going to top this, so he’s doing the right thing and cashing in while he can. He’s done live performances on every continent, and even danced with MC Hammer (speaking of one-hit wonders) on New Year’s Eve.

I also noticed that Gangnam Style is available as downloadable content for Dance Central 3 (on the Xbox) and Just Dance 4 (on all platforms, but I ended up buying it for the Wii/Wii U version). The Dance Central 3 DLC costs 240 Microsoft Points (about $5) while the Wii download costs 300 Wii Points (about $3.00). Walmart is an excellent place to stock up on points if you don’t have them. They sell a 2000 Wii Points Card for only $19.96, as well as a 1600 Point Xbox LIVE code for $19.96.

As someone who’s played all the dance games known to man over the years, a lot of people ask me which is the best dance game franchise: Dance Central or Just Dance. If you read the marketing material for each, you’ll see that both of them try to take the prize. Microsoft touts the fact that they’re the most popular dance game for the Xbox, while Ubisoft rightfully points out that if you add up all the games from the entire Just Dance franchise, not only do you have the world’s most popular dance game, but one of the most popular game franchises in history.

So which do I think is “better”? Rather than answering the question right away, here’s a video of Gangnam Style for Dance Central 3 (on Medium difficulty) vs. on Just Dance 4.

In many ways, comparing Gangnam Style on both games and platforms really highlights the differences between them.

In Dance Central 3, notice how there’s a lot more full body movement and the choreography is more “professional”, to the point where you can take it onto a dance floor. For sheer exercise, this one is pretty hard to beat. I was panting and my heartbeat was elevated just after one dance. And unlike on the Wii or the PS3, you can’t really “cheat”, as the Kinect is detecting your whole body’s movements. Another advantage of the Dance Central 3 version is that you have four choices of difficulty levels, from beginner to expert, and each level of choreography is unique and stands on its own.

In Just Dance 4, notice how the choreography focuses less on elaborate dance steps and more on just silliness and fun. This makes Just Dance 4 the better game to play if you have dancers of all levels, from kids to adults. Even better, with the Wii you can dance with up to four players at the same time, and you can spread apart without hitting each other (something that’s harder to do on the Kinect).

In the case of this song, both dance games were “true” to the silly style of PSY’s music video. Either one will let you practice the signature moves that 1.2 billion people have watched, although again the edge seems to go to Dance Central 3 in terms of being more “true” to the artist’s style.

And so the burning question: why game is better: Dance Central 3 or Just Dance 4? In many ways, I found that my experiences just reinforced what I wrote back in 2011 about Dance Central 2 vs. Just Dance 3 (and I’ll weasel out of an answer the same way today that I did then). Microsoft takes the prize of the best motion control, while Just Dance 4 continues to be the most fun. So if your goal is to learn how to dance, Dance Central 3 is the way to go, while if your goal is to have a party game that everyone in the room can step up and participate in instantly, Just Dance 4 can’t be beat. Both will give you a decent workout if you put all your whole energy into dancing.

Long story short, you really can’t go wrong with either. So it really comes down to what style you feel most comfortable with. As for me, I like to take both off the shelf from time to time. What do you think?