For all the people who are into the series and want to discuss it, and the people who are looking to get into the series, or couldn't keep up with it. I'm less interested in explaining the "what" and "how", as I think most people know that already, and more interested in helping curious people find a way to start playing.
Hopefully, this thread can serve as a good reference, and demonstrate that anyone can get into Taiko, regardless of where you live, or even what systems you own.
Most people probably get into Taiko at first because it has the popular anime music or J-pop or game music they like, and... that's a perfectly valid reason. One of Taiko's biggest strengths is its popularity, and how it can throw its budget around to get pretty much anything and everything that's popular into the game. You really can't find a tracklist like this (officially) in any other game. It's part of the reason why Taiko is still extremely successful to this day.
Once you get into it, you'll find that it's also a great, really unique rhythm game on its own merits. Having only 2 buttons on a single note path makes for a game that's very accessible, but also that allows it to take on some interesting characteristics at higher levels. Playing Taiko at any difficulty above medium quickly goes beyond "see note, push button" and requires the player learn the note patterns that show up frequently in songs, and how to handle them. For instance, say a series of notes, RRBRR, comes up on screen. How do you hit it? Hit the center with your right hand twice, then hit the rim with your left, then get the last two with your right hand again? Or do you alternate hands on each note? What if it's scrolling at you at a speed that's too fast to allow you to hit two sequential notes with the same hand? What if you just came off of another tricky set of notes? Being able to recognize and hit these patterns in the context of the song is a skill that that comes naturally, along with muscle memory, as you practice. When you play Taiko, you're always improving these skills and gaining confidence. For me, that feeling of constant progression is part of why I enjoy it so much.
Lastly, despite the cutesy appearances and family-oriented marketing and all the tie-ins, Taiko is more than just a commercial darling. More and more difficult songs are always being added, competitions are held, polls help determine which songs are created or return, the Taiko development team holds frequent livestreams, some of which involve making charts for songs live with fan-feedback, the people making the charts for songs are known by name... In summary, so much of Taiko and what makes up Taiko is done with the core community in mind. Beyond just making a commercially successful rhythm game, the development team is concerned with what makes the Taiko community happy, and interacts with them frequently to ensure their needs and desires are being met. Even if, in the Western part of the world, we may not get to be a part of these interactions to the extent that people in Japan are, we can at least know that the games we're playing are created in the interest of like-minded rhythm game fans.
For: People who have one nearby, people who happen to spot one on a day out
Years Active: 2001~
Latest Version: Kimidori キミドリ
Number of Songs: 415
Though the arcade experience has been emulated at home for years, after all this time, there's still nothing that can quite compare. If you're lucky enough to have a machine nearby, this is the best Taiko experience you can get. No longer will your rad Taiko play be restrained to your dinky Tatacon or a controller! This huge drum is the real deal!
At the same time, it's difficult to recommend ONLY playing on the arcade unit. Of course, plays will cost you money, and at 100 yen (or however much) a pop, you don't really get much of a chance improve or practice songs without pumping in tons of cash. The arcade machines are great for playing for fun on, or trying out songs you've practiced at home on the real thing. But with its huge number of songs, some of which brand-new or arcade-exclusive, having an arcade machine nearby is still a huge asset.
For: People with an import Wii U, people who want to play the latest releases with a Tatacon
Years Active: 2013~
Controls: Tatacon, Controller, Touch Screen
Number of Releases: 2
Estimated Tatacon Price: $30 (controller is same as Wii's)
With Taiko being one of the very few worthwhile Wii U Japan-exclusive titles, it's not surprising that import Wii Us aren't all that common. However, the Wii U is the console to get if you're looking to play the latest songs with a Tatacon, as it's where console Taiko games will be coming this generation. While it may be lacking some of the features later Wii Taiko games have, it's a pretty safe bet that they'll come in time with later versions.
Taiko no Tatsujin Wii U Version! 太鼓の達人 WiiUば～じょん！
Release: Nov. 21, 2013..................Number of Songs: 70 (+34DLC)...................Estimated Price: $40
First Taiko for the Wii U. While it includes fewer songs than the later Wii games, it also introduced DLC songs to console Taiko. From its release to September 2014, free DLC songs were released for the game monthly, in addition to paid costumes for Don-chan. However, since November, there are no new free songs being added. A small handful of songs remain free, while many of them were converted into paid DLC, and others are simply unobtainable. A shame, because there were some cool exclusive songs, like several Nintendo-collaboration tunes. The DLC issue makes it a bit harder to recommend over some of the older DLC-free games, though it still has a solid tracklist in its own right.
Taiko no Tatsujin Tokumori! 太鼓の達人 特盛り！
Release: Nov. 20, 2014.................Number of Songs: 103(+5DLC).....................Estimated Price: $40
Tokumori has a song count much more in line with what's to be expected from modern Taiko games. On top of that, Tokumori will also be getting DLC songs, though we still don't know to what extent (at the time of writing, we're only a month out of launch). Additionally, unlike previous games where new songs are unlocked via achieving certain coals, this game introduces a shop in which in-game currency is used to purchase new songs (including nearly 40 Namco Originals!) While it doesn't have much in the way of series standbys in some genres, if you like Namco Originals, this is probably the best you can get.
For: People with an import 3DS, or who has means to play import 3DS games, people who value Taiko's single player content, people who want to play the latest songs but lack a Wii U
Years Active: 2012~
Controls: Controller, Touch Screen
Number of Releases: 2
Playing Taiko games on a portable generally isn't anyone's first choice, but import 3DSs are widely considered much more worthwhile than import Wii Us, so more people have these games as an option than the Wii U games. Still, the 3DS games are hardly a bad option for people looking to keep up with the newest tracks. Their single player modes are what set them apart, though, as the Wii U games have nothing comparable.
Taiko no Tatsujin: Chibi Dragon to Fushigi na Orb 太鼓の達人 ちびドラゴンと不思議なオーブ
Release: Jul. 12, 2012....................Number of Songs: 55..................................Estimated Price: $40
In transitioning to the 3DS, this Taiko entry takes more inspiration from the console games than its DS handheld brethren. While it keeps a fleshed-out single player mode (similar to Taiko DS2, involving clearing challenges and boss battles), it ditches some of the more personal aspects like the Dojo and Mail, and Don-chan's customization has been cut back. Instead, some features missing from the DS games, like the alternate (Ura) tracks and being able to apply multiple modifiers, have been added. Additionally, Sound, Costume and Music unlocks are now tied to a new Stamp achievement system. Plus, it comes with cute Taiko styli!
Taiko no Tatsujin: Don to Katsu no Jikuu Daibouken 太鼓の達人 どんとかつの時空大冒険
Release: Jun. 26, 2014...................Number of Songs: 63(+46DLC).....................Estimated Price: $45
The second 3DS Taiko game introduces 2 main improvements over its predecessor: a full-fledged RPG Single Player mode, similar to that of Taiko DS3, in which Don-chan befriends and battles monsters while travelling through time, and a DLC shop, allowing owners of the game to get both paid and free additional songs, pumping the game's songlist to a count comparable to the consoles games (and only rivaled by Portable DX in the handheld space). As of the time of writing, new song packs are still being added, so this game is probably the best current pick if you're looking for a 3DS Taiko game. Other small features, like improved Don-chan customization, return from the DS games too. One very painful cut from previous portable Taiko games, though, is the exclusion of the cute Taiko styli. You'll have to shell out for those separately now!
For: People with a Wii (playing import games is easy), people who want lots of songs and modes
Years Active: 2008-2012
Controls: Tatacon, Controller
Number of Releases: 5
Estimated Tatacon Price: $30, though unlike PS2 drums, they can't be found quite as easily domestically, so expect to pay approx $30 shipping on top of that (PS2 ones not compatible, even with an adapter)
The Wii may very well still be the best console to play Taiko on. Beyond the fact that there's just flat-out a whole bunch of games, great features like Practice Mode and the Taiko Classroom still haven't made the jump to the Wii U. Even if they're less pretty and don't have the most recent songs, Kettei-Ban and Chougouka-Ban are still fantastic options with tons of songs between then, and the first three games are good supplements if you want even more tracks.
Taiko no Tatsujin Wii 太鼓の達人Wii
Release: Dec. 11, 2008..................Number of Songs: 70..................................Estimated Price: $30
The change of console manufacturer came along with a few additional features, like song lyrics display on screen, and Miis being used as dancers. Of course, the change also meant old PS2 Tatacons would no longer be supported, but fortunately, Wii Tatacons aren't too hard to come by nowadays. It also contains some light story elements tied to unlocking new tracks. The song list is most noteworthy for the inclusion of every single song in the super hard 2000 series (at the time).
Taiko no Tatsujin Wii: Dodon to Nidaime! 太鼓の達人Wii ドドーンと2代目!
Release: Nov. 19, 2009..................Number of Songs: 70..................................Estimated Price: $30
Taiko Wii2 is generally a very similar game to the first Wii game, even down to the same song count. The most noticeable difference is the addition of boss battles, similar to those of DS2, to the story elements. Additionally, Ura Oni tracks, which are alternate notecharts for songs, are included in console Taiko games for the first time. Other than that, the features are extremely similar.
Taiko no Tatsujin Wii: Minna de Party Sandaime 太鼓の達人Wii みんなでパーティ☆３代目
Release: Dec. 2, 2010....................Number of Songs: 71..................................Estimated Price: $40
That "Party" in the title is with good reason! New to the console games, multiplayer is expanded to allow 4 players at once. Additionally, returning from the PS2-era is the minigame mode. Once again, generally more of the same other than that.
Taiko no Tatsujin Wii: Kettei-Ban 太鼓の達人Wii 決定版
Release: Nov. 23, 2011..................Number of Songs: 105.................................Estimated Price: $50
The title means "definitive version," which is more than justified in its song and feature list. Its massive songlist contains some of Taiko's "greatest hits," in addition to the most recent tracks that one would expect from the newest console version. Additionally, two awesome features are introduced: a Practice Mode in which you can fast forward and rewind through any song to get to the parts you want to practice, and the Taiko Classroom, where the game picks out the most difficult parts of songs and has you play them over and over starting in slow-motion and building up to a speed faster than the actual song so you can get it right. With all this, it's hard to recommend any earlier game over this one.
Taiko no Tatsujin Wii: Chogouka-Ban 太鼓の達人Wii 超ごうか版
Release: Nov. 29, 2012..................Number of Songs: 105.................................Estimated Price: $45
Before bidding farewell to the Wii, Namco had to give it one more game to one-up the "definitive version." Well, I don't know if I'd necessarily say it beats it out, aside from adding minigame mode back in. I'd say that the fourth and fifth Wii games are great compliments to each other, rather. Another huge song list with little overlap with the fourth game, all the same features that were great in there, and some other smaller updates like using the scoring system from the latest arcade update... You really can't go wrong with this game.
For: People with a PSP from any region (unfortunately, they're not on PSN for Vita use), people who want lots of songs on the go
Years Active: 2005-2011 (DLC until 2013)
Number of Releases: 3
Though at one point PSP Taiko games may have been the only option for handheld Taiko, it may very well still be one of the best. Portable 1 and 2 are perfectly fine, but with DX's extensive tracklist both out the box (larger than any other handheld entry's) and with DLC (larger than any console Taiko period), it's the one to get.
Taiko no Tatsujin Portable 太鼓の達人 ぽ〜たぶる
Release: Aug. 4, 2005....................Number of Songs: 38(+22DLC).....................Estimated Price: $25
Taiko leaves its PS2 home for the very first time, and goes portable! Of course, portability comes at the cost of Tatacon use, but this game has somehing its PS2 brothers don't: downloadable songs! For the first time in Taiko history, you can download additional songs from online for free, and they're still available to this day. Additionally, it has two player multiplayer... on the same PSP! Nifty, huh?
Taiko no Tatsujin Portable 2 太鼓の達人 ぽ〜たぶる2
Release: Sep. 7, 2006....................Number of Songs: 62(+44DLC).....................Estimated Price: $25
While Taiko Portable 1 could be seen as testing the waters for portable Taiko, Taiko Portable 2 is where it really comes into its own. In addition to the features present in the first game (including DLC), this game sees the debut of Story Mode. Also, the super helpful Practice Mode, in which you can fast forward and rewind through any song to get to the parts you want to practice, makes its first appearance here too. The only downside is that some of this game's songs are songs that just appeared as DLC for the first game.
Taiko no Tatsujin Portable DX 太鼓の達人ぽ～たぶるＤＸ
Release: Jul. 12, 2011....................Number of Songs: 72(+110DLC)...................Estimated Price: $35
5 years after the release of Portable 2, Taiko decided it wasn't happy with the way it left the PSP and returns to end its time on Sony systems with a bang. 5 year's-worth of Taiko improvements are here, including customizing Don-chan with outfits, boss battles, Ura Oni, and a brand new Medley Mode which throws several songs at you in a row. Additionally, this game has a ton of DLC songs, though they're a bit pricey at 150 yen a song. But when it comes to quantity, it's nearly unmatched, with 110 songs total added monthly through spring 2013. Still a fantastic choice for a portable Taiko game.
For: People with a DS from any region, people who value Taiko's single player content, people who don't have other handheld options available, people who like cute Taiko styli
Years Active: 2007-2010
Controls: Controller, Touch Screen
Number of Releases: 3
Sure, the DS games may not have the nicest graphics, or the best sound quality, or the biggest tracklists, but doggone it, they work! Just because it's not the best option doesn't mean it's bad by any means, though. In fact, any of the DS games are fine options! Their most defining characteristics are their unique single-player modes, the ability to drum on the touch screen, and the cute Taiko styli they're bundled with.
Taiko no Tatsujin DS: Touch de Dokodon! 太鼓の達人DS タッチでドコドン!
Release: Jul. 26, 2007....................Number of Songs: 35.................................Estimated Price: $35
Taiko makes the jump to Nintendo systems! What it lacks in song quantity and visuals, it seeks to make up for by taking a more personal approach. New features include Don-chan's room, where you can customize Don-chan's color and clothes, read e-mail from other characters, and improve your Taiko rank by clearing challenges in the Taiko Dojo. Additionally, for the first time, four players play at the same time via wireless play, even with a single cart. Plus, it comes with cute Taiko styli!
Meccha! Taiko no Tatsujin DS: Nanatsu no Shima no Daibouken めっちゃ!太鼓の達人DS 7つの島の大冒険
Release: Apr. 24, 2008....................Number of Songs: 50................................Estimated Price: $45
Taiko DS2 is likely best known for the strides it makes on Taiko's single player front. Don-chan travels from island to island clearing challenges (e.g. clear with at least a certain score or combo, defeat opponents) and battling bosses who will obstruct the play area to try to trip you up. Other than that, features from the first game, including Don-chan's room and the Dojo, all return. Plus, it comes with cute Taiko styli! AND stickers!!
Taiko no Tatsujin DS: Dororon! Youkai Dai Kessen!! 太鼓の達人DS ドロロン!ヨーカイ大決戦!!
Release: Jul. 2, 2010......................Number of Songs: 51................................Estimated Price: $35
Rather than sticking with what worked in the last game, Taiko DS3 shakes up its single player mode by making it into a rhythm-RPG. Don-chan travels across Japan battling monsters (dealing damage by successfully hitting notes), leveling up, and taking on bosses similar to those found in DS2. This RPG framework would later be followed up on in the second 3DS Taiko game. The DS Taiko features we've come to expect are all here, too. Plus, it comes with cute Taiko styli!