A Brief History of Metal Music in Games


Metal is a genre rich in history an culture. From its origins in the 1960s to its thriving scene today, many consider the genre to be a lifestyle as much as it is a form of music.

Given its rise to popularity in the late 20th century, metal quickly found its way into the newest art form on the block: gaming. Let’s take a look at some video game titles that have welcomed metal over the past 40 years.

Journey Escape (1982)

While not strictly metal, Journey Escape is widely considered the first game to fully feature a band — the titular Journey — making it an essential component to bringing metal, or at least rock music, to video games.

Originally released for the Atari 2600 in 1982, Journey Escape saw players take command of band members guiding them to a vehicle so they could make it to their next show on time.

If that synopsis doesn’t give it away, this game was kind of terrible. But fortunately, it was a first, setting the ball in motion for others to follow.

Crüe Ball (1992)

As you’d likely guess from the name, Crüe Ball is a game about Mötley Crüe, featuring three of their hits rendered in a glorious 16-bit aesthetic. Released for the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis, Crüe Ball was little more than a pinball game which took on the band’s image. But by wholeheartedly endorsing the metal group, it pulled metal further into gaming.

Doom (1993)

Far from the band tie-ins we’ve mentioned above, Doom was a landmark title for an incredible number of reasons. Not only is it one of the most (in)famous first-person shooters of all time, featuring hellish enemies and solidifying FPS mechanics, but it came accompanied by a booming soundtrack which struck a chord with metalheads.

The score was composed by Robert Prince, taking key inspiration from metal legends like Metallica, Pantera, Judas Priest and Slayer.

Quake (1996)

In many ways a direct evolution of Doom and developed by the same studio — id Software — Quake left original composition at the wayside as it welcomed several pieces by Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor.

Given the band’s trademark style, the music comes in a notably darker shade than previous games, but that was to many fans’ delight. And seeing as Quake is a true classic, it’s fair to say that its metal soundtrack has gone down in history.

Duke Nukem 3D (1996)

The macho-man himself, Duke Nukem, featured a cacophony of music from a bunch of different popular genres from heavy metal to hip-hop — including titles from Megadeth, Type O Negative and Wu-Tang Clan.

Duke Nukem’s inclusion of metal and other popular genres solidified the cool and alternative aesthetic FPS games were aspiring to be. And, of course, mixed with the game’s blood, guts, core and lewd content it turned many heads, making the game totally notorious, even to this day.

Ed Hunter (1999)

Iron Maiden’s shot at an FPS, Ed Hunter, may be a pretty pathetic game, but it continued the trend of metal bands creating promotional tie-ins with video games.

The game itself places you in the shoes of the band’s mascot, Eddie, sending you through a variety of FPS levels based on, and blasting, some of the band’s most recognizable tunes.

Tony Hawk Pro Skater (1999)

If there’s one series which truly encapsulated the power of popular music in games, it was the early Tony Hawk Pro Skater series. Mixing together metal, punk, rock, hip-hop and grunge, these games exposed much of the American underground (and already popular) scene to audiences worldwide.

While this was true of the very first Pro Skater game, the same DNA fed into future iterations, with the series peaking with Pro Skater 4, which has gone down in history as one of the best games to feature popular music, period.

Guitar Hero (2005)

The original Guitar Hero game developed by Harmonix finally gave players the power trip of being a rock star in the comfort of their own home (and without actually needing to learn a real instrument).

Featuring a large variety of hits from Ozzy Osbourne and Black Sabbath to Sum 41 and Jimi Hendrix, the game didn’t go too hard into the metal scene, but it did include a number of classics and laid the groundwork for future iterations.

Rock Band (2007)

Speaking of future games, Guitar Hero’s key competitor, confusingly also developed by Harmonix after they sold the rights to Guitar Hero, featured a beefier selection of tracks including many which are sure to tickle metal fans even today.

Doom (2016)

While the original Doom took an already popular genre and placed it into the context of video games, Doom (2016) could be argued to have once again brought metal music to the attention of gamers. Turning up the metal factor to eleven, the game’s thumping soundtrack feels oh so fitting to shoot, punch and chainsaw through endless streams of hell spawn.

Having accompanied the development of the gaming industry while featuring in many of gaming’s greatest FPS hits, game developers still occasionally lean on the raw energetic power of metal to deliver emotional experiences to gamers.

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