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Habakuk's Top 5 Most Metal songs from old school video games

24/02/12  ||  Habakuk


I fucken love old videogame soundtracks. Some of games I fondly remember, some of games I’ve never even played. And while these games oftentimes just suck from today’s point of view (never meet your childhood heroes…), I mostly don’t get that feeling with the audio parts. There sometimes is so much songwriting skill in these compositions, I have no problem with the limited delivery at all. And as you might have gathered from the title, there are quite a lot of game soundtracks that clearly had heavy metal as a reference point, which of course makes them all the more awesome. In this short, perfectly subjective (and therefore correct!) list, I assembled some of my favorites. Hit me up on the forums if you disagree, but don’t forget to bring your Powerglove. I promise I will care. Enough chatter now – metal and videogames, the unholy alliance that completely alienated parents across the globe… REUNITE!

The stage is set, the green flag drops!!! 5. Rock ‘n’ Roll Racing – Various bands: Everything
Released: 1993

Back when Blizzard was still called “Silicon & Synapse”, they already knew what was good for us: Chasing armed futuristic monster trucks through confined race tracks against opponents that go by “American Gladiators”-like names like RIP!, SHRED! or VIPER!, and of course Amon Amarth’s forefather OLAF!!. In a moment of stunning brilliance, they computerized classic, pumping rock tunes for the soundtrack, with the sometimes questionable vocal tracks replaced by – a squealing lead guitar emulation. Fuck yes!! God knows how long I’ve played this shit against my brother and my friends. Sure, sure, these are all cover songs, and that’s why this is only #5 in my list. Judged only on awesomeness, this soundtrack would be DOMINATING THE RACE!!

I'm gonna break you, Megaman 4. Megaman II – Takashi Tateishi: Dr. Wily’s Castle
Released: 1988

I have to admit I never played any Sega console games, but that doesn’t really matter as I can enjoy this track without the game just as well. It shows that with enough triplets, you can be a doodling 8-bit computer and still be engaging as hell. The charming thing about these tunes is how much they get out of the confined limitations of their medium, and were almost able to make a game back in the days. Today, you hop on YouTube and just relive the olden days, but back then you just had to sit there and let the Dr. Wily level play. I’m actually glad I discovered this track years too late… I hate jump & runs, and to be able to afford a Sega – what’s it called? It was “MegaDrive” in Germany… – console and reach that level would probably have taken me about as long as the Internet and Youtube took to surface. Sure, this song’s no Iron Maiden, but then again you don’t want the Charge Of The Light Brigade marauding through your living room, either.

What a horrible night to have a curse 3. Castlevania II – Kenichi Matsubara: Bloody Tears
Released: 1991

Do I need to tell you that this game had a brilliant soundtrack? I mean, there is a huge fucken Wikipedia article on the OST alone. Yeah sure, your pet turtle might also have one. Now, if you don’t want to take Wikipedia inclusion as a sign of quality, please witness how “Bloody tears” in the greatness of its lead melody stands testimony to this soundtrack’s brilliance. Here’s another proof: There is no, absolutely no other reason why I would possibly advertise a retardedly smiling metal nerd playing guitar without receiving any financial compensation. Except for undeniable awesomeness. There is so much feeling, catchiness and pure metal in those 8 bits it’s nothing but staggering.

LASER MACHINE GUN ROCKET BLAST insert coin 2. Raiden Series – Akiro Sato: Gallantry
Released: 1990

What’s more metal than flying upwards and killing ugly robots in a jet plane 24/7? (I can’t believe that concept survived long enough to make it onto PlayStation…) Well, doing so to a combination of epic melodies and galopping rhythms as best seen in 80s heavy metal, yet funneled into a brilliantly composed chiptune soundtrack together with double bass simulation and lead guitars. What’s wrong with feeling a little bad-ass when you’re saving the world from the Cranassians? I’d go with nothing. Put on a bulky helmet, stock up on Mountain Dew and close the shutters. Live to fly, Fly to live, kill Kill KILL!!!

Attack me if you dare I will crush you 1. Super Street Fighter II – Hiroaki Yoshida: Ken’s Stage
Released: 1993

This is, to me, the epitome of convergence between 80’s “heavy metal” and gaming. Guile’s theme might go with everything, but Ken’s theme, in its blatant rip-off of Cheap Trick’s Mighty Wings (Top Gun), takes the crown. Those first notes (DAAAA-dadadad Da-da-da!) yell bad-ass in your ear and together with the everpresent “Sho-Ryu-Ken!” get the cheese sauce flowing just right. You simply have to love the mass of intertextualities within 80s popculture brought to life in this game: Good bad movies, good bad music and good bad videogames. Street Fighter cited everything and brought it all together in one big, ridiculous tournament. To this day it’s my one and only favorite fighting series due to its complete over-the-topness, which I doubt was intentional. Fuck the more “brutal” games (Mortal Kombat), fuck the wannabe “cool” games (Tekken), give me more international Kitsch. The soundtrack fits perfectly into that picture and in it, Ken Masters is the undisputed metal master.