Date: November 25, 2022
Metal is one of the most popular genres of music in the world, enjoyed but hundreds of millions of people across the globe. It is a huge genre, featuring everything from sweeping guitar lines and soaring vocals to oppressive noise and distorted screams. There are some things that bind it, though, like an obsession with power, brutality, and intensity.
You know what else is obsessed with power, brutality, and intensity? Video games! And yet, there are only a select few video games, like Doom and Brütal Legend that truly embrace it in their soundtracks. And some games are just perfect to play while blaring metal, which fuels the games’ destructive tendencies or overbearing atmosphere. Here are some of those games, those about power and weight, that you should be turning up your metal playlists for. This isn’t a list of games that already have metal soundtracks, but rather a list of games that should.
Because all metal is not built the same, the games also come with some genre recommendations, and a short playlist of songs each for you to put on as they load up. While you might find more specific subgenres (or subsubgenres) that work even better for you, these recommendations should be a great place to get started finding ear-blasting music for these excellent games. Each playlist has a variety of artists and styles, to get you the largest possible base to build from.
Everything in Bloodborne screams metal, from its gothic environments to its bloody combat, and so much more. You play as a hunter of beasts (and eventually slayer of gods) who wields gore-splattered weaponry as you progressively descend into madness, taking on progressively bigger, grosser, and more tormented monsters, all within a horror-infused world with references across the genre. It doesn’t get much more metal than that.
Given the dark tone and gritty brutality, Bloodborne pairs exceptionally well with Black Metal, emphasizing brutality, epic subject matter, and blasphemy. What better music to take on the Healing Church than Bathory and Mayhem?
God of War
God of War‘s Kratos might be the most metal video game protagonist this side of the Doomslayer. In the original trilogy from the 2000s, he is a rage-fueled tragic hero bent on the destruction of the entire Greek pantheon, whose anger proves to be as powerful a weapon as his blood-stained blades or magical power. In the more recent reboots, the more emotional story between him and his son Atreus does nothing to dull his combat prowess or brutality in combat, and his grim stoicism and bottled rage might even make his ass-kicking even more metal.
Everything about these games lends itself perfectly to Folk Metal, where epic heroes face insurmountable odds and conquer them through sheer force of will. What’s more, the games’ mythological settings make the pagan and Celtic sounds of the subgenre fitting and fun. Next time you plan to butcher some gods, then, maybe slap on some Týr or Finntroll.
Stepping into the future, Cyberpunk 2077‘s Night City is a grim, neon-infused corporate hellscape, where the powerful tread upon the weak and control the masses using all manner of futuristic technology, including biomechanical implants that augment bodies and minds in all kinds of nefarious-but-still-badass ways. And you take the role of V, who quickly encounters the ultimate anti-authoritarian, a rocker (played by Keanu Reeves) ready to rage against the (sometimes literal) machine and burn the whole system down. If metal means rebellion, then Cyberpunk 2077 goes hard.
The cyberpunk movement, as the name implies, takes more inspiration from punk than it does metal, making Nu Metal, with its blending of punk, electronic, and metal sensibilities, perfect for the game. But, if that’s a bit too corporate/radio-friendly for you, then maybe Darkstep (Dubstep’s take on Metal) would fit better, with its blaring, wicked electronics going just as hard as any more traditional genres. 2 Playlists for the price of one.
Another game where you take on gods and monsters as an undead warrior on an epic quest is Elden Ring. Elden Ring’s world is decayed and dying, full of powerful figures long past their prime. It is a cruel, fading world. And yet, the gameplay is anything but stagnant. No, instead, combat is fast and brutal, as you face off against noble enemies who all believe they are doing the right thing. Despite the grim world, there are still epic fights and grandiose moments, demanding a soundtrack that matches. And, while the game’s sweeping, orchestral score might be excellent, sometimes you just want something a bit rawer. What better than metal?
Because of its open-world design and methodical combat, the faster genres of metal don’t fit Elden Ring as well as they do other games on this list. However, the slow, pulsing beats of Doom Metal, combined with its epic, funereal lyrics, make it the perfect subgenre to traverse the dying, doomed world of the Lands Between.
The Halo franchise has long flirted with metal already, whether it be distorted guitar riffs or rocking suites, but it has never quite made the leap. The games see you playing as the ultimate space badass (akin to the Doomslayer) as you fight to save humanity using all manner of wicked techniques and weaponry. Its face-paced gameplay, which sees you taking on legions of alien enemies as a kind of one-man army, then, deserves an equally fast-paced soundtrack. As kickass as Halo’s soundtrack may be, I can think of no better way to blast your way through Covenant forces than with some heart-racing metal.
In mentioning the speed of the combat, I’ve already made clear what subgenre of metal to put on while playing Halo: Speed Metal. From the guitar-shredding DragonForce to the heart-pumping Anthrax, make sure your playlist includes bands whose songs play more notes per minute than Master Chief fires bullets. A lot of Speed Metal also has that classic feel that just work for a game franchise as classic as Halo.
Metal, as a genre, gravitates towards a few things: monumental imagery, oppressive tones, and grotesque and macabre themes, among others. But very few stories capture all of those elements, and even fewer are video games. Well, Dead Space would get a blackout on Metal Bingo. Its gruesome, limb-severing combat gives its protagonist just enough power to feel like a rip-and-tearing beast until the moment one of the fleshy, terrifying necromorphs grabs him and initiates some of the wickedest death animations in gaming. At the same time, the settings of the games manage to be both oppressive and claustrophobic, while still alluding to a huge, decaying universe. Toss in some distorted religious iconography and some space madness, and you are left with a game ripe for metal brutality.
When you are ready to transform the Dead Space games from ones where you are being hunted by monsters, into ones where you become the monster as you rip your way through hordes, then there isn’t anything better than to put on some Industrial Metal. The clanking, mechanical instrumentals and frequently-bloody lyrics of bands like Fear Factory and Ministry complement Dead Space’s cold, hard, and abandoned environments even better than most subgenres on this list.
Bulletstorm sometimes gets forgotten about in the pantheon of gaming, but it shouldn’t be. The face-paced, gore-splattered shooter incentivized brutality and action over anything else, with its core feature being its hilariously fun scoring system, which gives you more points (and power) by maiming and killing your enemies in brutal, creative ways. The game is campy, with self-aware, sarcastic dialog (spoken by meathead characters who seem to be having a blast) doing nothing to make it feel any less juvenile and over-the-top. And, let’s face it, metal is also juvenile, over-the-top, and brutal. It’s a match made in Hell. But, while the soundtrack can go pretty hard, it never quite reaches the heights metal commands. So you should make it so.
As for subgenre, what better recommendation is there than to slap on some Groove Metal? While it has the same brutal lyrics and fast pace of many subgenres, it is a bit more tongue-in-cheek, with as great an emphasis on extreme flow as extreme aggression. If you let this game skip you by, play it now, accompanied by the thrilling noise of Pantera or Avatar.
Blasphemous is an intense experience. Like other games on this list, it is brutal and intense, but it does not stop there. People often compare Blasphemous to Dark Souls, for everything from its gothic architecture to its bloody combat to its esoteric lore. But it goes even further than that, in my opinion, with imagery and themes that are larger and still crueler, and with distorted religious and cultural allusions that paint a world at its more perverse and chaotic. With names like “The Brotherhood of Silent Sorrow” and “Crisante of the Wrapped Agony,” even the words in this game go hard. All this (and more) combines into a game that goes hard, and whose metal influences are made clear just by looking at it.
Because of Blasphemous’s emphasis on the massive and the religious, and because of its thematic connection to religion and medieval imagery, Symphonic Metal is the way to go here. The orchestral nature of the subgenre alludes to ancient forces and higher powers, while still bringing the raw power to accompany the massive tale on offer.
A list of games inspired by metal would be incomplete without Scorn. And how to describe Scorn, other than “Unlike Anything Else?” Well, I can try. Scorn is what would happen if H.R. Giger designed a bunch of fleshy creatures and industrial architecture for a video game, and then those creatures and architecture bled together to form monstrosities of metal and flesh, covering an entire world. It is nasty, it is intense, and, worst of all, it is somehow mundane. This is not a world corrupted or broken, but rather one that is just like this, covered in mucous and viscera and rust and horror. You know the horrifying vistas of blood and machinery that appear on the covers of many metal albums? Scorn is like exploring those lands.
Because of its nastiness and grungey feel, there can be no better subgenre for Scorn than Sludge Metal. Its gross incomprehensibility fits the game like a glove and makes for an experience that is as disturbing as it is depressing.
Rounding out our list is Wolfenstein, which is another face-paced shooter where you blow your way through legions of enemies. The difference, here, is that Wolfenstein sees you blasting the heads off of Nazis. You play as iconic badass, B.J. Blazkowicz, a heroic, Jewish soldier who routinely infiltrates and annihilates entire bases of Nazi troopers with ever-more-effective weapons and techniques. While several games on this list could be described as having an epic feel, Wolfenstein goes so in a more traditional way, featuring an epic hero fighting off ultimate evil. An ultimate evil that, because of their ideology, is all the more satisfying to wipe clean from the Earth. B.J. Blazkowicz might be the most badass good guy of all time. Wouldn’t it make sense to play Wolfenstein with the most badass music possible?
If a subgenre were to be tailor-made for Wolfenstein, it still wouldn’t sound as great as Power Metal. Not only is the genre fast and fun, with sweeping guitars and soaring vocals that feed straight into heart-pounding heroics, but it is also filled with scenes of epic battles against great evil. Some bands, like Sabaton, even have lyrics explicitly about gloriously fighting Nazis.
So, there you have it: ten games to play while thrashing out to some killer metal. While you might have to add the metal yourself (or using our playlists), it will improve the experience and turn the games in question up to 11.
Think we missed any iconic games that work better with metal? Or maybe you have some suggestions for even better songs to add to the playlists in question? Let us know in the comments below, and always remember to thrash on!