Eight cool representations of rock music in video games

brutallegendVideo games and rock music have had several successful marriages over the years. As a matter of fact, video games have been able to introduce plenty of great rock music to new audiences and pass along classic songs to new generations. Here’s a few instances of where rock and games mixed well.

Amplitude (Playstation 2)

You can see elements other music games may have borrowed in this cool, underplayed PS2 rhythm game. Players had to piece a song together by moving the controller and pressing buttons in concert with what appeared on the screen. You’d have to play in rhythm with the percussion, the baseline, the vocals, the lead guitar, etc. etc. in order to piece together the song. It wasn’t as easy as it might look. It had a cool soundtrack that spanned across different genres and included songs by David Bowie, Weezer, Garbage, and Blink-182. There was actually a sequel released to this game recently — very unexpected, given that it’s over a decade old and wasn’t widely played to begin with, but I guess you can give a hat-tip to kickstarter on that one.

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Audiosurf (PC)

Audiosurf had a similar style to Amplitude, and its gameplay is pretty self-explanatory, as you can see below (navigate the tracks and touch the right blocks). The niche that Audiosurf brought to the table was that you could use your own music. Audiosurf would transform the song into the game, which allowed you to play it using any song you wanted.

Brutal Legend (Multi-platform)

Maybe one of the biggest love letters to hard rock/heavy metal ever created. Metal truly comes alive in this game, which stars Jack Black as its guitar-wielding protagonist and features memorable roles from Ozzy Osbourne, Rob Halford, Lita Ford, and Lemmy Kilmister, among others. The game took place in a metal-inspired world and had an impressive metal soundtrack. The game didn’t resonate with everyone, but for those of us who have spent any time in the world of metal, it was a terrific trip into a world chock full of metal references, nostalgia, and hilarious inside jokes that only fans would get.

Elite Beat Agents (Nintendo DS)

This was an acclaimed rhythm game for the Nintendo DS handheld system that featured some good music, fun gameplay, and lovable Japanese eccentricity. When a character in the game needed help, the agents would be sent to motivate through their dance moves, which the player had to correctly execute. The soundtrack included covers of some famous songs, including “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” “Highway Star”, “Let’s Dance”, and not surprisingly “Y.M.C.A.”

Gitaroo Man (Playstation 2)

This game was a blast, in large part due to the incredible original soundtrack it boasted. It’s a goofy kids game about a boy who saves the world with his electric guitar but will rock players of any age if given the chance. Gameplay-wise it was fairly typical with what you find in rhythm games (press the buttons in conjunction with the music), but the quality of music made it twice as fun. The original version of this game can be hard to find, but it’s definitely worth hunting down if you’re interested.

Grand Theft Auto (Multi-platform)

It’s kind of a stretch to put this here with these other games, but I included it because I appreciate the amount of rock music that the GTA games have introduced to people. One of the features of the GTA games is the in-game radio that you can listen to while driving (or doing whatever other evil deeds the game has you do), which includes stations of various genres, including rock, rap, reggae, and of course, the game’s parody of lunatic fringe political talk radio. The game has also brought in guest star DJs, including Axl Rose, who accompanied this station in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas:

Grand Theft Auto is one of the most popular video game series in the world, and as such, it’s brought big exposure to plenty of good music, both well-known and unknown. Whether or not you condone the other things the game brings is up to you, but it has certainly done good things with its music.

The “Hero/Rock Band” games (Multi-platform)

I used to brag that I was one of the few people who bought Guitar Hero the first night it came out. It was obscure at first, but I knew it would be awesome. It went on to be much bigger than I ever could have imagined, selling millions and millions of copies and becoming a party game and bar game before spawning “Rock Band”, then eventually fizzling out for a few years before just recently making a return. One of the popular criticisms of this game has been that people who played it could have used that time to learn how to actually play an instrument rather than playing the fake ones, but to me it’s clear these games did more good than not, serving as a gateway for a whole lot of great music for millions of people who wouldn’t have listened to it otherwise, as well as maybe inspiring the occasional person to learn how to play an instrument for real.

Space Channel 5 (Sega Dreamcast/multi-platform)

Maybe the most absurd and bizarre (but positively delightful and awesome) game on this list, Space Channel 5 followed intergalactic reporter Ulala as she outdances an alien race to save the day with her grooviness. Sega was sued by Lady Miss Kier of Dee-Lite over Ulala, whom she claimed resembled her a bit too closely. The game (and its sequel) featured a cameo appearance by Michael Jackson (!), who supposedly decided he wanted to be a part of the game when he learned of its creation. Fun, funny, and funky, Space Channel 5 is a unique experience the likes of which don’t come around anymore. You could say the music here isn’t really rock music, but the game has such a pure love for music and dance that I felt the need to include it.

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3 comments to “Eight cool representations of rock music in video games”
    • The Tony Hawk games totally helped shaped my musical tastes. Got me really into Goldfinger, Rage Against the Machine, Bad Religion, and maybe even Powerman 5000. Great, great stuff.

  1. Quirk, what a great list. Brutal Legend was a hell of a game and unexpected in gameplay as well. There’s been talk that we could one day get a sequel. I know I’d play it.

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