Game soundtracks come in many shapes and sizes. Using licensed songs, original scores, or some combination of the two, game soundtracks paint us a soundscape fitting of the game. In both of those forms, I think that metal music works very well as a game soundtrack.
Metal doesn't appear that often in game soundtracks but when it does it's usually awesome. Where might one encounter metal in a game? As I've mentioned before, it appears in racing games sometimes. Metal works really well in this scenario because of it's fast tempo. It really makes you want to drive fast. Metal also appears in sports games frequently as it can get you pumped up (not to mention sports stadiums often plan metal during games, especially hockey). Another example of where a metal soundtrack fit perfectly is Brütal Legend, a game based entirely on the genre of metal.
Back in the 8 and 16 bit eras, game soundtracks were simple chiptune affairs but some tried to emulate that sound of metal. Let's look at F-Zero, a classic racing game from Nintendo. Racing games are a great fit for metal so it seems fitting that they would try to emulate that feel with the music they were capable of at the time. Let's look at some examples from the original SNES game.
And as you can see in their respective updates for the N64 entry of the series F-Zero X, they become actual metal.
How can you not think this sounds absolutely awesome?
The metal soundtrack for this game fits the mood of the game. A high-speed, high-risk race in anti-grav race machines? The fast paced, yet extremely melodic metal stylings of this soundtrack sets the tone of tension and thrill of tearing across the race track at ridiculous speeds.
Another great example of a game incorporating metal into it's soundtrack is StarCraft. It has an entirely different tone than that of F-Zero as it is and RTS and not a racing game. What this game has is very atmospheric soundtrack which is conducive to thinking, something you need to do a lot of in an RTS. Just listen to the dark brooding feel of some of the Zerg themes which are laced with creepy metal guitar riffs or the Terran themes full of melodic metal riffs mixed nicely with acoustic guitars. Why do these work so well for this type of game? Instead of going with a full throttle approach they keep it a bit more down-tempo and atmospheric which works amazing for certain types of metal but also produces a sonic environment that doesn't break the concentration of the players.
Zerg Theme 3
Terran Theme 3
What about shooters? Metal would work perfectly for the action of an FPS. A lot of shooters these days opt for epic orchestral scores, which are awesome, but metal works amazingly too so I wish it showed up more. Now we turn our attention to one of the most famous shooters of all time: DOOM. In DOOM a space marine fights off the hordes of hell. That sound pretty metal to me, so it's only fitting that the doom soundtrack is packed full of metal. Of course it's just synths imitating guitars but damn do these tracks sound amazing. From fast-paced riffage to slow brooding atmospheric melodic guitar work, this game has it all. The mood is once again set by the music. Running and gunning through countless demons and possessed marines has a sense of urgency that only metal can provide. The dread of facing the entirety of Hell's horde is scored by the slower and darker pieces of metal found on the soundtrack.
Metal can work in a wide range of video game soundtracks because there are so many types of metal. It works well in repetition for racing games and old-school shooters and it can also be very progressive which works great for RTS games or modern shooters and action games. Progressive metal arrangements can rival orchestral compositions for scoring video games. I would love to see more games include at least some bit of metal in their soundtracks.
As per Metal Monday tradition I leave you with a playlist relevant to the topic. Just look above and there you will find your playlist. Wait you want more? Okay have some metal covers of video game music!
Fire Emblem - Together We Ride (CSGuitar89)
Ocarina of Time - Spirit Temple (Artificial Fear)
Mass Effect 2 - Suicide Mission (FamilyJules7X)
Ocarina of Time - Hyrule Field (CSGuitar89 & FamilyJules7X)
Metal Monday is a weekly column by DisturbedShadow on TAY that discusses all things metal. Every Monday morning, we will discuss something metal related and leave you with a playlist to listen to. If it has to do with gaming you'll find it on TAY and if not you can find it over on TAYClassic.