The 20 most metal videogames ever

Metal video games
(Image credit: Brutal Legend: EA; Hellsinger: Funcom; Twisted Metal and God Of War: Sony;)

Metal and videogames are a match made in heaven. Whether it's bands enjoying some downtime on tour, fans sticking on their favourite albums to soundtrack a rampage through the hordes of hell or metal bands being directly inspired by in-game worlds (Elder Scrolls, we're looking at you), gaming has proven a favourite pastime for metalheads the world over. 

It's also been a surprising entry point for many gamers to discover the delights of metal. Brutal Legend, Grand Theft Auto and Guitar Hero in particular have all provided a perfect gateway for the uninitiated to fall in love with the power of the riff. That in mind, we've dug through videogame history to pick out the 20 most metal videogames of all time. 

Metal Hammer line break

Twisted Metal (Various Developers, 1995 - 2012)

Twisted Metal survived three generations of PlayStation thanks to nothing more complicated than vehicular mayhem and a brash metal soundtrack. The elevator pitch for the original entry was basically ‘Mortal Kombat in cars’, with players choosing from a gallery of vehicles that would assault each other until a victor emerged. 

By the time of its 2012 remake, the franchise had amassed a cast of recurring characters (chiefly the beefy clown Sweet Tooth), while the music was so vital that Larry LaLonde of Primus and Buckethead of Guns N’ Roses fame composed some songs. There’s been no game since, but Twisted Metal lives on as a kickass TV show. MM

Nightmare Creatures (Activision, 1997)

Nightmare Creatures was a single-player survival horror game that invited players to confront their deepest fears in a desperate struggle for survival against the forces of darkness. Hordes of grotesque beasts roamed the streets of Victorian-era London in this classic 90s game about a devilworshipping cult and their experimental creatures. The low rumbling, possessed growls that the monsters made in this game shared a lot in common with death metal vocals. SC

Quake (GT Interactive/Activision, 1996/1997)

Building on their massive success with Wolfenstein 3D and especially Doom, iconoclastic US developers id Software’s Quake series perfected the gameplay mechanics they had laid out previously while adopting an industrial-goth aesthetic that lent their new series its own unique flavour. 

It didn’t hurt that they had Trent Reznor working behind the scenes on a moody instrumental industrial soundtrack that lent the whole thing a hostile, otherworldly feel, even including vocalisations for protagonist Ranger. With a vastly expanded multiplayer mode, Quake quickly became the perfect game for nights in with your mates, while its Lovecraftian atmosphere provided plenty of chills in solo play. RH

Castlevania: Symphony Of The Night (Konami, 1997)

Often cited by critics as one of the best games of all time, Castlevania: Symphony Of The Night was a sleeper hit in the 90s - starting with poor sales before eventually gathering a huge cult following. 

The 2D hack’n’slash sidescrolling gameplay saw players exploring Dracula’s castle and enjoying a soundtrack that ranged from classical to goth rock to thrash metal. While vampires are a common theme for gothic metal bands like Cradle Of Filth, it was, unsuspectingly, none other than Dragonforce who penned a power metal anthem called Symphony Of The Night in tribute to this classic ghoulish game. SC

Diablo II (Blizzard Entertainment, 2000)

Shove dark fantasy, horror and a local area network connection into a blender and you got the groundbreaking Diablo II. Released at the turn of the millennium with online gaming specifically in mind, it saw friends setting up their PCs in the same room to hack’n’slash demons together. While the game’s soundtrack was distinctly non-metal, favouring an experimental ambient style, the visuals of Diablo II, in particular its huge, maniacally grinning depiction of the Dark Wanderer, wouldn’t look out of place on a metal album cover at all. SC

Carmageddon (Sales Curve Interactive/Interplay Productions, 1997)

Effectively the plot of cult 70s sci-fi/horror movie Death Race 2000 – in which drivers in a transcontinental road race get points for hitting and killing pedestrians – turned into a videogame, the whole point of late-90s smash-’em-up Carmageddon was to upset concerned parents and censorship boards alike, with ultraviolent gameplay based around speeding around a track and splattering as many civilians, cows and fellow drivers as you could before the end. 

Naturally, the game was banned in some territories, and censored in others, replacing pedestrians with zombies or robots – the green/black blood apparently making it all OK. Of course, all of that only served to make Carmageddon even more appealing to a generation of rebellious youths, while its rampaging, Fear Factory-boasting soundtrack provided plenty of industrial metal mecha-blastbeats to cause carnage to. RH

Devil May Cry (Capcom, 2001)

Based on Dante Alighieri’s 14th-century Italian poem The Divine Comedy, Devil May Cry shattered the action-adventure game mould in the 00s with its stylish combat system, innovative gameplay and gothic atmosphere. Despite having an industrial metal soundtrack that evoked the likes of Fear Factory, the most metal aspect of the game was arguably its central protagonist, Dante. 

Our hero’s jukebox playlist consisted of nothing but metal, he lived in an office with corpses affixed to the walls via swords, he had an electric guitar that turned into a scythe and shot out bats, and his sword hilt was made of skulls. That is unquestionably some of the most metal shit imaginable. SC

God Of War (Santa Monica/Interactive Entertainment, 2005 onwards)

Do we really need to explain this one? God Of War is the ultimate hack’n’slash adventure of the PlayStation 2 era, its ability to transform the player into a human-sized antihero taking down skyscraper-high immortals both awe-inspiring and metal as fuck. 

The sequels only grew in profile, to the point that the series’ 2018 reboot was the most lauded game on the PS4. The height of the metalhead appeal, however, came in 2010, when Roadrunner Records released a God Of War III soundtrack album with previously unheard songs from Trivium, Killswitch Engage, Opeth, Dream Theater and more. MM

Saints Row 2 (Volition/THQ, 2008)

For a generation of gamers, Grand Theft Auto vs Saints Row was a rivalry on par with Metallica vs Megadeth – a debate that goes on to this day. Rockstar’s infamously nihilistic car-jacking-and-street-violence GTA series would ultimately outlive its competitor, but – even with GTA IV boasting a hair metal-heavy throwback soundtrack – it never surpassed Saints Row 2 for metal musical choices. 

This sequel’s in-vehicle 106.66 radio station showcased a who’s-who of the mid-2000s New Wave Of American Heavy Metal scene, including such superstars as Avenged Sevenfold, Lamb Of God, Trivium, Mastodon, Between The Buried And Me and Chimaira. With other titans from Opeth to Deftones also appearing, it’s a wonder that players ever wanted to get out of the car. MM

Guitar Hero (RedOctane, 2005)

Guitar Hero was more than just a game – it was a pop culture phenomenon that introduced a generation of kids who might never have otherwise given a passing glance at guitar music into metal and rock fans, and turned a few lucky bands – hi, Dragonforce! – into overnight stars in the process. 

With specially made guitar ‘controllers’, players were challenged to tap coloured buttons in time to songs from a soundtrack that featured everyone from Metallica to White Zombie and Danzig, with increasing levels of complexity for seasoned shredders. A series of spin-offs dedicated to Metallica, Aerosmith and Van Halen cemented its iconic status. 

By Guitar Hero III, Metallica even released songs from the then-new Death Magnetic to the game as downloadable content, bizarrely offering the best mix of that record you’re ever likely to hear. Like all smash-hits, the formula would be milked to death via lesser imitations and spin-offs like DJ Hero. No Guitar Hero title has surfaced in almost a decade, but the absence only adds to the sense of delirious rock staradjacent ego that comes from mastering Through The Fire And Flames on Expert. RH

Brutal Legend (Electronic Arts/Double Fine, 2009)

Brütal Legend was so head-over-heels in love with trad metal that it crossed the boundary from nerdy schlock into gleeful brilliance. Enlisting the voice talents of Jack Black and venerable thesp Tim Curry (aka The Rocky Horror Picture Show’s Frank-N-Furter), as well as such icons including Ozzy Osbourne, Lemmy and Rob Halford, Brütal Legend played out like every classic metal album cover come to life, as roadie Eddie Riggs found himself in a fantasy landscape commanding armies of headbangers, roadies and groupies (it was 2009!) against a demon lord. 

Campy, comedic and with a massive 107-song soundtrack, Brütal Legend remains a cult favourite, with fans still clamouring for a sequel. RH

Killing Floor 2 (Tripwire Interactive, 2015)

Tripwire Interactive kept shit simple with this zombie-annihilating multiplayer firstperson shooter sequel. With Killing Floor 2, the studio found the unfettered formula for adrenaline and added zero frills. Players descended down 10 ‘floors’ of the undead, each plummet ending with a hellish shootout against a mangled boss.

Even more excitingly, the soundtrack was a propulsive mixture of industrial metal and metalcore, with such brutes as Demon Hunter, Impending Doom and Living Sacrifice screaming over the carnage. KF2 may not have been The Last Of Us in terms of grand scenery and nuanced storytelling, but no one could question its incredibly metal credentials. MM

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Bethesda Softworks, 2011)

The RPG that defined a decade and remains one of the most popular games of all time. Selling more than 30 million copies, Skyrim has been re-released seven times in the last decade, which is testament to this beloved game’s staying power. 

Similar to how The Lord Of The Rings was destined to be married with metal, Skyrim’s epic landscapes inspired enough metal bands that there’s now an ‘Elder Scrolls Metal’ genre on Bandcamp. Characters such as the Dragon Cult looked like they could headline Bloodstock in their imposing masks and cloaks, while Alduin - an evil black dragon known as the World Eater – stands as formidable as the most brutal death metal bands. SC

Jotun (Thunder Lotus Games, 2015)

From the arena-ready melodeath of Amon Amarth to Scandinavia’s snarling black metal scene, Norse myths have long been a cornerstone of metal’s iconography. 2015 indie game Jotun proved an enjoyable way for metalheads to get more immersed in the stories behind the godly imagery and world-sized snakes. 

The player took the role of a Viking who, after dying a ‘dishonourable’ death (i.e., not in battle), had to solve puzzles and defeat towering bosses, thus proving themselves worthy of Valhalla. Gorgeous, respectful and just the right side of challenging, was a gem even by the standards of spotless studio Thunder Lotus. MM

Dark Souls (FromSoftware, 2011)

Chances are high that a musician playing in one of your favourite metal bands has a Dark Souls tattoo. With a hardcore reputation for being the absolute least casual game you can play, Dark Souls turned the action-RPG world on its head with its gruellingly punishing boss fights and extremely challenging gameplay. 

The world of Dark Souls was bleak, isolating and rich in lore with characters grappling with complex morality. It reached similar dark thematic depths that underground metal bands regularly dive into. Such a harsh gaming environment has inspired bands such as Tomb Mold and Soulmass to create crushingly heavy odes to the game series. SC

Karmaflow: The Rock Opera (BaseCamp Games, 2015)

Symphonic metal has always been given to high fantasy themes, but Karmaflow: The Rock Opera put that idea at its centre. With narration by former Delain vocalist Charlotte Wessels and figures including Dani Filth, Simone Simons and Marc Hudson lending their vocal talents, the plot unfolded to a grandiose metal soundtrack, with the player’s actions influencing the tone of the music in-game. 

A puzzle-platformer, Karmaflow saw you explore five gorgeously designed fantasy worlds, solving puzzles to collect the titular karma and influence the world around you for good or ill. RH

Assassin's Creed: Valhalla (Ubisoft, 2020)

The 12th major instalment in the hugely popular Assassin’s Creed series, Valhalla invited players to stealthily explore an open world set in 873 CE during the Viking expansions into the British Isles. 

Like many metal bands, the game drew inspiration from Norse mythology - to the point where every quest name in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla could easily double as an Amon Amarth song title. The game is also linked with dark Nordic folk band Wardruna, with Einar Selvik composing the music. SC

Hollow Knight (Team Cherry, 2017)

Don’t be fooled by the cute and simplistic sprite on the front cover. Hollow Knight was a stylishly bleak, non-linear 2D Metroidvania adventure with a gloomy aesthetic pulled straight from your favourite goth metal music video. 

The player controlled the titular hero, who side-scrolled their way through a black-and-grey underground of non-linear passages. Populating these catacombs were brutish bosses contaminated with an ‘Infection’ that stifled their free will. It was a simple set-up, yet the game proved surprisingly difficult throughout, not to mention gorgeously dark. 

The only thing it was missing was some Paradise Lost or My Dying Bride on the soundtrack to complete the gloriously miserable atmosphere. MM

Dusk (New Blood Interactive, 2018)

The cosmic horror of H.P. Lovecraft has inspired metal bands from Metallica to Vale Of Pnath, so it’s unsurprising that Lovecraft’s hideous cosmology has gripped its tentacle of influence upon FPS horror games too. 

Dusk, a blood-soaked homage to late-’90s corridor shooters, began with the player being meathooked, thus setting a tone of savagery fit for a Cannibal Corpse album cover. The game’s soundtrack boasted heavy Gojira-style riffage to get players headbanging while they were shooting monsters. With music written by Andrew Hulshult - the composer behind Brutal Doom and Quake Champions - Dusk merged metal and monsters perfectly in videogame form. SC

Metal: Hellsinger (Funcom, 2022)

Take the ultraviolence of Doom and set it to a kickass metal soundtrack. It’s a simple concept, but one Metal: Hellsinger did oh so well, the frantic shoot ’em up employing elements of rhythm-based games as players shoot, slash and generally obliterate the denizens of Hell set to an all-star original soundtrack featuring such A-listers as Matt Heafy, Serj Tankian, Lamb Of God’s Randy Blythe, Arch Enemy’s Alissa White-Gluz, Tatiana Shmayluk of Jinjer, Dark Tranquillity singer Mikael Stanne and Dennis Lyxzén of Swedish punk livewires Refused. 

The quest was to reclaim your lost soul from the Devil and fight your way out of damnation, with the songs getting more complex and fleshed out if you blasted to the beat. Most metal game ever? Clue’s in the name. RH

Rich Hobson

Staff writer for Metal Hammer, Rich has never met a feature he didn't fancy, which is just as well when it comes to covering everything rock, punk and metal for both print and online, be it legendary events like Rock In Rio or Clash Of The Titans or seeking out exciting new bands like Nine Treasures, Jinjer and Sleep Token. 

With contributions from