When I saw that The Wu-tang Clan had tweeted “Video games are one of the elements of hip-hop.”, I wasn’t surprised. Video Games and Hip-hop both came from humble beginnings. Both enraged parents and the media while simultaneously inspiring the youth. While emcees have always used their voice to stand up for what they believe in and tell stories of the harsh upbringings surrounded by violence, they’re also not afraid to boast about the luxuries they have.
— Wu Tang Clan (@WuTangClan) July 12, 2018
Wealth, expensive vehicles, and designer clothes are favorites, but surprisingly, many rappers love to talk about their love for video games just as much. On his hit song “Juicy” Biggie Smalls said “Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis / When I was dead broke, man, I couldn’t picture this.” While it’s no lyrical feat, it’s the perfect example of rappers using video games to describe their wealth and seeing out their childhood fantasies. After all, who cares about the cares about the console war between the SNES and Genesis when you have both of them. It goes the other way around too.
Hip hop has found itself all throughout video games. Arguably one of the greatest video games of all time, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas encompassed the entire lifestyle of Hip-hop, telling the story of growing up in the hood and trying to make it out. Featuring NWA’s MC Eiht voice acting the character Ryder, who coincidentally closely the resembles the late Eazy-E, a guest cameo from The Game, a stellar soundtrack featuring some of the biggest hits of the time, and missions that revolve around the character OG Loc who’s an upcoming rapper, Rockstar showed the culture to new demographics and the masses, selling over 21 million copies.
While GTA: San Andreas was an excellent game for gamers and music fans alike, it was still a Grand Theft Auto game, and it wouldn’t be fair to talk about Hip-hop in gaming without highlighting the games that took a unique approach to the concept of combining both worlds. Without further adieu, here are the top 5 Hip-hop inspired games of all time.
#5. Parappa the Rapper – Although it seems hard to imagine now, when this game was originally released in 1997 the idea of a rhythm game was practically unheard of. It was also a time where hip-hop was still widely criticized by the media for being too vulgar. Its unique and beautiful coloring book inspired art style, cleverly written songs, and easy to pick to pick up, addictive gameplay made this game a must own for PlayStation owners of all ages.
In turn, it brought hip-hop to a brand new demographic by showing families that the music genre was diverse and could be enjoyed by anyone. Parappa the Rapper also pioneered the rhythm games industry and paved the way for the wildly successful Guitar Hero series. The one issue the game had was that once you got the hang of the game, it only took around 30 minutes to beat the 6 stages, which is why this game lands in the number 5 spot.
#4. DJ Hero – DJ Hero took what Guitar hero expanded on from Parappa the Rapper and brought it back took its hip-hop roots. Featuring a realistic looking turntable controller and an excellent soundtrack featuring some of the genres biggest hits at the time, it was the Guitar Hero that hip-hop fans had been waiting for, but thanks to its unique gameplay it became more than just that. It was a breath of fresh air for the rhythm genre that was desperately needed.
#3. Wu-Tang: Shaolin Style – Wu-Tang: Shaolin Style has become an obscure gem in the vast library of classic PSOne games. Featuring a game engine from a canceled fighting game Thrill Kill, which allowed up to four fighters, this game was an excellent and innovative entry in the genre just from a gameplay perspective alone. The short but fun and in-detail story follows the members of the Wu-Tang Clan as they attempted to rescue their kung-fu Master Xin who has been kidnapped by Mong Zhu in an attempt to steal the secrets of the Wu-Tang fighting style.
Coupled with voice acting from all of the Wu-Tang Clan members, gory fatalities, and an exclusive soundtrack for the game that could be downloaded by inserting the game into your computer’s disk drive, this is still a huge collectors piece for fans of the legendary hip-hop group. Especially when you include the insanely cool Wu-Tang controller. It was tough to decide where this game would end up on the list. The only things holding it from a higher spot are the somewhat unresponsive controls and insane difficulty spikes, but the shortcomings are outweighed by the unique experience which is why this game sits at number 3.
#2. 50 Cent: Blood on the sand – 50 cent has a video game?? I remember the first time I saw the case for this game on store shelves. It seemed like such a ridiculous concept, there was no way the game could be any good. While the gameplay is really nothing more than a typical third-person shooter, that’s not what this game is really about. After performing at a massive concert out in the middle east, 50 and his G Unit crew find out that the 10 million that he was promised for the appearance has been stolen by the local gang lord.
50 Cent sets out on a quest for revenge, blowing up everyone and everything in his path, while yelling out one insult after the other. The game is over the top and gory, matched with a soundtrack featuring some of his greatest hits, along with a few unreleased tracks. It feels like you’re living in 50 Cent’s fantasy, and it makes for some of the most fun, action-packed gaming experiences for hip-hop fans. That’s why it deserves its spot at number 2.
#1. Def Jam: Fight for NY – Not only was it difficult to select the number 1 pick for this list, it was difficult to select the number 1 pick from the Def Jam fighting games. Def Jam: Vendetta, Def Jam: Fight for NY, and Def Jam: Icon, all have their fair share of fans and haters. All three of them could have made the list but for the purpose of highlighting multiple unique games, I decided to choose one from the series. My pick? The second installment, Def Jam: Fight for NY. Why? I believe that not only is it one of the best hip-hop games of all time, but one of the best fighting games as well.
Now to be fair, I’ve never been a huge fan of fighting games. Learning all sorts of combo moves on all the characters never interested me. I much prefer the more rugged style of wrestling games, but I found that Fight for NY had the perfect blend of each. It felt as if no matter your play style, there was an equal opportunity to win the fight. The game had over 70 characters, all with unique characteristics. Best of all, 35 of those were some of hip-hops most famous artists and featured some of the legends including Snoop Dogg, Ice-T, Ludacris and the members of the Wu-Tang Clan, making yet another video game appearance. However, it didn’t stop there.
The robust story mode follows the protagonist through several street fights across several different locations as he works his way up the ladder to become the king of the underground hip-hop scene. The protagonist is where I find this game really shines and innovates. Rather than giving you the main character, the game lets you create your own fighter. Not only is it some of my favorite character customization with unlockable designer brands, tattoos, and jewelry, but it goes deeper than cosmetics.
There are multiple fighting styles to choose from, including martial arts, street fighting, kickboxing, submission and wrestling, all with their own characteristics and play styles. Even deeper customization comes from being able to combine these fighting styles, and depending on which fighting styles you choose, lead to exclusive fight moves to tailor perfectly to how you want to experience the game.
With the massive roster of all-star rappers and unique takedown moves, the blend of gritty and arcade fighting gameplay, deep character customization, and incredible soundtrack, Def Jam: Fight for NY is a fantastic game for fighting fans, and a must play for hip-hop fans which is why it’s my pick for the best hip-hop game of all time.
That’s my top 5 list, do you have one? Did I miss your favorite hip-hop game? Let me know down in the comments and start a discussion!