As a counterpoint to our ‘The best 8-bit versions of classic albums’ post, here’s a rundown of some of the best game-inspired bands out there.
We’ve taken a look at the best bands and artists out there taking computer game themes and playing them on actual instruments, somewhat flipping the idea of giving classic albums the chiptune treatment on its head.
Metroid Metal began life in 2003 as a one-man project by Stemage, the alias of one Grant Henry from the United States.
After posting heavy metal reworkings of tunes from Nintendo’s Metroid series, Henry later acquired the services of Dan ‘Chunkstyle’ Taylor on bass before assembling a full live band in 2008.
Metroid Metal has produced three albums to date, taking in music from games across the Metroid canon. Most recent long player Other Album mixes tracks from the Metroid Prime trilogy with songs from the 1991 GameBoy title Metroid II, but none, curiously from the latest title Other M.
Our favourite is ‘Kraid’ from first album Varia Suite, a lurching, stomping remix of a boss theme from the NES original. If widdling solos and thudding double kicks are your thing then fill your hi-jump boots here.
Violinist Taylor Davis has recorded six albums of video game and anime soundtrack covers, giving the likes of the Skyrim theme, ‘Dr. Wily’s Castle’ from Mega Man 2 and ‘Guile’s Theme’ (now de rigueur for any budding video game covers artist) a classical twist.
We rate this take on the ‘Gerudo Valley’ music from Ocarina of Time particularly highly. Not just because of the great video, which goes so far as to mimic the fisheye-type effect from the N64 classic, but because the string arrangements fit perfectly with the mariarchi stylings of the original, giving it a Big Country-ish kind of bombast.
Acapella master, Jesus Christ lookalike and all round nice guy Smooth McGroove is someone you might already know of. With over a million subscribers on YouTube and a stack of videos to his name, SmoothMcGroove (aka Max Gleason) shot to fame in 2013, when it was reported that he was making enough dollar from YouTube videos that he jacked in his job as a music teacher to record songs full time.
For our money McGroove’s best rendition is that of ‘One Winged Angel’ from Final Fantasy VII. Because of the thing that he does at 0:13.
Like Metroid Metal, MegaDriver is a metal band that began life as a one-man show Antonio Francisco Tornisiello (also known as ‘Nino Megadriver’) before evolving into a full band.
As the name suggests, MegaDriver focusses mainly (but not exclusively) on Sega games from the 16-bit era. It’s also notable that Nino plays a customised guitar that actually has the shell of a Sega Mega Drive (or Genesis if you’re American) built into it. You can see it here in the ‘Sonic Metal’ video.
MegaDriver’s site also claims that the band, and therefore it’s leader, to be the first ‘game metal’ group which makes Nino the gaming world’s equivalent of Jackie Brenston.
The group’s latest album Double K.O. is a tribute to fighting games including Samurai Shodown, Killer Instinct and Street Fighter 2.
Taking a strictly non-profit stance MegaDriver make their songs free to download from the band’s site.
Though not a band per se, vegetable abuser Junji Koyama’s YouTube channel is worth investigating, if only so you can say you’ve heard ‘Song of Time’ from the Legend of Zelda series played on a carrot.
Other home-made instruments in Junji’s arsenal include a ‘water spinach pan flute’ ‘cucumber trumpet’ and a ‘chocolate egg ocarina’. Although to us that last one just sounds like a man blowing air through a Kinder egg.
Let us know if there’s any glaring omissions from our list. Feel free to post links in the comments while telling us how wrong and stupid we are.