Through a series of case studies, this article presents a framework of common musical tropes originally only found in heavy metal music. The use of aggressive “double-kick” drum grooves, galloping bass lines, harmonized melodies, and overall fast tempi are all common elements of many styles of metal that first emerged in the 1980s. Video games developed alongside this musical genre; action, platforming, and role-playing games not only embraced these distinguishing characteristics of metal music, but these tropes are now expected in games of various genres. In addition, other extra-musical topics associated with heavy metal’s lyrical themes—such as references to the occult and fantasy—are common archetypes used to build the worlds of these video games.
Studies have been conducted that examine the cultural similarities between these two cultures, the relationship of music genre with game genre and function, and the use of rock paired with sacred music specifically in battle themes. By analyzing the arrangements, treatment of melodic contours, rhythmic gestures, and harmonic progressions of these games, this article discusses and demonstrates how metal has disseminated into video game culture. There are strong connections between the fast-paced obstacles in Mega Man with the speed of Iron Maiden, the gothic horror stages of Castlevania and Baroque elegance of Yngwie Malmsteen, and how the themes from fantasy literature made their way into video game design and power metal. The worlds of these games are built on their music, but their music is built on a fusion of tropes used in heavy metal culture.