Why It's time for a new Def Jam game

new def jam game

Emerging during the PS2 era, Def Jam: Vendetta and Def Jam: Fight for NY are equally acclaimed as bonafide classics to a generation of gamers. Players went up against famous rappers in a extensive story mode that featured authentic voice acting throughout.

The games were published by EA and developed by AKI corporation, creators of the greatest wrestling games from the previous generation. That style of gameplay set the tone for the first two Def Jam games, riding on the dwindling success of sports entertainment.

The fusion of professional wrestling, street fighting and larger than life rap stars was unique, and the franchise's success created a ripple effect, birthing legendary cult classics such as 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand and Marc Eckō's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure.

fight for ny def jam

By the time the third game in the franchise arrived, the mashup gameplay was deemed unsuitable for a hip-hop fighting game, and Def Jam: Icon emerged with gameplay reworked by developer EA Chicago, best known for their work on Fight Night: Round 3.

Def Jam: Icon focused on up-close brawling, mixing up blocks, throws, parries, and using the right analog stick to deliver heavy blows. The game had a interesting system where the background music shuffled along with the fighting, but such unique concepts didn't catch on with players, and the franchise has laid dormant ever since.

In summer 2020, Def Jam Recordings teased fans by tweeting that "the streets were calling out for a new entry in the franchise on Twitter. Posting a screenshot of the character select screen from the first game, the company also claimed that it would have a special announcement when its Twitter follower count reached one million or more.

In the comment section below the tweet, some fans were posting dream rosters featuring far too many rap artists for any one game to contain. Others were simply content with a remaster of the original Def Jam: Battle for NY in the same vein as the recent remasters of Spyro The Dragon and Crash Bandicoot.

sticky fingaz

Needless to say, this isn't the first time that the company has teased a comeback to gaming. Back in 2018, the record label posted several teases on Twitter, as well as a poll asking fans who they would want on the cover of a new Def Jam title.

Naturally people were excited that the franchise might actually be returning after a long absence, but nothing came of it other than a bit of promotion for the official Def Jam Twitter account. 

Could a new or remastered Def Jam game succeed in this era? Absolutely. Both of the PlayStation 2 games are classics for a reason, and people who played them in school are now old enough to put out the cash for a return to a nostalgic favourite.

rap game

Nevertheless, the truth is that the developers of the first two games are no longer in the fighting/wrestling business, and publisher EA would probably jeer at the requests for a hip-hop fighting game when compared to another new UFC or Fifa money-maker.

Worse yet, if Def Jam Recordings were to give the green light, it would most likely end up as a mobile game, a move which would disappoint many fans who have been waiting for a true successor to the ps2 games. It would be great to be proven wrong though.

Why it's time to revive the series

Rap is the new pop and it's everywhere, whether you like it or not. Not only dominating the music charts but also the billboard campaigns, the brand deals, and the tv screens. It's what young people are wearing, streaming, and living. Spreading across the globe like a wildfire.

The hip-hop renaissance is and has been growing at an immeasurable magnitude ; and it's only 47 years old. Hip-hop dominated music streaming in 2017 and fans sought out more rap singles and more rap albums the previous year.


Hip-hop songs were already more popular than any other genre in 2017, accounting for 20.9 percent of songs consumption. That number leaped to a whooping 24.7 percent in 2018, meaning that nearly a quarter of all tracks listened to in the United States came from rap. In 2020, Hip-Hop was once again deemed the most popular genre.

Rap is the most dominant it's ever been, which is why this would be the perfect time to revive Def Jam, introducing the series to not only a new generation of players and hip-hop heads, but also pleasing fans of the yesteryear, who would gladly throw their cash at a new game or remaster.

Because let's face it, since the franchise's departure from gaming, it's left a void which has yet to be filled, and Def Jam Records would be wise to capitalize on this with Hip-Hop's current dominance and strike while the iron is hot.

Even Ice-T, who appeared in Def Jam Fight for NY and is known as somewhat of a gamer, expressed his desire to see a remake. In 2020 the American rapper tweeted a photo of himself in-game and stated that they really need to reboot the game for next gen. 

Back to the Roots
If Def Jam does decide to revive the franchise, then whoever is developing it needs to bring the game back to it's roots and duplicate what made the first two games special. Besides the story and graphics, Def Jam: Icon scaled back on everything FFNY got right and the results proved that sometimes it's best not to fix what isn't broken.
Icon definitely had potential to be something great considering it had a cool story, mean soundtrack, decent selection of rappers and impressive graphics for it's time, but developer EA Chicago strayed too far from the winning formula and ultimately alienated the game's fanbase. 

rap battle
It would be best for business to bring back former producer Hideyuki Iwashita and Syn Sophia, the company formerly known as AKI to develop the game's fighting engine. Currently the company is making indie games for handhelds and arcade machines in Japan.

Who is Hideyuki Iwashita? He isn’t well known, however he is praised and respected by video game wrestling fans who grew up playing his games. He was originally the director for No Mercy in 2000 for the N64. He then moved on to produce and direct the Def Jam games from 2003 to 2006.

For a new game to work it would have to include everything good which was stripped away in Icon, because a Def Jam game without Blazin' Moves, over-the-top wrestling manoeuvres or character stats isn't a Def Jam game.

The roster 

The series has featured some of the biggest hip-hop stars to rock a mic, including Method Man, Ludacris, Snoop Dogg, and DMX. What's also interesting is that even though the game was endorsed by Def Jam, it also included a number of talents that weren’t exactly part of the Def Jam roster at the time.

A new game would do well in not only adding rising rap stars, but also legendary rappers of the past. Ultimately giving players the chance to create dream match ups between mumble and old school rappers.

fighting game

Many people can’t imagine what new era rappers would be tough enough to make the roster, but despite this misconception there are several rap stars (new and old) currently signed to Def Jam Recordings who would be ideal.       
  • Kanye West     NAS
  • Jadakiss           Jhené aiko
  • Jeezy                Dave East 
  • Rhianna           Teyana Taylor 
  • DMX               LL cool J
  • Pusha T           2chains 
  • Fabolous         YG
  • Public Enemy  Big Sean
Getting some of these artists would probably be a licensing nightmare, but all the names above are currently signed to Def Jam, and realistically possible. Putting together a dream roster is nice and all in theory, but it also has to make sense.

Def Jam Remastered

A new entry is promising yet risky, which is why it would be smart to create a remastered collection of the first three games (with online play), even if to test the waters, a move which would please long time fans who have been asking EA and Def Jam to remaster Def Jam: Fight for NY for years.

If not a collection, then it would make  sense to remaster the psp game, a portable version of Def Jam Fight For NY, which features a different plot,  additional characters, brand new moves and four new venues. It's also a prequel to Def Jam Vendetta.

def jam fight for ny

Considering it's a psp exclusive, Def Jam Fight for NY: The Takeover is possibly a game which many fans didn't get to play or even knew existed. So this would indeed feel like a fresh way to reintroduce the game to new and old players.

It’s a shame Vendetta and FFNY probably won’t see a rerelease or remaster due to all the licensing issues, which is why a new game seems all the more likely instead. Still, there's nothing wrong with being optimistic, especially when there's so many old games being remastered.


Your thoughts?

  1. Kanye West would be by far the perfect final boss in a new Def jam game.

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