Top 10 Best Hip Hop games of All Time

best hip hop video games

Hip Hop is one of most popular genres all time and has influenced every facet of pop culture, down to fashion, dance, film, lifestyle and even gaming.

The music genre of Hip Hop isn't just about rapping lines that rhyme, it's also a culture and art movement, which is why when video games and Hip-Hop collide, it's usually a special affair. 

Since the early 90s, Hip-Hop culture has left it's mark on video game soundtracks, playable characters, Easter eggs and even full-fledged games, for better or worse. 

There was a period in the early and mid 2000s where it felt like Hip Hop and video gaming reached perfect harmony. The four pillars of Hip-Hop are MCing, DJing, breakdancing and graffiti, and the early-mid 2000s era of gaming had all of these elements represented, whether that be through audio, gameplay, or visuals.

Looking back, there has been some truly memorable hip hop influenced video games released throughout the years, but here are the best of the best, ranked from worst to best.

10. B-Boy

Breakdancing is the oldest known hip-hop style of dance, and the 2006 PlayStation 2 title "B-Boy" embodied the art of breaking to the fullest, thanks to the beautifully recreated motion captured dancing animations and bumping soundtrack which included hit songs from Eric B. & Rakim and Biz Markie.

As the title suggests, B-Boy is a game about hip hop dance and it's story mode "Livin' the Life", has players take their created B-Boy or B-Girl from obscurity to legendary status in the breakdancing scene.

B-Boy is a rhythm game and players dance off against other b-boys (in turns) to prove themselves with their best moves, as they pull off some of the coldest breakdancing moves. The gameplay is by no means a walk in the park, but practice makes perfect.

9. 50 Cent: Bulletproof 

50 Cent is one of the most successful rap moguls in hip-hop, and in 2005 the Queens rapper not only pursued an acting career on the big screen, but he also starred in his own video game, 50 Cent: Bulletproof. 

The action game revolves around 50 Cent carving a bloody path through New York's criminal underworld as he seeks vengeance on those who wronged him. Along the way he teams up with his G-Unit crew Lloyd Banks, Young Buck and Tony Yayo as he blasts his way to the truth.

This game also included appearances from Dr. Dre, Eminem, and DJ Whoo Kid and won an award for “Best Original Song” at the Spike Video Game Awards in 2005.

8. Wu-Tang: Shaolin Style

The legendary rap group Wu-Tang Clan dabbled in a few ventures outside of music, which also included getting their own video game. The group's admiration for old martial arts movies led to the development of the 1999 PlayStation game Wu-Tang Shaolin Style, a violent, explosive hip-hop flavoured Kung-Fu fighting game.

Shaolin Style was innovated for it's time mainly due to it's four-player multiplayer support which was a first on a Sony console. Meanwhile each member of Wu-Tang Clan was given their own fighting style and had to fight through 36 chambers to avenge their master's death.

In addition, it paid homage to the Wu-Tang fighting style and came with a must cop special “W” controller based on the group's symbolic “Wu-tang W” logo.

7. DJ Hero 

After the commercial success of Guitar Hero and Rock Band, DJ Hero was released in 2009. While the other two rhythm games catered towards rock n' roll fans, the younger sibling gave the rap and EDM crowd their own video game shine.

 The scratching LP title explored the origins of hip-hop, shedding light on experimentation with turntables and break beats, made trendy by old-school Djs such as Grandmaster Flash and DJ Kool Herc in New York City. It was an interesting concept with an even more interesting soundtrack.

With the game's turntable kit, players could combine classic hits with new rap songs, like 2Pac's "All Eyez on Me" with Marvin's Gaye's "I Heard It Through the Grapevine", or LL Cool J‘s "Rock the Bells" with MC Hammer’s “U Can't Touch This”.  It was popular enough to gain a sequel in 2010.

6. Marc Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure

For many, this game serves as love letter to one of the four elements of hip-hop -- the art of graffiti. Released in 2006, Marc Ecko's Getting Up focuses on the illicit thrills of spraying graffiti combined with combat and daring acrobatics in a futuristic dystopia.

Set in the fictional city of New Radius, an oppressive concrete sprawl under the guise of a corrupt police state, you play as Trane, a rebellious teenager with aspirations to be the best graffiti artist in his city. To achieve this goal he has to spray his tags, increase his reputation and take on rival crews using either spray cans, his fists or whatever blunt objects he can get his hands on.

Besides it's graffiti homage, the icing on the cake to Getting Up is definitely the soundtrack which truly adds to the atmosphere of the game, with the likes of Rakim, Mobb Deep and Talib Kweli bumping in the background.

5. Parappa The Rapper

rapping dog

Beloved Parappa The Rapper — credited as the first true rhythm game, is a hip-hop adventure featuring a colourfully lovesick, beanie-wearing rapping dog with a heart of gold. Players take control of Parappa and are required to input buttons in time with screen prompts as he freestyles rap bars over simple beats,

Despite the plot which involves Parappa trying to win the heart of his crush, the game feels like a huge homage to the art of freestyling, a rap technique more common in the 80s and 90s, rewarding players by giving them the highest rank if they spit a dope freestyle.

4. Def Jam Icon 

Def Jam Icon was hip-hop's answer to Fight Night, in fact it was created by the same developer. Instead of boxers, you fought with rappers, and your weapon was MUSIC. 

The third iteration was not well-received by players and critics due to changing the formula of what made it's predecessors iconic. Unlike the first two games which largely focused on fast paced grappling and wrestling, 2007's Def Jam Icon was focused more around boxing, striking and the unique concept of integrating music into combat.

Despite all of this, Icon isn't worth passing by all together as it's still a solid fighting game with a great deal of style, rhythm and originality. With a moderate roster of real-life hip hop artists signed to Def Jam at the time, and a massive variety of character customization options. 

One aspect of the game that's been greatly improved upon from its predecessors is the storyline. Unlike the previous game, where you were an unknown fighter trying to make a name for yourself in an illegal fight club circuit, Icon's Build-A-Label mode puts you in the shoes of a brawling record label executive who attempts to the climb the ranks of the music industry to become a record mogul.

3. Def Jam: Vendetta 

In 2003, EA BIG released a one of a kind professional wrestling video game featuring an assortment of Def Jam signed artists. In the game, players could choose between four protagonists and take on rappers such as DMX, Ludacris, Method Man, Joe Budden, Redman and others who all just happened to be signed to Def Jam at the time.

Your mission, knock them all out so you can face their leader D-Mob (the antagonist of the game, who is possibly based on Death Row Records co-founder Suge Knight) and get back Angel, the protagonist's love interest who is portrayed by actress and singer Christina Milian. Def Jam: Vendetta was embraced by Hip-Hop heads and gamers.

2. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas 

Og Loc rapping in gta san andreas

Early '90s West Coast hip-hop culture takes center stage in Rockstar Games' 2004, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, largely due to the involvement of West Coast pioneer DJ Pooh, who was hired as a co-producer and writer for the game. 

Players take control of ex gangbanger Carl "CJ" Johnson who gets roped back into a life of crime with his former gang, when returning home after the death of his mother. Set in 1992 in a city which is roughly equivalent to Los Angeles California in the early 90s, naturally hip-hop culture is embedded in the game’s narrative.

San Andreas captures the essence of West Coast hip-hop in so many ways, from minor details such as Carl Johnson and the rest of the Grove Street families resembling the iconic rap group N.W.A, to real life MCs like The Game, MC Eiht and Ice-T lending their voice to characters in the game.

Let's not forget the in-game hip hop radio station which featured many relevant hip-hop songs of that era including Dr Dre, Ice Cube, Tupac and many more. The music industry itself also figures in the plot of San Andreas, where gangsta rap production is presented as the hot new thing.

1. Def Jam: Fight for NY 

After the unexpected commercial success of  Def Jam: Vendetta, EA would greenlit a sequel in 2004 and end up creating the greatest hip hop video game of all time. 

Not only was Fight for NY more brutal and bloody than it's predecessor, but it also incorporated an expansive character creator, new fighting styles, more rappers, larger than life interactive stages and a much deeper story mode, effectively trumping Vendetta in every way that mattered.

Considering that this is a fighting game featuring rappers, very little rapping is done. The game's story sees the player's created character team up with D-Mob  (the antagonist from the first game) and help him reclaim his chunk of the underworld that is now controlled by a sadistic and dangerous individual called Crow, (menacingly portrayed by Snoop Dogg).

Fight for NY mimics the "rags to riches" tale so rife throughout hip-hop's history, with you starting out as a lackey in basic clothing before moving up the ladder and being able to embellish yourself with shinier jewellery and fresh outfits

It's rappers and gangsters portraying street fighters who are living the rap lifestyle, and coming out the winner in a big fight, before readily throwing down cash on a ridiculously oversized gold chain, that's just what makes Fight for NY so special, and the reason it's the most underrated fighting game.

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