As video games have become less for nerds and more a part of the mainstream and rap has overcome the prudishness of society the same way that rock 'n' roll had to, we've see these two huge pop culture influences combine; hip hop video games. Here are some of the biggest collaborations in recent memory.
Awful Hip Hop Video Games
Def Jam Rapstar, Def Jam Rapstar 2 and Get on da Mic
All three of these games are essentially karaoke with the music video playing on screen and the lyrics scrolling about the bottom. There's really not a lot to it, and with rap, really only the timing of your rhyming (see what I did there?) is what can be scored, but who asked for these games. Go watch YouTube of someone playing this and decide if it's any good. I'll save you some time, they're not.
Rap Jam: Volume One
A really bad basketball game on the Super Nintendo (and Sega Genesis) that has "rap" playing in the background. Gameplay consists of "street ball" complete with no fouls and fighting all while playing with the likes of Queen Latifah and Coolio. It's a terrible version of NBA Jam without any of the charm, mechanics and basketball.
Not the Best Rap Video Games
Def Jam: Icon
The two previous Def Jam games were very well received (as you'll see later on this list), but something was missing from the third in the series. You'd think the first foray into high definition visuals in the series would do very well to accent the stylized hip-hop culture, character customization and of course the brawling, but something went amiss. The story is absolutely phenomenal and stands out, not just among the fighting game genre, but is on par with the narrative from any game, and with acting done by actual rappers who portray themselves, it adds a bit of authenticity to the game that strives so hard to imbue the rap culture. Another standout is the music, with a huge assortment of tracks from the entire character roster. What doesn't hold up are the brawling mechanics, mostly due to the lack of physics defying moves from the previous iterations.
50 Cent: Bulletproof
Unlike the Def Jam brawling series, Bulletproof doesn't have any redeeming gameplay. Similarly though, it has a decent story, with again, real-life rappers voicing the characters in the game (but not always playing themselves). The game seriously suffers from a lack of a cover system as it is mostly a corridor shooter where cover is prevalent. Making matters worse is horrendous hit detection. Enemies are targeted with a giant circular reticle that doesn't seem to guarantee a target will be hit, rendering it all but useless, it's frustrating and nearly breaks the game.
50 Cent: Blood on the Sand
The sequel to Bulletproof, Blood on the Sand benefits from the increased graphical capabilities of the first high definition generation. Blood on the Sand has the opposite problem of Bulletproof, a poor story but decent gameplay. The story is more ridiculous than most of the other hip hop video games, and that's quite a statement. Much more fun to play, if 50 Cent is your guy, this is the game to play. It's a tad controversial in that in takes place in the MIddle East at the height of the West's involvement there. It's fair to ask why this setting was chosen, but the game seems to have wanted to capitalize on the recent successes of other shooters that take place among similar settings. Unfortunately it is done with little taste.
Wu-Tang: Shaolin Style
Ugly, with clunky controls and lacking depth, Shaolin Style is still awesome. With RZA beats, fun combat despite the controls, and Mortal Kombat-style finishing moves, Shaolin Style is oozing with Wu-Tang style. Shaolin Style is noteworthy for allowing four characters to fight simultaneously, including four player controlled characters, a feature still not seen often in fighters to this day.
Some of the Best Rap Video Games
Def Jam: Fight for NY/Def Jam Fight for NY: The Takeover
The sequel to Def Jam Vendetta, Fight for NY improves on what was already a great game. A really deep story mode, just like both it's predecessor and successor AND it has the best combat in the series which make this the Def Jam game to really stand out on quality. Musically, the songs are licensed and for the most part, the hits are present. The customization is dialed to the extreme compared to Vendetta, bringing out even more bling for your ice wearing pleasure.
Def Jam Vendetta
This game came out of nowhere, spawning two sequels to mostly positive reviews. Gameplay was tight, the rapper on rapper brawling brought a ton of hype to each fight, really capitalizing on all of the rivalries, real or not, from the studio onto the streets and into the ring. It was just so fun to play, and the special moves made each character worth a try. The biggest surprise however was a story that was of such high quality it's unfathomable that it was part of a licensed rap game.
The Best Rap Video Games
PaRappa the Rapper and PaRappa the Rapper 2
The first PaRappa the Rapper was one of the first rhythm games to make an impact on the mainstream. Unlike all the other rap video games listed above, PaRappa the Rapper is not a licensed property. Also unlike the other games on the list, none of the songs here are even close to the content of the other rap songs, instead, singing songs about trips to the bathroom, eating food and of course, karate. Because of this, and the simple, addictive gameplay that games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band have capitalized on more recently, the PaRappa the Rapper series holds up extremely well and are worth a playthrough.