Gaming culture has developed an increased influence on the music world, from artist partnerships (like Travis Scott’s groundbreaking Fortnite team-up) to visual aesthetics. The latter has certainly impacted the music video landscape, including in recent clips from artists ranging from Huey Lewis and the News to Palomi Mami, but the reality is that artists have been drawing upon the video game universe as inspiration for decades — before the turn of the century, back when nobody knew what the heck an “Xbox” was.
Check out our picks for 10 awesome music videos inspired by video games, ranging from new-school indie-punk to throwback hip-hop, and everything in between:
Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Californication” (2000)
Combine 1080 Snowboarding with Grand Theft Auto, set it all around California, and you’ll get Red Hot Chili Peppers’ visual for “Californication,” nominated for video of the year at the MTV VMAs. As the band plays their way through the song, their avatars play their way through various escapades depicting the commodification of Hollywood, art and even life itself.
Missy Elliott & Da Brat, “Sock It To Me” (1997)
This Supa Dupa Fly standout was given the full late-90s Hype Williams treatment, as Missy Elliott once again leaned into her boldest visual ideas, this time inspired by the beloved Mega Man series.
Junior Senior, “Move Your Feet” (2002)
The irresistible hit from Danish pop duo Junior Senior received a video that serves as a colorful, loving tribute to the pixelated days of gaming yore. D-d-d-don’t stop the beat if you remember grooving to this one during the Dance Dance Revolution days.
Paloma Mami, “Goteo” (2020)
The rising Chilean-American reggaeton star turned into a street fighter — no, literally, she channeled the virtual world of Street Fighter — and earned a victory against her haters with ease.
The Scotts (Travis Scott & Kid Cudi), “The Scotts” (2020)
Travis Scott made history with his Fortnite partnership earlier this year — and his eye-popping visual for “The Scotts,” a joint single with Scott “Kid Cudi” Mescudi, also helped make history on the Billboard charts when it debuted atop the Hot 100, the first No. 1 of Cudi’s career and Scott’s second.
PUP, “DVP” (2016)
See if you can spot your favorite old-school lark in this imaginative clip from Canadian indie rockers PUP, in which each lyric appears as game text — did you ever, for instance, envision such punk intensity from a Pokemon battle?
Glass Animals feat. Denzel Curry, “Tokyo Drifting” (2019)
More hand-to-hand combat with a gamer twist: this clip for the Glass Animals-Denzel Curry collaboration starts with a ‘Player Select,’ then allows the artistic team-up to evolve into a battle for supremacy.
Kelela, “Frontline” (2018)
A large majority of Kelela’s R&B stylings convey deeply personal, human intimacy — so the fact that this video, inspired by The Sims, pulls off its concept while keeping the song’s beating heart intact is all the more impressive.
Seether, “Careless Whisper” (2007)
As if reinventing the George Michael classic as an alt-metal anthem wasn’t bold enough, Seether gave their take on “Careless Whisper” a high-concept video game visual; stick around until the end to catch a little girl turning into a terrifying robot!
Huey Lewis and the News, “While We’re Young” (2020)
Leave it to Huey Lewis to find a way to present his life story in unexpected but crowd-pleasing fashion: in his new Sega-inspired music video, the pop great keeps “leveling up” while remembering key achievements and providing confirmation that his game is still going.
Additional reporting by Denise Warner.