Last week the music world lost one of its greatest legends. Motorhead frontman Lemmy Kilmister was the living incarnation of rock and roll and an ageless beacon for hard rock fans to rally behind. The old joke was that when the bombs fell, cockroaches and Motorhead would still be standing. He was the man who proudly declared that he wanted his band to make your lawn die if they moved in next door and made music that would send the members of AC/DC scampering for cover with their hands over their ears. In other words, the dude was badass.
The world is way less metal without Lemmy in it and although it was amazing that he lived to be seventy considering his insane lifestyle, I’m genuinely sad that future generations will never see his like. But he has left behind a legacy, not only of awesome music and crazy road stories, but in video games. He famously spent every possible moment of his free time gaming at his favorite bar, was reportedly a big Star Fox fan, and has appeared in and inspired multiple video games over the years. Here are six of Lemmy Kilmister’s contributions to the gaming industry.
It’d be wrong not to open with the fact that Lemmy starred in his own old-school beat ‘em up game named after his band. 1992 was an exciting time to be gaming. If you had a Super Nintendo or at least a Sega Genesis, that is. Amiga, maybe not as much. But at the very least they had Motorhead, a game whose endearing title screen approximation of Lemmy’s musical stylings alone justified its existence.
The game itself consisted mostly of Lemmy brutalizing onscreen representations of other musical genres and healing himself with booze, which actually strikes me as a pretty solid tribute to his life and career. After the rock legend’s passing, some enterprising souls took it upon themselves to convert the game to modern PC format and post it online for free for posterity to enjoy.
And prior to Lemmy’s demise, the Bulgarian Steam-based fantasy RPG Victor Vran was prepping an expansion pack titled “Motorhead Through the Ages” that will introduce elements inspired by the band’s forty year career of demonic imagery and nasty attitude. Expect an announcement soon.
Born to Raise Hell
In 2009, Psychonauts mastermind Tim Schafer unleashed upon the world the most metal video game ever created. Brutal Legend took Double Fine’s trademark charm and humor, Jack Black’s manic energy, the sounds of metal, and some of rock’s greatest icons to make the world’s first and only open world action/RTS/racing/heavy metal tribute game. And you’d best believe Lemmy was at the top of the list of contributors.
He shows up on a gigantic motorbike to aid in your quest as a unit in your ever-growing horde of hellscape-dwelling metalhead revolutionaries. In an amusing irony the iconic bass (strung with the webbing of metal spiders, natch) he used to sonically assault audiences for decades actually HEALS in the world of Brutal Legend. Ironic in a way, but somehow fitting. After all, where the harsh sounds of heavy metal offends most people, for us it’s just what the doctor ordered.
(Don’t let ‘Em) Grind You Down
Gamers who popped Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 into their consoles were smashed in the face with Motorhead’s seminal signature hit “Ace of Spades” right off the bat as it was chosen for that game’s intro sequence featuring real live stunts from some of the X Games’ best. The series was always known for having the coolest music of its day, but this one song is arguably what made this entry memorable.
The sheer chaotic energy of that song is what’s made it an instantly recognizable classic in spite of the fact that I’ve never even heard it on the radio. It’s a natural fit for skate punk culture and the experience of hurtling down a ramp, spinning in midair, and grinding across ledges to that kind of song just perfectly encapsulates the feeling that Pro Skater was always trying to capture. Sometimes, you just need the right soundtrack to bring it all together.
If there was ever a game that Lemmy should star in, it was Guitar Hero (is Bass Hero a thing?). The series had its fair share of playable legends at its peak, but it wasn’t until Metallica got their own game and they insisted on bringing their personal hero along that gamers got to rock out as the man himself.
Lemmy (who can be seen jamming with Metallica irl in the appropriately-named documentary Lemmy) was an obvious fit for the game as one of the most iconic metal singers of all time and “Ace of Spades” was also appropriately featured in the original Guitar Hero and again as DLC in the second game. Needless to say, there’d be a gaping hole in this series without Motorhead’s music.
Love Me Like a Reptile
It doesn’t matter what kinds of games you like, your experiences have been touched by this man in one way or another. When Nintendo product analyst Dayvv (if that’s your real name) Brooks was called upon to name the new villains in what turned out to be arguably the NES’s greatest game, Super Mario Bros. 3, he turned to his love of music and Lemmy Koopa was born.
In a recent Kotaku interview, Brooks declared the long-standing rumor that the character was named after the singer to be true, saying “This Koopaling struck me as being the kind of character who would do his own thing, no matter what anyone else thought. I think it was those crazy eyes. Lemmy Koopa was in the crew.” Both Lemmys are also noted for their massive balls.
If you’ve ever played through a Mario game, odds are you’ve met Lemmy and now you’ll always remember his namesake too. Damn it, I really want to hear Motorhead score a Super Mario Bros. game now…
Ace of Spades
The most iconic line from Motorhead’s most iconic song reads “You know I’m born to lose/and gambling’s for fools/But that’s the way I like it, baby, I don’t want to live forever”. But if any performer should have lived forever, it was Lemmy Kilmister. No other performer’s live sound and presence is done less justice by mere recordings. It feels appropriate to close this journey through the gaming history of a true legend with the fact that the man died gaming. Even more appropriately, considering the song, it was a video poker machine.
When he wasn’t recording or touring, Lemmy passed his time at the Rainbow Bar and Grill in Los Angeles. The two rock institutions are so intrinsically linked that if you googled “lemmy bar” the Rainbow’s official websites were the first three results. He was known for always sitting at the same machine and when he was diagnosed with cancer (just after his birthday party, fuck you very much) the bar’s owner let him take the game home with him. Days later, he passed away in front of it, gaming up until his final moments.
He wasn’t playing League of Legends or Starcraft, but in terms of sheer hours spent playing video games, this man probably has us all beat in the hardcore gamer department. Seventy years old, an unshakable legacy of timeless music, legions of adoring fans, and immortalized in multiple video games; you can’t say it wasn’t an amazing life. Goodnight, sweet prince of darkness. You are already dearly missed.