Way before Rock Band and Guitar Hero existed, video games and music had a far different symbiotic relationship. Traditionally, game designers would hire composers to construct an original score for their 2D creation in order to parallel the excitement that was happening onscreen. Although these musical accompaniments were rarely considered to be integral to the game’s success, over the past decade scores of musicians have embraced these idiosyncratic arrangements and — like any true video-game aficionado — recognized that it takes an uncanny amount of physical dexterity to pull them off. Below are five bands who have brought the 8-bit Nintendocore sound to audiences worldwide.

HORSE the band

HORSE the band are often credited for coining the term “Nintendocore” — and for good reason when you consider the fact that their keyboardist uses a Game Boy sequencing cartridge to craft an authentic 8-bit sound. Unlike many bands in the Nintendocore genre, HORSE the band have also crossed into mainstream consciousness by touring with everyone from the Fall Of Troy to DragonForce. In our opinion, the reason the band has been able to attract such a diverse audience is due to the fact that they’ve added their own unique musical identity to the standard Nintendocore paradigm via jaw-droppingly technical songs like “Bunnies.”

The Advantage

If you think that it couldn’t be that hard to cover classic 8-bit Nintendo songs verbatim, then you’re clearly not familiar with the Advantage. Formed in the late ’90s in Nevada City, Calif., the band — which features Hella drummer Spencer Seim — has released two albums that tackle video game classics like Castlevania and Metroid. As you can see from this seven-minute take on the “Mega Man 3 Intro,” the Advantage doesn’t simply recreate these classic songs sitting down. They bring a palpable energy to these sometimes-sterile tracks. In other words, if you have the opportunity to see the Advantage live don’t squander it because if these guys don’t convert you to Nintendocore, we don’t know who will do it.

The Minibosses

The Minibosses are one of the most well-established bands in the Nintendocore genre, with an impressive roster of covers including Contra, Double Dragon, Excitebikeand just about every other game you played obsessively if you grew up in the ’80s. The band has been at it for a decade and played everywhere from traditional club gigs to video game expos with equal aplomb. While the Minibosses got their start playing original tracks in addition to Nintendo covers, the group eventually shifted its focus to high-energy renditions of video game classics. Whether you’re a video game enthusiast or just a fan of progressive music in general, it’s an absolute pleasure to watch them pull off these arrangements in person.

The NESkimos

The NESkimos are arguably the most enigmatic band in the Nintendocore community. They haven’t updated their site in years, videos of the band live are hard to come by and the group’s current status is largely in question. However, the Florida-based band has gained a cult-like following via their often distortion-fueled take on classic tracks like the theme to Super Mario Brothers. While the NESKimos’ music isn’t quite as precise and mathematical as, say, the Advantage, the organic subtleties of their take on these classics helps keep things musical — and the fact that they tend to distort many of the guitar lines makes many of these seemingly innocuous anthems ultra-heavy. Here’s hoping they come out of retirement soon.

The Megas

As a band it’s always great to have a niche and you’d be hard-pressed to find a band with one as specific as the Megas — a Los Angeles-based Nintendocore band whose set list revolves around the classic game Mega Man 2. That said, the band is able to expand on this seemingly limited scope by adding in its own musical interludes as well as lyrics which mirror Mega Man’s own storyline. The band is working on arrangements to other Mega Man sequels, but in the meantime the Megas’ main goal is reportedly to cross the pond and head to Japan to play their music for the game’s founder Keiji Inafune. If imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, we’re betting he’ll be completely floored — and a little weirded out.