In early February 2010, it was reported that Megadeth was working on a yet unnamed secret song project. What the project was about or how it would be released was not known or announced at the time. Several weeks later, ultimately after much speculation, the project was reported to be a promotional recording by Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine. In early March the song had its name announced: "Sudden Death", though some sites had mistakenly reported the song as "Sudden Deth". A few months later it was confirmed that the song was written exclusively for Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock, and would be featured in an important part in the game. The Megadeth songs "Holy Wars... The Punishment Due" and "This Day We Fight!" were also set to be featured in the game. It was the first song Megadeth recorded with original bassist Dave Ellefson following the replacement of James LoMenzo in early 2010.
About the recording of the song, Mustaine remarked, "I thought it was a great idea for us. We've had experience with games in the past, and our songs have been in sports games and Grand Theft Auto, but we never really got into the Guitar Hero thing. When they talked to us about doing this, I never imagined it would be something this honorable." Later in the same interview he continued, "Only once in my career have I had this happen before," referring to 1991's soundtrack for Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey, to which Megadeth contributed "Go to Hell". "We had written something and Interscope told me to make the lyrics even darker. Activision heard the track, and said, 'We want more solos on it.' And I said, OK, I can do that." Before release, for promotional purposes, Dave Mustaine had publicly played the song on Guitar Hero showcasing the high level of difficulty of the song, to a high degree of media coverage. To further promote the game and the band, a T-shirt was released featuring the cover artwork.
The full lyrics were later confirmed and released officially after the release of the song, along with official single cover art, featuring the band's iconic mascot Vic Rattlehead falling from the sky with a failed parachute and burning angel wings.