Behind every great video game, there’s great music. A perfectly placed song can turn a good scene into an unforgeable one and help ingrain a game permanently into our memories. Here’s 10 of the best uses of licensed music in video games.
Metal Gear Solid 5 – “The Man Who Sold The World” Midge Ure
Hideo Kojima would have been hard pushed to find a more fitting song than this to kick-start what has become many people’s game of the year. Originally written by David Bowie, this version by Midge Ure offsets the bleak start to the game perfectly with it’s washy ’80s vibe. Metal Gear Solid games have a history of having badass soundtracks,, with the Snake Eater theme being one of the greatest not-Bond-but-totally-Bond theme songs of all time.
Fallout 3 – “I Don’t Want To Set The World On Fire” The Ink Spots
Fun fact, every Fallout game – with the exception of Fallout 2 – has featured a song by The Ink Spots in its soundtrack. The American vocal quartet reached fame in the 1940s and ’50s for their easy listening sound and obviously made a big impact on Bethesda. “I Don’t Want To Set The World On Fire” featured in the trailer and on Galaxy Radio in the game, while other tracks have featured on Bioshock and Bioshock 2. The Fallout 4 trailer also featured their track “It’s All Over But The Crying.”
Life Is Strange – “To All Of You” Syd Matters
Playing as photography student Maxine Caulfield, this episodic drama juggles American school life with the ability to rewind time. Classic formula. Close to the start of the first episode, Maxine wanders the halls of her school listening to the poetic “To All Of You” by French band Syd Matters. It’s a powerful moment that helps set up the indie styling of the game, and helps paint Maxine as a bit of a social outcast.
Telltale’s The Walking Dead – “Take Us Back” Alela Diane
Oh god. This moment has stuck in my memory since finishing the game way back when. American folk artist Alela Diane’s track “Take Us Back” perfectly encapsulates the entire first season of Telltale’s The Walking Dead with its lyrics. Manly tears everywhere.
“I’ll miss you”
Saints Row The Third – “Power” Kanye West.
Yo GTA, I’m real happy for you, I’ma let you finish, but Saints Row The Third had one of the best licensed songs in a video game of all time.
Is what Kanye would probably say about this. And to be fair to the nutter, he wouldn’t be far wrong. What could be better than parachuting from a helicopter to a rooftop party and blasting bad guys with your guns? Not a lot. Except maybe rushing to save the day in the game’s final mission set to Bonnie Tyler’s “I Need A Hero.” Maybe.
Gears of War 3 – “Mad World” Gary Jules
Another song that was also used in the game trailer, “Mad World” was reused to massive effect for the ending cutscene of Act 3 in Gears of War 3. Already a pretty harrowing song, it’s made even worse when coupled with one of the series’ main characters popping his clogs. Gears of War showing the horror of war. Deep.
Far Cry 3 – “Make It Bun Dem Remix” Skrillex & Damien Marley
I don’t feel any better about dubstep being here than you do, but this track undeniably stuck with players – and probably brought a maniacal grin to their faces – when it kicked in during the ‘Kick the Hornet’s Next’ mission in Far Cry 3. Tasked with taking out a weed farm on the island, your character Jason Brody turns up with a flamethrower, a can-do attitude and an iPod full of Skrillex. Obviously, you get fucking baked in the process. Be rude not to.
Bioshock – “Beyond The Sea” Bobby Darin
Much like Fallout, Bioshock uses the music from yesteryear to amazing effect. Bobby Darin’s version of “Beyond the Sea” conjures images of sun-soaked beaches washed in dazzling clear oceans. In Bioshock, it frolics hand-in-hand with nightmares.
Portal – “Still Alive” Jonathan Coulton
Okay, so technically this song was written specifically for Portal, but it’s still a great track that adds a lot of gravitas to credits that would otherwise be pretty average. Written by Jonathan Coulton and performed by Ellen McLain, “Still Alive” is sung in the guise of the game’s antagonist GLaDOS, and hints that she might be still alive after the final boss fight. Coulton and McLain also wrote and performed the song “Want You Gone”, which plays over the credits of Portal 2. Fun facts for everyone!
Red Dead Redemption – “Far Away” Jose Gonzales
When you cross the border into Mexico in Rockstar’s classic Red Dead Redemption, you’re greeted with Jose Gonzales’ western-tinged “Far Away.” With Jose’s haunting vocals and Latin-infused guitar licks, rarely has a song fitted a scene so perfectly.
Mark is the Gaming Editor for UNILAD. Having grown up a gaming addict, he’s been deeply entrenched in culture and spends time away from work playing as much as possible. Mark studied music at University and found a love for journalism through going to local gigs and writing about them for local and national publications.