You know what I love – music in video games. Especially when it’s really good. When it’s not, it sucks. But there are so many truly amazing songs that transcend how I think about a game or that set the tone perfectly. Or, in some piece’s case, set’s the tone just fantastically. However music is used, it can make or break the experience. Which is why I love it when there is a song that is either used specifically for a game, or in some cases written for a game to advertise it. Here is my list about my favorite pieces of usage of a song as promotional material for video games. Sometimes they advertised it perfectly. Other times it wasn’t the best, but it still set the tone for the hype train. With one of them, I am hoping that it isn’t setting me up for disappointment. That would suck. Let’s get to it.
10. I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire, by
Whatever your opinion of the Fallout series, it cannot be denied that they have some truly fantastic marketing. The way this song was used in the teaser trailer got people excited. The juxtaposition between the song playing out and the destruction you see as the camera pans out is just awesome. Finally, you get to see the destroyed capital in all its glory, with a member of the Brotherhood of Steel standing there, looking menacing as fuck. I am not the biggest fan of these games, but I don’t deny that I get sucked in with the music. I’m a sucker for old-timey stuff.
9. Everybody Wants to Rule the World, by Tears for Fears
There are a couple reasons why I like the usage of the song in this game. The first is in-game. You hear the original version in the game when Elizabeth opens a door to Paris. That part is cool and all, but I also love the version I linked above. It’s a pretty awesome cover of the song. There have been some absolutely stellar versions of the song in the last few years. Lorde’s version is pretty good too, and so is this one. It’s one of many songs that show that music from other worlds made it to Columbia and the people there translated it into a style that was acceptable to them. You hear this version on the radio in Columbia at one point. All of the covers in that game are awesome.
8. Dream, by the Pied Pipers
This version of the song only made it into the trailer, but hot damn! This song is almost flawlessly used to set the tone for the ominous display of psychic powers that the girl who is implied to be an adult Little Sister uses. She stands there, by the ocean, holding a homemade doll of a Big Daddy and recreates Rapture with the sand. The implication is that she can’t stop thinking about that place, and secretly yearns to go back. Perhaps some part of her life as a Little Sister remains, twisted up in dreams. Part of me wonders if that trailer and the game we got were originally meant to be two different things. Like maybe the original game was going to be about a Little Sister who goes back to Rapture and sees what’s happened. Or maybe there was some darker plot involving the Little Sisters that even growing up and leaving Rapture couldn’t stop. I don’t know, but I want to.
7. Short Change Hero, by The Heavy
Batman: Arkham City
A piece of music only used in a trailer, it is a surprisingly good trailer. The lyrics “this ain’t no place for no hero” fits so perfectly for that game, because Arkham City is a sesspool, overrun with decay, violence and carnage. Then you have the Bat, who is introduced with Hugo Strange saying that he creates the animals that he fights against. It’s a contention that I happen to agree with, but that’s neither here nor there. Shots of Batman trying to survive in the city, and a few of the villains that will be plaguing him. The catchy tune plays out, and then there is a truly fantastic reveal for the Joker. I loved this trailer when I first saw it, and I still love it now.
6. Jingle Jangle Jingle, by Kay Kiser
Fallout: New Vegas
Once-again, a near-perfect usage of music to set the tone for the game. In the trailer that it is featured in, we see one of those music bots flying around, just doing its job. Then some wasteland asshole shoots it. The robot tries to recover and go back to doing its job, and the asshole shoots it again. This leads in to some clips showing off the world and all the carnage that you will be partaking in inside the city of New Vegas, ending with you seeing someone dressed like Frank Sinatra walking away from the whole damn city blowing up. The trailer ends with that poor robot still trying to do its job, and the tagline, “enjoy your stay.” Perfectly done.
5. Iron, by Woodkid
Assassin’s Creed: Revelations
Whatever your thoughts on the quality of this game (I am not a fan. The changing of Altair’s voice is so noticeable and not for the best. Not to mention the world is small and boring), the truth is that it was marketed so damn well. This song is awesome! It hits all the right notes. It starts out contemplative. In the trailer you have Ezio in a prison, waiting for death. The hidden blade is broken beneath him. It doesn’t look good. Then we change gears, heading toward the ancient home of the Assassins. When he arrives, he sees that it has been taken over by Templars. Now he must fight their overwhelming numbers. For a while, he seems to be doing well. But then tragedy strikes, as he sees Altair’s ghost, which leads to his defeat. We cut back to him about to be hung by the Templars at the same overhang that Altair jumped off of, years ago. But just when all is lost, we see Ezio attack, back in the fight. Awesome.
4. Still Alive, by Lisa Miskovsky
Here is a piece of music that was written for the game itself. That is what I have really been building to. Promotional music done well is cool and all, but this sort of stuff just gets my attention much more. Premiered in the initial trailer for the game, it got your eyes glued to the first-person parkour of the game that is the reason that it became such a cult hit. Too bad it was followed up by such a mediocre sequel. Makes one wonder if DICE can do anything right. But that’s neither here nor there. This song is hopeful. With the visuals of Faith being on the edge, you feel the tension and how a song like this can go with it. This girl is taking insane risks and putting her life in danger. But she is still alive. A fitting title, an awesome song, an underrated game with a mediocre sequel.
3. Sins of the Father, by Donna Burke
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Another song written for the game it is in. This piece tells the story of the fallen hero, Big Boss. He is the final result of the sins of the government that he fought for. Forced to kill the woman who was a maternal influence and also his lover, Snake has fallen to the point that now he is a devil, living in his Outer Heaven. The in-game usage of the song is with Skull Face where he talks his pretentious talk about his history and how his culture was destroyed, with their language being taken away from them as the final result. And sure, the song does play on that a bit, talking about language and death, but I think it’s more to do with the fact that Snake has fallen to the point that he came out of Hell to become a monster who would have to work secretly to destroy Cipher and his former comrade, Zero. This song is catchy as fuck, but not as catchy as one we’ll see further up on the list.
2. Stand by Me, by Florence + The Machine
Final Fantasy XV
Probably the greatest cover that will ever be made, this version of the classic song sets the tone of this game so perfectly. This game isn’t just about Noctis reclaiming his throne. Sure, that’s the basic premise, but this game is also about another part. In one trailer, you start with the epic part of the trailer, and it transitions into this. Why? Easy – because this game is also the story of Noctis and his friends. Their companionship is at the center of the trailer I linked above. That is awesome. A fantasy game that features bros on a road trip, with their friendship at the center of the story makes me so excited. The 29th can’t come soon enough. But this song gives me chills each time I hear it.
and the best song promoting a video game is…
1. Snake Eater, by Cynthia Harrell
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
This is one of the greatest songs ever made. When this game was designed by Hideo Kojima, the whole idea was to riff on James Bond movies, but to subvert the tropes in this movies. The beginning of this game opens with this theme song doing just that. It is done in the same jazzy style of the openings to old Bond movies, but it is subverting how those work. In the average Bond movie, you have some gorgeous woman being all sexy while the music plays. Here, the only thing you see naked is a snake, slithering around. That naked snake becomes a metaphor for the entire game, and how it isn’t about the idea of a spy or anything like that. It’s the idea of Snake, naked and defenseless. There are many scenes that emasculate Snake, like how Boss kicks his ass every time she sees him, or how the main love interest is never given what she wants and in the end double-crosses Snake. This is the best theme to any game, and the best piece of music written for a game too. I love it so much.
What songs in games do you love? Let me know in the Comments
Until next time, a quote,
“I gave up my body and my child for my country. There is nothing inside me now. Nothing at all.” – Boss, Metal Gears Solid 3: Snake Eater