• Chris & Mark

Top 10 - Licensed Video Game Soundtracks

For Those About To Game...

Soundtracks to games are vital for setting the scene, they’re important we receive a strong message that we’re either, safe, tense, in danger, fleeing etc. Some games rather than use their own composers opt to use licensed music tracks by professional artists and these songs can then become synonymous with our gaming experience. Here we are going to list our top 10 uses of licensed tracks in gaming that send us rushing back in a wave of nostalgia..oh and Rhythm and Action games are excluded and we’ve done our best to avoid filling it with racing and sport (but there’s some – cant’ be helped).

It’s rare I get to reference anything from the smut genre on NOWO but now seems as good opportunity as any. Those that have played any of the long running series will know of its misogynistic roots. Each game involves you chasing down a variety of ladies, usually with dire results. Whilst the early titles had some cheeky charm about them they gradually degraded in quality to a series of mini-games and not good ones at that. Ultimately the series has been put out to pasture following the final entry (the hideous “Box Office Bust”) in 2009. It finds a place on our list here however with the PS2, PC and Xbox title as whilst you frequent the frat and street parties the same song can be found throughout the whole game (and even on any stray radios or jukeboxes you may stumble into throughout the story – Girls Girls Girls! Perfectly summing up Laffer’s focus and quest…

Much like the Wii that followed it, Sony’s Eye Toy was marketed as family fun and the demographic spanned the whole spectrum from small children to the elderly (arguably focusing more at each end rather than the middle). Eye Toy Play included a range of mini-games which really served as a showcase as to what could be done with the camera, not unlike Wii Sports. One of the games – Wishee Washee involves you simply moving your arms and the rest of yourself around to wash the soap off of the screen (acting as a window). This can be enjoyed by as many people as you like at once and due to the presence of every grandparents favourite track of George Formby’s “when I’m cleaning windows” playing, is likely to entice even the OAP’s into giving it a go…Cheesy? Yes…but fitting.

When you are as bad at realistic driving games as I am, the burnout series offered an amazing accessibility into the genre. Still keeping top notch graphics for the day but replacing gear changes and racing lines, with arcade controls and takedowns, Burnout offered a bridge between games like Destruction Derby and Carmegeddon and the more real world based Gran Turismo.

Takedown was my favourite iteration of the series, and still is to date. The crash mode where your task is to create as much damage and destruction on a single run through a pre programmed scenario is yet to be bettered and in fact this mode got way worse in later releases.

However by far my biggest memory was playing this game on Takedown mode. One particular early course which I had learned pretty much by heart had very few places to actually crash (this game was very forgiving as you bounced from road barrier to road barrier). Takedown mode allows you to zip around the track as many times as you can before your car is too damaged to drive, and your only task is to Takedown (basically smash off the road) as many competitors vehicles as possible. The commercial, boppy punk rock sounds of My Chemical Romance as I destroyed vehicles after vehicle seemed a perfect fit and started my long held, guilty pleasure of loving MCR.

Often overlooked by its arguably superior peers, Rogue Trip was developed for PS1 by SingleTrac, the same studio who gave us the Twisted Metal and War Hawk franchises so it’s fair to say they know their way around vehicular combat. The game used an adapted template from Twisted Metal and added Tourists to the mix. These need to be collected in a capture the flag fashion and driven to the various photo ops around each stage which in turn earns you cash/points. And what’s better to inspire you upon this merry crusade than a bit of Ska courtesy of the Mighty Might Bosstones! The track compliments the light hearted nature of the game fantastically and will have you humming the chorus long after you’ve destroyed the planet (You could even destroy the planet on this one and watch the result from the moon)…The Last Hurrah? Nah I’d Do IT AGAIN!

Any fans of NOWO will know of our shared love for all things Borderlands. Therefore, it’s only fitting that this song be etched in memory as one of the first moments I spent in the borderlands world. The refreshing, cell shaded beauty of Borderlands is still a look I love, and with the opening credits being so cinematic taking us through the roster of available characters backed by the little known but perfect “Ain’t no rest for the wicked”, the scene and tone of the game is almost perfectly set before you’ve pressed a single button.

I sincerely hope that people didn’t skip through the intro as there are few that I can think of that live up to this standard. Even today as the art style stands up admirably.

“Ain’t no rest for the wicked, until we close our eyes for good”. The lyrics sum up the games fast pacing in such a great way for me, the dirty country vibe of the music mirroring the pseudo western feel to this first person, loot based shooter.

When it comes to sports games there are no story lines to accentuate through music (Aside from the recent EA “campaigns”) and so music in these games often plays the role of mood setter or hype builder. I can’t think of any better mood setter in a football game than Song 2. The funky beat intro as you load the game is burned into my mind. So much so any time I hear it I am cast back to my young teen years of gorging on FIFA 98 for pretty much all the time I couldn’t be out actually playing football.

I think the pinnacle moment of this song is when the vocals burst in with the “Wooo hooooo” (It’s way less cool in written form) which just created immediate hype to dive into a match, season, cup or friendly of the beautiful game. During the age of the PES/FIFA battle, which still rages, I was firmly in the FIFA camp for the same reasons I am today. Their monopoly over the real player and team franchises. I couldn’t get past the fact I didn’t want to play as London Blues instead of Chelsea on PES, back then amongst my friends PES v FIFA was the Blur v Oasis. The only difference was that I could enjoy both bands, but the different controls between PES and FIFA, notably the shoot and long pass button being reversed, meant my muscle memory made me lose every time to PES friends.

I simply cannot hear the opening YA YA YA YA YAH! Without seeing the yellow Crazy Taxi cab flying off the top of the pseudo-San Francisco cable car street (usually over or through said cable cars). To me the song has become synonymous with the game which is probably down to it only having 4 tracks recycling during gameplay. Of the 4 this stands out by far as it matches the frantic action on screen and lasts an average play-through of a stage. It’s an escalating track which gets louder as it goes on (at least it feels that way!) only increasing the pressure on you to drive faster and deliver that final passenger and that’s the aim of the whole game so..winning?

This may seem a bit of a cop out but bare with me.

There are few games which are able to create a wide, open world which feels real and lived in. Whilst it may not truly hold up to today’s standard Vice City was one of those games for me. But not only did it create a sense of place, it did such an amazing job of creating a sense of time and era.

The music underlying this game, delivered mostly through the car radio as you drive around underpins and supports just about every part of this game. From the slick storyline, which would not look out of place alongside Scarface, through to the bright, beautiful Miami-esque art style, the music reinforces the both the time and the mood whilst also cementing a feel of realism to the fictional city.

Whilst not the first 3D GTA game, Vice City for me as one of the first times I felt truly free to exist in a 3D environment and really do what I wanted. A large chunk of that was simply driving around the streets with radio blaring out Kim Wilde’s “We’re the kids of America” (Woooaaah!).

Tried my best to avoid racing games on the list as they lend themselves very easily to standard playlists but for me the WipeOut series stands above the crowd. You’ve got to remember the time to fully appreciate this, Sony were trying to make their mark on the console market with the original PS1 and they wanted to show that they weren’t to be a flash in the pan and that they were heralding the next generation of gaming. WipeOut did a fantastic job of doing this with its grimy industrial aesthetic and angular vehicles which hid the basic 3D that lie underneath. To top it off the futuristic package it employed popular dance musicians to provide the soundtrack including Chemical Brothers and Leftfield. The sequel is what I’m talking about here and it upped the ante with improved visuals and mechanics as well as a vastly improved soundtrack which expanded upon the artists used the first time including now The Future Sound of London and my choice for this entry (getting to the point finally) an instrumental of Prodigy’s Firestarter. All the music was good and suited the title’s style but for me this is the track I’ll always remember bombing around at 160kph…

Ever restarted a level over and over to make sure that the song counter ticks round to your favourite song? Sure you have, and I don’t think there was a single game I did this more than Tony Hawks.

I was never a cool skateboard kid, I could barely stay on one, so the idea of jumping off rooftops performing 720 nose grabs was as farcical as me taking down an alien invasion single handed.

Therefore “So here I am, doing everything I can, holding on to what I am, pretending I’m a superman” was the perfect audio metaphor as I soared through the streets and air on my board. Other than perhaps snowboarding games of the time there were few games that gave you the fluidity of movement that TH did. Weaving through the courses from trick to trick felt as liberating as Goldfinger’s punk rock classic.