Warning: Some scenes shown below may have slight spoilers.
While everyone is talking about next-gen visuals and Lara Croft’s reduced bust size, gaming’s forgotten little brother, music, is getting less attention than the kid on the recorder in the school band. Music in gaming can soothe the savage beast or create one: There have been moments where I’ve lost myself in a rock-induced killing frenzy or been so overwhelmed by emotion I’ve shed a tear.
I’m not talking about a game’s overall soundtrack (that’s a list for another day) but rather those music moments that make you pee your pants from such high levels of epicosity or stick with you for a lifetime, elevating the experience beyond what the gameplay or visuals are capable of.
5Call of Duty: Black Ops – Sympathy for the Devil by Rolling Stones
What better way to flex some American muscle and flip off the rest of the world, than by pumping Rolling Stones while blowing up the Viet Cong. Love it or hate it, Call of Duty has always been prone to high levels of bad-arsery. After slow-mo shooting your first few foreigners, Mason and his ragtag squad of clichéd cowboys take to a river in Laos for one of the series most memorable and defining missions, setting the tone for the rest of the campaign.
While the all-American superhero blowing up the foreign devil might fulfill a momentary fetish, causing outbursts of, “America, Eff Yeah!” Like porn, it can leave you feeling a little dirty and guilty. However, it is possible Treyarch was taking a tongue-in-cheek stab at the Vietnam War and the US’s cowboy approach. Jagger’s words, “Just call me Lucifer, ‘cause I’m in need of some restraint” really hits the target.
4Saints Row: The Third – Power by Kanye West
Saint’s Row: The Third is all about embracing your inner hedonist: If it feels good, do it! If you want it, take it! It’s a celebration of wealth, power, destruction and swagger. When it comes to 21st-century excess, Kanye West is your man. In one of the early scenes of the game Kanye’s song, Power, backs you up as you parachute onto a penthouse (as you do) and take it as your own.
As if skydiving into a rooftop pool party wasn’t awesome enough, Kanye boasting, “F*** that, the world’s ours” while shooting your way through a mob of bikini-clad gold-diggers, lets your ego off the leash. While Power is a reoccurring tune throughout the game, being played in trailers and in-game radio stations, its weight and build-up finds its home on this rooftop.
3Far Cry 3 – Make it Bun Dem by Skrillex ft. Damien Marley
Far Cry 3’s entitled, cargo-short-wearing protagonist’s transformation into a tribal mass murderer (real tribal tattoo’s included) would normally have me mounted on my gamer high horse as another clichéd FPS set-up. However, during my first kill, I was put into the vulnerable position of questioning murder and my motives, an act many of us have become all too comfortable with in gaming.
When a flamethrower was thrust into my hands and I was given the task of destroying a crop of weed, all thoughts of shame went up in smoke. As the wub-wub of Skrillex on a distant radio transitioned into the game’s soundtrack, I fell easily back into my killing comfort zone, finding myself enjoying a good touch of weed-induced murder.
As the reggae blared, the smoke rose and the bullets flew, I felt at home. But just as I was thinking, “I effing love this thing”, Jason began yelling the same. This pivotal scene caused me to not only question my own motives but Jason’s mental stability.
2Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP – And as we Get Older by Jim Guthrie
What kind of list would this be without a lesser-played indie title. Sword and Sworcery on iOS and Steam features enough pixel-art and moody chiptune music to give any indie fan a hard-on. Prepare yourselves; I’m about to get into some pretty wanky territory. Sword and Sworcery is so much more than a game, it’s a visual and audio experience (told you). Superbrothers shamelessly flaunt their experimental approach, crossing the line between story telling, concept album and epic adventure.
The entire soundtrack was produced by electronic musician Jim Guthrie, his moody tunes matching perfectly with the changing environment and tone of the game. Upon entering a hidden woodland grove, an in-game character named Jim Guthrie – The Mysterious Musical Fellow, invites us to take a seat by a fire to listen to him play a tune on his guitar. The scene creates a personal conversation between the game, Guthrie and the player. The guitar switches gears from the living pixelated chiptunes to a more real life organic atmosphere, removing the distinction between game and life. Not often does a game allow time for quiet reflection, but Sword and Sworcery grants us a well-deserved, mid-game siesta.
1Red Dead Redemption – Far Away by Jose Gonzalez
As a kid, when I first watched The Good the Bad and the Ugly I dressed as Clint Eastwood’s Blondie for weeks, he was my representation of the hero, gun-slinging cowboy. That was until I met John Marsten (and yes, I occasionally dress like him too). Grizzled, broken and on a mission, John Marsten’s trek across the desolate, unforgiving landscape of the Old West quickly pulled me in. And just as I was feeling comfortable with Marsten’s story, Red Dead Redemption found a way to knock my socks, shoes and hat clean off. About three-quarters into the game, as we crossed into Mexico, Red Dead was still able to surprise me and create the most memorable moment of the entire game.
Galloping across the empty desert the hollow sound of hoof beats is gradually joined by the guitar strains and soft melody of José González playing Far Away, a score written especially for Read Dead. This hauntingly fitting song, unlike anything we expected Red Dead capable of, works perfectly for a cowboy finding himself desperate, alone and far from home.
Before you start calling me a pussy for crying at a sunrise, I dare you to play your way through Red Dead Redemption without getting misty eyed.
What were your favourite gaming music moments? I’m sure you are going to tell me how I missed out ‘Snake Eater’ so head down to the comments below anyway and share your thoughts!