Things have changed so much since artists used to appear on TV in the 90s. Here are some of the best songs launched by video games.
Back then, they’d announce upcoming songs on TV, or do interviews in newspapers or magazines like Smash Hits. Later, they would burn CDs to hand out at gigs hoping for them to be discovered. Since then, bands have leveraged the internet to achieve their fame with none more significant than the Arctic Monkeys, who first gained fame on the information super-highway before hitting the charts.
The importance of that digital presence has continued to rise. Now, the bands utilise other entertainment areas to spread the word, with video games becoming a place where their tracks are prominently promoted. There are currently over two and a half billion gamers in the world of all ages, meaning that artists who add their sounds to the gaming software are potentially reaching more people than they have ever done before.
While this is great for exposure for the artists themselves, the gaming industry has welcomed the music with open arms, as the audio experience for the players is a vital part of the games to add realism and an extra layer of immersion. Some titles feature fictional radio stations but ‘broadcast’ some huge songs on their airwaves, and there’s no better example of that than one of the biggest names in gaming. Grand Theft Auto set the bar for in-game radio stations, despite the game not being everyone’s cup of tea. Gala Casino explains that it has caused plenty of controversy but features a superb repertoire of musical styles. Grand Theft Auto V, the most recent, has multiple stations featuring dance, indie and even reggae. Another popular radio station in video games appeared on Fallout 76, where Appalachia Radio plays classic tracks from Fats Waller, Bing Crosby and Ella Fitzgerald.
Aside from those established titles, there are so many tracks that have started life on the games or been inspired by them, the best of which we explore here.
Paul McCartney – Hope For The Future
Paul McCartney linked up with the makers of the hit game, Destiny, to make the soundtrack for the space epic. But in working on the musical score, it turned into a track of his own. This classic-sounding anthemic track is a fantastic song, but it also fits the game’s futuristic theming. It also featured on the former Beatle’s compilation album, Pure McCartney.
Blur – Song 2
The FIFA football games are amongst the most popular in the world, and when Blur allowed their thumping tune to become the title track to the version of the game released in 1998, it became an instant hit. It was the first time the games’ developers brought licensed music to the football game, and this was just an absolute banger. Song 2 is punchy, rousing and, even to this day, stands out as one of their best tracks.
Galantis / Charli XcX – We Are Born To Play
This 2020 collaboration between the Swedish dance music producers and the British singer-songwriter is directly inspired by the Super Mario Brothers game franchise. Universal Studios and Nintendo [adopted it as the theme tune for Japan’s new theme park. It has all the tropes of a typical dance hit, with a catchy chorus and beat, and it’s a real earworm for which we’ve got the video game world to thank.
Gorillaz – PAC-MAN ft. ScHoolboy Q
Damon Albarn used the iconic game character as the inspiration for this track last year, and the video features footage of the game. The song is heavily influenced by the little yellow character with little 8-bit sounding beeps and tunes throughout and, the sound of ScHoolboy Q just elevates it to another level. The song comes to a fitting end, with the game over effect from the game too.