As much as we love simulated drive-by shootings, building amusement parks from scratch, or trying endless button combinations to see if the "nude glitch" in Tomb Raider 3 is real ( . . . it isn't), video games just aren't as memorable without a solid soundtrack to amp up the fun. Two weeks ago Julia Mullen Gordon wrote an article about the best movie trailer songs, which got me thinking--what about video games? Small children in remote jungle villages can probably hum the Mario theme song from memory, and I'm still recovering from a childhood spent playing Kirby's Dream land for Game Boy.
From ridiculously fast plastic-guitar strumming to an entire orchestra playing a Playstation staple, here are the top-10 best video-game songs (in no particular order--I'm not about to pit PS2 people against Xbox people . . . or that blue Nintendo thing with the Happy Meal discs.)
1. Crazy Taxi: Sega Dreamcast (2000)
"All I Want" by The Offspring.
There's nothing like launching over a hill in a pimped-out taxi while the adrenaline rushing "Ya ya ya ya ya!" kicks off in the background. The Offspring's carefree punk-rock attitude and Huntington Beach, Calif., origin complemented the San Fran-inspired landscape and curb-jumping antics of Crazy Taxi. At 1:55 long, the single is also the shortest to be released by the band.
2. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3: All systems (2001)
"Blitzkrieg Bop" by the Ramones.
Let's be honest, anyone who was playing this game between doing middle-school math homework and watching Pokemon reruns had zero idea what Joey Ramone was actually singing. My best bet was "Let's get pop." The 1976 song has since been featured in numerous video games, such as NHL 2K9 and MLB 08: The Show, but it'll always go best with spine-cracking falls off of half pipes and street ledges.
3. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City: Playstation 2 (2002)
"I Ran (So Far Away)" by Flock of Seagulls.
The game that finally made it cool to decapitate prostitutes after sleeping with them in stolen cars, Vice City tells the story of Tommy Vercetti, an ex-Mafia hitman who just happens to have all the knowledge and know-how necessary to operate and use rocket launchers, helicopters, tanks, boats . . . and every firearm under the sun. Featured on the in-game radio station Wave 103, which played a lot of pop-rock and dance, "I Ran" is synonymous with the '80s look and feel of Vice City. The soundtrack is stellar, as it features REO Speedwagon, Toto, Michael Jackson, INXS, Yes, and many more.
4. Halo 3: Xbox 360 (2007)
"Halo Theme" by Martin O'Donnell and Michael Salvatori.
The Gregorian chants and rolling tympani during the title screen of Halo 3 are chilling in their own right, but when the electric guitar slides its way into the mix, the mood shifts into an aggressive rock orchestra of power, percussion, and manliness. The "Halo Theme" has been tweaked and reworked throughout the series, from the very first Halo: Combat Evolution to Halo: Reach, but Halo 3 remains the best.
5. Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock: All systems (2007)
"Through the Fire and Flames" by DragonForce.
I tip my hat to anyone who can beat the first 20 seconds of this song on Expert. A principal song in the GH franchise, many have fallen to the power-metal wrath of DragonForce. Though it's really a toss-up difficulty-wise between this and "Jordan" by Bucket Head (which is equally finger-numbing), "Through the Fire and Flames" is--and will continue to be--a standard by which faux-guitarists everywhere are judged.
6. Tetris: Every electronic device on earth (1986)
"Korobeiniki," Russian folk song.
One of the most familiar little ditties on earth, the theme song from Tetris is actually a variant of the 19th-century Russian folk song "Korobeiniki." PC World reported in 2010 that the popular puzzle game has more than 100 million paid downloads since 2005. What does 1080p video and wireless remote controls have on good old-fashioned block maneuvering to Russian music? Nothing.
7. Final Fantasy VI: Super Nintendo (1994)
"Terra's Theme" performed by Twilite Orchestra.
Legions of Final Fantasy worshipers will probably prey on me for not picking something from Final Fantasy VII, the mecca of all FF games, but whatever. Listen to the beauty that is "Terra's Theme" as performed by Twilite Orchestra. How many video games have orchestras sitting around, learning their music? Not Burnout Revenge, that's for sure.
8. Matt Hoffman's Pro BMX: Everything but Xbox (2001)
"Bombs Over Baghdad" by Outkast.
Riding around on two wheels seems boring after doing triple back flips through windows listening to Outkast. Not nearly as commercially successful as anything in the Tony Hawk series--though it was run on the same game engine as the original Tony Hawk Pro Skater--Matt Hoffman's Pro BMX featured boasted Agent Orange, Pennywise, B-52's, Face to Face, and many more on one epic soundtrack.
9. Metal Gear Solid: Sony Playstation (1998)
"The Best Is Yet to Come" performed by Aoife Ní Fhearraigh.
Beating Metal Gear Solid was enough to make someone emotional, and it didn't help that the chilling Irish vocals of Aoife Ní Fhearraigh had to come in and kill any dignity we had left. The song is absolutely beautiful and is widely considered one of the best end-game songs.
10. Super Mario Bros.: Nintendo exclusive (1985)
"Mario Theme" by Koji Kondo.
Written by Koji Kondo, who has written numerous songs for both the Mario and Legend of Zelda series, the theme song debuted in the first level of Super Mario Bros. is one of the most famous video-game songs in the world. Try whistling this bad boy anywhere, night or day, and someone will almost always chime in.
Did I skip over your favorite? Post it in the comment section below!