Video games are a relatively new art form in the history of the world, but they have inspired a diverse range of illustrations, painting crafts, cosplay, and even music. This music comes in a variety of genres, from retro chiptune music to soaring orchestras, and eerie synth tracks.
While a game’s soundtrack may be iconic, some songs are inspired by the games themselves, and even transcend the medium they inspire, evoking a wide range of emotions from those who listen to them. Here are seven great songs worthy of being in the soundtrack of every listener.
7 Death Stranding By CHVRCHES
Hideo Kojima’s Death Stranding, his first major game after breaking from Konami, is puzzling, to say the least. It has invisible monsters, rain that ages everything it touches, and the protagonist is a deliveryman, trying to reconnect the United States of America after a cataclysmic event known as the Death Stranding. The themes of isolation and the need for human connection are more relevant than ever in the wake of the lockdowns of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This song from CHVRCHES captures these themes in a touching love song. The synth music is soothing, and the lead vocals are ethereal, making it an experience that will shed a tear. It even made Hideo Kojima cry.
6 Take It Back By Miracle Of Sound
Gavin Dunne, who goes by the name of Miracle of Sound on YouTube, has consistently cranked out excellent anthems for fans’ favorite video games and movies. Dunne initially wrote this song to go with the release of Mass Effect 3, the final adventure of Commander Shepherd and the crew of the Normandy, in 2012. In 2021, he revised the track to focus on the major themes that go beyond the video game, specifically pertaining to facing challenges and fighting when it seems like the fight is already lost.
It starts with a synth sound, transitions into a digital piano melody with a violin in the background, then goes into heavy electric guitar. The music emanates the energy of one who has rage and grit, and is digging their shoes in the ground and refusing to let them “bring [them] to [their] knees,” and will continue holding on to their convictions, even though the world is crumbling around them.
5 Pinball Wizard By The Who
This wouldn’t be a list about great songs inspired by video games unless the proto-song of the video game-inspired music is on here. The 1960s band The Who created this song as part of a rock opera in order to get a critic, who was a pinball enthusiast, to spread positive press of the project. The track begins with acoustic guitar, followed by electric riffs.
The lyrics capture the zone the titular pinball wizard is in when using the pinball table, as he “stands like a statue, becomes part of the machine.” The fact that the wizard has a visual and auditory impairment makes his feat even more incredible, as he is not distracted by the flashing lights and sounds of the pinball tables, and can focus on just hitting the ball.
4 Frozen Sleep By Malukah
Halo 4 is 343 Studios’ first entry in the Halo franchise after Bungie parted ways with Microsoft, so the developer had a lot to prove. They delivered on those expectations with an action spectacle that not only explored the ancient Forerunner race of the Halo universe, but also offers a touching story focused on the relationship between Master Chief and his AI companion, Cortana. The Halo games at heart have always been a love story between these two characters.
Independent musician Malukah captures that love story in this somber song. It is basic, consisting only of acoustic guitar and vocals. The lyrics capture Cortana’s struggle as her programming slowly degrades, and the loneliness she experiences while Master Chief is in his cryostasis. The experience that is described here is reminiscent of the struggles that one goes through when slowly losing themselves to Alzheimer’s or dementia, making this piece particularly heart-wrenching.
3 Children of the Elder God By Old Gods Of Asgard
Old Gods of Asgard is the alter ego of Poets of the Fall, whose music appears in the Remedy video game Alan Wake. This particular track plays from a concert stage in the game as Alan and his best friend Barry fight off the otherworldly entities known as the Taken.
The song has everything a metal head loves: Norse mythology, wild guitar solos, and battles against the forces of darkness. Those who listen to the song do not have to be familiar with the game to enjoy it, as it is about the ongoing war between light and darkness that carries on throughout the universe, and it is easy to nod one’s head back and forth to it.
2 The Fine Print By The Stupendium
The Outer Worlds was a hit with players when it released in 2019. This Fallout-esque choice-driven space western takes place against the omnipotent Halcyon Holdings Corporation, the mega corporation and simultaneous government that controls the Halcyon star system.
This song by Gregory J. Holgate, A.K.A. The Stupendium, is a rap track that not only riffs the in-game corporation, but is also an indictment of predatory corporate practices, in which Halcyon charges its employees for everything, including “fees for your mourners.” Workers are trapped in an endless cycle of indentured servitude.
1 Pac-Man Fever By Jerry Buckner And Gary Garcia
Pac-Man was released to the world in 1980, just as arcades were taking off in the country. The simple controls and premise combined with the catchy soundtrack and infectious sound effects made it a hit across the country.
At the same time, two jingle writers, Jerry Buckner and Gary Garcia got hooked on the game and wrote a jingle about it. This song is essentially a time capsule of eighties nostalgia. It captures the frantic energy of the arcade in the music of the time, and the ironic thing is that the song was written before the game exploded in popularity.
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