People love a good video game score… but that’s not what we’re talking about here today. Of course, there is a place for the sweeping instrumentals that make your heart swell when you play Zelda or that make your heart race a little faster when you get to the brain jars in Psychonauts (OK, maybe that one is just me). But video games with soundtracks, not scores, also deserve a little more love.
Games like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and FIFA have a special place in so many peoples’ hearts, and they introduced so many people to amazing music. There’s something so satisfying about playing a game with a song that fits just right, and hearing that song later and thinking of the game.
From classic hip hop to classic punk, there are a few video game song selections that just do it like no other. If you want to reminisce, or even simply find some new games with great soundtracks, look no further, because there happen to be plenty of them.
The 10 best songs people recognise from video games:
10. ‘I’m A Swing It’ – House of Pain (Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3)
Getting things off to a classic start, we have ‘I’m A Swing It’, which is this unique ska-tinged track on the Skate soundtrack. Even though Skate 3 has a lot of bangers, this one is a fan favourite that a lot of people have begun to associate specifically with the game.
OK, maybe this one isn’t a classic, because it’s on Skate 3 with is the most recent of the Tony Hawk games, but it definitely has that classic Skate feel, especially with that ’90s, ska-inspired swing.
9. ‘The Nights’ – Avicii (FIFA 15)
Plenty of people think FIFA 15 is the best FIFA soundtrack of them all, and this song is probably one of the reasons. This song isn’t specifically from the game or made for the game, but when you hear it in the game, there’s a sense of “yes, this definitely fits here”.
Yes, it’s a pop track, but it is one of those catchy pop songs with heart that you can’t help but love a little. Plus, the electric breakdown is kind of perfect for the FIFA game.
8. ‘Midnight City’ – M83 (GTA V)
This GTA V track is one of the most iconic indie songs of the era, making it almost funny to see it included in GTA. Some people don’t even remember it being included in GTA, but it’s got this special almost-invisible sense that makes it a great background track for the game.
This floaty, electronic-inspired track belongs on everybody’s playlist and has stood the test of time, whether or not you actually found it through the GTA universe.
7. ‘Victory’ – P. Diddy, Notorious B.I.G., Busta Rhymes (Fight Night 2004)
Featured in 2004’s Fight Night, this song is basically jam-packed with some of the greatest names in rap. Most people don’t know this song from the game specifically, but you’d be surprised—it did introduce some people to the song.
This seven-minute project of a song goes through so many sweeping melodic shifts that all hit just perfectly. Definitely a classic, video game or not.
6. ‘1979’ – Smashing Pumpkins (GTA IV)
While this song isn’t immediately video-game-associated, it was included in GTA IV, and it’s a great Easter egg. Similar to the M83 track, it’s an indie gem that blends somewhat seamlessly into the fabric of the video game.
This isn’t so much a song that the video game promoted, but instead a great moment reserved for playing the game when you can pause and go, “Hey! I love this song!”
5. ‘Around Town’ – The Kooks (FIFA 15)
Wait, are you serious? FIFA used a Kooks song? Yeah, and it’s a fantastic choice of one, too. It seems that GTA isn’t the only game on the wave of using some indie artists to add a little colour into their soundtrack — and let me tell you, they’re all better for it.
Not only does this indie-rock jammer fit extremely well into the game itself, but it also stands well on its own. There’s not too much crossover between those who tend to be big Kooks fans and those who tend to play FIFA religiously, so it’s nice to think that this game might have introduced the song to a new audience.
4. ‘Live On Stage’ – Dilated People, Talib Kweli (NBA Street Vol. 2)
This one deserves a remaster. It’s practically begging for it! Included in NBA Street Vol. 2, this song has an old school beat and a great flow, but it brings heaps of nostalgia for everyone who played the game. Even though nobody has touched the arrangement since 2003, it’s still worth the listen.
Even a look at the comments of any video of this song, and you’ll learn right away that people simply love this song, and they associate it with the game almost instinctually.
3. ‘No Cigar’ – Millencolin (Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2)
There are some Tony Hawk Pro Skater songs that are simply timeless. This isn’t one of them. Oh, no, it’s even better. This is the emo pop-punk angst that we all wanted going into Skate 2. It’s the perfect early-2000s track to take you back to your high school skater kid days. You know, if you want that kind of thing.
What’s more, this song is sort of permanently tied to the game. Even the YouTube comments are filled with people reminiscing. It’s just one of those common songs that always brings back the specific, visceral memory of Skate 2, which makes it perfect for this list.
2. ‘Kids’ – MGMT (FIFA 09)
It’s no secret at this point that the FIFA games have fantastic soundtracks, but this one pretty much takes the cake. This one could be described as yet another indie jam to grace a video game soundtrack, but with the pop crossover power that this song has, I find it’s actually even much more than that.
‘Kids’ is a classic song that defined the late 2000s and early 2010s as far as indie music is concerned, especially in the world of festivals. And including it in FIFA is sort of perfect for the era.
1. ‘Cyco Vision’ – Suicidal Tendencies (Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1)
Maybe I just have a soft spot for the Skate games, but I maintain that utilising Suicidal Tendencies in the soundtrack was absolute genius. It’s the classic punk vibe that people love when they’re playing Skate, even if they don’t have a super strong grip on exactly what makes classic punk.
This song is fast-paced, and just the absolute gritty punk angst that you come into a skate game craving. Of course, this song has a life outside of the Skate games, both before and after its release, but it really does make a home for itself in the game like the final piece of a puzzle. It’s such a perfect fit.