Let’s start with a disclaimer: There’s plenty of games with a great soundtrack, but we are talking about a very specific kind of game here: The kind that features songs from ‘real’ bands. We don’t mean games like Rock Band or Guitar Hero either – those would be a little too obvious.
We mean games that have a great and recognisable soundtrack, and that use it well. What does that mean? The soundtrack is actually part of the game, rather than a backdrop so the shots aren’t as loud.
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We are talking about the best use of licensed music in video games here – that’s almost a genre in and of itself. If it isn’t, we definitely think it should be – there just isn’t enough games like these. Damn those licensing laws.
1. GTA V
GTA V’s radio is not too different from other entries in the series – that is to say, you could probably substitute a couple other GTA titles for this one. There is a reason we picked this one though – and most of it is one particular radio station.
The radio in GTA is pretty important – we get regular updates and information about how we have affected the world of Lost Santos through it, and the occasional funny joke too. What music you are listening to really doesn’t matter, the announcements happen on all of them.
That being said, our favourite by far is the Los Santos Rock Radio. Why? Let us name a few reasons: Chicago, Def Leppard, Elton John, Kenny Loggins, Foreigner, Queen, Simple Minds, Pat Benatar and so on.
There are some pretty big names on some of the other channels too – Britney Spears, Wham!, Rihanna, Hall & Oats and so on and so forth. Our point is: This game features some epic, epic music, and it makes listening to an in-game radio fun – not something too many games can claim.
2. Brütal Legend
This game is essentially an interactive soundtrack, and it’s brilliant. The storyline, plot and characters are all funny, and Jack Black does much of the voice acting – it doesn’t get a lot better than that.
Well, we say that, but there is the soundtrack itself – if you at all like Rock and haven’t played this game, you have been missing out. Scorpions, Ozzy Osborne, Black Sabbath, Kiss, Motörhead, Mötley Crüe, Tenacious D, Judas Priest…
All in all, there are over 90 (!) songs to enjoy, most of which are directly related to the gameplay itself. Did we mention that the game itself is surprisingly fun too? It’s not exactly an AAA title, but the combination of action-adventure and RTS really works. Give it a try.
3. Sacred 2
Why? Because of the song written by Blind Guardian specifically for the game. Called Sacred Worlds, they included it in one of their albums. That is much less interesting than what happens in the game though – we are all familiar with your everyday title song, but this goes further – the band members actually appear in-game.
They give a special quest in which the player has to return some stolen instruments to them. These are later given as weapons to the player, and with a little bit of crafting, they can be quite powerful. It definitely isn’t a pointless quest to say the least. The true reward isn’t the weapons though – it’s a unique cutscene that shows an animated version of the band – holding a concert.
As thanks for retrieving the instruments, the player is invited to this exclusive little treat – of course they are playing the titular song. The cutscene is quite well-made for a game that old, and fits in nicely with the game. Look it up on YouTube if you don’t want to play your way through the game!
4. Alan Wake
This game is a little bit of an oddity in itself – which is a bad pun, given that the reason we put it on this list is David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’. It’s used in the credits, during the ending, and it is the perfect scenic end to a game that relied on building psychological tension.
The game is split into six different episodes, and at the end of it, we get a shall we say, ambiguous conclusion. Our main character unravels mentally, and the parallels to the spaceman lost in the endless space of, well, space come across quite eerie.
The song doesn’t play a huge role in the game itself, but like many atmospheric games, it does rely on music a lot. None of it is as iconic as David Bowie’s song though. As for the game itself, it is pretty amazing. After being in development for five years, this title came out in 2010 for the Xbox and 2012 for the PC. It’s a little dated, but give it a try.