games / Columns

The Top 8 Musical Cues in Games

December 21, 2022 | Posted by Marc Morrison
Metal Gear Rising Image Credit: Konami

Welcome all to another edition of The 8 Ball! I’m here this week to talk about music/song cues in video games, specifically ones that play during certain sequences or story beats. This isn’t really a best soundtrack/best track column, but more of a “best song for the moment” type of thing. It is directly tied to my number one pick, which I recently played, and fell in love with. With that said, let’s begin:

#8: Colin McRae Tribute Video (Dirt 2)

This might be slightly higher on my list but they kind of cut up the song a bit. The song is “Mountains” by Biffy Clyro, which is about a 4 minute song. However, for the tribute they cut it down to about a minute and a half and it’s a bit jarring. Still, the song in question pairs quite nicely with the video as it shows both some of McRae’s biggest victories and also some of his rolls and crashes. It seems like after Dirt 2, they basically abandoned the whole Colin McRae branding, which is a bit of a shame. Now that John Madden has passed on, I doubt EA is going to rebrand it from “Madden” anytime soon.

#7: Palace Break-In (Persona 5)

“Life Will Change” is the song that plays whenever you break into the palaces in Persona 5. It’s the kind of energetic jazzy song that is meant to pump you up to face off against whatever palace boss you run up against. It is only slightly mitigated by the fact that most people will just ignore going through the palace again, since a shortcut is almost always at the boss door to said palace. Still, I found Life Will Change to be one of the best songs in the game and a nice change from the regular dungeon running music.

#6: Amusement Park (Nier: Automata)

The best way I’d describe this song is “whimsical”. Don’t get me wrong, Nier: Automata has a great soundtrack already, orchestral music, some songs have lyrics/chanting, to suspenseful tracks, and even epic action tracks. When you actually get to the Amusement Park though and hear the song start playing, I was kind of blown away and just stopped for a few minutes listening to it. It’s also a great set piece in the game, since most of the areas you explore are completely bombed out or destroyed. The amusement park has just enough vestiges in it to be familiar but you can see the decay has set in. It would’ve been a good song for that “Robot Carnival” anime that came out a few years ago.

#5: The Asylum (Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines)

The song in question is called “Isolated” by Chiasm, a surprisingly local musician in Michigan. The song itself is kind of a weird, electronic/industrial song with her singing over it. But the song oddly really fits in to that specific area with you having to deal with the vampire sisters Therese and Jeanette Voerman. You only really hear it when you’re around or inside the club, which helps with the whole nightclub vibe as well. I’ve always wondered how the developers stumbled upon the song, Chiasm isn’t that well known, but maybe that’s just a mystery.

#4: Satellite Fall (Alan Wake American Nightmare)

So good, you hear it three times, at least if I remember right. I know for a fact you hear it twice. The nature of American Nightmare is based on loops. The first loops will take about an hour, the second loop about 45 minutes and the last loop about 15 minutes. With every loop, you have to do the same things but with every loop, things get done quicker/easier due to people kind of realizing what is going on also. Unlike with past (and future) Remedy games, American Nightmare didn’t really have a ton of popular music in it, so this was one of the few instances where a song was in the game and it was a bit surprising listening to it.

#3: Party Time Mission (Saints Row The Third)

We can pretty much *all* agree that Kanye West is crazy at this point, right? Yeah, that goes without saying. I’ll be honest, I am astoundingly out of the loop on some pop culture stuff, especially with regards to music. So playing Saint Row The Third was either my first or second exposure to him and I really liked the actual way it was used in the game. Unlike with some music, it’s not used as an inherent gag, which is still valid, don’t get me wrong, but it’s used more as a tone piece of as a mission statement to the game itself. Like, the lyric of “I guess every superhero needs his theme music” syncs perfectly with the fact that you are skydiving onto a rooftop party in order to take it over.

#2: Ray Boss Fight (Metal Gear Rising)

This would have been my top choice had it not been dethroned by a recent entry. This has to be one of the all-time best song cues in a game, or really, any media at all. You play through most of the boss fight with just the instrumental version playing in the background, hacking bits off of Metal Gear Ray and attacking its legs. It’s not until Ray is at 0.1 that it tries to slice you with its big blade that the lyrics really kick in and it is sublime. You catch the blade, proceed to throw the building-sized robot in the air then land on it and slice it up, all while the lyrics continue to be sung. It really proves that Rising is the best Metal Gear game of all time.

#1: Giganto Boss Fight (Sonic Frontiers)

The new king has arrived, all hail the king! Literally the second this music cue happens, when you turn into Super Sonic, I burst out laughing and had a big smile on my face. I, intentionally, lost the boss fight twice, just so I could repeat the sequence a few times. Most of Sonic Frontiers music is either kind of calm orchestral stuff or some techno music for the Cyberspace levels. However, for the Titan boss fights, they got Kellin Quinn to write/sing the songs and it is magical. I have never heard of this guy before but he’s a genius! The fact that he’s singing on and on and you are having a Dragon Ball Z-esque fight with a huge robot makes this one of the funniest moments in all of gaming. Simply watching it isn’t enough, Sonic Frontiers is worth the cost of admission just for this one fight.

For comments, list your favorite song cues in video games.

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