Music, and how it reminds us of video-games

We recently put out an article on sound in video-games, and how it was an underrated sense in the industry. The article really inspired me to think back to some of the soundtracks that I loved whilst growing up, and how they made me feel about the video-games I used to play when I was a kid. But I quickly noticed that, when I thought of certain songs they made me think of specific games; even if they weren’t directly related. Often, all I had to do was listen to an album whilst playing a certain game and from then on, the album and the game were forever linked. So it got me thinking about the games that I used to play, and the music that I associated with them.

There are one or two obvious songs that spark memories of video-games; with theme-tunes being the most important for me. Whenever I hear the Mario theme, I can’t help but think about the hours I spent playing the game on my old N64, and the same goes for games like Metal Slug, Metal Gear Solid, Worms and Age of Empires. Nowadays, the theme tune for a game seems to be unnecessarily convoluted and I often find that they sound more like a song, than they do a tune. A theme tune is something that you can hum the first three seconds of with everyone around you instantly recognising it. The most memorable intro-tune for me, for some time at least, is the Dragon’s Dogma opening song; just because it’s so rocky.


One of the best games for recognisable music has to be the FIFA series. More often than not, I’ll know what’s going to be big in the charts just by listening to the FIFA play list. It was FIFA 04 that introduced me to Kings of Leon, with the song ‘Red Morning Light’ and it was FIFA 10 that introduced me to The Temper Trap, through the song ‘Science of Fear’. Now, whenever I listen to ‘Red Morning Light’, I’m instantly transported back to 2004 and memories of playing FIFA 04 come flooding back; which mostly consist of instant replays of Thierry Henry tearing shit up. But, it’s not only games by EA that have introduced me to some of my favourite bands. It was Saints Row that I have to thank for sparking my love of Motion City Soundtrack. The song ‘Everything is Alright’ plaid on the radio a lot in Saints Row, and I quickly grew to love the song, and the band, because of it.


But, for me at least, it’s not always songs from a game’s soundtrack that send me drifting through fond childhood memories. I often associate whole albums to certain games, because they’re the artists that I was really into at the time. Whenever I think of Eminem, I can’t help but reminisce about The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. My brother and I would play the game together, and Marshal would ‘serenade’ us with his ‘Parental Advisory’ raps as we explored Cyrodiil, battling goblins and slaying Deadric beasts to songs like ‘Cleaning Out My Closet’. Foo Fighters remind me of The Sims 3, because I used to listen to their album ‘Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace’ whilst trying to make my Sims burn down their kitchen (as you do)… not sure if there’s a correlation between my actions and the music being played; violent video-games and rock are a potent mix according to the new, after all.

I think music is a powerful thing, and it has the ability to latch on to our memories and become a permanent trigger for things that are often long forgotten. It’s not just in video-games, either. Often we’ll hear a song that reminds us of something weird and unique, something that we didn’t even know we had stored away in the far reaches of our mind. So I completely agree with Kailios, sound really is underrated in video-games. It has the power to transfix us in the moment, but it also has the unique ability of bringing us back to that moment, weeks, months or even years after it has happened.

So I’d quite like to know, what songs remind you of what games? Can you hum the theme tune to Donkey Kong without batting an eye? Can you tap out the characteristic chimes of Mario or Zelda? Does the sound of the codec device ringing in Metal Gear still send shivers down your spine? If so, tell me about it in the comments!