Games In Music: Nostalgic Themes Found In Your Tunes

As video and computer games have gained popularity in the past few decades, the music in them has become perhaps as iconic as the actual games themselves.  Think back to Tetris, Pokémon, and Mario.  Even when simply thinking about a game, it’s likely you run the soundtrack through your head.

To capitalize on the fond memories and nostalgia of gamers and geeks, many artists in several genres have sampled classic games sound effects and themes.  The kick in the head of these sounds make listeners remember the enjoyment (or frustration) a game brought them, and subconsciously makes them enjoy the game featuring said songs or sounds.

Most often found in dubstep remixes, video game songs and effects have also been sampled into hip hop and rap songs as well.  Here’s a list of songs that use bits of video games to make their songs.  No particular order to these.  And fair warning, the lyrics in the some of the songs below (read MOST of the songs) are explicit, viewer discretion is advised.

1. Tetris – Electrixx

We’ll start with a dance/electronica mix. This song is obviously sourced primarily from Tetris, and even has a break that simply plays the Tetris Theme A or Korobeiniki. It also features a bass heavy section that throws in some bits and pieces of the sounds from the game, triggering the nostalgia as much as possible.  Easy to dance to, and easy to enjoy if you like any kind of old school games or even just Tetris.

2. Mope – Bloodhound Gang

This one is a bit less respectful (not surprising of Bloodhound Gang) of the game, but it does use the theme of Pac-Man and feature it exclusively in the song at one point.  For the sake of making the point, I skipped to the point where it’s featured.  The language is a bit strong, in the song overall and even in this section, just a fair warning.  Though this song is basically a dumping ground for pop culture, so it’s not too surprising to find it here.

3. Never Been Part II – Wiz Khalifa

This one features music from Chrono Trigger as its backing music track, which is arguably one of the best ways to draw people into a rap song.  It makes the song flow easier, and it makes a song more relatable to a larger audience.  Wiz Khalifa is in general easier to listen to, because he’s at least understandable.

4. Lavender Town – Stephen Walking

This song, which is only the first song on the list by dubstep artist Stephen Walking, features the music from Lavender Town in the original Pokémon games. Dubstep is an obvious genre choice when looking for songs that feature video game themes, since the music is normally built around samples from other songs or themes.  For the next few examples, since they’ll all be dubstep, I’ll go through them quickly, and give you the name of the game from which the song features music or sounds.

5. The Elder Scrolls Dubstep – Stephen Walking

Fairly self explanatory, features music from Morrowind and Oblivion.

6. Super Mario Dubstep – SNIPERmicSNIPER

Again, self explanatory, Super Mario mixed into a dubstep song.

7. Human Video Game – DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince

Good old Fresh Prince.  Nothing like the nostalgia this song brings up.  For those of you that never listened to The Fresh Prince or DJ Jazzy Jeff, you’re sure to at least have heard the theme song to The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.  This song kicks you in the nostalgia on TWO FRONTS.  Typical Fresh Prince, not to mention a beat-boxed Donkey Kong theme song.  Can’t go wrong.

8. Super Brooklyn – Cocoa Brovaz

Semi-modern rap, but it is sampled straight from Super Mario Brothers.  It makes it fun to listen too even if you don’t care about the topic of the song, which seems to be hustlin’ in late 90’s Brooklyn.  Rap and games mix well.  Doesn’t matter the tune, but the more popular the game, the easier it is to relate to.

9. Round Em Up – Tonedeff

More semi-modern rap, this time sampled over the theme from Kid Icarus from the NES.

10. Punch Out – Statik Selektah

This song is maybe the best use of video game music to support the lyrics that I’ve heard yet.  Draws, obviously, from Punch Out on the NES.

11. One Way – Wiz Khalifa

Wiz Khalifa is possibly the most obvious gamer in modern rap.  He samples classic games in several of his songs, even if its just to have a tune to rap over.  In this one, he’s sampling Kirby’s Adventure.

12. Throw Dem Thangs – Indo G

Probably one of the closest releases of a song to the game it samples.  This song released in 1998, just one year after Goldeneye 007 released on the N64.

13.  Hellbound – Eminem, J-Black, and Masta Ace

This one samples Soul Caliber from the Dreamcast in 1998.  The team rap is classic Slim Shady style.

That rounds out the list.  Do you have a favorite song that features music from a video game?  The popular genres for this type of thing, as stated before, are pretty much any genre that makes regular use of sampling (hip hop, rap, electronica, dubstep) but other genres certainly can use riffs from themes in them.  Share your favorites!

(Thanks to SPIN for some solid examples)