I Love When Mainstream Acts Make Music For Video Games

Image: EA / Kotaku
Morning MusicMorning MusicSet your dial to Morning Music to enjoy friendly chat and great game music with other early risers. Coffee optional!

Welcome to Morning Music, Kotaku’s ongoing hangout for folks who love video games and the cool-ass sounds they make. Today, I bring you a treat: a bunch of games! All featuring killer tracks from mainstream musicians.


Say what you will about Mirror’s Edge Catalyst (actually, please don’t, that game does not deserve the negativity), but at least it had killer music. The game’s pulsing, moody soundtrack—scored by the inimitable Magnus Birgersson, whom you may know as Solar Fields—was supplemented by a song from a band called Chvrches. Maybe you’ve heard of them.

The Glasgow-based electro-pop group sits among a small pantheon of famous (or semi-famous) mainstream musicians who’ve created music for video games, including Florence and the Machine, Breaking Benjamin, and, of course, 65daysofstatic, whose crunchy, industrialized riffs are encoded into the DNA of No Man’s Sky. More often than not, these tunes are terrific. Case in point: that Chvrches song, “Warning Call.” Have a listen:

Chvrches (YouTube)

If this song wasn’t explicitly denoted as a song from a video game, you’d think it was from Chvrches’ back catalogue. That Mirror’s Edge Catalyst basically looks like Chrvches sounds—all future-chic—makes it all the more perfect a fit for the game. It’s the type of song I’d listen to while sprinting from rooftop to rooftop in Glass, Catalyst’s tritely named open-world city. It’s also the type of song I’d jostle my way to the front for at, I don’t know, Paradise Rock Club or Terminal 5 or one of those other mid-sized venues.

For Final Fantasy XV, Florence and the Machine recorded a three-track EP. One was a cover of “Stand By Me,” but two songs were originals—made bespoke for the game—with “I Will Be” as the standout track:

Florence and the Machine (YouTube)

“I have always seen Final Fantasy as a beautiful and creative game so I don’t think I could have worked with another video game,” Florence Welch, the band’s lead singer, wrote in a tweet. “In some ways the landscape of Final Fantasy and my own internal landscape seemed to fit quite well.” (I’ll say!)

Or how about this walk down memory lane. Remember Halo 2, and how it featured tracks from such era-specific acts as Incubus and Breaking Benjamin? I’ll keep my general feelings about the latter to myself, but I will say this: Their song for Halo 2, “Blow Me Away,” fucking fucks. The album version features a vocal track with lyrics that wouldn’t be out of place etched in the margins of a Hot Topic journal. (Here it is for the curious.) But the in-game version is absent the vocal track, absolutely kicks ass, and shows up right at Halo 2’s narrative apex, as you’re staging an assault on an alien vessel. See it in action:

Breaking Benjamin / Dasutein (YouTube)

Compared to the orchestral arrangements that largely scored Halo up to that point, “Blow Me Away,” well, blew me away.

But none of these compare to the ne plus ultra of music-gaming collaborations: 65daysofstatic’s work on No Man’s Sky. As 65daysofstatic’s Paul Wolinski told The Verge, after meeting with Sean Murray, No Man’s Sky’s gregarious creator, it took the band five minutes to decide that it would provide music for the game. They spent the rest of the planned meeting “[talking] about sci-fi.” In 2014, 65daysofstatic played a concert at PlayStation Experience as footage from the then-unreleased game played in the background:

65daysofstatic / PlayStation (YouTube)

At the start, you’ll hear “Supermoon,” the song from the gameplay trailer that really, truly showed off how staggeringly large the game could be. At 2:22, the camera pulls out. It whips through the universe, countless stars zipping by. Every star you see, you can travel to, each one potentially full of promise and intrigue. Man, watching that, I still get chills. Sure, some of that is because of what the game suggested was possible. But that feeling is mostly a result of the music.

Make no mistake: This isn’t to say, in the slightest, that video game audio directors should replace original compositions with famous or mainstream musicians. Nor is this to say that licensed music should go by the wayside. (Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater would never be the same.) I’m just saying, every now and then, it’s a thrill to hear an awesome track from an established band. Now, where’s that Death Cab x Life Is Strange collab?


And that’s it for today’s Morning Music! Surely, I didn’t run down all of the songs famous musicians have written for video games. What are some of your favorites? Better yet, are there any musical artists you’d love to see team up with game makers? See you in the comments, and hope you have a great Wednesday.

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Staff Writer, Kotaku

DISCUSSION

Have we already forgotten that NIN did the entire soundtrack for QUAKE?