5. “Hood Gone Love It” by Jay Rock ft. Kendrick Lamar
Used in: Grand Theft Auto 5
It’s fitting to start with the game series that came up with the in-game radio. I almost used “I Don’t Care Anymore” by Phil Collins, which fits for Michael’s ennui and self-loathing. But I love this song more. “Hood Gone Love It” is more Franklin’s song. It was featured in his character trailer and brings to mind not his attitude, but his back story.
4. “Power” by Kanye West
Used in Saints Row 3
Among all of the power fantasy games out there, the Saints Row series has to be the most ludicrously fun. If it wasn’t before, it was by the time the third and fourth games came out. Kanye’s baller ballad not only plays in the game’s trailer, but at the perfect moment in the game, as the Boss is plummeting out of a helicopter sans parachute into a penthouse pool. “No one man,” indeed.
3. “Here’s a Health to the Company” by Brian Tyler and unknown tavern singers
Used in: Assassin’s Creed 4
Pirate sea shanties were a natural, ready-made soundtrack for Ubisoft’s adventure on the high seas. This song is sung by the singers you find in every tavern. It’s not the funniest or most moving song in the game. However, it’s the perfect song to describe the lonely and transient nature of the sailor’s life in general and Edward Kenway’s in particular.
2. “God Only Knows” by The Beach Boys, covered by A Mighty Wind barbershop quartet
Used in: Bioshock Infinite
The world of Bioshock Infinite is established very efficiently in the first stage of the game. As protagonist Booker Dewitt wanders the streets of Columbia, he passes a sign advertising the Bee Sharps. An airborne stage rises, and the dapper quartet belts out the Beach Boys song a capella. You don’t have to stay and listen, but I’ve yet to meet the player who didn’t. This anachronistic cover shows Columbia’s atmosphere, yet also that something is off in this paradise.
1. “Big Iron” by Marty Robbins
Used in: Fallout: New Vegas
Through pure coincidence, every song on this list is a sequel. But those songs are all perfect for their individual game. This folk song about a tough ranger outgunning his outlaw mark is perfect not just for its game, not just for the Fallout series, but for every Bethesda RPG out there – even Skyrim, if you’re willing to stretch the definition of “big iron” to include an iron broadsword. It’s fun, it’s cheery, and it’s almost certainly perfect for your character. Finding the perfect song for the main character, despite that character being entirely created by the player, is impressive indeed.