Music in videogames can serve one of two major purposes. For the most part, it’ll be the background ambience to accompany you on your way through the game, only stopping when there’s something you need to pay attention to or when you quit playing. However, music can also be the leading actor in the scene, directing the player through the events that are unfolding. Here’s six gaming moments that had me in goosebumps because of the accompanying music. Warning, potential spoilers ahead for DmC: Devil May Cry, Life Is Strange, Saints Row IV and Prey (2006). If any of those are in your backlog, you may want to skip this one for now.
So, in no particular order:
The opening of Ridge Racer Type 4
Most racing games have flashy intros that set the tone quite well, showing off highly detailed models of the exotic cars you’ll be driving. However, R4’s opening was different - it followed a brief story of Reiko Nagase, the series' long running mascot. Cars were still prevalent, sure, but the music that went along with this story elevated the scene.
Lilith’s Club in DmC: Devil May Cry
The 2010 pre-boot of the Devil May Cry series retained a lot of the heavy metal rock music that was a staple of the franchise at this point. However, in the Lilith’s Club level you’re given a series of fights and platforming challenges to the soundtrack of Noisia’s “Lilith’s Club” and Combichrist’s “Get Your Body Beat”. It flips the status quo of the series' music on it’s head and the mixing of the two tracks is perfect for the action onscreen.
The final scene of Life is Strange
Some players may have missed this one, depending on the choice they made at the end of the game. Without going into spoiler territory, let’s leave it that “Spanish Sahara” by Foals will always make me think of this moment and what it represents. You'll know what's coming - but you'll still be taken aback by the crescendo.
Climbing the rocket in Saints Row IV
A direct parody of the movie Armageddon sees the protagonist climbing a rocket in order to destroy it, all the while receiving radio messages from his fellow Saints expressing their adoration of his selflessness. Set to the tune of Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing”? Perfect.
The bar at the start of 2006's Prey
Right off the bat in Prey, you’re in a bar, learning a bit about your character Tommy and his history. There’s a jukebox where you can select a few songs, but when the shit hits the fan the jukebox changes itself to the opening licks of “Don’t Fear (The Reaper)” by Blue Öyster Cult. From that ominous foreshadowing, you know things are about to go from bad to worse.
End credits to Max Payne 2
The final song in this list “is the perfect exclamation mark to everything that has led to this point”. When the end credits of Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne roll, you’re treated to the sultry words of “Late Goodbye” by Poets of the Fall - inspired by a poem penned by Sam Lake, the writer of the Max Payne games.
There you have it. There’s many other games with musical interludes that really emphasised the scene they were a part of, but I’m only human and haven’t played them all.