Five Amazing “Real Song” Moments from Video Games


Music is a mood dictator. As I have said before, it can very much dictate to you what you feel in any given moment, even more than that moment itself often does. Music accentuates emotions and feelings, bringing all the best aspects about that moment to the surface, and holding your hand as you experience it. And as much as there are some AMAZING video game scores (hey Blood Dragon, what’s up?), moments in games when they use pre-established music tend to really resonate with me, especially when it’s done right.

Maybe it is because I have emotions already connected with that song, whatever it may be, and hearing it in that moment and context summons those feelings, but how can one even be sure why it affects them so much? The key is knowing it does affect you , and that those songs helped to make these truly unforgettable gaming moments. Also, to clarify about my broken English, by “real songs” I mean songs that existed BEFORE the games were made. In other words, pre-existing songs that were licensed specifically for use in that specific game. Here are five shining examples of that.

Gears of War 3: Mad World


Poor dude lost everything he loved, one by one, and then we had to endure losing him.

I am not talking about the initial trailer for the first game, when they used the Gary Jules cover of this Tears for Fears song to represent the sadness and hopelessness of this situation. No, I am specifically talking about the moment in Gears of War 3 when Dom gets killed sacrificing himself to save the team, and they simply play the piano track to this song, with no lyrics. I THOUROUGHLY messed up by not including this on my “moments in games that make grown men cry” list, but the reality is, when I had written that, I had not played through Gears 3 yet, so I would’ve just been a liar to include it. But I won’t lie, that moment put tears in my eyes, and a big factor in that was just how expertly the composition of Mad World was in the scene, and how it made that loss echo that much more as we sat there, in our own silence, hearing this sullen instrumental track playing.

Also, poor Dom, huh? That guy got ball-kicked in every Gears game.

Red Dead Redemption: So Far Away


Not the moment I am mentioning, but it makes for a much better picture.

I know Unreality EIC Paul has written about how he missed out on this moment, and if you read that article (which I apologize, I cannot link because I cannot locate) readers took the comments to talk about how that was an ESSENTIAL moment to the game. Red Dead Redemption is one of the greatest video game experiences I have ever had, and the So Far Away moment was one of the most amazing moments of that game. so what does that say? Is this one of gamings best moments of all time? I would be so bold as to say yes. Yes it was.

It was John Marsten, riding from the U.S into Mexico on his trusty horse, and the whole time, in real time, So Far Away by singer/songwriter Jose Gonzalez plays. And honestly, I cannot recall a more cinematic moments in gaming. This is an example of AMAZING song licenses being used perfectly, but when has Rockstar done anything else with their licenses? I get chills everytime I hear that line from this song, “step in front of a runaway train, just to feel alive again “. I get chills because I remember the exact feeling I had when I heard it while playing the game. When I was John Marsten, and that song sums up that feeling perfectly. It is a sort of hopeful hopelessness that echoes through the whole game, but never echoes louder than in those quiet moments.

Bioshock Infinite: Fortunate Son


Come to find out, a great many of you shot this woman before the song ended. my nickname for those people? Klansmen.

Has music ever been used in gaming to greater affect than how it used in Bioshock Infinite? Everything, from song selection, to the way they reworked the compositions of these songs, it was truly remarkable to experiencee. And while the game was filled with MANY amazing uses of real songs (from the Beach Boys to Cindy Lauper), for me, the best musical moment in the game was when they took the Creedence Clearwater Revival song, Fortunate Son, which is a REALLY uptempo song about some really down-tempo stuff, and they had a slave singing it while Colombia burnt around you during a civil war. I actually was so awed and moved by that moment, I shut the game off and started it again so I could experience it twice.

Rather than talk this moment to death, I would rather just sit back and experience it again.


I know there are people who disliked the way the song was represented here, but I can safely say those people missed the point of its use entirely.

The reality about Infinite is, a few key tears in the game open up to reveal these songs, and it is just one step in many to show how lovingly the world o Colombia was brought to life. And yes, the barber shop quartet scene ALMOST beat this scene, just barely. In an alternative universe, that would be here in place of this song.

Borderlands: Aint No Rest For The Wicked

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This is the first skag you see in Borderlands, but by the end of the game, you have killed thousands.

Let it be known, right away, that in any other context, I hate this song. From the odd drawl of the lead singer, to the way it reminds me of a song Kid Rock would sing, I just don’t like it.Outside of Borderlands, that is. But somehow, when used in the intro of that game, it works stupendously. I know, I don’t get it, either.

But there is a weird desperation to Borderlands. The feeling that you just need to get that next loot drop. The feeling that you just need to clean out one more area before you go to bed. That really is a No Rest For The Wicked feeling, and when you pair that up with some weathered vault hunters, an old bus, and some cool, cell-shaded graphics, it just feels like a perfect fit.

But again, to reiterate, when this song comes on outside of that context, I draw a face on it just so I can punch it.

Saints Row 4: What Is Love


Maybe this was fun for about five minutes, but wore out its welcome pretty quickly.

Okay, I know I may get some hate mail for this, but outside of the moment I mention here, I think this series dropped off.

I will ALWAYS stand behind the fact that Saints Row 2 is one of my favorite open world games of all time, but by Saints Row 3, I just felt like they were trying too hard to be funny and edgy, and in that, they lost some of what made the series work so well. Namely, that the missions and world they created used to actually FUN. Part 3 was too linear, and the missions lost the factors that made them work so well in the second game. And don’t even get me started on Saints Row 4, which to me feels like they remade Destroy All Humans and Crackdown, and clusterfucked them into one game. I don’t like it. To me it feels rushed and gimmicky. But there is one moment in Saints Row 4 that I really got a kick out of, and wish the rest of the game could have lived up to it.

That moment is here:


All I know is when I finally get a spaceship, it better have a fucking radio.

There is just something so delightful about the juxtaposition of a flying a spaceship through a dark, dystopian while a hilariously cheesy, techno-pop-dance song from the 90’s isplaying, and I just knew I would not soon forget that moment. Maybe it was the fact that  SNL used this same track to GREAT comic effect, but no matter the reason, it just worked for me. A simple, stupid moment, but the one moment that made me say “well, maybe they still got it”.

The rest of the game disproved that to me, though.

Okay, this is the part where I tell you to go check out my site, go read this Batman article which made half the world hate me, and take to the comments here to let me know which real song moments you guys enjoyed that I may have missed out on.

  • drunkenjunk

    Cage the Elephant and kid rock sound nothing alike. cage is talented, kid rock is white trash rap/rock from a bankrupt city. you’re reaching with that comparison.

  • J5

    While this isn’t an in game song, if you’re experimenting with certain herbal remedies and want an awesomely immersive experience with some background noise, but in Halo 2 and right when your shield is regenerated in the beginning, hit play on Deltron 3030.

    Fuck. Ing. Mind blowing.

  • J5

    *but = put

  • Cee Kyuu Cee

    Saints Row: The Third’s use of “Holding Out for a Hero” was perfect, too. And another song in SRIV (a spoilery one) was just magical.

  • @drunkenjunk, I was simply telling you what I felt of Cage the Elephant. Was not reaching at all, actually. Was making a point. And do believe, as the writer of this piece, I am firmly within that right.
    @J5, your knowledge of Deltron makes me instantly respect you, good call.
    @CeeKyuuCee, hahaha, GREAT call, Almost forgot about that one…

  • What a great idea for a list. I would have went for “Can the Circle be Unbroken” from Bioshock Infinite because lyrically it fit the themes of the game to the point where I think it may have actually inspired its creation, but the CCR song was just as good. I was totally enraptured and impressed by the way they used it like an old slave spiritual. Goosebump city.

    I am one of the few people who considers RDR to be a bit overrated, but there’s no overrating that moment. Perfect song to turn what is usually an average gaming moment into something poignant and utterly memorable.

  • Danny

    The “holding out for a hero” moment in Saints Row 3 might be one of my favourites moments ever in a video game. I can’t believe that it’s possible to have a scene that perfectly done in a game that shitty…

  • JT

    Totally with you on Borderlands. Borderlands 2 nailed it too, with ‘Short Change Hero’ by The Heavy playing during the opening scene. It became one of my favourite songs after that 🙂

  • Silidons

    Speaking of halo 2, Blow me away by Breaking Benjamin

  • April

    Bioshock Infinite’s music selections blew me away. I played it several times just for that and the songs feel powerful each and every time. May the Circle be Unbroken was one of my favorites…every single version of it was so damned beautiful. From the choral version to Elizabeth’s haunting voice, it strikes a chord every single time. I missed the calliope “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” the first time through but I heard it later and it made me cry because at that point in the game she’s just so happy and sweet and has no idea of what’s waiting for her. Overall, I think it has the best selection of dystopian remakes and one of the best original soundtracks in gaming. I feel like we were very spoiled this year because Infinite was followed by the equally gorgeous and musically haunting The Last of Us.

  • Steve

    Uh, did you guys get photo-swap pwnd? I only ask because I’m at work, and that picture of a penis probably won’t be appreciated by my IT guys…

  • waelsch

    yeahhh theres a picture of a penis on this list.

  • rooislangwtf

    Ain’t no rest for the Wicked made me instantly love Cage the Elephant, I almost stopped playing Borderlands the first time to go look up the song.

  • Guest

    I’d vote for Mass Effect 3. That piano solo playing as the Normandy escapes the Earth? I still get chills every time I hear it.

    • daftPirate

      Yeah, but that’s original soundtrack music, rather than an artist’s song. Though I know what you mean; I love that track.