It’s no secret that the soundtrack to a game can tug at your heart strings, but it’s also a huge driving force behind the feelings of nostalgia we get when we replay a game from our younger years.
In the past, I’ve written about some music in adventure games, RPGs, and rhythm games, but there’s another whole chunk of game genres that feature popular music, as in, from bands from that era. To this very day, I give credit to a large part of my current musical taste to the video games I used to play during my formative years. If you’re not a fan of punk rock and grunge, you may not totally appreciate this list, and that’s alright. But I’m sure if you’ve played any of these games, you had at least one of these songs stuck in your head at some point.
Just thinking about putting this article together on my way home from work was giving me great flashbacks of gaming memories – hopefully some of these will ring that same bell for you too!
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater – Nintendo 64 (1999)
One of the tracks from this masterpiece of video gaming perfection came on while I was in the gym and I responded by morphing into the Hulk, lifting the gym over my head and tossing it across the highway. With the purest tracks in skate punk and ska selected from the golden age of both, this soundtrack was a large part of what made the game so memorable. It paired perfectly with the gameplay and helped make the whole series wildly successful throughout the 2000s.
The THPS series was critically acclaimed for their soundtracks, and all installments in the series contributed their own unique list that evolved in sound just as the gameplay did in style.
What took the excitement-driving soundtrack to the next level was when Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 was released in 2001, as it was the first in the series with online connectivity. Riding around and shredding with your friends to CKY and Motorhead just made it that much better, although the split-screen was a blast in its own right.
Favorite Tracks: Suicidal Tendencies – Cyco Vision (THPS1), Millencolin – No Cigar (THPS2) and of course, everyone’s favorite: Goldfinger – Superman (THPS1).
Crazy Taxi – Dreamcast (1999)
“Ok – YA YA YA YA YA!”
If you spent hours playing Crazy Taxi, every note of this 2 minutes of punk rock perfection that is The Offspring – All I Want is probably embedded into your head so deep that it will be the last thing you think of when you fade away one day on your death bed. Yeah, it’s a morbid thought, but every time I hear this song I still can’t stop myself from thinking, “I hope I hear something that awesome right before I croak. If I’m lucky I’ll be playing Crazy Taxi as well.”
This game was one long adrenaline rush centered around the simple premise of picking up and driving people around in a taxi. The soundtrack was loud and fast, the gameplay arcade-y and chaotic. There have been several more iterations and plenty of re-releases of the original on every console imaginable at the time (including arcade cabinets), and a few more additions to the soundtrack itself, although my memories of this game are purely from the Dreamcast version. I’m fairly certain the whole soundtrack was Bad Religion and The Offspring, and that’s not a complaint. It was perfect for this game and helped make it the absolute blast that it was.
Favorite Tracks: Bad Religion – Them and Us, and.. oh, I don’t know… “YA YA YA YA YA!” with the Offspring – All I Want.
ATV Offroad Fury – Playstation 2 (2001)
The soundtracks for ATV Offroad Fury and it’s successors were little cornucopias of fantastic music. Not only do I credit this game with unveiling some of my favorite bands (still to this day!) but the developers Rainbow Studios played a big part in open-world extreme sports games from the late 90s until present day. Not only did they inspire my passion for motocross with Motocross Madness from 1998, but they continue to put out great games under the MX vs ATV umbrella.
Favorite Tracks: Alice In Chains – Them Bones, Soundgarden – Spoonman, and Bender – Isolate.
If you’ve played any of these games, I’m sure just a few chords from any of those soundtracks took you right back to simpler times. I know I had some trouble wrapping this up and keeping it short, because I kept getting lost in YouTube, listening to all my old favorite game soundtracks and remiscing with commentors until my fingers went numb.
I had to leave out a few games but I wanted to leave room for follow-up lists – I had far too much fun taking myself back. So much fun in fact, that I might have stayed up until 2am on Ebay, and put through the order you see below.
Nostalgia: it’s a hell of a drug! Thanks for reading folks.