This is my top 5 best uses of licensed music in games. So, I look particularly into how the game uses the song and not just the song as it is. So all those driving games and GTA’s radio will not be included in this list. Without further ado:
5- Shadow Warrior: Stan Bush’s The Touch.
Intros in games or any sort of entertainment really should be great, fun, and gives a glimpse of what to expect from the whole package, and that’s what Shadow Warrior does exactly while Stan Bush’s The Touch plays over the protagonist’s car radio.
4- Red Dead Redemption: Jose Gonzales’s Far Away.
Rockstar use lots of licensed music in their games, but most of them were used in a way to fill the silence. Though technically this entry can be debated as a non-licensed game since it was written specifically for it. The song fades in mid game as you make your way from the United states to Mexico. The song blends so well with the moment it almost adds an extra color to the game and for a moment you will feel the wild west’s desert heat.
3- Max Payne 3: Health’s Tears.
Rockstar used the Health’s Tears in a similar vein to that of RDR; and again, not just used to fill silence but it was used to dramatize an already amazing moment. Near the end game, the song kicks in during a huge gunfight. The song truly captures of what Max is supposed to feel as it has this depressing psychedelic motif to it.
2- Metal Gear Solid 5: Bowie’s: The Man Who Sold the World (Midge Ure’s Cover).
If you know Kojima (The creator of the Metal Gear series), you know the guy likes to use lots of symbolism in his games. Some are great, others not so much, and many are just so convoluted I think even he himself probably gets confused by them now. Bowie’s The Man Who Sold the World was a definitely one of the great ones.
1- Saints Row 3: Kanya West’s Power.
Saints Row started as a GTA clone, but it didn’t take long until it realized its identity as an over-the-roof ridiculous open-world game. So think about it, who is also an over-the-roof ridiculous rapper that believes he’s god? Kanye West. It was like a marriage made on a roof of a nut house. The game starts with you skydiving your way through an airplane and down to a building’s roof and shooting loads of people, and all that while rocking to Kanye’s Power.
I would have put Saint Row 2 on the list for the song “I Need a Hero“, but I didn’t want to have the same series taking more than one spot in the list, but I felt it had to be at least acknowledged.