Favorite use of licensed music in games?

It doesn’t matter if it’s a single song, or a whole in-game radio station, I just wanna know what your favorite “needle drop” moment in a game is.

Did you know, the first Hotline Miami has a pretty ripping soundtrack? Because it does and it still looms large over this medium, for better or for worse, depending on your perspective.

If I were to pick personal highlights however, I’d single out the two Sun Araw contributions.

Horse Steppin, the main menu music:

And, Deep Cover, Jacket’s apartment theme:

These two tracks have gone on to become some of my favorite tunes ever. The former is a great chill out track, and the latter is a fucking party starter

The legend:

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For me it’s Tony Hawk Pro Slater 4. I played it in 2005, 3 years after it came out, but the music changed my life forever.

Growing up my dad listened to a lot of 2-Tone ska, and I really liked it. But hearing Less Than Jake’s “All My Best Friends are Metalheads” was an eye-opening experience. Ska could be fast and loud and punk. Other ones that I loved were Avail and Hot Water Music, but nothing was as good to my 5th grade ears as Less Than Jake.

That song introduced me to tons of good ska and punk music that I probably never would have found without Tony Hawk. In high school I played in a ska band, which led to me getting involved in the local DIY punk scene. Even though I’m older and more into hardcore, ska introduced me to so many friends and changed my way in such a way that I can’t imagine what my life would currently look like had I not owned the game.

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For an overall sense rather than a particular moment, Sleeping Dogs was real good. There was Warp Records, Ninjatune, & Daptone across the radio stations. Which aligns with my own tastes enough that for a half second I wondered if it was somehow automagically pulling from my own mp3 library.

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This is playing during the entire Moscow final boss fight (or so it seems) in Alpha Protocol and it could not be more appropriate.

I would also be doing a disservice not to mention Alan Wake, which uses licensed music to close out chapters, including ending the main game on fuckin’ Space Oddity (and a really good version too). My favorite bit might be the ending of chapter three, where Up Jumped the Devil of all things starts playing.


I always knew Turn Up The Radio wasn’t an original song but it’s nice to finally put a face to the name, as it were

Finishing Metal Gear Solid 3, the credits start and a Starsailor song starting to play was the weirdest shit when I was a kid and I loved it.

Still my favourite game of all time.


Fun fact: It’s not just appropriate because the boss fight is in Russia, but the band is Russian too.

Also the song was also used in Hot Tub Time Machine for the title introduction.

Also also when Thorton introduces this part of the game by saying “how video killed the radio star,” he’s referencing the first song MTV ever played, Video Killed the Radio Star by The Buggles.

Okay… I could have sworn that “Ace of Spades” by Motorhead was in Road Rash 64 and hearing that for the first time was mind blowing but I am apparently mixing up memories.

As such, I gotta echo @mufosta with the Tony Hawk soundtracks. Those games were an incredible gateway into ska, punk, and hip hop. Hearing Assorted Jelly Beans for the first time or, and it is kind of mocked to death, “Superman” by Goldfinger. My high school ska phase was definitely in part due to playing those games. Tony Hawk did a very cool and fun retrospective ranking of the game soundtracks for Vice last year.

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There’s two kinds of answers for this I’ll start with one I actually do like. I didn’t play it at the time but the first Fallout intro sets up that world so well. Who killed the world? 1950’s style American fascists with big dumb armor.

Then there’s one I post ironically

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The Mafia 3 soundtrack contributes so much to the 60s setting of that game. Nothing beats jumping in a big black muscle car and heading off across town to beat down some rednecks while The Rolling Stones ‘Paint it Black’ is blaring on the stereo.


A bunch of friends of mine from high school formed a ska band in college and came up and did a concert where I was in college. Dancing to their (astonishingly good) cover of “Superman” was the most fun I have ever had in college. That song and “Guerrilla Radio” still hold a place in my heart.

Beyond that, the use of “You’ve Got The Touch” from Saint’s Row 4 is probably my favorite use of licensed music in a video game. Without getting into spoilers, Saint’s Row 4 is the game that Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon wanted to be.


I would also add Saints Row: The Third’s use of both POWER and Holding Out For a Hero as well.

Also seconding Alan Wake, that was actually really effective for me!


World in Conflict. in a lot of the interstitial cutscenes in this game you follow these two national guardsmen who get swept up by the army to repel a soviet invasion of Seattle. All game this guy has been trying to get batteries for his new fangled discman. After a harrowing battle in downtown Seattle in the shadow of the Space Needle we get this.

Definitely Saints Row the Third for me too! All of those radio stations were fantastic.

I’ve only played the demo, but the Florence + The Machine cover of Stand By Me at the start of Final Fantasy XV has got to be my pick here. The cutscenes preceding it in the opening sequence are okay, I guess, but suddenly I’m pushing a car and Florence Welch is singing and I am one hundred percent bought in and ready to cry about some boys, let’s go.

Hearing D’Angelo slowly begin to eulogize Arthur in Red Dead.

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hotline miami 1’s soundtrack does indeed rip

but i am in the camp that believes hotline miami 2 actually has the better soundtrack.

there’s a ton of great standout tracks like carpenter brut’s roller mobster

magic sword’s in the face of evil


perturbator’s technoir

but i especially love fahkeet’s light club and how it so perfectly fuels the nightmare acid trip of the final level (video contains ending spoilers btw, but of course none of it will make sense for those who never played the game because hotline miami 2’s plot and storytelling are a doozy)

seconding the saints row the third mentions as well!

@thetribunal you might wanna spoiler tag that

Vampire the Masquerade Bloodlines for the sweet goth music anytime you walk into a club.

Saints Row 3 and 4 for its set piece and singalong scenes.

Alan Wake


Also going to shoutout the Tony Hawk Pro Skater series, Saints Row 3/4, and Sleeping Dogs. THPS was definitely a major influence on my childhood music tastes.

Would also like to add Life Is Strange. Thoe soft/moody indie tunes do an incredible job at setting the tone of the game and it’s lead character, Max.