Top Ten Video Game Music Tracks with Lyrics

Growing up, I’ve always been a music fan, and a single look at my collection can tell you I’ve a pretty eclectic taste: Metal, Thrash Metal, Speed Metal, Hair Metal, Billy Joel, Power Metal.  But even having been exposed to a lot of musical styles, some of my favorite songs have come from video games.  I don’t know what it is about video game music.  Maybe it’s because I heard it so much growing up.  Maybe it’s because I couldn’t readily listen to it when I was a kid unless I was actually playing the game, making the songs that much sweeter when I actually heard them.  Or maybe It’s because the music is just that damn good.

I remember humming this tune throughout elementary school.

As I got older and more mature, so did the gaming industry.  Chiptune ultimately gave way to full-blown symphonies and real instruments, and sometimes these instruments were accompanied by vocals.  It was always a real treat to hear an original song with vocals in a video game, and I still love it to this day (hell, some of the best come from the past few years!).  Recently, I sat down to scour my music collection in order to create a video game themed playlist for an hour-long drive I had to make.  To narrow it down, I chose to only include music with lyrics, and that’s how I got the idea for this list!

Now, I’d like to present to you my Top Ten Video Game Music Tracks With Lyrics!  Here are the requirements:

  • The song has to have lyrics
  • The song has to have been made for the video or for its marketing
  • The song has to kick ass!

But first, I’d like to give you my Honorable Mentions.  These tracks are pretty kick ass but fail to make my list because they either didn’t meet my criteria or they just didn’t kick ass enough.

HonorableMentions:

~ “Oh No You Didn’t” (Mercenaries 2: World in Flames)

The Track

This song is great, and not just because of its ironic musical style, which I can best describe as being a combination of classical piano and gangster rap.  What I really like are its terrible lyrics.  They’re so bad because the guy who wrote it, Roger Wojahn, set the song to a very ambitious rhyme scheme involving internal rhyme on every line and every line was set in couplets.  This makes some of the word choice and lyrics sound weird/redundant/lame (saying “when I get vicious tomorrow” to make it rhyme with “you will do the dance of sorrow” is dumb and creates an odd image, but I love it!).  The chorus to this track is fun and funny, and it always makes me smile.

My Favorite Line: “When I get vicious tomorrow”

Why: I guess when someone “bust[s] a cap in [your] ass,” you’re going to need a day before you “get vicious.”  Or maybe “vicious” is a form of gangrene…?

~ “SEGASATURN SHIRO!” (Music Video)

The Track

If you don’t know who Segata Sanshiro is, you must stop reading this immediately and watch every Sega Saturn commercial he’s been involved in.  Go ahead.  You know where YouTube is.  I’ll wait.

…Wasn’t that shit amazing!  If these commercials had been run in North America, the Saturn would have thrived and Chuck Norris facts would have been reserved for this guy!  Seriously, watch the commercial where he throws a guy and makes him explode, and then tell me you don’t want a Sega Saturn.  You can’t!

The track I’m putting in the Honorable Mentions is titled “SEGASATURN SHIRO!”  I love how it’s in all caps, lacks a space where one is obviously needed, and has an explanation point.  That’s how you know this track means business!  Though I don’t know what the lyrics are saying, I can still enjoy the uplifting inflection and the music’s majestic tone that will always remind me of Segata Sanshiro’s hilarious commercials and noble sacrifice.  And the chorus is fun to sing along with, too.

My Favorite Line: “SEGATA SANSHIRO!  SEGATA SANSHIRO!”

Why: Because chanting such a venerable name is invigorating.  Also, it’s the only part of the song I understand.

~ “Camp California” (Camp California)

The Track

Camp California is a platformer for the TurboGraFX-16 about being environmentally conscious.  And it sucks.  But you know what didn’t suck about it?  The music!  It was full of redbook audio greatness, giving us crisp, CD-quality Rock-A-Billy and Surf Rock!  It also turns out that this group of bodacious animals just so happens to be the official mascots for none other than the Beach Boys!  While playing, you’ll hear greats like “Fun, Fun, Fun” and “Good Vibrations.”  However, it’s the opening title screen I’m giving this Honorable Mention to.  It’s not particularly good, but it’s goofy and campy enough to be fun, especially when it spells out “camp” and assures you that that’s where you want to be.  It’s lame for all the right reasons and takes me back to the stupid commercials and themes I heard as a kid.  Plus, the opening drums are a nice touch.

My Favorite Line: “Camp, Camp, Camp, Camp, Camp Cal-I-Forn-I-AYYYYYY!”

Why: Can it get any cheesier?  No, it cannot.

~ “DK Rap” (Donkey Kong 64)

The Track

C’mon!  You got to know this one!  Who doesn’t know the “DK Rap”?  Even if you didn’t play Donkey Kong 64, you had to have heard the remix on Super Smash Bros. Melee.  It’s iconic, stupid, and hilarious.  I’m pretty sure it was Nintendo’s way of trying to show how grown up and hip they had become.  I mean, it has “Hell” in its lyrics.  Just check the above pic.  Whoa!  Cover up your ears, kids!  Nintendo’s in the house!

My Favorite Line: “Grapes, Melons, Oranges, and Coconut shells!”

Why: This line is kind of a dangling modifier.  Are they trying to say that grapes, melons, and oranges have shells, too?  That’s English teacher humor for ya, folks!

~ “The Great Mighty Poo” (Conker’s Bad Fur Day)

The Track

I remember renting Conker’s Bad Fur Day because a friend told me about all this weird and unbelievable stuff in it.  I just couldn’t fathom that, in a Nintendo game, there was a giant mountain of shit where an opera-singing shit monster resided.  I had to play it myself, and, man, was I shocked to see the Great Mighty Poo.  Not only did he exist, but he had a nice set of pipes on him.  The song he sings is juvenile and gross, but outstanding all the same.  And it’s all done while you fight him!

My Favorite Line: “I’m gonna take your head and ram it up my butt!”

Why: It’s really Conker’s reaction and the following sing-songy conversation they have that makes this line awesome.

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10.) “Katamari on the Rocks” (Katamari Damacy)

The Track

This track is full of energy and is accompanied by strange visuals that make as much sense sober as they do when you’re high on LSD…  not that I’d know.  Point is: weird game is weird, but it has a catchy-as-hell opening tune.  The lyrics are pop hogwash with their “Na’s” and their “La’s,” but that’s what I love about it.  It’s impossible for me not to think about the insane opening sequence when I hear this track.  And it’s impossible for me not to smile when it randomly comes up when I have my iPod on shuffle.

My Favorite Line: “Don’t a worly; do your best!”

Why: Engrish, foo!

9.) “Clay Fighter Theme” (Clay Fighter)

The Track

I remember renting this game and feeling my jaw drop when I heard this.  How is my Super Nintendo singing!?  It was just amazing.  I used to just turn this game on and listen to the opening.  I like how this track starts out as a typical circus tune and then gets “interrupted,” turning into a synthesized rock epic about fighters made of clay that are indifferent to whether or not you hit them or smash them.  Seriously, listen to the solos.  I can only imagine that the person who was given the task to make the theme song to a Plato-based Street Fighter II ripoff was like, “Fuck it.  I’m gonna shred this shit and blow your minds!”  Well played, sir.  Mind officially blown.

My Favorite Line: “Clay FIghter!  Clay, Clay Fighter!”

Why: It’s so important that they’re made from clay that it must be said twice!

8.) “Aria di Mezzo Carattere” (Final Fantasy VI)

The Track

Some may cry foul, but this opera scene from Final Fantasy VI does technically have lyrics.  They’re just not sung by anyone.  Well, not sung coherently, at least.  Celes just kind of moves her mouth up and down and some sort of noise plays as text appears on the screen.  I laugh at it now, but when I was a kid this grabbed my attention, and I was glued to the TV as the epic tale of two star-crossed lovers unfolded before me.  The lyrics are cheesy and the music is predictable, but I can’t think of an earlier example of video game music being taken seriously.

My Favorite Line: All of it.

Why: Listening to this track sounds like someone rubbing their ass on a keyboard, and everyone within earshot will look at you like that’s what it is.

7.) “Still Alive” (Portal)

The Track

Portal is funny.  Jonathan Coulton is funny.  Therefore, “Still Alive” is funny.  It’s simple logic.  I don’t know a single person who doesn’t like this track: it’s catchy; it conveys the personality of the game’s villain perfectly through song; it’s as creepy and unsettling as it is witty, clever and hilarious; and it’s just teeming with irony.  It’s exceptionally rare when something this good happens in a video game, and even more so during its credits.  I think everyone and their ugly, fat mamas have played Portal by now, but, if you haven’t, I advise you fix that problem.  And the sooner the better.  Because this track is a whole lot funnier when you know the game’s content.

My Favorite Line: “Look at me still talking when there’s Science to do.”

Why: It’s just such a versatile line that can be used to get out of anything.  My wife has grown to hate it.

6.) “Zombies on your Lawn” (Plants vs. Zombies)

The Track

It’s no surprise that one of the most addictive games I’ve played in a long time also has an infectious tune [I honestly didn’t realize this pun until editing.  I apologize].  After you beat the game, a music video plays starring the Sunflower on lead vox and the zombies doing back up.  I love the Sunflower’s voice, and the techno-ish music is nice and catchy, but I crack up every time I hear those zombies.  I couldn’t think of a better way to end such a great game than with this playful music video.  I can only hope the inevitable zombie apocalypse will be as entertaining and jovial as this song predicts.

My Favorite Line: “There’s butter on my head”

Why: Explaining this line’s greatness would ruin it.

5.) “City Escape” (Sonic Adventure 2)

The Track

I’ve always thought Sonic had great music even during the height of the 16-Bit Wars.  The Blue Blur just has some great tracks.  He also has a surprising amount of songs that have lyrics.  It’s not so surprising once you realize Sega had their own in-house band, but it’s still a startling amount.  So if I had to pick my favorite one, I’d go with “City Escape.”  It’s a fun and catchy pop-punk song about Sonic the Hedgehog escaping from a city with lyrics pretty much saying, “Hey, chill.  Sonic’s got this shit.  Just go with it.”  And go with it I did.  The song also left me with a lasting impression because it was looped during the first level in the game.  It’s not very often that level BGMs have lyrics.  Top all this off with a terrific chorus to sing along with and a fast and upbeat guitar riff that simulates the Hedgehog’s speedy rhythm, and you got yourself a sweet track.  It even got a pretty sweet remix in Sonic Generations.

Favorite Line: “I don’t care what lies ahead.  No time for guessing; follow my plan instead.”

Why: The riff playing during this line best simulates Sonic running, and the latter half of the line is set in nearly perfect iambic pentameter, adding more to that running feeling.  It’s pretty kick ass.

4.) “Dreams Dreams” (NiGHTS into Dreams)

The Track

I got a Sega Saturn instead of an N64.  This shocked a lot of my family and friends, and I was shunned by many.  Imagine: a little boy with his Saturn desperately trying to find a way to validate his choice to his peers.  Where do you think he found this validation?  Through a promotional demo he got with his Saturn, of course!  And that demo was for a game called NiGHTS into Dreams.  The game looked decent enough, but validation came at the end of the promo when a particular song started playing, followed by some male vocals.  I remember a close buddy and I staring at my TV in disbelief as this guy belted out this unexpected song.  Then we were hit by another surprise: a female vocalist.  This was a duet!  And they’re rocking it!  That song was stuck in my head for the next week.  I remember humming it and singing it all day at school and at home.  The motif of dreams and waiting and meeting somebody has always created surreal and provocative imagry for me, and I’m pretty sure it all started with this song.  It’s a pretty catchy tune with some pretty good vocals.  It’s very nostalgic for me, as you could probably tell.

My Favorite Line: “In the night: Dream Delight.”

Why: Ugh, my testicles hurt from listening to such a girly line, but it’s this line where the duo sing together, and I like it.

3.) “Simple and Clean ~ Remix” (Kingdom Hearts)

The Track

The opening to Kingdom Hearts blew me away.  The graphics were top notch and the stylistic inner monologue and visual representation thereof were exceptional, but it was the song that really snagged me.  I’m not into techno, really, but this was just cool to me.  The bumping bass, the electronic sounds, and the weirdly out-of-place lyrics all added up to a great first impression to an ultimately great game.  This remix was actually the first thing I ever downloaded.  I got it from WinMX (I didn’t get a computer until I was a senior in high school.  I was 16 or 17 years old).  I downloaded it and played it immediately.  It came blaring through my speakers, and I couldn’t have been happier even though my brother thought I was gay.  It wasn’t until after I married my wife that he stopped looking at me funny at Thanksgiving.

My Favorite Line: “Don’t get me wrong; I love you.  But does that mean I have to meet your father?”

Why: It just epitomizes the out-of-place-iness of the lyrics in relation to the visual content.  Mainly because it shows Riku at this point.  You trying to tell us something, Sora?

2.) “Lunar” (Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete)

The Track

I think it’s very obvious as to why this made it so high on the list: The beginning sounds like the opening theme to Reading Rainbow!  Though that’s true, I love this track mainly because the vocals go very well with the music.  They’re not the best vocals in the world, but the arrangement of how the singer raises her voice as the instruments hit their crescendo always stuck with me.  The overall tone suggests a sense of urgency, and the lyrics are a bit lovey-dovey, but I always felt that the vocals and music mixed well to create the quintessential anthem for adventure.  I may feel this way because Lunar was one of the first RPGs I really related to, me being a prepubescent boy playing a game full of fan service and teenage boys hitting on teenage girls.  Because I was so easily able to relate to this game, I became very attached to it, thus making this track so much more special to me.  Even hearing it to this day takes me back to those days when girls were a mystery to me and were constantly on my mind.

My Favorite Line: “Only when two brilliantly shine as one!”

Why: The singer enthusiastically belts this line as the song comes to an end.  Plus, I love the adverb “brilliantly” here.  Weird, but true.

1.) “Eyes on Me” (Final Fantasy VIII)

The Track

I’m not a fan of Final Fantasy VIII, and I’m pretty sure I’m in the majority.  However, I did like the game enough to complete it, and I can confidently say that it is my least favorite FF game in the main series, though I’ve never played any FFs after X.  That being said, I know the story and the themes of FFVIII, and “Eyes on Me” captures those themes of destiny and true love very nicely.  However, regardless of whether or not you know or like the plot, I feel this track is a wonderful song in its own right.  Hearing those four opening notes from the piano always sends a chill up my spine, and the story of a man too shy to approach a beautiful woman, though cliché, is universal.  But this story is told through the woman’s perspective, and she laments about how she wants him, too.  Yet there’s a masterfully placed tone to the song, both lyrically and musically, that suggests the two lovers aren’t meant to be.  It’s damn-near tear jerking, really.  You know, if I wasn’t a dude or whatever.

“Eyes on Me” was not originally intended to be my No. 1 pick for this list.  But having re-listened to it a few more times in preparation for this post, it was hard to deny its brilliance.  This song was huge in Japan, hitting No. 9 on the Japan Hot 100 in 1999, and it was huge amongst gamers in the West as well.  Really give it a listen some time.  You won’t be disappointed.

My Favorite Line: “I kind of liked it your way as you shyly placed your eyes on me.  Did you ever know that I had mine on you?”

Why:  Because it’s beautiful and SHUT UP!!!

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Thanks for you Playing!  I hope you liked my list.  Feel free to drop a comment to let me know about any sweet tracks I may have missed.  I’m sure you all know some gems that I don’t, and I’m always looking for more tracks to add to my repertoire and more games to play!

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