Pixelitis Picks: The glorious use of licensed music in games


We all love videogame music very much, but that’s not to say that licensed music is a detriment to a player’s experience.

In fact, when appropriately used within a game, it can be one of the most standout things someone will take away from playing it. Just ask anybody who’s played the original Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who didn’t remember the iconic inclusion of “Superman” by Goldfinger, or perhaps even “Jerry Was a Racecar Driver” by Primus.

Likewise, games like Brütal Legend can be seen utilizing licensed music during specific cutscenes to heighten the intensity of a scene, like using the triumphant “One Shot at Glory” by Judas Priest when kicking off the game’s first wide-scale Stage Battle.

The excellent use of licensed music by game developers doesn’t stop there. Let’s give you some more examples.


“Mickey” by Toni Basil in Lollipop Chainsaw

I’m a huge fan of absurd juxtaposition, the method of combining two completely opposite ideas in order to bring out the contrast between them: Good versus evil, the maniacal versus the magnanimous, EA vs. good customer service. It’s the dichotomy that makes for the most enjoyment.

So when your overpowered zombie-slaying adrenaline pumped super form is accompanied by Toni Basil’s Mickey, there’s nothing short of hilarity. “Mickey” is a chirpy upbeat song for cheerleaders, meant to rally the home team against their hated rivals. It makes you want to bring home the glory, bring back the trophy to your high school. Only in this case, the trophy looks more like a decomposing zombie head than anything else.

The song plays whenever you’ve done particularly well in finishing off zombies in quick succession and earned enough power-ups to enter Sparkle Hunter mode. You chop a couple in half, smash a couple of heads – the usual. Then, there’s a flash, and you hear the music and now your attacks are accompanied by hearts, sparkles and rainbows.

Little did Toni Basil know that someone would take her lyrics seriously, when Juliet quite literally takes the zombies by their hearts when they take her by the hand.

- Tom Farndon


“Make It Bun Dem” by Skrillex and Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley in Far Cry 3

In an early mission entitled “Kick the Hornet’s Nest,” Far Cry 3’s protagonist Jason Brody is instructed by a CIA agent to take up a flamethrower and burn up several fields of marijuana as a way to assault (and therefore provoke) the pirates of the island.

You might dismiss this as a mere lift from Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas’ “Are You Going to San Fierro?” mission, but in this case it’s a tad more amusing. The moment you reach the fields and proceed to unleash an inferno on the pirates’ cannabis, a dubstep tune  courtesy of Skrillex and Damian Marley kicks in and loops for the remainder of the mission.

The music made for the perfect humorous backdrop to the gleeful pyromania that commences. Not only do you torch up all of their cherished weed, you have the freedom to exact vengeance on their precious huts by the beach too, all-the-while Skrillex continues his wub-wubbing and Damian Marley’s rapidly drops down his Jamaican Patois.

I’m not really a huge fan of dubstep, but I think Far Cry 3 may have given me a perverse appreciation for it. The moment the flames eek out of that flamethrower, Jason exclaims “Holy **** this is awesome!” I think he was merely echoing my thoughts.

- Patrick Kulikowski


“Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” by Cage the Elephant in Borderlands

When you think of a game’s setting taking place on a desolate planet that’s been ravaged for years by corporations and then taken over by bandits, you may think that a metal or punk song would be most appropriate as a theme. Nevertheless, that’s not the direction that Gearbox decided to go with for Borderlands.

Going instead with the 2008 alternative rock single “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” by Cage the Elephant, Gearbox showed that a planet that’s tainted with countless murders everyday doesn’t need a song that’s comprised of guttural screams to bring the feeling of the mayhem that’s to come.

In fact, “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” shows its strength in its lyrics. The song follows the narrator that stumbles across various people doing bad deeds to support themselves and their family. Much like the vault hunters of Pandora, they’re (technically) not there to help people and they know that their quest, be it revenge or fame, will give them no time to rest on this wicked planet.

- Allain Richard


“Kibun Jojo” by Mihimaru GT in Moero! Nekketsu Rhythm Damashii Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan 2

Nothing says love quite like a werewolf howl. Or in this case, a werewolf trying to hide his true furry self to get a new girl to like him. Enter my favorite (and most played) level in Ouendan 2. The original Japanese inspiration for Elite Beat Agents featured some wacky J-pop songs, but none tickled my fancy quite like the pop/hip-hop duo Mihimaru GT’s “Kibun Jojo.”

Nevermind the fact that I have never paid attention to the lyrics, or that I just sing along blindly and make up Japanese words for the kanji I don’t recognize. This song is catchy. ‘Hip pop,’ ‘pops techno’ and all that jazz. You cheer on and dance your choreographed touch screen dance to a young man who is taking a girl out on a date… except he’s trying really hard to hide the fact that he’s a werewolf. You help him fight against his wolfy urges by going to a baseball game and eating dinner.

The upbeat rhythm lends itself to the nature of Ouendan’s constantly moving taps on the DS touch screen. Not going to lie though, I played through this song close to 50 times before I beat it at the most difficult setting.

Ouendan 2 is full of crazy Japanese songs (read: Hirai Ken’s “Pop Star”), but Mihimaru GT’s “Kibun Jojo” was the clincher for me. As a hardcore J-pop fan, using all them ‘hip pops’ and ‘pops techno’ in the name of a happily ever after is a worthy endeavor.

- Karen Rivera


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Author: Pixelitis Staff View all posts by

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