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Top 20 Uses of Songs in Video Game Trailers

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We see it all the time now, a trailer showing gameplay footage or a cinematic with a song over top of it. Everyone has seen them, there seems to be one released every month but they do their job and a lot of times they have some pretty catchy tunes that we had either forgot about or had never heard. Some trailers use these songs better than others. Using the song to set the tone of the trailer or game and occasionally the song becomes so associated with the game that whenever it plays that’s all you can think about. Here are the top 20 uses of songs in video game trailers.

How did you rank the songs?

Some trailers use great songs but don’t use the song to its full advantage while others use not so catchy tunes but it sets the mode perfectly. The rankings were based on a combination of both instances, how catchy was the song? And how well was it used in the trailer?


20) Dark Souls: Bartholomew – The Silent Comedy

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Namco’s trailer for their brutally difficult adventure game Dark Souls features the rock song Bartholomew by The Silent Comedy. The song fits perfectly with Dark Souls with lyric’s such as “you best believe there is hell to pay” and the tone fits the dark gritty feel of Dark Souls. It does a great job of conveying what gamers will get themselves into when playing Dark Souls.

Catchy Rating: 5

Best Moment: The beginning. As the trailer begins the clips of the crazy beasts that gamers will face goes along perfectly with the song. Each time the bass drum sounds a new clip is shown, a classic technique but it works perfectly with this song and game.

Worst Moment: The very end of the trailer does a bad job of ending the song. As the accolades finish flashing and it switches to the last part of the song it just feels off and different from the whole feel of the trailer up to that point.

Why it ranked here: The song is perfect for this game it just isn’t as catchy as some trailer songs. Nothing about this song made people clamor to find the name of the song, it works and is worth listening to but it doesn’t pop quite as much as others.

 

19) Fallout 3: I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire – The Ink Spots

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Fallout 3′s teaser trailer features the classic I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire by The Ink Spots. Since the game portrays a 1950s feeling the song works perfectly along with taking the song lyrics literally are perfect for Fallout 3.

Catchy Rating: 5

Best Moment: Half way through the zoom. That is when you finally realize what is going on in the scene.

Worst Moment: The song fades a little too fast, it would have been nice for the song to echo a little better for longer to get a better feeling of the emptiness and despair that is Fallout 3.

Why it ranked here: Although the song is one of the better uses in trailer history, it isn’t quite as catchy as other songs. Its perfect for its use, but not a lot of people are going to add it to their play list

 

18) The Sims 3: Live Like We’re Dying – Kris Allen

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EA went a little deeper than expected in their trailer for the Sims 3, but they did a great job with it and surprised a lot of people. The song “Live Like We’re Dying” and the flashes of how Sims had become the person they are works wonderfully, although the trailer doesn’t play much off of the song.

Catchy Rating: 7

Best Moment: The first flashback. When we see the grandpa and the song kicks in its a really well done transition and it plays off the music well.

Worst Moment: The whole scene with the homeless guy. The music doesn’t fit the mood that is supposed to be felt with this scene. We’re supposed to feel sorry and sad for this guy, but with the catchy beat in the background its rather difficult.

Why it ranks here: The song fits perfectly with the Sims and portrays a Sims feel, but the trailer refuses to play off the song. EA took a gamble like Epic Games did with their Gears of War trailer, but doesn’t overly succeed.

 

17) Grand Theft Auto IV: King Ring – Cepera

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Get ready because Rockstar uses music in their trailers better than almost any other company in the entire business. King Ring does multiple things in this trailer, first its Russian which is perfect because as we all know Niko the main character is Russian and it give the epic feeling that only GTA IV could provide.

Catchy Rating: 6

Best Moment: When Niko and Roman drive by and the first tile pops up. Seeing that still builds excitement to this days

Worst Moment: Near the middle when Roman is hiding in the dumpster right before Ceprea starts to rap, the song has been going on a little too long with no action and got a little boring.

Why it ranked here: The song does its purpose and the beat is rather catchy, but the song is in a foreign language (Russian) and this keeps it from being as catchy as it could be. Not knowing the words to a song can hinder its appeal.

 

16) Madden 04: Pedal to the Metal – Kazzer

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The Madden 04 trailer features one of the more catchy songs on this list in Pedal to the Metal by Kazzer. Although not really relating too much to football it still stands out and gives the trailer some re-watch value.

Catchy Rating: 7

Best Moment: When Michael Vick scrambles and points to demonstrate “Playmaker” the music gives that perfect “epic” feeling that EA was going for.

Worst Moment: When Tommy Maddox gets intercepted… sorry the Steelers fan in me had to say that, but when Vick dives for the pylon it feels very unnecessary and out of place.

Why it ranks here: The song lyrically wise doesn’t bring much to the trailer, but is is catchy and provides definite re-watch value.

 

15) Madden 10: Heads are Gonna Roll – Airbourne

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EA enjoys putting out gameplay trailers with music as shown by the previous trailer, this song tends to fit more closely with football but lacks a little in the catchy department.

Catchy Rating: 6

Best Moment: The very end when Kurt Warner throws the deep pass to Larry Fitzgerald and you don’t know if its going to get intercepted or not, I say Ike Taylor has it!

Worst Moment: Pretty much the entire trailer. The trailer doesn’t play very much off the song, but the lyrics work and it fits the game.

Why it ranked here: As stated above the song lacks in the catchy department, it will get caught in your head but it won’t be a song you add to a playlist most likely. The trailer doesn’t play off the beat or the song all that much, but the lyrics work and it fits Madden a lot better Pedal to the Metal by Kazzer.

 

14) Rock Band 2: Hello There – Cheap Trick

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Hello There by Cheap Trick is perfect for Rock Band 2 the lyrics fit perfectly for the game and it conveys what the game is all about.

Catchy Rating: 6

Best Moment: The first shot of the lead singer. You get the feeling that you really can be a rock star with Rock Band 2.

Worst Moment: After the singing it gets a little long and there isn’t too much of a climax.

Why it ranked here: The song will get caught in your head, but just like Heads are Gonna Roll not many people are going to add it to their playlist. Although the song is perfect for Rock Band 2 and conveys the perfect feeling and message for the game.

 

13) The Sims 4: I’m Alive (Life Sounds Like) – Michael Franti & Spearhead

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With the new Sims 4 trailer EA Maxis used one of the most catchy tunes on this entire list. The trailer doesn’t play off the song at all or play for the entire trailer but boy is it catchy.

Catchy Rating: 10

Best Moment: When the song starts. The majority of the trailer is without music and you are left trying to guess what is actually going on, but when that song starts you are hooked.

Worst Moment: Not much use of the song. The song just plays in the background there is no playing off the beat and it isn’t playing for the entire trailer.

Why it ranks here: Because its so catchy! After hearing the song people are rushing to find the name of the song and download it. But its not an outstanding use of the song so it stands outside the top 10. This ranking is purely on the song alone.

12) Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2: ‘Til I Colapse – Eminem, Nate Dogg

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One of Eminem’s best songs makes an appearance in the Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 launch trailer. The song brings the epic feeling and peaks the excitement for getting your hands on the game and doing some serious pwnage.

Catchy Rating: 9

Best Moment: The pause affect is done quite nicely. When the song pauses around the 58 second mark and we see the satellite explode and then launch back into the songs chorus.

Worst Moment: The beginning. If you have ever listened to this song that is nowhere close to how the beat goes.

Why it ranks here: The song is one of the strongest on the list and is highly recommended to be added to a playlist, but the trailer just doesn’t do it justice. Messing with the beat and not allowing the full affect of the song to take place is why this song missed out on the top 10.

 

11) Grand Theft Auto V: Hood Gonna Love It – Jay Rock, Kendrick Lamar

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Rockstar makes the list again with Jay Rock’s Hood Gonna Love It. The song works for explaining Franklin and is a catchy tune, but unfortunately it was the weakest of the three character trailers released.

Catchy Rating: 7

Best Moment: This is a tie between two moments. At 12 second mark a masked man resembling Franklin smashes another man with a gun just as the songs lyrics break in. The other moment starts at the 38 second mark, when the music breaks and we are greeted with a nice quote and thrown right back into the song. The transition is awesome and the music plays very well off both these moments.

Worst Moment: The end. As we witness Franklin walking away at the very end the music doesn’t fit and the ending feels dull and rushed.

Why it ranks here: While the song works perfectly for the trailer and Rockstar continues to prove it can play off the music, the trailer was the weakest of the three character trailers and the song isn’t as catchy as some of the others on the list.

 

10) Borderlands: Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked – Cage the Elephant

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Gearbox is another company that has proven they can do the musical trailer really well. Unfortunately their trailer for the original Borderlands only features Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked for only thirty five seconds of their two minute trailer.

Catchy Rating: 8

Best Moment: The very beginning and by that I mean thirty five second into the trailer. The trailer plays nicely to the strums of the guitar flashing with each new rift.

Worst Moment: When the song isn’t playing. Is that fair? The entire trailer should have been this song, but they decided to add in voice over and another song.

Why it ranks here: Although the song is catchy and fits with the game the decision to only use it for just over 1/4 of their trailer puts this song at 10.

 

9) Saints Row the Third: Power – Kanye West

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The 2011 E3 trailer used Kanye West’s Power perfectly, using the lyrics to foreshadow what was going to take place in the beginning moments of the game and playing very well off the beat.

Catchy Rating: 9

Best Moment: The end. When we are breaking into the very ending of Kanye’s song we are greeted to an insane image of The Saints being surrounded by a dozen or so jets. This moment sets the stage for the craziness that is Saints Row the Third but also does a great job creating excitement.

Worst Moment: Cutting off Kanye in the middle of saying something at 2:10. You hear Kanye start to say “Now this will be a beautiful death”, but instead the song is cut before he can finish “beautiful”. This is the problem with using a well known song, if you have a choppy editing moment everyone will know and it removes the viewer from the trailer for just the split second.

Why it ranks here: The song is perfect for foreshadowing and setting the scene, but the trailer doesn’t use the beat too much. There are moments the trailer plays off the song, but not enough. The song is a catchy song but doesn’t mix as well with the trailer as some others do.

 

8) Borderlands 2: Doomsday – Nero

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Gearbox sneaks back into the top 10 with their trailer for Borderlands 2. It seems that Gearbox learned from their first trailer and decided to use one song the entire trailer. Although the song is catchy it tends to get very repetitive.

Catchy Rating: 9

Best Moment: How can I not go with Clap Trap beatboxing? That moment sent many people running to the comments to figure out what the song was so they could add it to their playlists.

Worst Moment: 1:37 to 2:05. With the lowering of the music and the voice over Gearbox tries to go for the dramatic affect and doesn’t succeed. Everyone knows what Borderlands is and dramatic isn’t it. Felt very unnecessary, just let the wub wub blast!

Why it ranks here: Love the song and it definitely got some replays because of it, but the dramatic pause and repetitiveness of the song brings down the whole trailer a bit.

 

7) Gears of War: Mad World – Michael Andrews

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Gears of War hit it big with their “Mad World” trailer. The song set a very ominous tone and contrasted the rugged looking Marcus Fenix perfectly. Although the trailer didn’t play off the song it was used to set the mood perfectly.

Catchy Rating: 6

Best Moment: The beginning. The piano beginning and shots of Marcus are things of genius.

Worst Moment: After Marcus takes off running. After Marcus takes off running it tends to go downhill but is still very well done.

Why it ranks here: The “Mad World” trailer is one of the most iconic video game trailers of all time. When the trailer was released many people were in awe and it helped to spike enthusiasm for Gears of War. Although its a great games trailer the song doesn’t have the same lasting appeal as some other songs and most likely people won’t be running to add it to any playlists.

 

6) Grand Theft Auto V: Radio Ga Ga – Queen

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Get ready Rockstar is about to show how awesome they are at using music in their trailers. With their ‘Michael Trailer’ Rockstar hit a home run! The song is super catchy, it fits the tone of the trailer and to top it all off the trailer does a fantastic job of playing off the song.

Catchy Rating: 9

Best Moment: The entire trailer does such a great job, and the music plays perfectly alongside it. If I had to choose one moment it would be the very end. After the therapist says “I think you need a new therapist” the chorus for Queen’s Radio Ga Ga rings out and we are graced with GTA V’s logo.

Worst Moment: The thirty three second mark. Watching the car drive by is boring. Honestly that’s the worst I could do with this trailer, it plays so perfectly with a new great moment around every corner.

Why it ranks here: Although it does such a great job of using music and the song is catchy it doesn’t scream GTA V. If someone were to hear Radio Ga Ga five years from now no one would think GTA they would think Queen.

 

5) Grand Theft Auto V: Skeletons – Stevie Wonder

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Two in a row for Rockstar. With the second trailer for GTA V Rockstar continued their success with using songs in trailers and nailed the song that will scream GTA V for years to come.

Catchy Rating: 9

Best Moment: The beginning and the logo. Hearing that initial beat and seeing the very beginning still stirs up the excitement that was felt on the release day of the trailer. When Stevie Wonder belts out “skeletons in your closet” as the camera pans of San Andreas and the logo emerges its a thing of beauty.

Worst Moment:  I had to struggle to find a weak moment in the ‘Michael Trailer’ and its almost impossible again. At the 39 second mark Stevie is just getting into the groove and the trailer turns him down in order to hear Franklin and Michael talk.

Why it ranks here: Unlike Radio Ga Ga, Stevie Wonders Skeletons will be the song that is associated with GTA V. There are so many moments of greatness in this trailer and the wow factor is still there. To top it all off the song is catchy and definitely worth adding to your playlist.

 

4) Grand Theft Auto San Andreas: Welcome to the Jungle – Guns N’ Roses

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Rockstar delivers again with one of the most iconic video game trailers ever. To this day “Welcome to the Jungle” is associated with GTA San Andreas. The images of the game with the song blasting in the background still make you excited to play the game.

Catchy Rating: 9

Best Moment: When C.J. is walking with the rocket launcher, with a helicopter flying above him and “welcome to the jungle” is sang in the background. For anyone that was anxiously awaiting the arrival of this game seeing that image with the music in the background made you absolutely giddy.

Worst Moment: Lowering the music for lines such as “so you’re back on the block” and “yeah, yeah, its good to see you back”. Just let that beautiful guitar rift and scream play, we don’t need to hear those lines.

Why it ranks here: The “Welcome to the Jungle” trailer was a thing of beauty in its day. No trailer had gotten people hyped for a game release quite like this trailer did. The song to this day is associated with the game, and the trailer plays off the songs perfectly. It just doesn’t fit the game after you have played it.

 

3) Grand Theft Auto Vice City: I Ran (So Far Away) – A Flock of Seagulls

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No song is as associated with a game like “I Ran” is to GTA Vice City. The song sets the 80s tone perfectly for the game and the trailer does a perfect job of playing off the song. Rockstar shows yet again they are the masters at using music in trailers.

Catchy Rating: 9

Best Moment: The whole trailer except the very end. The whole trailer does a great job of using the music not only as background noise but to strengthen the content.

Worst moment: The end. The song is edited to end quickly at the end of the trailer. Rockstar noticeably changes this method in later trailers. Instead of editing the song to end they let songs fade away, but in this trailer they edit it to end and it just sounds odd.

Why it ranks here: Everyone was waiting to see what Rockstar would do after their wildly successful GTA III, with the release of this trailer everyone was on board. The song portrayed the 80s setting perfectly and to this day when the song is played people think GTA Vice City.

 

2) Bioshock Infinite: Beast – Nico Vega

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Irrational games demonstrates one of the best uses of song in their “Beast of America” trailer. The song fits nicely into the setting of the game and the trailer plays perfectly off the song.

Catchy Rating: 8

Best Moment: When the lyrics finally start. At the 38 second mark we see Elizabeth falling through the sky and Booker reaching out to her as the song goes from guitar rifts to full on rock.

Worst Moment: The beginning, and that’s being very picky. The trailer could go with one less scan of the scenery.

Why it ranks here: This trailer does just about everything right. The song is perfect for the game, the trailer plays off the song and the duration of the trailer is perfect. It grasps your attention and won’t let go and then when you are done you want to add the song to your library. There is just one trailer that uses song to set the tone better.

1) Gears of War 2: How it Will End – Devotchka

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Gears of War 2 takes the momentum that the “Mad World” Gears of War trailer had and runs with it. No trailer has done a better job of using a song in a trailer to date.

Catchy Rating: 7

Best Moment: The ride down. You don’t think a Gears of War 2 trailer can get you emotional, but with the song playing and seeing the facial expressions on both Dom and Marcus it will make even the toughest person choke up a little. They know they are going into hell and the music just adds to it, you are left wondering are we going to see these two again?

Worst Moment: The beginning. The flashes of the characters don’t bring much to the trailer or play very well off the song.

Why it ranks here: With no words or sound effects Epic Games used nothing but music to set the tone of the trailer and they nailed it. The trailer intrigues you and pulls on your heart strings and as soon as the trailer is done you will be belting out “you already know how this will end”. It is the perfect use of song in a video game trailer to date.

There you have it, the top 20 uses of song in video game trailers. Some tried to play with your emotions others just wanted to get you excited, but they all did their job beautifully and more often than not you walked away with a new song to add to your music library. What do you think? What examples did I miss? What do you think is number one? Did you add any of these songs to your playlist? Leave a comment below and let me know.

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