The best songs in PC gaming: Volume 1
Ever since soundcards gave our PCs the ability to sing, a good song in the right place has been a great way to catch our attention. Usually funny, but occasionally creepy or poignant, they're a chance for a game to cut loose and play. Here's our first selection of the good, the bad and the just plain confusing. Oh - and we've discounted Still Alive. Why? Because that's the one everyone already knows.
That's Death - Discworld 2
The story goes that when making this comedy sequel, the creators realised they were making a game about Death starring Eric Idle, and asked if they could use Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life as the opening theme. Luckily, it didn't take long for everyone involved to realise how dull that would have been, resulting in Idle writing a brand new song focused on the cheerier side of pushing up daisies.
Good For You (Good For Me) - Sam and Max
Songs usually do best when they come out of nowhere, and rarely has there been a better example than this one - usually simply called The War Song. It landed in the fourth episode of Sam and Max's first season, in the episode Abe Lincoln Must Die. Fun as that series was, it rarely pushed the boat out in terms of assets or set-pieces, making this full choreographed dance number a genuine surprise.
Stones - Ultima
There may not have been an Ultima game since 1999 (Lord of Ultima doesn't count - there is only one Lord of Ultima and his name is British. If you ignore Blackthorn and a few others), or a good one since 1993, but this classic series remains one of the most beloved names in orc-punching history. Its cod-Renaissance Fayre dialogue and style is best summed up by Stones, the main series theme, which instantly brings to mind memories of diving through dungeons and translating runic alphabets. Unfortunately, when Ultima came out, a little speech was the best most games could offer, leaving it up to the fans to provide the vocals. The only problem now is that maybe, just maybe, the lyrics should have been left in the old codpiece drawer.
End Credits - Legacy: Dark Shadows
The distant future. Space archeologists uncover a cardboard tomb containing a sliver of plastic bearing the name LEGACY: DARK SHADOWS. They race home to the Institute of Future Science to show it off to the all-knowing aliens who guard the secrets of the universe. There, the greatest minds pulled from a thousand dimensions sit, mandibles quivering in confusion at the images displayed on the last PC in creation.
It is not the bad adventure game that confuses them. The terrible puzzles and awful voice acting barely flicks at their most easily vexed appendages. No, the moment that shatters all logic in the universe and ushers in the armies of entropy is when they finally quit and face the impossible question: why in the Great Space Frog's name would any game with translation and acting this bad think it a good idea to remix its own bad dialogue and end its supposedly dark, serious storyline on... on this? Centuries of war later, the last star fades out and the last sentient lifeform in the universe closes shlur eyes, content in the knowledge that at least now... finally... it will be able to get this bloody song out of its skull sack. And then there is only silence. Forever.
The Game - The 7th Guest
The 7th Guest hit the shelves in 1993, and quickly impressed the world with its (then) incredibly impressive rendered graphics and amazing dark atmosphere. Age hasn't been too kind to those. What doesn't get brought up as often though is its bizarre musical score, courtesy of composer The Fat Man. From the whistling menace of its haunted house gameworld to the bizarre musical styles used for credits and menu screens, it gave the whole game a distinct off-beat vibe that survives much better than the low-res FMV and clunky puzzles. Here's its most iconic theme, a tribute to games and gaming, supposedly dedicated to six unlucky guests who met their fate in the house before you arrived. But you don't believe everything you're told, right?
You Are Dead - Total Distortion
No description needed. Officially the greatest Game Over in gaming history. If this isn't the music you hear in your final moments, consider it nothing less than a personal insult from the Management.
Lament of the Highborne - World of Warcraft
It may not be in English, or any other real language, but this Thalassian ode to the fallen is one of the more unique moments awaiting World of Warcraft's Horde players. Sung by the banshee queen Sylvanas Windrunner herself, it fills the halls of Undercity at the conclusion of an early quest. If you're Alliance though, or simply never spent much time hanging around with the Undead, you could easily have missed it, so here's a carefully crafted machinima version that anyone can enjoy. There are lyrics if you want to sing along.
The Archaeologist Song - Laura Bow 2
Finally, let's leave on something a little lighter. And by lighter, we mean 'a song we guarantee you'll hate, but will never, ever leave you'. Unlike many, this one doesn't come at a big set-piece moment in Laura Bow's second big investigation, but just gets thrown in your face while visiting a New York speakeasy. Inflicting it on an unsuspecting world is arguably a worse crime than anything the villains get up to, unless you count the repeated brutal murders. You have been warned. But should probably listen to it anyway. Earworm ahoy!