In-game TV shows and radio stations can enhance our enjoyment of their worlds. They can make it feel like these places live beyond what we get to see on-screen, suggesting a cultural history, or allowing them to mirror modern entertainment. And sometimes, it's just good to listen to some absolute banging tunes, because the publisher in question has unimaginably deep pockets.
Below, we've collected a few of our favourite radio stations and TV shows from inside games.
Max Payne 2's Address Unknown
Damn, I love how many TV shows are in Max Payne 2. I stopped and watched every single one on my first two playthroughs. Address Unknown is probably the most notable, since it's part homage to Twin Peaks, part parallel of Max Payne himself, with the heavy-handed monologues and 'Noir York' setting.
'John Mirra', the villain of the piece, is even referenced in the game's theme song, 'Late Goodbye' by Poets of the Fall, and one of the game's best-remembered levels is set inside a theme park based on the fictional TV show.
Lords and Ladies is no slouch, either, and there are four shows in total. Each mimics Max's journey in different ways, with key episodes tying into his relationship with Mona, and his poor decision to turn on a major ally. —Samuel Roberts
Watch Dogs: Legion’s The Bug
Watch Dogs: Legion goes one step further than most virtual radio shows. Ubisoft hired real-life political podcasters to create fictional commentary shows about its (slightly more) dystopian post-Brexit Britain. There are a couple of different shows, but the best one is The Bug. This is a fictional version of the real-world podcast The Bugle, originally created by John Oliver and Andy Zaltzman back in 2007. In Watch Dogs Legion, the Bug is presented by Zaltzman along with his Bugle co-host Alice Fraser.
With the mandated goal of “nibbling away at the rotting corpse of a once-free Britain”, The Bug is a sharp, fast-paced and ferocious lampooning of Legion’s fascist corporate government - the security company Albion. Each of The Bug’s eight episodes deals with a different facet of society, ranging from medicine to mass surveillance. It’s a scarily professional creation, packed full of scathing humour and delivered so naturally by its hosts that it’s often hard to tell whether it’s scripted or not. —Rick Lane
Alan Wake's Night Springs
Alan Wake is all about the titular author's work coming to life, and as a result the game is a fun pastiche of a whole bunch of works, including Twin Peaks and the work of Stephen King. Another direct homage comes in the form of Night Springs, the horror show anthology that's as close to The Twilight Zone as The Scary Door is. In 'The Writer' DLC, the series has even been adapted into a game. This level of effort gives Alan Wake's world so much extra life. Like in Max Payne 2, I always have to stop and watch the damn things. —Samuel Roberts
GTA 3's Chatterbox FM
Talk radio stations are a bit of a mixed bag in GTAs 4 and 5, and Chatterbox FM from GTA 3 remains my favourite. Later GTAs are much more in your face with jokes, innuendo and loud satire, whereas Chatterbox is basically just weird residents calling Lazlow about nonsense. It's not really a commentary on anything other than the strange nature of local talk radio, the oddballs who call in and the ludicrous commercials I feel like I hear in every airport taxi after I land in the US. It's a far funnier and more specific target than politicians or technology companies.
"If you'd seen what I've seen, and you'd heard what I heard, you'd never brush your teeth again," calls in one guy about a conspiracy involving toothpaste. "Everyone knows women are made from sand," says another. Meanwhile, Lazlow shills shamelessly for pharmaceutical companies, interviews a 'love guru' who hasn't paid his advertising bills and occasionally pauses for Kyle MacLachlan's Donald Love to make it clear you're listening to a Love Media station. I love Chatterbox, and wish all of GTA's humour-centric radio stations had a similar tone. —Samuel Roberts
Fallout 3's Enclave Radio
There's something so unsettling about Enclave Radio's constant propaganda from 'president' John Henry Eden (played by Malcolm McDowell), interspersed with tracks like 'Stars and Stripes Forever'. I feel like having it on enhances Fallout 3's bleak tone, and creates a sense of foreboding ahead of your inevitable meeting with Eden at the end of the game. When it comes to scene-setting, this did a lot of the hard work for me in Bethesda's RPG, and guiltily, I probably listened to it more than Galaxy News Radio. I just love the dystopian vibes. —Samuel Roberts
Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines’ The Deb of Night
By and large, Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines is a solitary RPG experience. But one companion you can always count on is The Deb of Night. Deb is a late-night talk show host on Bloodlines’ radio, describing herself as “The only girl who’ll spend the whole night with you and leave first thing in the morning.” Brilliantly played by actress Karis Campbell, Deb plays psychedelic club music and fields calls from LA’s eclectic crowd of night owls, ranging from conspiracy theorists to men desperately trying to impress Deb by claiming they own a yacht.
The Deb of Night encapsulates Bloodlines’ dark and sultry tone. Deb is a fantastic host, charming, witty, and undeniably sexy. Her voice is a soothing presence in LA’s dark and dangerous night. Meanwhile, her chats with callers are broken up with adverts for products like ‘Friggin’ Chicken’, highlighting the game’s more absurd side. It’s an effective bit of worldbuilding, and an enjoyable show even without the game for context. If you want to test that yourself, you can listen to the whole thing here. —Rick Lane
Fallout 4's The Silver Shroud
Radio stations feel like much more than an afterthought in Bethesda's Fallout games. Indeed, the broadcasts of The Silver Shroud, a pulpy radio show meant to evoke the likes of The Shadow, which first aired in the '30s, tie into what's probably my favourite Fallout 4 quest. You get to hear the shows themselves, then become the character at the centre of it all, patrolling Goodneighbor and righting wrongs (mostly by performing more wrongs with your weapons). —Samuel Roberts
GTA 5's Chakra Attack
To echo Samuel above, GTA radio skits often feel forced. But I reckon West Coast Talk Radio's Chakra Attack is an exception. Fronted by Ray De Angelo Harris, the talk show's fictional host haphazardly explores spirituality, relaxation and the concept of duality to hilarious effect. Harris is voiced by American actor, comedian and writer J.B. Smoove—who is best known for his work on Saturday Night Live and Larry David's Curb Your Enthusiasm.
For me, Smoove's voice alone is enough to make me giggle and his performance on Chakra Attack is as off-the-wall as it gets. —Joe Donnelly