So, music composed for early videogames can be great. We all know that. Sometimes, however, games companies decided that what their latest title needed wasn't something new but something old. Very old, in some cases, but also pop tunes that weren't always... legally reproduced, shall we say. So, here are some real-life songs that ended up as the soundtrack to various retro videogames!

Michael Jackson's Moonwalker (MegaDrive / Genesis)

Michael Jackson is coming to get your kids! No, don't worry: he's going to save them from some vaguely-defined villain called Mr. Big. Yes, the unstoppable Jackson juggernaut even rolled over various videogame consoles in its quest to dominate the world. As the story goes, Jackson even worked for a time on the soundtrack for Sonic the Hedgehog 3. That didn't quite pan out, but we did get to hear the King of Pop's tunes on the MegaDrive / Genesis in Moonwalker. Here's "Beat It", and very good it is too.

Revolution X (SNES)

Aerosmith joined the suprisingly long list of bands with videogames to their names with Revolution X, a sub-par lightgun game centered around the band's fight against an evil dictatorship. Hey, at least it isn't an Insane Clown Posse game.
Of course, Revolution X featured synthesised versions of many Aerosmith tracks, the best of the bunch probably being "Rag Doll" as featured in the SNES version's intro:

Plus, you get a nice burst of a muzak version of "Love in an Elevator" when you enter, you guessed it, an elevator:

Spider-Man (SNES)

More Aerosmith, this time with a recreation of Joe Perry's theme from the 90's Spider-Man cartoon. It features some of the most grating digitised speech since, well, the original version. Ah, the sound of saturday morning.

Highlander (C64)

I mentioned this in the "Queen References in Videogames" article already, but it's so good I'm going to wheel it out again. Here's Martin Galway's SID-tastic version of Queen's "A Kind of Magic", the theme from Highlander. Better than the original? Maybe not, but a hell of a lot easier to reproduce on the Commodore 64.

Wayne's World (SNES)

The Queen continues, and boy is it a step down from the Highlander theme. A company called Grey Matter developed an utterly appalling Wayne's World game. Wayne's World's most famous scene is the "headbanging to "Bohemian Rhapsody" scene. Guess what was shoehorned into the SNES game! Yes, one of the greatest rock songs ever written is thoroughly violated by the game's composer, resulting in a cacophony that sound like it's being played on a dot-matrix printer. Listen if you dare!

Wanted: Monty Mole

Ah, the Colonel Bogey March. A military march written in 1914, Colonel Bogey is familiar to many people as the theme from Bridge Over the River Kwai and familiar to even more people (that is, every British person) as a song about Hitler's testicles.

This one's pure, unrefined nostalgia for me: I think Monty Mole was the first videogame I ever owned. That the theme song allowed me to sing along with a song about Hitler's alleged monorchism was an added bonus.

Mikie (Arcade)

An early Konami game about being a dick at school, with your naughtiness mainly taking the form of pushing people off chairs with your arse. Oh, and the first stage's music - at about 0:20 in this video - is a (presumably unlicensed) version of the Beatles' "Hard Day's Night".

Parodius (Various)

More Konami madness, and I do not use the word "madness" lightly here. As you may well know, Parodius is a series of shooters that parody Gradius (you see what they did there?), taking the same basic gameplay and using it as a platform to get you fighing American eagles with star-spangled top hats and moais by the million. Most of the music is classical (and therefore public domain)... or at least it was until Konami put it through some machine they apparently have that infuses it with sherbert and Red Bull.

This is a personal favourite: "Hot Lips" from Sexy Parodius, a demented version of Jaques Offenbach's "The Galop from Orpheus in the Underworld". That's the can-can music to you and me, and never would I have believed it could have been such a perfect fit with a videogame about shooting things.

Rock n' Roll Racing (SNES)

It's a racing game. With rock 'n' roll. Yep. If you ever wondered what Blizzard used to do before dedicating themselves to the enslavement of millions of nerds via the dark sorcery that is World of Warcraft, now you know; they made awesome racing games. RnRR's main selling point, and reason for the title, was that it included versions of several real rock songs including Black Sabbath's "Paranoid", "Born to be Wild" by Steppenwolf and best of all, Deep Purple's highly appropriate "Highway Star".

Simply wonderful.

Doom (PC)

It seems a lot of tracks from Doom were inspired by famous metal songs, and when I say inspired I mean copied. Here's some comparisons, in case you were wondering why shooting demons on Mars mad you think of James Hetfield. My favourite? "Bye Bye American Pie" from Doom II, which couldn't be any more "Them Bones" by Alice in Chains unless it was wearing a sandwich board that said "I AM THEM BONES BY ALICE IN CHAINS".

Ghostbusters (C64)

There are many videogame versions of the greatest song the 1980's gave us, but I think the Commodore 64 version is the best. Why? Because it sounds great, but most importantly the game displayed the lyrics with a little bouncing ball so you could sing along at home, and sing along you bloody well did.

As I recall, if you pressed a button at the appropriate time during the song, some digitised speech would warble "Ghostbusters!" at you. That, my friend, is the reason mankind was put on this earth.

Tetris (Game Boy)

Last and certainly not least, the Tetris A theme. You know the one I mean, right? Of course you do, you've got ears and haven't been living in an underground bunker since 1978. You may have thought that famous tune was created by Nintendo's crack team of earworm-developing musical scientists, but it is in fact a version of a Russian folk song called "Korobeiniki":

Very Russian indeed, and appropriately so. It was originally written in 1861, and when I finally get my time machine working the first thing I'm gonna do is grab a Game Boy, travel back to ninteenth-century Russia and show the guy who wrote this how his creation is going to be remembered for many, many years. I hope he's pleased.

And that's it for this installment. There are many, many more instances of real songs being used in retro videogames, so maybe there'll be a part two to this article. As for the mean time, I promise I won't tell anyone you were singing along to the Ghostbusters theme.


  1. Thanks very much, I appreciate it.

  2. How could you forget Tapper with "Oh Suzanna," or Domino Man and the Maple Leaf Rag?


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