The wide world of licensed music in video games

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Music in video games is not limited to the standard rock, rap, and EDM. Check out these examples of diverse music found in popular games.

In “Placing your music in video games,” I interviewed acclaimed video game composer Tom Salta, who hinted at the huge variety of genres and styles that get licensed for music in video games.

While genres like rock, hip-hop, and electronic dance music tend to capture the most video game placements overall, says Salta, nearly any flavor of high-quality, well-produced music has a shot at finding a home in some sort of video game.

To illustrate the point, here are just a few examples of games that use highly diverse licensed music — from vintage vocal jazz to Celtic new age and beyond — to create their exciting virtual worlds:


“One of my favorite uses of licensed music in a game was from the original Bioshock in 2008,” says Salta, describing the widely acclaimed game that licensed music like the following to create an eerie and memorable vibe:

“God Bless The Child” (Billie Holiday)
A classic, old-school American Songbook piece sung by one of the most expressive and influential jazz vocalists of all time.

“You’re The Top” (Cole Porter)
Another American Songbook classic by the seminal Broadway composer and songwriter.

“It Had To Be You” (Django Reinhardt)
The legendary guitarist’s take on a beloved jazz standard.

“The juxtaposition of those old songs in that isolated underwater utopia-gone-wrong helped create one of the most uniquely memorable and haunting experiences I’d ever experienced in a game,” says Salta, “along with Gary Schyman’s incredible original score, of course.”

Tony Hawk’s Underground 2

“Ring of Fire” (Johnny Cash)
The signature hit song from the country legend.


“Maenam” (Jami Sieber)
Ambient, Celtic-tinged track from the new age cellist, composer, and vocalist.

“Romanesca” (Cheryl Ann Fulton)
Haunting, sparse track from the Medieval, Welsh, and Celtic harpist.

“Downstream” (Shira Kanmen)
Bittersweet and playful tune from the fiddler and early music expert.

Red Dead Redemption

“Far Away” (Jose Gonzalez)
Bittersweet acoustic Americana from the Swedish indie artist.


Share your favorite instances of diverse styles of music in video games in the comments below.


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5 thoughts on “The wide world of licensed music in video games

  1. Thanks for sharing your article. These are all some really great games and it’s refreshing when developers don’t just pick main stream media hip hop, EDM, and similar songs. Although I’m a big fan of hip hop, a lot of hip hop was inspired from different genres.

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