“Far Away” — Red Dead Redemption
When Rockstar was developing Red Dead Redemption, I had absolutely zero interest in the game. I enjoyed the hell out of Grand Theft Auto and Bully, but for some reason Red Dead didn’t vibe with me. So it was a pretty big deal when it ended up being my personal game of the year, surpassing even Mass Effect 2 for me.
The stellar soundtrack played no small part in the game winning me over, delivering one of the absolute best music I’ve ever heard in a game. Peppered over key moments of the game, the music did an excellent job of punctuating the plot as it unfolded. Picking a favorite track and moment is like picking your favorite part of a pizza — the pieces work so great together that singling out one almost undermines the whole.
Almost. By the slimmest of margins, entering Mexico for the first time triggers one of the best songs ever written for a game, which plays as you ride towards your objective in a foreign land. The overall tone and atmosphere are impossible to ruin … unless you’re attacked by a cougar or something on your way in.
Almost impossible to ruin, then.
“Still Alive” — Portal
I would be remiss in my duties if I didn’t include what is arguably the greatest game song of all, which plays during the credits of Portal, Valve’s spatial puzzle masterpiece.
You’ve definitely heard the song before — searching “portal still alive cover” on YouTube leads to countless tributes to the song, with an especially heartwarming rendition done by a children’s choir. Hell, it was even made available as free DLC for Rock Band. The song has been everywhere.
Of course, I’m perfectly fine with that. It perfectly — perfectly — sums up exactly the kind of character that GLaDOS is. The fact that she sings a sarcastic song to you at the end of the game is equally surprising and unsurprising, and the way that the song has taken on a life of its own is a sterling testament to the ability of video games to permeate pop culture.
“Still Alive” rules, plain and simple.