The Best Video Game Surprise Songs

by Kyle Hilliard on Jun 07, 2013 at 10:00 AM

It’s not an entirely new phenomenon. Surprise songs have been showing up in video games for quite some time, but it has become increasingly popular in this generation of video games. Sometimes they accompany secret areas, important plot moments, or they appear during the credits at the end of a game. They come out of nowhere, they usually have lyrics, and they always give you pause. Maybe it’s pause for laughter, or maybe it’s a pause to appreciate what’s happening in the game, but they’re always memorable. Here are some of our favorites.

Spoiler warning: no plot details are revealed below, but these songs were meant to be a surprise.

Rogue Warrior – Credits song
Rogue Warrior is not a good game. You can check out our review here – spoiler alert: we gave it 1.5. What it lacked in quality, it attempted to make up for with its crazy end credits music. Taking voice samples from Mickey Rourke, who voiced the game's protagonist throughout the game, the sound engineers were able to manufacture a bizarre song that ends up being far more memorable than the game itself.

‘Splosion Man – Everybody loves donuts
The folks over at Twisted Pixel love to inject their games with bizarre songs, and this was one of the first. ‘Splosion Man is a game about controlling an anthropomorphic explosion as he ransacks laboratories for no particular reason. You might miss the donut song the first time it plays. It starts when you grab a particular enemy, and stops playing when you let go. When you realize what’s happening though, you make sure to hold on to that character to experience the whole donut-loving ballad.

Battleblock Theater – Secret song
This is the song that plays in the secret areas of the game, and it is incredibly infectious, with its sporadic lyrics, random shouting, ambient fart noises, and general gibberish. It’s unfortunate that there is no video available of this song being recorded.

Comic Jumper – Statistics song
Another song from Twisted Pixel, and another that is easy to miss, especially if you are completely uninterested in how many shots you’ve fired. Stat screens are boring, especially when you get down to the numbers like ‘how many times you’ve paused’. This song makes it worth taking a look.

Saint’s Row: The Third – Bonnie Tyler "Holding out for a hero"
Bonnie Tyler’s Holding out for a hero wasn’t  a particular surprising appearance in Saint’s Row: The Third. Rather, it’s the way the song is implemented in the game’s final mission that includes it on this list. When it starts playing, you cannot change the radio station, and it continues to play even when you get out of the car. It’s one of the game’s best moments, so much so that we wrote a whole feature about it.

BioShock Infinite – "Will the circle be unbroken"
Bioshock Infinite is a game full of surprising songs that have a lot to do with the plot, but there is one in particular that stands to anyone who was able to find it. In the middle of all the explosions and gunfire that accompanies Bioshock Infinite, Booker and Elizabeth find a moment to sit back and jam some tunes. It’s a sweet moment in the game that let’s you relax and spend a brief moment with Elizabeth without worrying about the future. If you pass by it accidentally, you get a chance to see the recording process during the credits.

Red Dead Redemption – Jose Gonzalez "Far Away"
When it comes to Rockstar’s games, we are all familiar with exploring an open world while listening to some sweet jams. Of course, in 1911, mobile horse-mounted radios had not yet been invented. Traveling the old west on horseback was a mostly quiet, contemplative adventure, but when you enter Mexico for the first time, Jose Gonzalez’s Far Away begins to narrate your trek. Initially it’s jarring, but as you trot along, it blends perfectly with beautiful landscapes that litter Red Dead Redemption’s world.

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater – Snake Eater
The Metal Gear series, since its beginning, has always taken influence from action cinema, but it was still a huge surprise when Metal Gear Solid 3’s opening credits were ripped directly from a James Bond film, complete with a ballad that used the game’s title as its chorus. It even shows up later in the game when you’re climbing video games' tallest ladder.

Final Fantasy VI – The opera scene
The opera scene in Final Fantasy VI is impressive when you consider what the developers were able to create with the Super Nintendo’s limited capabilities. You don’t hear intelligible lyrics when this scene appears in the game, but it’s pretty close. Lyrics scroll on the screen, and a digital harmony plays as they appear. It’s chiptune karaoke, but it’s beautiful, and at the time was very suprising.

Portal – Still Alive
Portal’s ending theme meme took off like a skyrocket the second someone with an Internet connected computer witnessed the end credits. The song is now synonymous with GLaDOS and the Aperture universe. It’s difficult to describe the first time you heard GLaDOS’s song if you were lucky enough to not hear it before finishing the game. I remember just staring at the screen in awe, flabbergasted at what I was privileged to witness and hear. The game’s end boss was singing to me, and she was making Half-Life references. I can’t remember a moment prior or since that I have been so surprised by a song’s left-field appearance in a game.

Are there any songs that I have missed here? Is there a song that made you laugh, or you simply didn't expect to hear in a video game?