Videogames have become the biggest blockbuster entertainment industry in the world. That money has gone to incredible visuals, cutting edge technology and fully orchestrated musical scores. But for whatever reason, videogames haven’t really seen the same treatment movies get in one space. Blockbuster movies will get entire albums of new songs from hit artists, on “inspired by the move” releases. Games just… don’t do this.
Until they do, and that’s when the weird shit pops off.
If somebody famous works on a videogame, it’s usually voice acting, or some sort of big deal composition such as Paul McCartney’s contribution to Destiny. Batman Forever-style “famous rapper vaguely spits about movie” songs just don’t happen in game marketing. Case in point is Sonic the Hedgehog. Does videogame Sonic have an official music video? Hell no, but Hollywood Sonic does.
On rare occasions, there are exceptions. And nearly every one of those exceptions is a bizarre journey into the still-steaming corpse of a marketing budget disemboweled by hubris. Other times (one time) a videogame music collab can change the world. So look: I rag on these things but there’s no denying the crippling pangs of fascination pulsating in my chest as I compiled this list.
Definitively Ranking the Top Ten Bizarre Videogame Music Collabs
These are the best bizarre videogame music collabs ever made. Much like our Super Mario list, this is definitive. We are creating canon here, people. Join me on this journey through time, space and the Sega Game Gear.
10 – PAC-MAN – Gorillaz feat. ScHoolboy Q
In the 2020 (so recent!) album Song Machine, sentient cartoon band Gorillaz produced a track to celebrate Pac-Man’s 40th anniversary. This song is actually kind of a bop, samples the game cleverly and the music video is sick. Like all around I’m into this in a big way.
And that’s why PAC-MAN lies at the bottom of the rankings.
9 – All Day – John Cena and Whiz Khalifa
This one gets points for the effort, but ultimately falls short. Wiz and Cena really phoned it in here, not unlike the way 2K Games forced Yuke’s to gut WWE 2K15 for good (bad) graphics. Cena only hits one verse! Compared to some of the other songs on this list, this one doesn’t really go anywhere. So why, if this track is so offensively mundane, is it on the list?
Because Big Match John’s cadence when he hits “they should’ve never let Cena spit with Wiz Khalifa” has powerful, cursed energy and those are the kinds of cosmic forces I don’t disrespect lightly.
8 – Eternity – Ian Gillian
I love Mistwalker’s Blue Dragon in a way most people don’t. It’s an adorable, little Dragon Quest-style JRPG from the Final Fantasy OG’s and it has a cool job system with giant shadow animals. Most of the game is pretty traditional, but the first boss fight will knock you off your feet if you go in unprepared.
Nobuo Uematsu tags in, and I am not making this up, Ian Gillian of Deep Purple to scream over some time-displaced buttrock in one of the most jarring aural transitions of all time.
7 – World Gone Sour – Method Man
Method Man is no stranger to branding, but this one in particular has haunted me for nearly a decade. Why did Capcom publish a Sour Patch Kids game? Why did Capcom finance a Sour Patch Kids music video? And why is Method Man making penis pump jokes about a game for children instead of saving his friends from those degenerate Sour Patch Kids?
6 – De La Soul – Say “I Gotta Believe!” feat. DOUBLE
We all love PaRappa the Rapper, but most of us over in North America are blissfully unaware of how strangely the series was promoted in Japan. McDonald’s promotions, Ape Escape collabs, a toaster and more were scattered throughout the country. But PaRapper is in fact a rapper, and what better way to celebrate that than a collab with one of the most influential and underappreciated hip hop acts of all time?
Alongside a Japanese pop singer I’ve never heard of, DOUBLE, De La Soul does the best they can with the material they had to work with. At least it looks like they’re having a good time! And honestly, even if the lyrics are clumsy the music here is lowkey pretty good though.
5 – Erasure – Always
This one is both higher and lower than it should be, at least on this list in particular. So that means the exact middle is a solid compromise. Robot Unicorn Attack was a moment, a flashpoint in videogames that helped warp our collective sense of irony. We wouldn’t be where we are today without this strange piece of art.
Also I went to an Adult Swim block party and they had a Robot Unicorn Attack balloon-popping game and I put the unicorn thing on my head (and the hooves too) and popped hell of balloons. I won a prize but I don’t remember what it was. I do, however, remember pulling a Meatwad pillowcase out of a hole in a dark room. Thanks for reading.
4 – Face My Fears – Utada Hikaru feat. Skrillex
Kingdom Hearts has an important presence in videogame history. This formative action-RPG from Square Enix and Disney taught many young gamers lessons about themselves, even if they didn’t realize it at the time. Utada Hikaru’s heartfelt pop ballads, always released in Japanese and English, kickstarted her career over decades. Every remix of her music ever released has made someone cry. If you want to relax you can take any Kingdom Hearts soundtrack and let the low energy, high emotion music soothe your inner self.
Anyway this Skrillex beat from Kingdom Hearts III slaps
3 – No Tears Left to Cry – Ariana Grande and The Roots
This is very silly! But in a cool way! The online gaming community responded to Nintendo Labo with tearful rage, taking personal offense Nintendo would dare make a toy for children. But that didn’t stop creatives from doing things with Labo nobody putting their little cardboard robot together could have anticipated.
That includes the Roots and Ariana Grande (Jimmy Fallon was there too I guess), who performed a legitimately pleasant No Tears Left to Cry arrangement exclusively with Labo instruments. The fishing rod synth is a real highlight in my opinion.
2 – GWAR – Jack the World
This one is a marvel in 1990s video game music engineering. When it came to most licensed games in the 90s, a game like Beavis & Butthead would appear on multiple platforms (Genesis, Game Gear, SNES). But the platforms were so different, each game would be an entirely different experience, made by different studios. But they’d all have the same title and box art. It was a weird time.
Beavis & Butthead was a MTV show, so naturally it had music video segments. And no band is more perfect to symbolize the show’s connection between cartoon and reality extended to videogames, than GWAR. So the whole game(s) revolved around the pair going to a GWAR show (I’ve been to several and they rule).
That crossover is fun and all, but the cool part is a digitized version of Jack the World from “This Toilet Earth.” So that means for three separate games, three separate teams/composers made three separate Jack the World arrangements. Stuff like this is what drives me to continue my career.
1 – Katy Perry – Immortal Flame
I held off on using the word “audacity,” because I knew Immortal Flame was coming. The absolutely unabashed, shameless, audacious pomposity of this entire thing is just, so much. This isn’t just about Katy Perry and Final Fantasy being a goofy combination. There are layers to this maelstrom of weaponized extra. Katy Perry is only part of it.
Square Enix isn’t exactly known for avoiding excess, to be fair. But this is a mobile game. Final Fantasy Brave Exvius is a gacha RPG, a character collector, that has been around for years. I’m sure it rakes in dough, but this is a level of lavishness I would expect for something like a Final Fantasy console game event. Now, this isn’t the first Brave Exvius/pop star collab. Ariana Grande was here too, but with significantly less presence.
The most obvious part of this, naturally, is the song. A totally original song was produced for this game, along with a super over the top music video. There’s also interview footage with that cruel thing where interviewers ask celebrities what they think about the brand they’re working with the same way a Walmart customer is shocked the lady stocking groceries hasn’t read up on every product in the store.
We aren’t done here. There are four… FOUR, four(4) different versions of Katy Perry in Brave Exvius. We got Popstar Katy, we got Immortal Flame Katy, we got Lavely Katy and we got, um, A.I. Katy. These are all fully fleshed out and distinct characters, each of which must be gacha rolled multiple times, outfitted with their bespoke equipment and I can’t even remember what else to power them up all the way.
These are not alternate costumes. These are distinct units, with different roles, abilities, the works. And each one had their own event. That’s months, literal months in real-life human time, devoted to four different iterations of Katy Perry. You know who doesn’t have four different units in Final Fantasy Brave Exvius? More than half of Final Fantasy’s main characters.
If you’ve made it this far, congratulations. This is what happens when internet rabbit hole diving takes on an insidious new form. The greasy tendrils of Content have borne into my skull, slurping up my useful knowlegde and plugging the holes with nonense like a mostiquo hocks a loogie into your bloodstream to stop bleeding it caused. I won’t torture you further with a proper conclusion, but do give us a follow over on the Prima Games Twitter and Facebook. If you don’t, I may be forced to release my limiters once again. This ain’t even my true form.