One of the best features included in Microsoft’s Xbox 360 (as well as the PS3, which I don’t own) is the ability to listen to your own music files while playing games. Setting up playlists for your favorite games is really gratifying when you find something that clicks. If you’re anything like me, you’ve found some unlikely soundtracks while experimenting with your music and game libraries. For instance…
5. Lady Gaga and Assassin’s Creed
It’s hard to see the glamor of Gaga and the grit of Assassin’s Creed being used in the same sentence, but bear with me here. The game’s movement is quick and fluid, like a midnight drive on traffic-less city streets—perfect time to blast the Gaga. Assassin’s Creed’s combat, on the other hand, is a little slower and more deliberate. It’s still quite fluid, but it’s more rhythmic and deliberate. Altaïr’s parries and counters are a sight to behold, flowing nicely with his regular attacks and blocks. It’s almost like a dance, and what is Lady Gaga’s music for if not dancing? You know what? This doesn’t fit at all, but The Fame Monster is fun as all hell.
4. Norah Jones and Grand Theft Auto IV
Yeah, because bluesy jazz really fits blowing up cops with a rocket-propelled grenade launcher. But that’s part of the charm of listening to Norah Jones’s smooth vocals and wistful jazz piano melodies while playing Rockstar’s open-world crime game. I’m no stranger to nerd rage, and the fantastic-but-brutal Three Leaf Clover mission kicked my ass. Hard. After breezing through the first half of the game, the almost controller-throwingly difficult mission had me re-loading time and again. Jones’s “Don’t Know Why” (played on repeat, of course) got me through that mission by calming my nerves. From then on, it was a match made in heaven.
3. Arctic Monkeys and Mass Effect 2
“Isn’t Jack Wall’s original score good enough?” you might ask. You’re damn right it is: Mass Effect 2 has one of the best game soundtracks ever. But I occasionally like to mix things up, and the Sheffield boys deliver. The thing I like most about Arctic Monkeys is that they throw out all pretense of depth in lyrics in favor of upbeat rock tunes about clubs, dancing and pretty lights—and occasionally the more depressing side of the night life. Not a soundtrack that really fits the dark atmosphere of BioWare’s RPG-shooter hybrid, but damned if it doesn’t fit the fast-paced shooting.
2. Jesse Cook and World of Warcraft
You can thank the classic “World of Roguecraft” videos for this one. But there’s something really fantastic about roaming the massive world of Azeroth with Cook’s Latin/jazz music playing in the background. Some of his songs are even good for a listen during fights because of their quick, percussive rhythms—even though little of his music uses violent imagery.
1. Reel Big Fish and Devil May Cry 4
Probably the most fitting choice on the list, Reel Big Fish and DMC4 make a perfect couple. The upbeat, balls-to-the-wall fun of the ska band’s music goes a long way in enhancing the frantic, hacky-slashy combat. Now, if only it went a little better with the kinda boring puzzle-solving sections… Most ska bands don’t really have the best vocals around—that’s just not the emphasis of the jazz-based rock—but RBF distinguish themselves by having a couple of good vocalists who grasp the concept of harmonizing. That might be why they were able to garner a little mainstream appeal in the mid-’90s.