The Top 7 Games that broadened our musical horizons

A celebration of the franchises that turned us on to new sounds

5. Fallout 3/Fallout: New Vegas

Broadened the horizons of: Hollander Cooper, news editor

If you asked me what I considered “classic rock” five years ago, I would have listed bands like The Beatles, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Guns N’ Roses. But if you asked me after Fallout 3 came out, my answer would have changed to Roy Brown, The Ink Spots and Cole Porter. I’d walk around in game with my Pip-Boy blasting Galaxy News Radio, listening to the mix of early 20th century rock and jazz as I explored the Capital Wasteland.

Before long, my love for the music led me to purchase all of the songs on the soundtrack, and then go deeper, picking up entire albums by artists that were featured in the game. I’d drive to work listening to The Ink Spots’ discography, and drive home to “Fox Boogie” and other tracks by Gerhard Trede.

And it continued into Fallout: New Vegas. While I enjoyed the country tracks, it was the fun, Vegas-y tunes that had me downloading the music of Dean Martin and other members of the Rat Pack in between long sessions with the game. Both games’ period-specific soundtracks did more than bring me into the setting – they opened up an entire era of music to me that, otherwise, I might have skipped over entirely.

4. Guitar Hero/Rock Band (series)

Broadened the horizons of: Cheryll Del Rosario, design and content producer

It’s nearing 4 a.m., and an increasingly painful ache has formed in my right wrist. My roommate and best friend has resorted to wearing the brace prescribed by her doctor for carpal tunnel syndrome and my other roommates look like zombies. What are we doing? Why are we here? Why is my wrist sore? Five words: Rock Band 2’s Endless Setlist.

Above: There will be a very small number of you who will recognize who we modeled our Rock Band band after

I grew up listening to soul, hip-hop, R&B and any/all genres related to that thread of music, so when Guitar Hero came out in 2005, it was like a grand awakening into a musical genre that I had only experienced in bits and pieces throughout my childhood. Then, when Rock Band unleashed four-player action it pulled my similarly brought up friends into the same fold. Suddenly this group of hip-hop-lyric-memorizing friends were actively cursing the composition of Dream Theater’s “Panic Attack” (the reason we were up at 4 a.m.).

Above: I still feel my blood pressure rising when I hear this song

We eventually left my 360 on overnight while we slept for a few hours, only to call in a friend of mine who worked in QA for Rock Band to help us finish the final three songs in the Endless Setlist. You would think that after that marathon session, the last thing we’d want to do is hear more songs from the game, but we caught ourselves mumbling the lyrics to System of a Down’s “Chop Suey” throughout the rest of the weekend.

Above: Wake up! Somethingsomethingsomethingsomething make up!

Even if you were into rock to begin with, both Rock Band and Guitar Hero (and especially Guitar Hero II) packed in enough weird, obscure and ancient tracks to ensure that you’d run into – and probably enjoy – something you weren’t familiar with. The layer of dust gathering on that set of Rock Band and Guitar Hero instruments gets thicker every day, but there’s no denying that both games opened up my ears to a wealth of music beyond what I had grown up with. I’m now happy to report that the Metallica songs I’ve grown to appreciate are happily sharing space next to Method Man on my hard drive now.

3. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater (series)

Broadened the horizons of: Michael Grimm, cheats and guides editor

While most licensed soundtracks are coldly calculated moves made by sales teams looking to maximize crossover earning potential in the games and retail music worlds, the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater soundtracks rang true. While the games did feature some major artists, most of the soundtracks were composed of little-known bands on small record labels. Whoever put these songs together was definitely looking for music that would appeal to a young X-Games fan, but they put in some effort instead of just throwing Metallica a huge check and calling it a day. Every track felt like it made sense. Punk, pop-punk, hard rock, hip-hop – it was all stuff an energetic, angry teen boy could enjoy.

Before the THPS games, I was mostly a rap and hip-hop fan, but the game’s bevy of great tracks resulted in many, many trips to the record store. Being a broke teen, I loaded up on Epitaph Records’ Punk-O-Rama compilations and Fat Wreck Chords’ “Fat Music” samplers, primarily because $4.99 for a 20-track CD was the best a bummy 15-year-old like me could afford. And because the CDs were filled with different bands, it gave me even more stuff to explore and track down.

Some of my all-time favorite albums are a result of hunting down stuff as a result of THPS. Even better, the new appreciation for punk helped me make some new friends, proving that there’s no reason a mohawked guy in a patched denim vest and a guy in a yellow XXL Ecko t-shirt can’t get along.

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