There something to be said about a memorable musical moment in a game. Some songs bring out emotional power, lighthearted excitement or just an apropos approach to giving a game a distinct vibe and identity. We’ve all heard the Super Mario Bros. theme and Final Fantasy VII’s “One-Winged Angel” enough to know how great they are in the world of gaming music, but some performances are just more difficult to classify. They have a lingering effect, one that’s memorable and maybe even legendary, but it’s tough to set them next to classic tracks like the Hyrule Castle theme in Zelda. Plainly and simply, they are just too weird to have that happen. But that’s not in any way saying that they are bad, hence the reason this article exists. Here are five musical performances in video games that are so surreal and bizarre that we can only properly title them “awesomely weird.” Enjoy!
“Lady Gaga’s ‘Poker Face’ (South Park Version)” (Rock Band, 360/PS3/Wii, 2010)
The Rock Band music store is no stranger to obscure musical offerings, especially on the Rock Band Network Store. You’ll find songs from weird novelty groups like The Weebl, Mega64 and Lemon Demon, but the lone track labeled “novelty” that made its way to the main Rock Band store is a cover of Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” by South Park’s Eric Cartman. The cover debuted on the 2009 South Park episode “Whale Whores”, where regulars Kyle, Kenny and Cartman are playing a Rock Band-style game with Cartman leading the helm on vocals. Cartman changes some of the lyrics to “Poker Face” in response to hearing Stan’s critique of whale hunting. The track became such a viral phenomenon that it appeared on the Rock Band Music Store just five months after the episode aired (with the song’s release coinciding with the official Lady Gaga rendition). Cartman’s slurred speech pattern had long since become a part of his character and his nasally voice singing a song like “Poker Face” was a downright hilarious inclusion. It was surreal seeing such a clearly novelty-based track earn itself such a prolific spot on the store. With the Rock Band store no longer updating, Cartman’s chance to go all Mother Monster on the DLC world is still unquestionably bizarre, but incredibly humorous.
“What I Got (Zombie Edition)” (Saints Row: The Third, PS3/360/PC, 2011)
Saints Row came into its own with The Third. It abandoned the street gang aesthetic of the first two games and embraced its love of screwing around with the open-world tropes of its time. Early on in the game, your custom character can drive around with a crew member. After tinkering with the radio, the song “What I Got” by alternative punk band Sublime will play, with your character and his pal singing along to the famed track. While this isn’t to write home about at first, everything changes when you realize that you can customize the voice of your character during initial customization, with one of the options being “zombie.” The zombie voice causes your character’s spoken dialogue to be replaced with the grunts and groans of the walking dead instead of coherent speech. When your zombie-voiced character begins singing “What I Got”, the result is downright ridiculous. The ability to customize your character’s voice is awesome enough on its own, but Volition’s smartass decision to include “zombie” as a voice option illustrates their devil-may-care attitude with Saints Row from The Third onward. It’s so bizarre, but it’s purely Saints Row and that’s hardly a bad thing.
“The Great Mighty Poo Song” (Conker’s Bad Fur Day, Nintendo 64, 2001)
The Great Mighty Poo needs no introduction. He’s one of the weirdest and most memorable boss characters of all time, giving even more character and mature hilarity to the already edgy and scatologically sound Nintendo 64 platformer Conker’s Bad Fur Day. While the very idea of fighting a giant piece of crap with toilet paper is weird in and of itself, it’s the boss’s musical number that secures his place in the video game music Pantheon. His operatic bellow and bouncing-turd sing-along subtitles put the performance in a perpetual state of idolization by gamers from the late N64 era onward, even with the Gamecube’s release on the horizon. Rare’s knack for humor was at its all-time high during the Nintendo 64 days and Conker’s Bad Fur Day was no slouch in showing how creative Rare can be when given the opportunity. If there’s one thing gamers remember about Conker’s Bad Fur Day, it’s The Great Mighty Poo Song.
“Viewtiful World” (Viewtiful Joe, Gamecube, 2003)
From the now-defunct group of visionaries known as Clover Studios, Viewtiful Joe was a smartly-crafted action game that embraced that over-the-top vibe of Japanese anime and kaiju films. It oozed style and intensity from every pore, so it really wasn’t a stranger to the weirdness factor. After you complete the story, you’re rewarded with the in-game animated video for “Viewtiful World”, a song composed by Japanese musician Dai Nagao. The video features characters from the game performing the track, including Alastor, Gran Bruce, Hulk Davidson, Silvia and Joe himself. It’s an unexpected appearance to see these enemies performing this song and out of context; it really doesn’t make much sense. But the song itself is catchy as all hell and the animations are as charismatic and creative as any great anime should be. It’s especially funny seeing Joe sing with Alastor as his MC buddy. The game itself is still a criminally overlooked gem, but with the ending video, the game’s style is always on display. It’s a brief, but memorable moment in a franchise that disappeared long before its time.
“Snake Eater” (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, PS2, 2004)
If you’ve been a long-time follower of the stealth action series Metal Gear Solid, you’ll understand that it’s not a series rooted in seriousness. Its plot is so blatantly convoluted, its references so thick with contemporary language and its dialogue so rich with cheesiness, that you simply cannot ignore creator Hideo Kojima’s sick sense of humor. The main theme to Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is an incredibly composed track. It’s boldly produced, hugely dramatic and constantly evokes a James Bond-vibe when it plays. So why is it weird? As stated earlier, Metal Gear Solid’s true mastery is a sense of cinematic self-awareness: for every moment of rich drama, there’s a sense of irony and parody. Its sense of spectacle is purposely integrated into the game to show an over-the-top aesthetic. The “Snake Eater” theme is so melodramatic and epic that it doesn’t fit in perfectly with the goofiness of the series. The song’s placement in the absurdly long ladder-climbing sequence to Krasnogorje is proof of this: it simply doesn’t fit. But that’s why it’s so great. Kojima and crew’s awareness and playfulness with the stealth film genre is always on display. “Snake Eater” remains one of the most absurdly dramatic songs of its generation, but Kojima’s mastery of perverting the spy genre is why the theme is so weird and why it’s so amazing.
Are there any other musical moments that turn the weird gears to awesome levels? Let us know in the comments below!