Why Video Game Samples are Becoming a Go-To For Producers

Author : Marco Sgalbazzini
August 22, 2023

Why Video Game Samples are Becoming a Go-To For Producers

There is so much you can do with a library of video game sounds. They producers use them because there are countless examples of crazy sounds that otherwise wouldn’t have been made due to the unique need for them in video games. Someone “dies” you need a sound that is light-hearted enough to indicate that you’re starting over. Another sound to tell you you’ve done something right, another when you’ve done something wrong. All that on top of the storytelling element that music serves in any medium. So, it’s clear why video game samples are so popular with song makers. Not convinced? Take a look at our guide to video game sounds in songs, and why they were chosen.

Soundtracks, gaming or otherwise, lend itself to sampling

There is a lot of versatility of the “original score soundtrack”, be that for movies, TV shows, or games. Something about the simplicity of the long notes and rising tempo makes the blood pump harder no matter what’s happening on screen. This is why people like Burial made Near Dark from the opening of Metal Gear Solid 2 when a body is falling overboard. The score is ethereal and gives a lot of drama to the moment, but Burial adds a bit of tempo which is, believe it or not, percussion taken from the sound of Snake reloading his gun.

Drake has also gone down this route with his song, 6 God, which might evoke memories of riding through a haunted cave on the skull of a crocodile – if you’ve ever played Donkey Kong, that is.

And then there is the rumour that the tune to Through the Fire and the Flames, the hardest ever guitar riff on Guitar Hero, as well as the classic song by DragonForce, was lifted from Pac Man. We leave that up to you to see if you hear any similarities.

Horror movies have a particular appeal to modern rappers, perhaps due to their cultural impact or perhaps exemplifying it. For example, you can hear the humming backing singers of The Fugees’ Ready or Not in the closing scene of 1992’s Sleepwalkers. Nowadays that tradition has flipped so that you can now hear a revamped I Got 5 On It by Luniz and Michael Marshall in the trailers of 2019’s horror classic Us. Rappers and gamers both need a unique nickname, so look here to generate a new nickname whether you’re on Steam or Soundcloud.

But gaming samples are unique

The brilliance of sampling with gaming sounds is that the score isn’t the only thing on the table. The dialogue is also a big hit. Everyone loves when the bass in a song drops and any random dialogue can be added, to the point that the world thought the announcement of the death of the Duke of Edinburgh was just a song break. So, why not gaming dialogue?

One popular option is Street Fighter II’s “Perfect!” which appears in Kanye West’s Facts, but also shows up in many internet-popular songs that don’t seem to make it to the Top 100.

But the dialogue isn’t nearly as popular as the little sound effects that gaming is known for. Audio cues are obviously an important part of the gaming experience. If you play Prey with the music turned off you won’t notice that creature approaching until it’s too late.

Boys by Charli XCX has a little twinkle in between her very simple catchy chorus of “Boys” that is taken from the Super Mario Bros menu screen. Also, Them Changes by Thundercat, which is iconic in its own way on the internet for going viral on TikTok, fades out with a sound effect taken from Sonic the Hedgehog.

Beware of copyright

However, applying such a sample to your song should come with a copyright warning, as everyone’s funniest rapper, Childish Gambino, once found out. The internet is forever so the song is out there but it’s not available on Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube Music, or anywhere that you could legitimately pay to listen to it. If you want to try, it’s called Eat Your Vegetables, and it’s been blocked due to the fact that the one Donald Glover, the true Miles Morales, ripped the sample entirely without enough transformation to consider it a sample, and therefore gets flagged by copyright wherever it goes.