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10 video game soundtracks improved by the Beach Boys

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The Beach Boys

Inspired by Jed's recent blog about games improved by the inclusion of Aerosmith, I wanted to take a crack at the concept. With the weather warming up and summertime nearly here, it’s the season for one of my favorite bands, the Beach Boys!

The Beach Boys are one of the most well-known, best-selling rock groups out there, bringing to mind sunny days, surfing, and summertime fun. Yet, behind their trademark surf sound lies one of the most innovative and influential pop/rock groups of all time. Despite their long history, they have been mostly absent from the world of video games, aside from a few of their most famous tunes appearing in rhythm games such as Rock Band, Just Dance, and SingStar.

So, the following list contains ten video games where the music of the Beach Boys would fit right in.

1. Goldeneye 007: Pet Sounds

Goldeneye 007

This instrumental track, the title track for the album Pet Sounds, was initially conceived by composer Brian Wilson as a potential James Bond theme and was initially titled “Run James Run.” With an upbeat, big band style, the song features driving, twangy guitar and steady bongos, which would have fit right in with the Bond themes of the 60’s. Though it has more of an old-school James Bond feel, this song would fit perfectly with the sound of Goldeneye 007. Maybe it could play during All Bonds Mode?

2. Harvest Moon: Vega-Tables

Harvest Moon

I’m going to keep well my vegetables, cart off and sell my vegetables.

With a relaxed sound and unconventional percussion (including chomping on celery in time), Vega-Tables would be right at home in the world of Harvest Moon. The song is light-hearted and humorous, an ode to eating well and living well. You need something to listen to while tending your crops. Oh, and don’t forget to send your letter to that special someone you’d like to marry in-game and tell them the name of your favorite vegetable.

3. Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag: Sail On, Sailor

Assassin's Creed 4

I wrest the waters, fight Neptune’s waters, sail through the sorrows of life’s marauders.

Perhaps the most rocking song the Beach Boys ever performed, “Sail On, Sailor” is a driving tale of the perils and adventures of life at sea. The song describes exactly the trials faced by Edward Kenway on the Jackdaw, of navigating through shipwrecks, of fighting storms and marauders while persevering through it all.

4. Earthbound/Undertale: Deirdre

Earthbound

This one is kind of cheating, because it is a Beach Boys song actually featured in two games. However, the song is sampled and modified in such a way that it is difficult to tell it is really a Beach Boys song. First of all, here are the two songs from Earthbound and Undertale.

Now, Undertale features a number of callbacks to Earthbound, including the small music sample. Where did the sample come from?

A happy song called “Deirdre” from the Beach Boys album Sunflower. It’s crazy just how different the source song is from the Earthbound/Undertale versions. Definitely happier.

5. Silent Hill: The Elements: Fire (Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow)

Silent Hill

Perhaps the spookiest song in the Beach Boys library, “The Elements: Fire” was intended to be part of a suite on the four elements for Brian Wilson’s masterwork, SMiLE. Featuring discordant, eclectic instrumentation and unnerving vocals, "Fire" would fit well in the world of Silent Hill. To achieve the proper mood for the song, Brian Wilson brought in a bucket of burning wood, filling the recording studio with smoke, and made every member of the band wear firemen’s hats.

Brian Wilson

In shaky mental health, he learned that a warehouse had burned down a few blocks away from the studio while recording the song and believed that the song had pyrokinetic qualities. He shelved the song and claimed for years that he had all traces of the song destroyed. When the song was finally released more than thirty years later, it earned him a Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance.

6. Endless Ocean: Cool, Cool Water

Endless Ocean

Let’s cool things off now, shall we? A song dedicated to the wonders of cool water, Brian Wilson said it was divinely inspired. With a loose structure, “Cool, Cool Water” wanders and flows like the waves of the ocean, inviting the listener to relax and take in that cool, cool water. What better song for peacefully exploring the ocean?

7. Final Fantasy: Anna Lee, The Healer

Final Fantasy

This one’s for all the white mages/healers, keeping us fit and fresh throughout any RPG campaign. Especially when I jump headfirst into danger and you take the brunt of the attack. Sorry about that.

8. Sonic the Hedgehog (Sonic 06): Summer of Love

Sonic 06

The game for Sonic’s 15th anniversary and the album for the Beach Boys’ 30th anniversary had much in common. Both were unmitigated disasters and arguably the creative low points for both parties. Take the track “Summer of Love.” For a song under three minutes, I have no idea how it can take so long to finish. It’s like the song is so bad that it takes you to another, slower, more painful plane of existence. For starters, yup, that’s John Stamos on the drums. He’s had a longstanding relationship with the Beach Boys and I’m not sure why. The song and the music video are just so uncomfortable. As much as lead singer Mike Love wanted to come across as suave and romantic, he comes across as an old dude trying too hard and is kind of creepy. Sonic 06 and “Summer of Love” are best left forgotten, but both have fallen into the “so bad it’s good” territory for me.

9. Pokémon Sun: Soulful Old Man Sunshine

Pokemon Sun

Yes, this game has not been released yet, but something similar can be said for the song. After sitting in the vaults for thirty years, “Soulful Old Man Sunshine” was finally officially released on a compilation CD. And, both are about the sun. The song is so happy and upbeat, and you can’t help but tap your toes and smile. A new generation of Pokémon is always cause for excitement, so “So happy together, love is better in that soulful old man sunshine.”

10. Half-Life 3: SMiLE

Half Life 3

What better companion for the most anticipated vaporware game than the most anticipated album which was never released? As the highly anticipated follow-up to one of the most acclaimed albums of all time, Pet Sounds, band leader Brian Wilson set out to make something even better. It would be what he called his “teenage symphony to God,” with themes such as the history of America, the transition from childhood into adulthood, and a suite based on the four elements, all wrapped up in humor and psychedelia. Yet, after nearly a year of work and tapes upon tapes of recorded material with no clear order or progression, the project collapsed due to pressure from the record company, infighting among the group, and Brian Wilson’s declining mental health. The album was eventually compiled and released in 2004 to widespread acclaim, but no one, including Brian Wilson, knows how the album would have sounded if it had been released in 1967.

While bootlegs of the material circulated and tracks from SMiLE were eventually released on other albums, only a few pieces of concept art from Half-Life 3 have been released and the development team has been silent on the matter. The story of SMiLE’s collapse has become widely known in the world of pop music since the 60s, offering a view of how the greatest unreleased album in history fell apart. However, no such information about Half-Life 3 has been released. Will the game eventually be released to great fanfare, shattering all expectations, or will it fade into obscurity, a prisoner to its own hype?

Well, there you have it. I hope you've enjoyed this list, and maybe heard some Beach Boys tunes you hadn't heard before. What other bands do you think deserve to enter the world of video games?

Beach Boys

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About Bardleyone of us since 2:51 PM on 09.29.2014

Hi all, I'm Bardley.

I've been gaming ever since I was a kid, starting with the Nintendo 64 and Game Boy, both of which I still own and use. In the past few years, I've really enjoyed getting into retro game collecting. It's a blast playing games that were made before my time or that I have missed over the years. I have stuff from the Magnavox Odyssey 2 up to modern systems and enjoy them all.

It's incredible just how much video games have changed and advanced in the decades since their inception; I can't wait to see where games go from here.

If you'd like to know more about me, check out my introductory blog.