Every year in March, my hometown hosts a 10k and 6k evening run, with proceeds going to various local charities. I have participated in the run for the past three years, and have learned one important lesson during that time: the music that you run to can make or break you. In 2014, my playlist for the evening was hastily thrown together at the last minute and consisted of songs that I thought would pump me up. But in the end, I ditched my headphones halfway through the race and ended up with my worst time by far.
I didn’t want to make that mistake again this year, so I decided to try a musical experiment; one that would (hopefully) push me to the finish line faster than ever. I decided to run to a carefully crafted playlist made up entirely of awesome music from video games. And the result was amazing. Each song provided a different feel and intensity, and each was chosen with care. Today, I’ll be revisiting the tracks that were most effective in helping me to keep on running until I obliterated last year’s miserable finish time.
Prepare for Battle (Command & Conquer)
I used this hard rockin’ song as a pre-race warm-up. Considering that the music the race was providing for warm-ups was nothing but trashy Top 40 pop, this was a great choice. It got me into a hard, competitive mindset, and made me want to get going right away. The bad thing about this song? It made me want to go all out instantly, which would not have been a great idea.
Dragon Slayer (Rayman Legends)
The music from the Rayman series, especially since its recent reboot with Rayman Origins, is incredible. Rayman Legends not only has great music, but also incorporates songs into the actual gameplay of the last level of each world. I used “Dragon Slayer” to start off my run, due to its slow beginning, but quick transition into a steady, rocking pace. Although it is a relatively short song, it provided a huge boost right from the start of the race that carried me through for quite some time.
Battle with Seymour (Final Fantasy X)
Here’s a song where the memories and emotions from the game drive you to work out harder than the actual music does. When this song comes on, I imagine that my workout is going to help me get ready to take on and defeat Seymour, that spiky, blue haired freak that just won’t go away. Other songs from Final Fantasy X that also made my playlist are Otherworld and the main Battle Theme.
Gluttony Battle (Dead Rising 3)
Dead Rising isn’t a video game franchise that I particularly enjoy, but I can’t deny that Dead Rising 3’s soundtrack is dark, intense and awesome. This track, composed by the amazing electro-metal artist Celldweller, is the perfect workout companion. It has a heavy beat, and is fierce enough to take your mind off the workout and help you get lost in the music.
Won’t Back Down (Call of Duty: Black Ops)
Okay, so this one is a bit of a cheat. It appeared on Eminem’s album, Recovery, six months before it appeared in Black Ops. But nonetheless, this is a great song to work out to. Eminem raps with such emotion and so much feeling that it is impossible not to feel pumped up by it. Each verse and chorus is a pounding and pulse-pushing musical masterpiece that would drive even the most lethargic of people (like me) to exercise.
Chemical Plant Zone (Sonic the Hedgehog 2)
What single word comes to mind when you think of Sonic the Hedgehog? If you’re like me, that word is ‘fast’. Unless, of course, you’re thinking of recent Sonic games, in which case that word might be ‘let-down’. But recent disappointing games aside, what other video game character is a better motivation for running fast than Sonic? Other songs from Sonic games that made my playlist were Open Your Heart (Sonic Adventure) and Live and Learn (Sonic Adventure 2).
A Serpent of the Twilight (Child of Light)
In my books, Child of Light has one of the best soundtracks ever, and that isn’t just limited to video game soundtracks. The music from Child of Light is easily the best part of the game, and any number of its epic, sweeping musical scores could be used as a workout companion. While “Serpent of the Twilight” may not be the heaviest track on this playlist, or have the strongest beat, the gorgeous orchestration and loud percussion is more than motivating.
The Hard Corps (Contra: Hard Corps)
This is one to get me pumped back up when I’m about to quit. A few quiet seconds in the intro are all the warning I get that shit’s about to take off, and after that it’s hardcore electro grunge all the way. Contra: Hard Corps was not one to ease players into things; the first level starts with smashing an APC through a wall of enemies, before leaping out and gunning your way through scores more. This song was the soundtrack to that supercharged start, and it fits perfectly.
Science is Fun (Portal 2)
“Science is Fun”, and the rest of the Portal 2 soundtrack for that matter, feel and sound like an electro acid tripping version of a Fast and Furious soundtrack. And that’s not a bad thing. This song, while slightly repetitive, turned out to be one of the best ones on my playlist, especially that 8-bit explosion sound effect at the end.
Destroy the Biobliterator (Ratchet & Clank 3: Up Your Arsenal)
This piece builds masterfully, starting off with some dark electronic tones before introducing the drums and then building to an epic crescendo–and that’s only within the first twenty-five seconds. When the credits rolled on R&C3, I sat through the entirety of the credits just to hear Destroy the Biobliterator on repeat. With this song pumping into my ears, I feel like I could run for days.
Clash at the Big Bridge (Final Fantasy XIII-2)
I have an addiction to Final Fantasy, and I’d like to say that I’m working on overcoming it. Truth is, though, I have no desire to. I knew, while preparing this playlist, that I wanted some version of this amazing song from Final Fantasy V. The dilemma was deciding which version to go with. In addition to the original and this version from Final Fantasy XIII-2, there are remixes from Final Fantasy XII, XIV, Dissidia, Lightning Returns, and others. In the end, I went with the FFXIII-2 version because it gave me the most energy, represents the character of Gilgamesh most accurately and was the least repetitive. I love the many battles with Gilgamesh in the series, so this was a perfect pick for me. Other songs that I used from Final Fantasy games include:
Battle Theme – Final Fantasy
Terra – Final Fantasy VI
Fighting! – Final Fantasy VII
The Man With the Machine Gun – Final Fantasy VIII
Festival of the Hunt – Final Fantasy IX
Spark Mandrill (Mega Man X)
This choice between this classic and Storm Eagle’s jam is always a tough one for me but typically ends the same: Spark Mandrill wins by just a hair. The reason for that is pretty simple actually. Right out of the gate Spark Mandrill’s theme starts with a quick and sudden burst. It’s great for getting into that “all or nothing” mindset you almost have to be when you’re working out. Also, those drum solos just can’t be ignored. Pure, rhythmic majesty.
Entire Mega Man 2 Soundtrack
If a 10-year-old boy in a robot body can run his little, metal heart out to these tunes, so can you. Unlike my situation with Mega Man X, I couldn’t just choose one specific song. They’re all so good in their own regards and have such specific feeling that I went with them all, and if you get tired of the OST you can switch it up and listen to The Megas or The Protomen. That’s right. These soundtracks are so good they have bands created around them and, quite frankly, they’re worth the listen.
Mute City (Super Smash Bros. Melee)
Another tough decision between two great songs as Mute City narrowly edges out Big Blue. With songs as crazy as this, it’s no wonder how Captain Falcon became the second fastest runner in the Smash Bros. roster, only outpaced by the blue hedgehog himself. Hopefully some day I’ll be able to sprint that fast while rocking a yellow ascot. Until then, I’ll be sure to train with some of the best F-Zero songs.
2-Player Mode (Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine)
You show me someone who says the best Sonic song came from one of the games with ‘Sonic’ in the title and I’ll show you a deaf fool. When a song is so rocking that you can’t help but air guitar in the middle of a heated Tetris-like competition between you and a close friend, you know you’re hearing musical genius. Who would’ve thought sick beats like this would come from a puzzle game?
Wild Soul (Dragon Ball Z Budokai 2)
If you’re going to put songs in a game based around one of the most adrenaline-fueled animes of all time, you have to know how to get the people pumped. “Wild Soul” does that and then some as the intro screams impending battle sprinkled with a hint of badassery. If you want to go Super Saiyan mid-race, this is the song to do it to.
Gym Trainer Battle (Pokémon X/Y)
I love Pokémon. I really do. But I had my doubts as to whether a song from one of the games could work well in a workout playlist. I searched for one that I thought would work, and went with this battle theme from Pokémon X and Y, thinking that the fast pace and techno beats would do well as a workout song. The result? It’s super effective!
Hyrule Field Music (Hyrule Warriors)
There are countless versions of this classic Zelda tune, and I listened to many of them before deciding on this version. The decision came down to one simple element: electric guitar. While any version of this song is grand and epic, the rock element that makes up the backdrop of this version is perfect for a workout. If you haven’t played Hyrule Warriors or heard this awesome tune, then what are you waiting for? Hey! Listen!
What tunes from video games could you definitely work out to? Which songs from our playlist are your favorites? Sound off in the comments!