This is a subject I’ve wanted to discuss here for a long time. Have you ever played your favorite game for hours on end, then turn on the radio driving to work the next day and hear what you think is the music from the game being broadcast straight to your car? Perhaps those strange coincidences aren’t as strange as you think. Indeed, there are tons of pop songs that have similar melodies to video game tracks and vice-versa. And to my knowledge, nobody has tried to put together a definitive list of the most common of these coincidences… until now.
Sonic the Hedgehog (Game Gear): “Bridge Zone” vs. Janet Jackson, “Together Again”
The main melody of the second level of Sonic the Hedgehog for Game Gear sounds remarkably similar to the chorus of Janet Jackson’s 1998 pop hit, or as this kid knows it: the song he could not get away from hearing riding in the back of mom’s minivan.
Funnily enough, this isn’t the only instance in which you can connect Sonic with the Jacksons, knowing Michael Jackson wrote several of the music tracks featured in Sonic the Hedgehog 3. More on that later.
Mega Man: “Elec Man Stage” vs. Journey, “Faithfully,” AND R.E.M., “All the Right Friends”
Those first few measures of Elec Man’s theme from the first Mega Man game have the exact same time signature and key as the introductory melodies in both Journey’s “Faithfully” and “All the Right Friends” by R.E.M.:
“Faithfully” was released in 1983, Mega Man in 1987, and R.E.M. put out “All the Right Friends” in 2001. That leaves one question: what inspired R.E.M. more, Journey or the Blue Bomber?
EarthBound: “Drug Store” vs. The Beatles, “When I’m Sixty-Four”
If you sing the lyrics to “When I’m Sixty-Four” along with this track from EarthBound, you can see how it could easily be mistaken for a karaoke version of that classic Beatles song from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band:
Maybe that’s why we’re not seeing Nintendo re-releasing the game… Its music is so similar to that of The Beatles that Nintendo could risk a lawsuit from Apple Records?
Street Fighter II: “Ken’s Theme” vs. Cheap Trick, “Mighty Wings”
Here’s another one where the intros to the two songs are so similar you’ll refuse to believe one wasn’t inspired by the other:
Clearly, someone at Capcom just loves watching Top Gun.
Chrono Trigger: “Robo’s Theme” vs. Rick Astley, “Never Gonna Give You Up”
MUAHAHAHAHAHA! Thanks to my knowledge of video game songs that sound too similar to pop music, I now have the power to Rick Roll you TWICE!
Ahhh, that never gets old.
Hotline Miami: “Release” vs. the end theme from Blade Runner
Not only does same melody appear in both songs, in the same tone; they both use the same instrument that is so defining of 1980s pop music, the synthesizer:
I previously wrote about how the soundtrack to Hotline Miami is one of the best licensed soundtracks in gaming for capturing the feel of the 1980s, and this further proves it. I wouldn’t be surprised if when writing this track, M|O|O|N looked to the Blade Runner soundtrack for inspiration.
Sonic the Hedgehog 3: “Ice Cap Zone” vs. The Jetzons, “Hard Times”
Here’s where things get interesting when comparing game music to pop music. For years, most of us thought Michael Jackson composed this fan favorite tune from Sonic 3 (with many finding similarities between this song and “Smooth Criminal”)… until last year, when Sonic fans discovered a song composed in the early 1980s by a new wave band called The Jetzons:
The fact that Ice Cap Zone is a note-for-note instrumental of “Hard Times” is likely no coincidence, fans conclude: Brad Buxer, keyboardist for The Jetzons, was also Michael Jackson’s music director. Buxer too was involved in Jackson’s collaboration with Sega producing music for Sonic 3 and was even credited in the final version of the game, where Jackson was not.
Mega Man X6: “Infinity Mijinion Stage” vs. Europe, “The Final Countdown”
It seems the Mega Man and Sonic franchises have the most music with similarities to pop songs. The very same slow buildup with guitars and horns blaring, followed by a similarly paced rock epic is what make up both Infinity Mijinion’s theme and Europe’s sportsball favorite:
A sports-themed robot master doesn’t appear until Mega Man 10. After hearing this, Strike Man’s theme doesn’t even feel appropriate anymore. This truly is the game theme that screams, “ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL?”
This only scratches the surface of the many strange similarities between songs written for video games and mainstream music. Perhaps I will revisit this subject at a later date, bringing up even more famous video game songs and their pop counterparts. Until that day, keep listening, my friends. In a world where thousands of songs are written each day, you never know what curiosity will catch the ear next, on a game system or on your radio.
The Minus World is written by Steven Brasley. You can keep up with his thoughts on gaming via Twitter. Check back every Tuesday for new articles.