The Best Of The Credits
The end of a videogame can be a somber event. It’s a time to reflect on the uphill climb that led to the summit you, the player are standing on. When the credits roll you can finally sit back and relax (usually), and revel in the glory. Some games make that final moment extra special by paying close attention to something otherwise glossed over or skipped at the end of the game…the song.
Clever ending credits music has been around for a while now, but it really started when Jonathan Coulton’s “Still Alive” played just after the final scene of Valve’s famous puzzler Portal. The game was good without the song, but the song became quickly as popular (if not more) than the game itself. More people knew about this great song at the end of the game than had actually played the game to get to that point, and it spawned a number of parodies and t-shirts, and whathaveyou.
It’s only every so often that a game will really nail that post-final-boss fight moment with something special, a song that maybe has you tapping your toes and smiling, or just sitting back to take in the scope of your accomplishments. The best ending credits songs stay in the spirit of the game that came ahead of them, while still establishing a “special moment” that’s almost totally devoid of gameplay. Yes, some of the most memorable games actually force the player to do something during the credits (as one of these titles does). I advocate that this is a decision typically made in poor taste, sort of like wrapping up the final details to your movie while people’s names roll over the images onscreen, even though when it’s done right it can be done very well. The credits are a time for you to look back the trials and tribulations that you’ve bested to get where you are, and the tunes that accompany it should reflect that.
The list that follows is a selection of some great examples of end credits music, curated from personal experience. No spoilers! Well, maybe a light spoiler or two about the credits themselves, we are talking about game endings here…
Portal “Still Alive”
The one that started it all. “Still Alive” is a hilarious, fourth wall breaking send up that falls perfectly in step with the tongue in cheek humor and suspense that the game evoked so well. The sequel even had a funny song at the end too! Another Jonathan Coulton jam called “Want you gone”. “Still Alive” stands as one of the most memorable game ending themes of all time.
Mighty Switch Force 2 “Rescue Girl”
The first of two entries from Jake “virt” Kaufman, MSF2’s ending theme song is an amazing benchmark for the Nintendo 3DS speakers. Put on headphones for this one, and BLAST IT. Disco influences, great lyrics, and a nice full bodied sound had me grinning and smiling even before playing the game. And once beaten, this song is a perfect “Thanks for playing!” in an otherwise easily missable, only portable, puzzle game.
Double Dragon Neon “The Awesome Song”
This is the second virt song on my list,and for good reason. Double Dragon Neon was one of the last smash hits on the Xbox Live Arcade, and Way Forward hit it out of the park by hiring Kaufman to do their tunes. The entire soundtrack is amazing, but this self-aware ending song is the perfect tableau for you and your buddy next to you on the couch to exchange a solid hi-five to and revel in how much fun you just had. The song even mentions thanking the game for facilitating friendship!
BONUS: You get an achievement at the EXACT MOMENT Skullmageddon says “Here’s a medal for your victory” at 1:09 into the video above. On the Xbox this achievement is worth 9 gamerpoints, which balances out the achievement you get worth 1 gamerpoint at the start of a new game, hopefully bringing your gamerscore’s one’s place digit to a beautiful “0”. This, my friends, is brilliant game design.
You Have To Burn The Rope “Now You’re A Hero”
I don’t expect many people have beaten Mazapan’s free platforming game “You Have To Burn The Rope“, but it’s not a hard game to beat. You just have to burn the rope, you see, and then you win. After that, a song that’s almost as long as the game itself plays over some quaint credits. Honestly this might be my favorite entry on this list for its quaint nature and honest goal as a “game ending funny song”. It succeeds. The composer Henrik Namark’s website has a great selection of his other work.
Super Mario World “Ending Theme”
Though Mario is already a well established Goomba stomper by this point, Super Mario World is still one of his most popular entries to this day. The SNES powerhouse of a game has been ported a handful of times, but the feel of the game hasn’t changed one bit over the many years. Still as tight and rich as ever, the game is a joy for old and young.
The end credits are a slow walk down memory lane, complete with the now rescued Princess and Mario hanging out with the Yoshi kids. Then there’s a lovely rogue’s gallery! If you put in the hours to beat this game, this ending song was a great pat on the back.
Far Cry Blood Dragon “Friends (forever)”
“Blood Dragon” is the Saturday morning cartoon special we never got to enjoy as kids, turned into a hyper violent neon adventure for us to enjoy as adults. Much like how the recent “Gat Out Of Hell” used Saints Row 4’s engine and mechanics, “Blood Dragon” doesn’t really change too much about Far Cry. You’re still going around destroying bases of enemies and getting into firefights, but now you’re a cyborg soldier who is also ripping out hearts and fighting off massive mutated dinosaurs. RADICAL.
And the music is rad too! The end credits remind one of songs like Stan Bush’s “The Touch” and Chesney Hawkes’ “The One And Only“. Overly sweet lyrics over rock’n’roll guitar captured the optimistic free spirit of the late 80s youth, and “Friends (forever)” fits right in. It’ll quickly get stuck in your head.
Bayonetta “Theme/Fly Me To The Moon”
Okay okay okay…anyone who knows me (Joe) knows that Bayonetta is my favorite game. Ever. Period. But the music is almost half the reason why. The first Bayonetta uses “Fly Me To The Moon” as a theme throughout the soundtrack to great effect. The second game used “Moon River” with the same reaction from me: amazing. Take an old song, spin it up, have a lovely and energetic singer with a vibrant band behind her and wow. Hyper-violence should ALWAYS be set to jazz.
One thought: this game breaks my “NO PLAYING DURING CREDITS” rule pretty soundly, but I forgive my own double standards here. The best thing about Bayonetta is playing it, so letting the player participate in the end credits, still setting scores, still pushing to the end, is just great. That, and after the “play along!” bits end…there’s still credits rolling. The end of Bayonetta 1 is quite long, and one of the best “Thank You”s I’ve ever gotten for beating a game.
Red Dead Redemption “Far Away”
This is an honorable mention because it takes place in the dead center of the game, but as John Marston crosses into Mexico this song begins to play as he rides through the mesa. Red Dead Redemption typically has fairly understated music, but this is the first time in the game that the soundtrack steps up and puts itself squarely in front of your to be enjoyed as is, with only the sound of hooves, John’s horse calls, and the world passing by as a frame. No gunshots or explosions, just a lovely song and a lonely man.
Portal 2 Sentry Choir “Cara Mia Addio”
More memorable to me than the actual ending credits of Portal 2 is this song, Cara Mia Addio, a gorgeous operetta sung by the United Sentry Turret Choir of Aperture Science and Industries. This comes just before the end credits of the game. When the turrets, who’ve been diligently shooting at you for hours up until this point, all break character to sing this song for you it will make even the stoniest of faces smile.
BONUS: The lyrics to “Cara Mia Addio”