Seagulls, Cool Jazz, And Megadeth: 5 Favorite Tunes From Grand Theft Auto

Seagulls, Cool Jazz, And Megadeth: 5 Favorite Tunes From Grand Theft Auto

With Rockstar about to announce the release of Grand Theft Auto V, we’re all abuzz theorizing, postulating, and prognosticating about things that the game will or won’t have. Totilo’s looked at what systems the game might be on, Crecente guessed about possible settings. And then, Stephen got a tip that the game will indeed be set in L.A. and may even feature multiple protagonists.

I wanted to take a second to look back at the thing that has always defined GTA for me: The sweet, sweet music.

When we talk about great video game soundtracks, we’re often talking about video game original scores–it’s a category that GTA games don’t quite sit comfortably in. But it must be said that taken as a whole, GTAoffers some of the most pleasurable musical experiences in gaming. Hell, these guys were cool enough to score a trailer with music by Philip Glass, so it’s not surprising that their musical choices are always top-notch.

The way the game’s soundtrack melds with the game world is something special–it’s basically diegetic, in that the only music that plays is the music on the radio in vehicles. Cutscenes, too, are accompanied by music from radios in the background playing tunes from the various game’s radio stations. It’s remarkably organic, and as a result, a frantic car chase might be scored by Miles Davis or Guns ‘n Roses… or both, if you’re a channel surfer.

Given Grand Theft Auto IV‘s penchant for off-the-beaten-path music, I’m very much looking forward to hearing more about the radio stations, DJs, and playlists of GTA V.

In the meantime, I though I’d put together five of my favourite tracks from Grand Theft Auto games past. This list sure as hell isn’t definitive–it’s just five tunes that I love, and that I will always associate with my time playing Rockstar’s games. Click on, and rock out.

Fascination – David Bowie

I think it’s a sax thing, but few songs conjure GTA IV for me like David Bowie’s “Fascination.” It always seems to come on in the evening, slinky wah-wah sax (David Sanborn, ladies and gentlemen) accompanying me as I drive across the Broker bridge into Algonquin. Bonus points to Rockstar for having Liberty Rock Radio come on every time a player hops into a helicopter. Clearly Liberty City’s pilots know what they’re doing.

Miles Davis – Move

I was so flippin stoked that GTA IV had a jazz station… and not just some weird approximation of 1940’s b-sides or Squirrel Nut Zippers tunes, but a damned well put-together, legit playlist that focused mostly on hard-bop from the 1950’s. Impossible for me to choose a favourite among them (I mean, Sonny Rollins on “St. Thomas” is one of my favourite tenor solos of all time, as of course is Trane on “Giant Steps”), but whenever Miles Davis’s “Move” (from his classic “Birth of the Cool” record) comes on, I’m impressed that a tune this hip is featured in a video game. Listen for Lee Konitz’s breezy alto sax solo–dude biffs the time in his first phrase. Heh.

Megadeth – Peace Sells

I don’t listen to enough metal. It’s a thing, like… there’s just not enough time to amass the knowledge of some of my metal-head friends, so I wind up missing out on a lot of good stuff. Fortunately, Grand Theft Auto games are super good at metal. GTA IV‘s DLC chapter The Lost and The Damned put together a killer mix of hardcore and metal, but this Megadeth track from Vice City remains probably my favourite guitar chugger of them all. This tune just screams “blow off your next objective and go start running people over on the beach!”

Heart – Barracuda – KDST in San Andreas

I loved how eclectic San Andreas‘s soundtrack was–any game that features setting-appropriate gangster rap one minute, followed by a country music backwoods dirtbike race the next is cool by me. But I think that Heart’s “Barracuda” is (maybe?) my favourite song from the entire game. The tune is such a “driving song,” not in that it has a driving beat, but in that it’s perfect for driving. The chuga-chuga guitar buildup, the sinister vibe, and of course, the fact that it’s by Heart, and therefore is inarguably, objectively awesome.

Flock of Seagulls – I Ran (So Far Away)

Well, this one pretty much had to be in here, didn’t it? Not for nothing: not only was it featured in the famous trailer for Vice City, “I Ran So Far” just about perfectly captures the neon-lit, pastel glitz of Vice City, which still stands as arguably the most iconic Grand Theft Auto of them all. (Note: This song is not to be confused with Loney Island’s excellent tribute to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, “Iran so Far.” Hopping into a speedboat and riding into the sunset while Flock of Seagulls plays will always be a peak Grand Theft Auto moment.


    • It didn’t have The Politics Of Dancing did it? The soundtrack is missing without it. Then again thats what the MP3 player station was for I guess

    • Absolutely. Vice City had hands-down the best soundtrack and is probably the last GTA I enjoyed without feeling at least a little sceptical about any single thing.

  • I can’t listen to songs from GTA while driving anymore. Everytime I hear Fools Good by the Stone Roses I have flashbacks to cruising the streets of Las Venturas mowing down as many pedestrians as I can. It’s not healthy.

  • My favourites are – From SA, Plush – Stone Temple Pilots and Green River – Creedence Clearwater Revival and Cocaine from GTA IV.

    The thing is i like the talkback radio stations, and anything Lazlo hosts.

  • all good except for the jazz one.
    The vice city soundtrack was definatly the best. If only they would do a HD remake of it.

  • Loved how pretty much the whole flashback FM radio station on GTA3 was every song in the movie Scarface. vice city def had best music.

  • Rockstar have an exceptional choice of radio music. I’ve bought both the Vice City and San Andreas soundtrack box sets. Shame they don’t have the talkback radio stations though.

    • Doesn’t work for SA, but the PC version of Vice City can store the entire radio playlists (including the talk-back ones) on the computer, and it’s easy to get them as mp3s. Download this:
      Run it, choose ADF -> MP3 and go into the sound folder in the Vice City installation, with a bit of digging around you’d find the radio stations. It will export them as mp3s.

  • Pretty good selection there but I’d have swapped Peace Sells for Sepultura’s Dead Embryonic Cells since that felt so awesome to cruise to at the head of The Lost on the way to pipebomb some deadbeats

    Also I’d have swapped out Barracuda for Gil Scott Heron’s Home Is Where The Hatred Is since it might be the most soulful song I’ve ever heard.

    If you want some metal recommendations, I’d suggest checking out the following tracks on youtube (not sure how to do proper links here so I’ll just do names)

    Killswitch Engage – Rose of Sharyn
    Mnemic – Door 2.12
    Diablo – The Preacher
    Sybreed – From Zero To Nothing
    Disarmonia Mundi – Red Clouds
    In Flames – Only For The Weak
    Pain – Same Old Song
    Soilwork – Rejection Role (you should also watch In Flames’ Trigger afterwards, the clips are related)
    Arch Enemy – Savage Messiah (or Heart Of Darkness or their covers of Starbreaker or Aces High)
    Children of Bodom – Oops I Did It Again (a bloody fantastic & unexpected cover of britney spears)

  • :S Nothing from GTA 1 or 2??? GTA 1’s radio stations are awesome, especially given they’re all made specifically for the game.
    And whilst I love the GTA3 intro theme, I think GTA1’s is the best:

    And the retro-ness of GTA: London 1969 is also awesome

    Got all the soundtracks from 1 to Vice City at home 😀

    • Dude, I still have the GTA1 soundtrack on my iPhone, and it gets busted out quite often. It’s amazing.

      Actually, a mate and I took the cd to a local bar once and they played the whole thing for us, it was awesome.

  • Playing Vice City, the first three times that I heard 99 Luftballons I got into a car chase, lost control and ended up in the water, drowned.

    The fourth time it came on, I pulled over to the side of the road by the canal to wait it out. All 3:45 of it.

    At about 3:35, I got T-boned by someone who missed a turn, and got pushed into the water.

    The next time I heard it, I just drove into the water to save time.

  • Nothing better than hearing Conway twitty? on the radio as you drove out into the country in GTA:SA.

    “All my ex’s live in Texas, that’s why i hang my hat in Tennessee!”

  • GTA4 had fucking Roy Ayres djing!!! That was the dopest thing I have ever seen/heard in a game related to music.


    Greatest part about Vice City is hearing that song come on when you’re in the middle of a choice or driving down the freeway. That, and Bark at the Moon.

  • ElectroChoc was an amazing radio station. Kavinsky – Testarossa (SebAstian remix) is definitely my favourite.

    • There is one track on ElectroChoc I really like but whenever I hear it I forget to ring the hotline to find out the song title!

      Also if you have the PS2 San Andreas disk google ‘San Andreas Radio decoder’ and thank me later (I beleive there’s also a Vice City Radio as well)

  • I’d like it if the soundtracks weren’t so US-centric. There is a WORLD BEYOND AMERICA you know.
    (Even Guitar Hero and Rock Band used US songs for the overseas tours. WTF?!)

    • Well there was vladivostok fm, the very first radio station you hear in GTA4

      Also with the game being set in america, its more likely to have an american focus to the soundtrack since thats what the real radio stations would have

  • Vice city sound track. Best. Thing. Ever. My god I hope they bring back decent radio hosts. I need more Maurice Chavez.

    Also, more 80’s. Cheaper license fees and better songs!

  • Most of the songs in GTA I’d heard somewhere else but a few were originals that good enough to suck me in. On Liberty City Stories there’s a song by Giorgio Moroder called ‘I wanna rock you’ and for whatever reason this disco/techno song not the kind of style I’m normally into and the action in Liberty City just click!

    Also San Andreas had the best DJs, Axel Rose, George Clinton, the guy from Bell Biv Devoe, Andy Dick!

  • No Mention of entire Scarface sountrack on GTA 3’s flashback FM? Just realised this while rewatching Scarface a few years ago. “Push It to the Limit” ,”Rush, Rush” Amazeballs

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