Featured image from Nintendo Unity YouTube channel.
As you may or may not know, music is a huge part of my life (erichagmannmusic.com gave it away, huh?), and I’ve been singing as early as elementary school. Now I’m a voice teacher at a college, I direct two vocal ensembles, and I continue to perform for the public whenever I get the chance – not to mention all the stuff I’ve done on my YouTube channel!
Naturally, the music of video games has been an important part of the journey. So, what better way to combine my two passions than by listing the Top Ten Vocalists in Games!? Can you think of any others? Who are some of your faves? Let me know in a reply. Enjoy!
10. K.K. Slider
The writer behind incredible hits like “K.K. Groove,” “K.K. Cruisin’,” and “K.K. Samba” is none other than K.K. Slider! Always equipped with his trusty guitar (likely a nylon 6-string classical guitar), K.K. has written over 80 original songs and knows dozens of “covers.” He also had a brief stint as D..J. K.K at Club LOL in Animal Crossing: New Leaf.
Fans of the series will also know his face well as he is the first character someone will see upon booting up a new game. What’s your favorite K.K. tune??
Needing to rack up some fast silver points at the Millenial Fair and don’t want to take any chances betting on a footrace? Gato is your guy! Found in the western corner of the event, Gato will challenge you to a battle which not only gives you access to quick rewards but also provides you with a general opportunity to test out the game’s battle mechanics (though, is it really okay that Crono and Marle are just casually carrying around a sword and a crossbow at a fair???).
Before the fight gets started, however, Gato pulls out a microphone and uses the power of song to draw you into the bout. The mechanical minstrel also graces you with a post-battle encore with specialized lyrics depending on whether you won or lost.
As a special treat, a promotional anime short was created in 1996 and featured the song in all its glory. Check it out below!
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
(Game Boy, 1993)
Marin just loves to sing. If you visit her near the center of Mabe Village on Koholint Island, she can be found performing “The Ballad of the Wind Fish.” This iconic piece of musical literature plays a key role in the plot of Link’s Awakening as it is needed to rouse a sleeping Wind Fish who is said to be able to return our protagonist back to his home of Hyrule. Once Link obtains the ocarina item (predating that ONE ocarina by five years!), Marin teaches him the song so he can host the ultimate jam session outside a giant Yoshi egg near the end of the game.
Music has always played an important role in the Zelda series, but I’d like to think it really got its start here on the small screen!
Final Fantasy X-2
(Playstation 2, 2003)
While dance has always been an important element of being a summoner, Yuna embraces the vocal side of the fine arts by…becoming a pop star?
During the opening sequence of Final Fantasy X-2, Yuna can be seen performing a hit song “Real Emotion” at a stadium in the port town of Luca. It’s later revealed that this is actually an imposter named Leblanc, a rival sphere hunter, who is trying capitalize off of the young summoner’s fame. Meanwhile, the real Yuna infiltrates the concert alongside Rikku and newcomer Paine in order to recover her Garment Grid and put an end to her competitor’s slight case of identity theft.
So, I guess Yuna’s not a pop star after all. It’s a weird way to open a game, but Square pushed this opening hard to try to get people to buy into their sequel. Did it work? Well, I wasn’t convinced, and my only experience with this game was from briefly watching my roommate play it during college. But, apparently it sold around 4 million copies. So, J-Pop for the win!
6. PaRappa the Rapper
You gotta believe! Considered a pioneer of rhythms games like Dance Dance Revolution, PaRappa the Rapper had us bustin’ out some phat rhymes as early as 1996. Gameplay involved pressing specific buttons at just the right moment to match the rhythm of the song. Of course, this technology wasn’t quite perfected at the time, so when I played PaRapper, I remember being completely frustrated that the beat didn’t match up exactly with my button presses. At this point in my life, I had a Bachelors degree in music and many, many years of performance experience under my belt, so I’m pretty sure it wasn’t me!
Why all the rapping? Well, this is one of the few rhythm games that actually had a plot to entice players to continue on with the adventure (unlike modern rhythm games where you simply select from a list of songs and then have at it). Our main man wants to win the love of friend Sunny Funny, and he uses his mastery of words to achieve this goal. In the first stage, to contend with Sunny’s other romantic interest, PaRappa raps his way through a kung-fu lesson so he can impress his lady. Several other stages revolve around getting his license, baking a cake, and…using the bathroom. You gotta believe that this wouldn’t work at all in real life.
If you’re wanting to get into Magnet Hill to record some tunes for your Sound Stone, then you’re going to have to bring an autograph from singer sensation, Venus, to Mr. Spoon who is curator of an exhibit at the Dinosaur Museum in Fourside.
Venus is in town with the Blues Brothers-inspired “Runaway Five,” and their latest gig is at the Topolla Theater. For $30, you can see them perform “Venus Live!” as it’s titled on the official Earthbound soundtrack, a sultry jazz-waltz that gives off some major Jessica Rabbit vibes. She doesn’t even miss a beat when Mr. Spoon tries to storm the stage and have his way with her before he gets carried off by bodyguards. Once the performance has wrapped, she’ll be waiting in her dressing room to sign an old banana peel for you so you can go back to saving the world.
4. Mayor Pauline
Super Mario Odyssey
Once a damsel held captive by the original Donkey Kong (Cranky!!!), Pauline is now the illustrious mayor of New Donk City. After Mario takes care of a few minor power issues, Pauline tasks him with finding four musicians hidden throughout the city so she can perform for the kingdom’s festival.
Truly, this moment of Super Mario Odyssey was a highlight for me and may have been my favorite moment from the game. As Pauline takes to the stage to sing her heart out on “Jump Up, Super Star!”, Mario has to navigate his way through a series of 2D platforming type areas, and he even faces off against an arcade version of DK who is back to slinging barrels at the former carpenter.
“Jump Up, Super Star” was promoted extensively at Nintendo’s 2017 E3 announcement of the game. The song played constantly throughout the event, and they decked out their area to look like a scene right out of the game. It would be almost five years before I finally got to play Mario Odyssey, and the hype for me remained consistent during that time. What a surprise it was when we learned that Pauline was the voice behind the music!
3. Celes Chere
Final Fantasy 6
Need an airship? You’re in luck! It just so happens that the world’s only airship owner has got a thing for the leading lady at the Opera House, and he’s planning to break every rule pertaining to audience etiquette by kidnapping her during the middle of the performance! It ALSO just so happens that your fellow party member, Celes Chere, looks just like this leading lady. I smell a heist in the works!!
This crazy set of events leads to one of the most iconic scenes in video game history (and an early appreciation of opera for those who may have never even touched the genre). As Celes, you have to physically complete a scene of the performance where she stands upon a castle top singing about her lost love who is away at war. To be successful, you have to fill in the next lines of lyrics when prompted, “dance” with an on-stage character, and then throw a bouquet of roses off of a balcony. For being an 18 year old ex-general, Celes sure has some happenin’ (MIDI) singing chops!
2. Great Mighty Poo
Conker’s Bad Fur Day
Speaking of opera… The Great Mighty Poo (not to be confused with the regular normal Poo of Earthbound) appeared on my Blarch article way back in 2020, and with a voice like his, he definitely deserves a spot here!
The GMP first lures you to his lair in Poo Mountain by enticing you, with his incredibly booming voice, to bring a helpless sweet corn to his inner rectum…I mean sanctum. Upon reaching him, you are immediately greeted with a tragic scene where he uses the poor sweet corn as a new tooth. Then, the singing begins…
“I am the Great Mighty Poo, and I’m going to throw my sh*t at you.” Hey, he gave away his battle strategy right away! To defeat the steaming pile, you must use man’s greatest tool: toilet paper. After each round, GMP gets angrier and angrier, and he has a new set of lyrics to let you know how he’s feeling. Once he’s had enough, he parodies the Wicked Witch of the West by exclaiming “I’m flushing! I’m flushing!” He goes on to say “Oh, what a world, what a world” before being drained to the depths below.
It’s never enough to describe it in words, so click below to see it for yourself!
(first appearance Game Boy, 1996)
Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde
Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Nothing brings me more joy than hearing “Still Alive” at the end of the first Portal game. The tongue-in-cheek lyrics were cleverly crafted by the song’s composer, Jonathon Coulton, who was a huge fan of the Half Life series.
In a game that likes to toy with the player’s emotions and expectations, this song perfectly wraps up everything you’ve experienced since your final battle with GlaDos and even offers a twist that all the work you’ve done was essentially for nothing. Portal 2 confirmed.
It’s well known now that GlaDos was voiced by Ellen McLain who was a trained operatic soprano. Her ability to bring to life the flat emotion and cynical nature of the character exceeds all expectations. Combined with a few effects to make her sound more like a computer, her performance is flawless. The song became so iconic that it was also a playable track in some of the Rock Band games, and it was featured during a live performance at the 2009 Press Start – Symphony of Games concert in Japan.
Thanks for stopping by to read my article! Can you think of any other singers in video games? Let me know about them in a reply below. Also, be sure to FOLLOW or subscribe to my blog via e-mail so you can have content delivered directly to your inbox!
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