The concept of games often brings to mind images of video games or classic board games. However, the scope of games extends far beyond these traditional forms — like their influence on music.
Over time, musicians have woven game-inspired elements into their songs. It bridges the gap between these two forms of entertainment. From gentle pop to hard-hitting rock, these songs touch various aspects of gaming culture, from the thrill of competition to the nostalgia it provides.
In this post, we’ll dive into 21 of the best songs about games, literally or figuratively. So get ready to level up your playlist and read on!
1. “Let The Games Begin” By AJR
Titled appropriately to start our list is “Let the Games Begin” by the indie pop band AJR. It begins with an all-too-familiar fanfare before unfolding a rallying cry for dreamers and doers about to start their life’s journey.
Yes, it’s a song about games, but not in the traditional sense we might think of. Instead, it uses the metaphor of a game to represent life’s challenges, pursuits, and the spirit of competition.
The lyrics tell us to “ready set, let’s go, it’s time to run… / together we can make it while the world is crashing down.” In short, the song aims to inspire resilience, tenacity, and the unwavering will to win the “game” of life.
2. “The Game Of Love” By Santana Ft. Michelle Branch
This track, from the 2002 album Shaman, delves into the multifaceted nature of romantic relationships. It uses a game as a metaphor for the unpredictable nature of love, described as a mix of “a little bit of this, a little bit of that” and “a little bit of laughs, a little bit of pain.”
Through its compelling lyrics and danceable melody, the song encourages listeners to embrace the game of love with all its twists and turns. After all, love is not always easy to win.
3. “Pac-Man Fever” By Buckner & Garcia
Some might know of the iconic arcade game Pac-Man and might have enjoyed the game itself some time in their life. So it’s not surprising there’s actually a song about it: “Pac-Man Fever,” by Buckner & Garcia.
Released when Pac-Man was in the craze during the early 1980s, the song is, as you might have guessed, centered on the experience of playing it. The narrator’s got “a pocket full of quarters,” ready to “eat them all up, just as soon as they turn blue.”
The lyrics also reflect some gameplay, where the narrator navigates Pac-Man through the dot-filled maze. The tune captures the thrill that comes with playing Pac-Man. It transports us back to a time when video games were a new, exciting form of entertainment, and Pac-Man was the king of the arcade.
4. “Video Games” By Lana Del Rey
Released in 2011, Lana Del Rey‘s “Video Games” is a poignant exploration of modern romance. The song is seemingly about games. But it is more about the feeling of being in love and the simplicity of enjoying each other’s company.
The narrative of the song revolves around a young woman deeply in love with her partner, who prefers to spend his time playing video games. Despite this, she finds joy in watching him play, content with the simple, quiet moments they share.
“Video Games” was a critical success upon its release, with praise for Del Rey’s haunting vocals and the nostalgic, dreamy production. In 2012, it received an Ivor Novello Award for Best Contemporary Song.
5. “Games People Play” By Joe South
Up next is a classic by country singer Joe South. “Games People Play” was released in the late 1960s. It is a protest song against various forms of societal hatred, hypocrisy, inhumanity, and intolerance.
The song’s inspiration came from the book Games People Play: The Psychology of Human Relationships, by Canadian psychologist Eric Berne. Just like the book, the song reflects the psychological games that people often play within their relationships.
Its lyrics suggest that if you are not genuine in your relationships, you’re not serious about them. It encourages people to be more open, honest, and authentic in their relationships rather than engaging in manipulative games.
6. “Pinball Wizard” By The Who
Our next song is directly about a game — pinball, to be precise. “Pinball Wizard” by The Who is part of their 1969 album Tommy and tells an intriguing story about this game.
The narrative is about a “deaf, dumb, and blind” boy who, against all odds, becomes a champion at playing pinball. The character’s disability does not hinder him. Instead, he uses his other senses to master the game and surpass all other players, becoming the Pinball Wizard.
However, the song is not just about playing the game. It’s also a powerful metaphor for overcoming challenges and societal expectations. It’s about finding something you’re passionate about and excelling at it despite what others may think or say.
7. “Little Games” By The Yardbirds
From the iconic rock band The Yardbirds, we have “Little Games.” Released in 1967, it’s a metaphorical exploration of maturation and changing experiences.
The lyrics express a longing for more sophisticated encounters, moving away from the “little games” of childhood. It mentions parties in Chelsea flats and interactions with “kinky cats.” These symbolize a shift toward a more adult lifestyle.
Musically, “Little Games” incorporates sitar sounds and harpsichord melodies. These create an otherworldly atmosphere that complements the introspective lyrics. It’s a departure from The Yardbirds’ more traditional blues-rock sound, showcasing the band’s versatility and experimentation.
8. “Nintendo Game” By Alessia Cara
In our next song with “game” in the title, Canadian singer-songwriter Alessia Cara likens a romantic relationship to — you guessed it! — a video game. “Nintendo Game” was released in 2018 from her album The Pains of Growing.
The song uses this video game as a unique metaphor throughout the song. It captures the ups and downs, thrills and challenges, and competitive aspects often found in love.
The narrative shows two people treating their relationship like a game, where one is trying to outdo the other. The song touches on the push-and-pull dynamics, the power plays, and the emotional rollercoaster that such a game-like relationship can entail.
9. “Love Is A Losing Game” By Amy Winehouse
There is a world of heartache when love is played like a game. Amy Winehouse describes this best in her song “Love Is a Losing Game.” A tragic yet beautiful song, it dives deep into the sorrow of a failed relationship.
The story behind the song is personal. Amy penned it in the aftermath of a painful breakup with her then-boyfriend Blake Fielder-Civil. The lyrics reveal her deep sense of loss and loneliness, reflecting the devastation she felt when he left her.
This song with “game” in the lyrics serves as an analogy for the unpredictability, risks, and challenges inherent in love. Just like in a game where one can strategize and put in their best efforts, yet still lose, love too can be unpredictable and sometimes result in heartbreak.
10. “Play The Game” By Queen
The legendary band Queen also released a game-inspired track. “Play the Game,” the opening song of their 1980 album The Game, is all about love and heartbreak.
The lyrics explore the theme of love, specifically falling in love and the so-called “rules” that govern this emotion. It essentially encourages listeners to open up to the possibility of love and to embrace it while they can. And if the relationship doesn’t work out, one must move on.
Like many of the songs we have already discussed, the song mentions “games” as a metaphor for relationships. The song uses this concept to express the idea of navigating love, understanding its rules, and playing it right, much like a classic game is done.
11. “The Name Of The Game” By ABBA
The Swedish pop group ABBA has given us many memorable hits, one of which is “The Name of the Game.” Featured in their fifth studio album, the song beautifully captures the emotional rollercoaster of love and relationships.
The song was initially called “A Bit of Myself,” indicating its personal nature. It explores themes of trust, vulnerability, and the desire for emotional reciprocation. The lyrics reflect a longing to understand the intentions of a romantic partner, questioning what their ultimate goal, or “game,” might be.
“The Name of the Game” was released in 1977 and was a great hit for ABBA. It topped the UK Singles Chart for four weeks and landed in the top 5 of many charts across the globe.
12. “The Crying Game” By Boy George
Adding to the rich tapestry of music that explores the complexities of love is Boy George‘s rendition of “The Crying Game.” First released by rock singer Dave Berry in 1964, George’s version has gained considerable recognition.
“The Crying Game” details the cyclical pattern of falling in love, experiencing a breakup, and then dealing with the ensuing tears. This repetitive cycle has become so familiar to the narrator that he feels caught up in what he refers to as “the crying game.”
The “game” in the song serves as a metaphor for the recurring patterns of love and loss. It conveys the idea that love can often feel like a game, with its own set of rules and inevitable outcomes. In this case, the “game” ends in tears and heartache for the narrator.
13. “Poker Face” By Lady Gaga
Up next is a dance track by Lady Gaga, “Poker Face.” This song stands out with its unique, catchy beats and sing-along-able lyrics.
In this song, Gaga uses the game of poker as a metaphor for controlling one’s emotions and maintaining a facade. Just as a good poker player keeps their cards close and reveal nothing through their expression, Gaga sings about keeping her real feelings hidden. This idea is encapsulated in the lyrics, “Can’t read my, can’t read my, / no he can’t read my poker face.”
As with many of Lady Gaga’s works, “Poker Face” shot up the charts worldwide when it was released in 2008. By 2015, it had reached Diamond certification by the RIAA.
14. “Blackjack” By Ray Charles
Up next, we have Ray Charles‘s classic blues tune “Blackjack.” The song highlights the allure of gambling and how it can quickly spiral into a destructive habit.
“Blackjack” was released in 1958 as part of Charles’ Yes Indeed! album. It was written by the singer himself, who was known for his ability to infuse soulful melodies with powerful lyrics that touched on real-life issues.
The lyrics narrate the story of a man who loves to gamble. His poison of choice? The card game Blackjack. He has gambled “every quarter” in the game, which caused financial woes, and he acknowledges that he only has himself to blame for this.
15. “This Lil’ Game We Play” By Subway Ft. 702
Collaborating with 702, R&B group Subway produced “This Lil’ Game We Play.” The song is a flirtatious piece that captures the dynamics of a playful romantic relationship.
Its narrative is a conversation between a man and a woman. Both are playing a game of sorts in their relationship, where each wants to “be the one to make [the other] weak.”
The “game” is used as a metaphor to describe the flirtatious dance that often occurs in the early stages of a relationship. It represents the back-and-forth and give-and-take dynamics that are common in romantic entanglements.
16. “Head Games” By Foreigner
The classic rock anthem “Head Games” is next. Released by the rock band Foreigner in 1979, it is the title track for their third studio album. It dives into a troubled love affair riddled with emotional manipulation, hence the term “head games.”
The lyrics express the narrator’s anguish and disappointment. His relationship is failing; he doesn’t “know if it’s real” because the woman doesn’t show how she feels. He is weighed down by emotional stress despite his attempts to rise above it.
At its core, “Head Games” is a cautionary tale about the dangers of emotional manipulation in relationships. It’s a warning that resonates with listeners, reminding them of the toll such mind games can take on an individual.
17. “Game On” By Waka Flocka Flame Ft. Good Charlotte
In Pixels, the world is invaded by video game characters, and “Game On” ties in perfectly with this theme. The lyrics echo the film’s storyline, “This is not a game now / Nobody can save you.” It references the high stakes in the movie, where the characters must save the world from video game invaders.
The song is not just about literal games, though. It also delves into the game of life, touching on themes of struggle, resilience, and the will to win. And the clever play on the word “game” resonates with listeners, whether they’ve seen the movie or not.
18. “Red Light Green Light” By Duke Dumont Ft. Shaun Ross
The collaboration between Duke Dumont and recording artist Shaun Ross resulted in an intriguing track known as “Red Light Green Light.” This song, with its deep house influences and catchy beat, quickly became a staple in many clubs and music festivals.
The song’s narrative is quite playful and interactive. It revolves around the concept of following instructions given by the protagonist.
The track actually drew inspiration from the classic children’s game. The lyrics use the phrases “red light” and “green light” to dictate the actions of the protagonist’s partner. When he utters “red light,” it’s a signal for his partner to stop, and when he says “green light,” she should proceed.
The game-like element of the song is not just limited to the lyrics. The rhythm and tempo of the music also play into this concept. The beat of the song alternates between fast and slow rhythms, mirroring the stop-and-go nature of the game it draws inspiration from.
19. “Simon Says” By Baby Rich Ft. DDG
Collaborating with rapper and YouTuber DDG, Baby Rich released an intriguing track reflecting the forces of modern relationships. The song in question, “Simon Says,” presents a narrative about a man tired of playing games with women. What he desires is straightforward communication from his partner.
The song references the classic children’s game of the same name. It is widely known for its simple premise: players must only follow the instructions if it’s preceded by the phrase “Simon says.”
In the context of the song, this game becomes a metaphor for the protagonist’s frustrations with indirectness and ambiguity in his relationship. He doesn’t want to play games. He craves honesty and straightforwardness.
20. “Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)” By Backstreet Boys
A standout track by the boy band Backstreet Boys is “Quit Playing Games (With My Heart).” This song, released in 1996, is one of their earlier hits. It has resonated with listeners for its relatable theme of love and frustration.
The song begins with “Even in my heart I see / you’re not bein’ true to me,” setting the tone for the rest of the lyrics. It unfolds to reveal the narrator’s frustration with his partner’s mixed signals.
“Quit Playing Games” uses the metaphor of a game to represent the complicated dynamics of their relationship. This game, however, is far from fun for the narrator. He is left feeling confused and hurt as he tries to understand his partner’s intentions and feelings.
21. “Game Over” By Falling In Reverse
Every game played always ends, and thus we close this list with “Game Over” by Falling in Reverse. The song, like many we’ve discussed, encapsulates the struggles, challenges, and journey of life.
It tells the story of a man likening his life to a video game. He’s “trying hard to beat the stage,” collecting coins along the way, while “trying to keep from dying.” Not to mention traveling far to find the proverbial princess to save.
This vivid imagery depicts the constant struggles we all face in life. It reminds us that life is not always easy. We must keep pushing forward despite the obstacles that come our way. How we play this game of life is the key to winning it.
Summing Up Our List Of Game Songs
As you have read, it’s clear that the world of music is rich with songs inspired by games, both literal and figurative. These songs provide a unique perspective on how we interact with games in our daily lives.
They capture the spirit of competition, the thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat, all while offering a commentary on human nature.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this exploration into game-themed music. Perhaps it has even inspired you to add a few of these tracks to your playlist. Happy listening!