vgmusic
Video games have seen more improvements than most media in the past decade. Graphics have improved, gameplay has improved (well, depending on who you talk to), and online play is a world past where it was in 2000 (sorry, EverQuest). But there's one major step-up that gaming hasn't gotten credit: The songs they use in ads.

Sure, car commercials are the standard bearers for resurrecting great songs and giving them new context—the VW ad that used Nick Drake's "Pink Moon" and the Suzuki Grand Vitara spot with Mooney Suzuki's "Alive and Amplified" come to mind—but video-game ads actually pick some pretty nice joints to help sell their titles. We were gonna pick 10, but we couldn't narrow it down, so put down the sticks and click through our 15 favorite songs used in video game ads...

super smash

GAME: Super Smash Brothers (1999)
SONG USED: The Turtles, "Happy Together"

COMPLEX SAYS: This ad serves as one of the few examples of using a poppy song in a funny way without crossing the line into cheesy—or at least acknowledging the cheesiness. The song itself was the Turtles' first and only hit, but it was quite a hit: It's been covered dozens of times by acts like Weezer and Simple Plan, used in films like Happy Together and Naked Gun, and featured in many other ads for products like Twix and Heineken.

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prince-of-persia

GAME: Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2003)
SONG USED: Sia, "Breathe Me"

COMPLEX SAYS: When a game utilizes balletic acrobatics and the ability to rewind time, it's only right you play some beautiful music in the background. Australian pop singer Sia's career really took off in the States after this same song was used two years later for the outro montage of Six Feet Under's series finale (half-hearted spoiler alert!). Not that we're calling Alan Ball a biter or anything...

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gears_of_war

GAME: Gears of War (2006)
SONG USED: Michael Andrews and Gary Jules, "Mad World"

COMPLEX SAYS: At some point, it occurred to the ad wizards at Microsoft that the best soundtrack to intense, animated violence isn't death metal growling but soft-spoken musings. This ad was a watershed moment in video-game advertising and spawned an army of imitators, but nothing beats the OG usage. The song, a subdued cover of a 1982 Tears for Fears record, first caught fire after Donnie Darko (which it appeared on the soundtrack for) became a DVD cult hit.

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assassins-creed-02

GAME: Assassin's Creed (2007)
SONG USED: Massive Attack, "Teardrop"

COMPLEX SAYS: Possibly taking the lead from Gears of War, the AC spot gives Altair's rampages a melancholy feel that's suprisingly fitting. Fans of FOX's House will recognize this tune as the show's theme song. Although the song is by British trip-hop production duo Massive Attack, the vocals are sung by Elizabeth Fraser of the Cocteau Twins.

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army of two

GAME: Army of Two (2008)
SONG USED: Mastodon, "One (Is the Loneliest Number)"

COMPLEX SAYS: After this ad came out, Mastodon fans were clamoring to know if the band's cover of the late-'60s Harry Nilsson/Three Dog Night hit would be on their upcoming album Crack the Skye. It wasn't, and the song was never released in an official capacity, but still comes off as a completely badass rendition, especially when paired with Salem and Rios' usual antics.

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gears-of-war-2-screenshot-9

GAME: Gears of War 2 (2008)
SONG USED: DeVotchKa, "How It Ends"

COMPLEX SAYS: After "Mad World" set the tone for the original GoW's campaign, the ad for the sequel proved that the first one wasn't a fluke. This same DeVotchKa song was used in the trailer for the film Everything Is Illuminated and the show Everwood.

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lost-odyssey 2

GAME: Lost Odyssey (2008)
SONG USED: Jefferson Airplane, "White Rabbit"

COMPLEX SAYS: By 2008, high-budget ads were de rigeur for the gaming industry. To promote the surrealist RPG, the agency behind Lost Odyssey's campaign turned to Jefferson Airplane's 1967 psychedelic anthem, which was based on Lewis Carroll's Alice In Wonderland and was a Top 10 hit in its day. Don't take the brown acid.

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saints-row-2-screenshot1

GAME: Saints Row 2 (2008)
SONG USED: Eazy-E, "Real Muthaphukkin G's"

COMPLEX SAYS: So, the plot to Saints Row 2 has you trying to rebuild your gang after it fell apart at the end of the previous game. Which isn't a far cry (game pun!) from the way Eazy was feeling back in '93 after N.W.A had fallen apart and his friend Dr. Dre became a foe. So what if Snoop had to fade him on "Dre Day"? Eric was laughing all the way to the early grave bank thanks to the check he caught licensing his song.

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ModernWarfare2

GAME: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (2009)
SONG USED: Eminem f. Nate Dogg, "Till I Collapse"

COMPLEX SAYS: Anyone whose played Modern Warfare 2 will tell you that that a good Domination match can get pretty fucking intesne. And anyone whose listened to Eminem's The Eminem Show will tell you Em can get the same way. So this combo might just be the happiest marriage Em's ever known. Even if he lists himself after Reggie, Jay-Z, 2pac, and Biggie—and Andre from OutKast, Jada, Kurupt, and Nas—none of them can boast about having a song this good play during a game this awesome.

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GTA GAY TONY

GAME: Grand Theft Auto IV: The Ballad of Gay Tony (2009)
SONG USED: Eric Prydz, "Pjanoo"

COMPLEX SAYS: Just because The Ballad of Gay Tony is only an expansion game doesn't mean it doesn't deserve the same promotion as any other game. (What is you, a homophobe?) Those piano loops you hear come courtesy of Swedish DJ and producer Eric Prydz, who found himself a hit all across Europe with this club banger.

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left for dead 2

GAME: Left For Dead 2 (2009)
SONG USED: Clutch, "Electric Worry"

COMPLEX SAYS: The heads at Valve, or whoever was responsible, found the perfect anthem for blasting off in a zombie's face (ayo!). It goes something like this: BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! Performed by Clutch, this ad serves as their most mainstream look to date. Which hasn't stopped Clutch's zombielike fans from following them to their over 100 live shows per year. And in some cases, we're sure, giving them braaaaaaaaaaains.

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street-fighter-iv

GAME: Street Fighter IV (2009)
SONG USED: Sick Puppies, "Street Fighter (War)"

COMPLEX SAYS: Capcom specifically commissioned Sick Puppies to write an anthem for Street Fighter IV. They came back with this headbanger that should help you button-mash your way to victory. Getcha Diago on!

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bayonetta_screenshot

GAME: Bayonetta (2010)
SONG USED: La Roux, "In for the Kill (Skeam's Let's Get Ravey Remix)"

COMPLEX SAYS: The most European shit possible for the most Japanese shit possible. This one comes from English electropop duo La Roux; rather than use the original version, the ad uses a remix of the song by dubstep producer Skream.

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dantes_inferno_20

GAME: Dante's Inferno (2010)
SONG USED: Bill Withers, "Ain't No Sunshine"

COMPLEX SAYS: Exploiting the same technique that Gears of War introduced, this ad caught the attention of a lot of people when it played during Super Bowl 2010. In fact, it's still burning up the airwaves now. Although the gameplay looks great—if a touch Kratosesque—it's the song that really steals the show. Bill Wither's 1971 R&B classic "Ain't No has been covered by everyone from Ziggy Marley to Maroon 5 and remains one of Wither's most iconic songs, along with "Lean On Me" and "Just The Two of Us."

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battlefield_bad_company_2

GAME: Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (2010)
SONG USED: Queens of The Stone Age, "You Think I Ain't Worth A Dollar, But I Feel Like A Millionaire"

COMPLEX SAYS: We've yet to play Bad Company 2—at least not all the way through (wink wink)—but it's ads like these that get us excited for the opportunity. You'll have to wait until the :40 mark before the song kicks in, but it's worth it. The song is taken from Queens of The Stone Age's 2002 album Songs For The Deaf. Yes Homme!

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