Grand Theft Auto: Vice City & Vice City Stories
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City was not the first game to have a soundtrack comprised almost exclusively of licensed music. It was, however, the first one I can remember which not only featured big name artists and hits but also played a crucial role in immersing the player in a specific place and time.
Vice City takes place in the eponymous sun-soaked town based on Miami, Florida during 1986. The period appropriate music not only gave an insight into the popular culture of the time but also lent a sense of legitimacy to the game. Vice City may have been a light-hearted send-up of 1980s American culture but I’d also argue that this true-to-life soundtrack went a long way to grounding the series further into some semblance of reality.
As is standard for every GTA, music is presented across numerous fictitious radio stations. These were divided up by genre, representing the most popular types of music at the time including rap, rock, new wave and general pop. Some of the most famous artists featured included Foreigner, Bryan Adams, Rick James, Hall & Oates, Ozzy Osbourne and Michael Jackson.
In many ways it was ahead of the curve. For 2002, it was impressive to see such an expansive selection of tracks from well-known artists in a video game (its predecessor, Grand Theft Auto III, had only a handful of little-known licensed tracks). The game also pre-empted, and was perhaps partly responsible for, the resurgence in popularity of 1980s culture and music that began in the years following.
Vice City Stories, a prequel starring the Vance brothers, boasted an equally awesome soundtrack that used many of the same radio stations and several returning artists. Phil Collins was prominently featured with three of his tracks across the stations (with Genesis, Philip Bailey and solo) plus he cameoed as himself in a speaking role which included an in-engine concert performance of ‘In The Air Tonight’.
Sadly, many gamers missed out on VC Stories. It debuted exclusively on the Playstation Portable in 2006, later being ported only to the Playstation 2. If you missed it but enjoyed the music from Vice City I strongly recommend that you at least check out its soundtrack.