How 'Mafia 3' Video Game Scored Kick-Ass Sixties Soundtrack - Rolling Stone
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How ‘Mafia 3’ Video Game Scored Kick-Ass Sixties Soundtrack

With over 100 carefully chosen songs, new crime game is scored like a formidable Sixties mixtape

Until now, the Mafia crime games from 2K have tended towards the spats-and-Tommy-guns flavor of Prohibition-era Chicago gangsters, drawing on genre movies like The Untouchables. But Mafia 3, due October 7th, is set in 1968 in the New Orleans-themed fictional city of New Bordeaux, with a story that’s mainly concerned with the escalating war between the black and Italian mob, but also touches on era-appropriate issues: racial tension in the South, the Vietnam War. And thanks to creative director Haden Blackman, a music obsessive, it has a soundtrack to match, packed with 100 carefully curated songs from the era, from rock to blues to soul.

Viewed through the eyes of young, black Vietnam vet Lincoln Clay, the game is primarily an action-packed, drivey-shooty game punctuated with well-written scenes of people swearing at each other. So, a bit like Grand Theft Auto then, except with more of a historical perspective and social conscience. And unlike GTA’s radio stations, the music in Mafia 3 is used movie-style, to punctuate dramatic moments.

“From the outset we knew we had to have a kick-ass soundtrack,” Blackman says. “Our approach was very much that we have to make sure it’s an amazing soundtrack, because that will lead to an amazing game.”

“The first song I knew I wanted to get into the game is a pretty obscure one,” Blackman says. “A song called ‘Desperation’ by Steppenwolf, which I knew from their greatest hits album or whatever. It’s this very moody Steppenwolf song that’s very different than anything else that you know them for.” The song is first used for an emotional scene between Lincoln and Father James, who is a Catholic priest that helped raise him. “He’s kind of an Old Testament guy, so he totally understands Lincoln’s war against the mob,” Blackman explains. “He supports it up to a point, but he warns Lincoln about the cost of this war. Not just in terms of the people that might die, but also on his soul. That’s a hard moment for Lincoln and we have ‘Desperation’ playing in the background.”

Very often a game team will draw up a wish list of music, only to be told by the suits in legal that it was impossible to get any of them. The Mafia 3 team have been extremely lucky. “There were artists that I thought there would be no way we’d ever get, and yet they came through,” Blackman says. “So Creedence, the Rolling Stones, we have the Beach Boys, Aretha Franklin, Johnny Cash, Sam Cooke, Elvis. Honestly, I was doubtful that we’d be able to get this wide spectrum of Sixties artists.”

“I really wanted to get ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ in, and ‘Paint It Black’ obviously, because it’s such a Vietnam-era song. And then Sam and Dave. It was really important to me to get some representation from Sam and Dave because I could see driving to that, being in combat to that, applying it to cinematics or story moments. Their music is so versatile.”

Selecting the tracks wasn’t just a case of the team sitting around with Spotify open on their computers searching for cool Sixties tracks. Some tunes were picked to help set the gritty, Southern mood of the game, but there were others that were chosen with very specific illustrative purposes.

“We have a moment where you’re chasing down this guy called Uncle Lou who’s the mobster that runs the French Ward,” Blackman explains. “You’ve cornered him on this river boat, which has exploded and you’ve both been thrown into the Bayou. We begin as the lights come up on the cinematic. Lincoln regains consciousness and sees that Lou is trying to struggle his way out of the swamp. That’s when we bring up Creedence’s ‘Green River’ and then that music continues into the gameplay without a break. The song really fits the tone of the moment. It gets you into the right kind of mentality where you’re this kind of stalker moving through the swamp.”

In an unusual narrative device, the game is framed as a tourist video being watched in 2016, about the events of 1968 and Lincoln’s actions. “That gives us a lot more latitude in terms of what music we can include,” Blackman says. “When I look back on some of this music, the way I encountered a lot of it without even realizing it is through covers. There’s a song in the game called ‘You Belong to Me’ from the Duprees. They weren’t the first ones to perform it but that’s the version we have in the game. I actually was introduced to that song through the Misfits version of it,” he says, describing the raw cover of the song from the band’s Project 1950 album.

“We have a moment in the game where you hear the Duprees version and it’s a really dramatic moment between two characters. It’s playing on a radio in the background and it’s very fitting of the moment. Then later we have a really powerful turning point for one of those characters and you hear just a brief snippet of the Misfits version. There’s something really special about the thunder of the Misfits doing this song that’s very poetic and powerful.”

Find the full tracklist below:

“Mother’s Little Helper” by the Rolling Stones

“Paint it Black” by the Rolling Stones

“Sympathy for the Devil” by the Rolling Stones

“Street Fighting Man” by the Rolling Stones

“Chain Gang” by Sam Cooke

“Wonderful World” by Sam Cooke

“Bring it on Home to Me” by Sam Cooke

“Another Saturday Night” by Sam Cooke

“I’m Gonna Forget About You” by Sam Cooke

“Ninety-Six Tears” by Question Mark and the Mysterians

“Go Go Shoes” by Lonnie Youngblood

“Take me for What I Am” by L.C. Cooke

“I Let a Good Thing Go By” by Dewey Edwards

“Dance of the Hours” by Beethoven Ben

“Hang Ten” by the Fun Sons

“Proud Mary” by Creedence Clearwater Revival

“House of the Rising Sun” by the Animals

“Fortunate Son” by Creedence Clearwater Revival

“You” by Marvin Gaye

“Hold On, I’m Comin’” by Sam and Dave

“Pictures Of Matchstick Men” by Status Quo

“Chain Of Fools” by Aretha Franklin

“Respect” by Aretha Franklin

“Piece Of My Heart” by Big Brother & the Holding Company

“I Fought the Law” by Bobby Fuller Four

“The Letter” by Box Tops

“Time Has Come Today” by the Chambers Brothers

“Slip Away” by Clarence Carter

“Psychotic Reaction” by Count Five

“White Room” by Cream

“Bad Moon Rising” by Creedence Clearwater Revival

“Born On The Bayou” by Creedence Clearwater Revival

“Palisades Park” by Freddy Cannon

“Somebody To Love” by Jefferson Airplane

“Folsom Prison Blues (Live)” by Johnny Cash

“Shotgun” by Jr. Walker and the All Stars

“Nowhere To Run” by Martha and the Vendellas

“(Sittin’ on) the Dock of the Bay” by Otis Redding

“Palisades Park” by Ramones

“King of the Road” by Roger Miller

“Soul Man” by Sam and Dave

“Li’l Red Riding Hood” by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs

“Desperation” by Steppenwolf

“You Keep Me Hangin’ On [#1]” by the Supremes

“Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” by the Temptations

“Wild Thing” by the Troggs

“One” by Three Dog Night

“You Keep Me Hangin’ On” by Vanilla Fudge

“One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” by John Lee Hooker

“Good Times are so Hard to Find” by Blue Cheer

“Ay-Tete Fee” by Clifton Chenier

“You Belong To Me” by The Duprees

“Take Me for What I’m Worth” by the Searchers

“What Kind of Fool (Do You Think I Am)” by The Tams

“Black Ghost Blues” by Lightnin’ Hopkins

“Green River” by Creedence Clearwater Revival

“Walking the Dog” by Rufus Thomas

“I Got My Mojo Working” by the Shadows of Knight

“You Belong To Me” by Misfits

“Bad Moon Rising” by Mourning Ritual ft Peter Dreimanis

“Tramp” by Otis Redding & Carla Thomas

“On The Road Again” by Canned Heat

“Don’t Go To Strangers” by Etta James

“Long Tall Sally” by Little Richard

“Running Scared” by Roy Orbison

“Crazy” by Patsy Cline

“Runaway (1967 version)” by Del Shannon

“Eve of Destruction” by Barry McGuire

“Knock on Wood” by Eddie Floyd

“Help Me, Rhonda” by Beach Boys

“Born To Be Wild” by Steppenwolf

“I Wish It Would Rain” by Temptations

“Heroes and Villains Beach Boys

“Reach Out, I’ll Be There” by Four Tops

“White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane

“G.I. Blues” by Lightnin’ Slim

“Keep Searchin’ (We’ll Follow The Sun)” by Del Shannon

“Love Child” by Diana Ross & the Supremes

“You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me” by the Miracles

“Baby Love” by the Supremes

“Son of a Preacher Man” by Dusty Springfield

“Wouldn’t It Be Nice” by Beach Boys

“Get Up and Get Down” by the Dramatics

“Bottom of the River” by Delta Rae

“Ring Of Fire” by Johnny Cash

“Kicks” by Paul Revere and the Raiders

“We Gotta Get Out Of This Place” by the Animals

“Needles & Pins” by the Searchers

“In-a-Gadda-da-Vida” by Iron Butterfly

“I Can’t Turn You Loose” by Chambers Brothers

“Hard to Handle”by Otis Redding

“The Weight” by The Band

“Paint it Black” by the Avengers

“Five Card Hand” by Mercy Dee Walton

“You Better Stop” by Sonny Rhodes

“Must Have Been the Devil” by Otis Spann

“I Got You (I Feel Good)” by James Brown

“Hey Big Momma” by Roosevelt Sykes

“Sinner’s Prayer” by Lightnin’ Hopkins

“The Howling Wolf” by Lightnin’ Hopkins

“A Little Less Conversation” by Elvis

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In This Article: glixel, Sixties, Video Game


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