Marcus Fenix of Gears of War, who is a pretty tough dude, benefits directly from a Tears for Fears cover.
There's something about incongruity that interests the mind. Two things that don't seem to fit together being combined can be a source of fascination, humor or even awe. It's the reason we are interested in a great many things. Examples of these kinds of odd pairings are everywhere. Sweet and sour pork is one (How can one serving of pork be both deliciously sweet and also mouth-puckeringly sour? Visit your neighborhood Chinese restaurant to find out!). Gator Golf is another ("What could be greater than golf with a gator," a philosopher once mused).Rat-cat-dog is perhaps the ultimate expression.
Sometimes, video game trailers will rely on this to draw potential players in by matching game footage with music that is both totally unexpected yet somehow extremely effective. The most famous example of this to date is the masterful trailer for the original Gears of War, which featured an armored mega-badass running and gunning against a terrible, alien foe in a bombed-out cityscape to the sleepy, melancholy strains of Gary Jules's cover of "Mad World." It's a dynamic that has worked in other trailers since, including the Bioshock Infinite trailer recently released.
I can't help but wonder if this same trick of amazing game footage paired with gorgeous yet unexpected music would work for other upcoming releases as well. So I took the trailers of a few of the most anticipated games coming up in the future and thought about what music might have that "this is ridiculous... wait, actually, this is awesome" effect.
Instructions: Play the game trailer embedded, but make sure the volume is on mute. Simultaneously play the music embedded, with the volume up. It'll give you a rough idea of what I'm talking about.
Mass Effect 3 / Sufjan Stevens - Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois
Okay, so setting the nonstop all-out Reaper action of ME3 to Sufjan Stevens sounds like it would work about as well as playing a Simon and Garfunkel album over a bullfight. And maybe that's right. Sufjan Stevens has a voice like dandelion being swept away by a softly flowing creek. Not exactly a natural choice to complement a space-age war game. After all, who would want to watch Shepard and pals save the world with anything but badass synth-and-symphony music in the background?
But hold on... it might be just me, but this kind of works. It helps that this early trailer for ME3 is more about humanity hanging onto a thread of hope than it is about quick cuts and extraterrestrial booty. Also, the way it syncs up when I do it, the word "alien" comes in right as the main title card comes up. I like it.
Grand Theft Auto V / Low - Murderer
This would be a fascinating pair-up. The Grand Theft Auto franchise has long been known for the happy-go-lucky, completely amoral atmosphere of its games. While it certainly does satirize the American culture of violence fetishism that allows it to thrive, your average GTA game isn't exactly preachy. In the past, activists and politicians have denounced the series for its depravity. But that's old news by now. These days, for the most part, everybody takes for granted that GTA games exist, and they're going to feature the hero killing cops and running over prostitutes.
Which is why a GTA trailer that follows the main character with a somber, ominous track called "Murderer" playing instead of the usual hype music would be crazy. Nobody would expect Rockstar to make such an overt judgment on one of their protagonists, and the resulting tone it would lend the game -- darker, stranger, maybe even sadder -- would be a big twist for an aging series.
Diablo III / Led Zeppelin - Kashmir
Yeah, I know this isn't that far-out. After all, about 85% of Robert Plant's lyrics are about Middle Earth and Ringwraiths and shit, so it's not such a stretch to put "Kashmir" to a Diablo III trailer and expect it to be awesome. I could put "Kashmir" over the music video to Rebecca Black's "Friday" and it would probably be awesome. But still.