Jukebox Heroes: Great tunes from dead MMOs


When a beloved MMORPG is canceled, it doesn’t entirely vanish without a trace. After all, there are thousands (if not millions) of eyewitnesses with long memories, screenshot folders filled to the brim, videos, articles, and — of course — music.

The way I see it, the enduring soundtrack is one of the most pure aspects of the late game. It can be enjoyed today the same way it was back then, albeit with fewer visuals and furious mouse-clicking. This orphaned score holds a torch for the game that was by triggering memories and keeping the atmosphere and story beats alive.

Today I’m going to look at great tracks from deceased MMOs, some of which aren’t even that cold in the ground. I’m also going to try not to rehash the most popular (and perhaps overplayed) tunes from these games but instead branch out to others that are terrific if not as recognized.

Tabula Rasa: “Sanctuary”

Tabula Rasa really laid it on thick with the electric guitar and a heavy funk, and I loved that game for it. Sanctuary has a catchy little melody that is sandwiched between a whole lot of wailing guitars and sharp drumwork. I can totally picture swaggering through a battlefield to this, blasting alien grunts left and right in slow-motion.

Dungeon Runners: “Abba Labba”

Let’s be real here: This was one bizarre and slightly messed-up game (in a fun way, of course). Abba Labba is a short ditty that sums up the spirit of Dungeon Runners well by being irreverent, amusing, and completely different than what you’d hear in most MMO scores. It’s like a demon kids chorus, disturbing but oh-so-cute.

The Sims Online: “Select-a-Sim #2”

The Sims franchise has had a long history of producing catchy, playful scores that are perfect for listening to at long stretches of time. While the MMO turned out to be a failed experiment in bringing the people simulator to the massively multiplayer space, its score was anything but a disappointment. I like this track for how it blends frantic and groovy together into a pleasing, head-bobbing mix.

Motor City Online: “Psychobilly Slugfest”

The crazy rockabilly spirit was raging through MCO back in the day, and with tracks like this, how could you not feel the need… the need for speed? The only thing as blazing as this tune was its standout title.

Glitch: “Bonus Level”

Need something a little more mellow after that last track? Here you go, courtesy of Glitch. The charming and imaginative MMO produced many dreamlike tunes like this one. I love how smooth and sunshiny this track can be while exuding the unique spirit of the game.

Auto Assault: “Harmonic Vengeance”

So what exactly does “harmonic vengeance” sound like? It’s a little like the title makes it sound: part peaceful and part angry jamming. The track starts quiet yet not entirely tranquil, as there are disturbing noises running through the background. But then the vengeance kicks in for a bit, taking over the wheel and urging us to crash through all safety barriers in pursuit of blood.

MMOs are meant to be heard as well as seen, and chances are that music ties your memories to these games more than you might realize. Every two weeks Jukebox Heroes listens through a game soundtrack and picks out the highlights to share and discuss. And if you like this column, then don’t miss the author’s MMO music podcast, Battle Bards!
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