The 8 Ball 04.01.14: Top 8 Video Game Soundtracks
Posted by Marc Morrison on 04.01.2014
From The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time to Starfox 64, 411's Marc Morrison ranks his Top 8 Video Game Soundtracks!
Welcome all to another edition of The 8 Ball. The topic this week is about video game soundtracks. For the most part I chose to do non-licensed stuff, but two of my games only have licensed music in them. Music is a completely subjective topic, so this isn't a definitive list in the slightest. This is just my own personal list of soundtracks I've enjoyed. I also tried to pick out a best track for each soundtrack, so you can see what I think is the best song from each one. Enjoy:
Tetris is a game with some great music, but only about 6 music tracks total for the game. The main title theme, the three different gameplay songs, and a few ending themes. That's it. Still, the game gets by with some superb 8-bit era renditions of classical music, song A being based on a Russian folk song, for example.
Best Track: Song C is obviously the best track of the game, and the one I would always listen to the most
7. Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete/Lunar 2 Eternal Blue
I tend not to like a huge amount of JRPG music, most of it is too bombastic for my tastes, personally. However, the soundtracks for Lunar 1 and 2 were excellent. They had a light-hearted quality to them that went it got dark, you knew something evil was about to go down. The soundtracks were included in most of the copies of the game, except the later run versions that just had the game and no extras. Working Designs knew people would want to listen to the soundtracks, so they included them.
Best Tracks: For Lunar 1 it's "Wind Nocturne", and for Lunar 2 it's "Lucia vs. Zophar"
6. Planescape: Torment
Planescape has a still great and weird soundtrack to enjoy. It has kind of a tribal/industrial sound to it, which gave it a unique feel. The soundtrack had an oppressive mix to it as well, especially wandering around the various cities and areas you explore. Each character you get would have a theme associated with them that tended to suit their personality well. Dak'kon's theme was heavy, but it made sense given the burden he was carrying. Morte's theme on the other hand was a bit of a jaunty which molded well to his personality. The soundtrack helps make you feel that the world you're in is special, which it is.
Best Track: Deionarra's Theme
5. Starfox 64/Mario 64
For a system with not a great audio set up, especially compared to its compatriots at the time, the N64 had some games with some great music in them. This is exemplified by both Starfox 64 (now with voice acting!) and Mario 64. Starfox 64 has a largely regal orchestral-sounding score, that helps drive the action in fast levels, or mellow it out in slower levels (goddamn Aquas). Mario 64 on the other hand had a very cheery soundtrack to the game. Every tune helped fit the different world, or event, like the hard song when you turn into Metal Maro, or the spooky music when you go to the Haunted House level.
Best Tracks: For Starfox 64 it's Corneria, and for Super Mario 64 it's the Main Theme.
4. Burout 3: Takedown
This is arguably the choice that'll get me in the most hot water, but I don't care. This soundtrack was the perfect collection of licensed songs for this intense racing/destruction game. Bands and musicians like Jimmy Eat World, Mudmen, Rise Against and 1208 all contributed songs that can make you want to take down a car that turned into you, or see how long you can hold the boost button down in the opposite direction without crashing. It's not the most high minded or thought provoking soundtrack in the world, but it sets a tone for the game, so much so I copied the soundtrack so I could listen to it as I played Burnout Paradise. It just didn't feel right playing Paradise without the soundtrack. Plus if I had to hear any more Guns ‘N Roses, I would scream.
Best Track: "4/16" by the band Silent Drive
3. Rock Band 3
I actually kind of prefer the slightly more techno-themed soundtrack of Amplitude, but that's splitting hairs. Rock Band 3 almost has to make any soundtrack. It's the de-facto game for anything involving popular music. With over 2,000 songs, thanks to DLC, and previous games/spin-offs, it has the potential to have the most music of any game period (where you don't use your own music, that is). There might not have been a ton of music from bands I like in the game, but it still had enough to make me break out my guitar or boot up the music in Rock Band Blitz to enjoy. It's a shame that Rock Band is becoming a dormant franchise.
Best Track: "Lady Gaga's Poker Face" as sung by Eric Cartman
2. Castlevania: SOTN
Come on, how could any game soundtrack list not have Symphony of the Night on it? This was a game that really showcased what having cd's as a media format could do. The game is chalked full of excellent music, with a nice fusion between orchestral instruments and hard rock guitars. Almost like with Planescape, each new area or specific encounter had its own theme that would help set the mood for what was going on. For instance, the song "Wood Carving Partita" really set the mood for the Long Library area, with it being slightly more stately and cultured than some of the harder-driven rock songs. You can listen to this soundtrack over and over and it won't get tired.
Best Track: Lost Painting
1. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past/The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
As with many of you, I'm sure both of these soundtrack was burned into your memory. I could wake up with total amnesia, but if you shoved a SNES controller in my hand with Zelda, I could play through the game on instinct alone. Both games had music done by Koji Kondo who was firing on all cylinders with both scores. With Zelda, he remixed some of the original Zelda songs, as well as created a plethora of songs that made you feel ready to explore as Link, even in the Dark World. With Ocarina, the expanded audio capabilities led to those songs sounding richer and fuller, as well as having more complex compositions. Both soundtracks are in a separate class of their own though and just pitch perfect for the series as a whole.
Best Tracks: For Link to the Past its "Overworld" (or Light Overworld Theme), and for Ocarina its "Gerudo Valley"
The Better Half with Liana K
8 Video Game Soundtracks That Rock
I love music. I love games. So I was excited by this topic. Obviously there are a lot of great game soundtracks out there and we can't possibly include them all, so add your favorites in the comments!
Note: apologies for the rushed element this week guys! I had to attend a conference and then I got sick. So I did my best but I know I'm going to cringe if I read this in a week. Go easy.
8: Brütal Legend
Okay, as a game, Brütal Legend had its problems, but it featured one of the best licensed soundtracks in video game history. From classic metal like Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, and Motörhead, to pop-metal acts like Motley Crüe and Marilyn Manson, to progressive acts like Mastodon, Brütal Legend tried to overkill the metal. But the moment I remember most clearly was when Dethklok's Murmaider started playing. If the game had focused on more of that kind of insider humor, it would have been a classic.
7: South Park: The Stick of Truth
I'd forgotten how much music was a part of the South Park franchise, but Stick of Truth reminded me. Music also adds to the comedy element of the game, since right from the opening theme it's spoofing... well, a lot of the games that follow on this list, but it actually results in a great piece of music on its own! Every time I think I have a favorite song from the game, I hear the next one and think "No! THAT ONE is my favorite!" I do, however, have a unique fondness for the "Princess Kenny" Anime theme spoof.
6: God of War Trilogy
Embarrassing confession: I'm including this one because it's my cat Delilah's favorite video game soundtrack. We got her when she was this tiny little kitten after God of War 2 came out, so we bonded playing that game, and she always gets snuggly when she hears the music. So I like it. Also, offensive in jokes in Ancient Greek worked into the music = win.
Okay, in places it sounds like a men's chorus trying to pass a dry turd, but I'm not sure if that's a criticism, or something that makes it better. The Skyrim theme is one of those pieces of music you recognize instantly, and I always get a giggle out of imagining the choir trying to figure out how to pronounce the various words made up just for the game. Because I'm a jerk.
4: The Assassin's Creed Soundtracks
Because portions of Assassin's Creed III's soundtrack got played on the local classical station, my mother understood a tiny element of something I was talking about during two whole minutes of a dinner conversation.
However, I think I like the soundtrack to AC2, on the whole, better.
But my favorite Assassin's Creed songs, ever ever EVER, are the sea shanties in Black Flag. The dudes singing them actually sound like they might be drunk! Those songs made the game for me! Amazing.
3: Bioshock Infinite
The original soundtrack itself is decent, but what really makes this game – pardon the pun – sing are the retro covers of familiar songs. God Only Knows, Tainted Love, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, and Shiny Happy People become nearly unrecognizable in such an incredibly cool way. Does anyone know how to get good quality copies of these covers? Because I would totally buy them.
2: Halo Trilogy
I couldn't choose between the first three games. Such beautiful compositions. I pick at Halo in a lot of ways, but the soundtrack is utterly glorious. It's the highlight of the series for me. No matter how annoyed I am at a level, when certain pieces of music kick in, they give me goosebumps. It's masterful game music.
1: Super Mario Bros
Hands down the most immediately recognizable soundtrack in video game history. And since it was made with such limited tools, one of the greatest artistic achievements too.
Everyone's music tastes are different, so this list is a given. Never the less, here's a small collection of games that didn't quite make my big list: BioShock, Fallout 3, Donkey Kong Country, Shadow of the Colossus, Assassin's Creed 2, Metal Gear Solid 1, Halo, Suikoden 2, Eternal Sonata, Majora's Mask, Castlevania IV, PaRappa the Rapper, Kingdom Hearts, Mega Man X4, and Resident Evil 2.
The General Roundup
Like I said in the intro to last week, Liana chose to do her list on all arcade games. She has more history with slightly older games than I do. Frankly, if I did just "Top 8 Arcade games", my list would largely be the same, since the 90's was my decade for arcades. Still, I'll respond to a few comments: Someone mentioned the lack of Golden Axe and Ridge Racer. I'm not sure if I ever even saw a Ridge Racer arcade cabinet. I tend to associate both games more with their console versions than arcade ones. A lot of people mentioned TMNT: Turtles in Time. I enjoyed that game in arcades, but it had two later strikes against it. 1. The SNES version with the "Throw enemies at Shredder" boss fight. And 2. The really poor HD remake on 360/PS3. Someone else mentioned the Capcom beat'em ups, I think the only one of those I played was Captain Commando, and I only played it on the SNES, not the arcade version. The same goes for people mentioning Killer Instinct, I don't think I played a lot of it in the arcade, but I did reasonably enjoy the SNES version. Lastly, someone mentioned San Francisco RUSH 2049. While a great arcade game, I think I liked the home versions more, specifically the Dreamcast one. The stunt arena was a lot of fun to fly around in and do tricks with your friends.