Computer game soundtracks have some of the most underappreciated composers and artists working in music today. Sure, extremely well-paid and happy composers and artists, but wouldn’t you rather have that precious hipster credibility than silly things like money and job satisfaction?
Oh. Well then, you probably don’t have that much sympathy for them. Still, discovering or remembering countless wonderful game soundtracks, and finding out that they hardly get any respect out there in the real world (even the ones that gamers really love), can get a little weird over time.
These five computer game soundtracks, my own personal favourites, haven’t been chosen on nostalgia value — so, no Zelda or Mario, great though their music was. Nor have they been chosen according to whether they stand well on their own. Gaming soundtracks are completely tied in to the experience of playing the game, in a way that even film soundtracks are not.
Oh, and if you think of a soundtrack that really should have made the list, feel free to leave a comment. Naturally.
5. Final Fantasy X – PS2
The quality of the music in the Final Fantasy series is legendary. Even Final Fantasy I and II had iconic tunes, especially the battle music. Final Fantasy X is special, though.
It’s pretty standard these days to have a mid-paced, vaguely heavy rock song in the middle of a game. Almost any meat-headed shooter will have something that sounds kinda similar to this. At the time FFX was released, though, I’d never heard anything remotely like the song Otherworld, and it seemed genuinely revolutionary. Another thing I’d never heard before at the time was harsh vocals, and I have still not once heard spoken word pulled off as successfully as it is here — I mean, come on. Go, into the sand and dust in the sky…
Besides, it really does rock so damn much.
4. Neverhood – PC
Neverhood’s soundtrack is awesome. It’s gently amusing, witty and fun at the same time as sounding like really earthy, bluesy rock music. It’s like somebody, some mad genius, was able to hear exactly what rock and soul music sounds like to kids, and managed to triple-distill that sound to total perfection. Triple-distilled is pretty appropriate here, too, as everything sounds like it’s being played by a drunk and depressed one-man band, just one sip of Wild Turkey away from the gutter. Dum Da Dum Doi Doi is one of the most joyful celebrations of stupidity I have ever heard, but my favourite song from the soundtrack is Skat Radio, which not only keeps Terry S. Taylor’s bizarre drunken rambling style, but adds skat to the mix, too.
That’s right, he took skat and made it sound epic.
3. Ecco The Dolphin – Sega Mega Drive/Genesis
Ecco The Dolphin was a computer game for the Sega Mega Drive (Genesis in some other parts of the world), in which you helped a dolphin defeat time-travelling aliens as you swam about a vast and deadly ocean full of jellyfish, sharks, lone air pockets, delicious fish and the very best music you could get out of the technology of the day.
I said no nostalgia was involved, and no nostalgia is involved here. If it had been, not only would this have been the number one entry on the list, but I would be curled around my old Mega Drive controllers right this second, sobbing with joy and making little “SQUARK!” noises to myself. This is just great music. Ominous, deep, and vast, it captured the feel of the game perfectly.
I don’t think the series ever quite lived up to that first game again, but why should it? That first game’s strength was how strange it was, how completely a one-off it was. Every part of it was carefully crafted, and the music was no exception. Here is the rest of the soundtrack, thank youtube user explod2A03 for uploading it.
2. Super Meat Boy – XBox 360, PC
Oh wow. I have never really felt comfortable saying this word, so imagine myself screwing up my face, raising a scornful eyebrow and squirming uncomfortably in my seat as I say it, for it is the only word that can adequately describe Super Meat Boy’s soundtrack.
Are you ready?
I’m going to say it now.
Ugh, I feel dirty.
There’s no particular stand-out track from Super Meat Boy, but it all just sounds so good. The temptation with such a difficult game is to go into ultra fast techno extravaganza land, which is admittedly a fun place to stay, but Super Meat Boy’s music took the more challenging route, and the result is a soundtrack which is genuinely enjoyable to listen to, with a subtle sense of urgency and a great bassline.
If you want more, you can go from there…
1. Bastion – XBox 360, PC
Bastion’s soundtrack has been pretty much everywhere in the gaming media recently, and with good cause. It sounds like no other gaming soundtrack before or since, with a hauntingly melancholic melodic strain running through the songs, and a sense of cohesion, continuity and coherence that I have never seen before in a game OST.
Let me do you a favour: play that song, and at the same time, load up rainymood.com. You’ll thank me later.
If you disagree with any of my personal choices, I don’t really care, but you can talk about it if you want. I guess. If you liked any of the soundtracks please support the developer and musicians by buying the official soundtrack!
Can’t believe I left off Rabbids Go Home! Joy in a – BWAAAH!
Oh yeah, and I completed National Novel Writing Month on Wednesday. Overjoyed!
Haha, turns out it was my least funny post yet. Looks like the YOLK was on you! No I don’t know stop looking at me.