My Favorite Videogame Music

28 Mar

I recently got all distracted on Twitter talking about some of my favorite videogame music. Obviously, this is a topic that comes up quite often for me, and playing through FFVII again has really been hitting my game-music nostalgia nerve pretty hard.

You may recall that last year I went on the Brainy Gamer podcast to talk about game music with Michael and Dan Bruno, so I’d already spent some time culling a list of favorites for that show. Of course, we didn’t have time to get to everything there, so I thought it would be fun to make a list here of some (but of course, not all) of my favorite videogame music.

I should note that I mostly went with original soundtracks and tried to avoid licensed songs, hence no “Still Alive” or, like, the entire Rock Band 3 playlist. (I’ve also noticed that there are a lot of pretty recent tracks on here, and have also remembered some classics that I left off. Doubtless a second list will be necessary.)

(Okay, okay, here’s a second update: Looking at this list a couple months later, it’s clear to me that it’s I should have called it “Some of my favorite videogame music.” Because there are a huge number of soundtracks that didn’t make it on here that should’ve. At some point I’m going to go and really look back, really weigh older games, and really figure out my top ten. For now, think of this list as a list of great music that I like.)

Anyhow, they are in no particular order, and they are all incredibly good. Enjoy!

Final Fantasy Tactics A2 – Main Theme

Probably  my favorite DS game of all time, the soundtrack to this game is so good across the board that I had a hard time picking a theme. This montage contains two of my absolute favorites, however; the opening title theme and “Another Hill”.

The Secret of Monkey Island – Intro Music

I know I just said these were in no particular order, but this one is definitely at the top. I remember when I realized that I could put the CD-ROM for this game into my CD player and just listen to the soundtrack… and then I did so, for hours on end. I loved a lot of it, but the mysterious magic of the opening track is still my favorite. I used to hate it when the funny Guybrush music came in halfway through, but nowadays I love the whole thing.

The World Ends With You – “Calling”

Talk about another awesome soundtrack. I almost chose “Black Market,” since I always set my CD player in the game to play that when I’m navigating menus, but really, “Calling” encapsulates this game for me more than any other tune. Killer.

Grim Fandango – The Entire Soundtrack

FUCK YES. Tell me, in all honesty – has there ever been a game with a better soundtrack than Grim Fandango? No. There has not. Recorded by a bunch of kickass SF jazz musicians (some of whom I bet I know by now), it’s the most swinging-ass, groovy game score I’ve ever heard. More jazz in videogames, please. No seriously, make this happen.

Pac Man CE DX – Menu Music

Dear Lord this game had amazing music. Playing it may have made me think of Miles Davis and Bill Evans, but damned if the ripping menu music doesn’t make me do a dance every time I hear it. No seriously listen this this. I dare you not to move yourself.

Phoenix Wright – Turnabout Sisters

Another favorite DS game, and a big reason is the soundtrack. I love so much of the music to this game, but this one might be my favorite.

Hell, I liked it so much that one time I actually recorded my own version, playing a whole bunch of instruments. It never did wind up going viral. I don’t understand why.

Final Fantasy VII – Lifestream

I really, really like a lot of the music from FFVII, but I think that Lifestream is my favorite. I dig all the other music as well, of course—the map music, the rippin electric guitar boss-battle tune, Tifa’s Theme (noble!), Aeris’s theme (*tear*), but Lifestream is probably my favorite so far. It fucks me up.

LittleBigPlanet 2 – Eve’s Asylum

When I reviewed LittleBigPlanet 2 for Paste, I said that the game had a musical soul. And it’s true—there are a bevy of really great tracks on this game’s soundtrack, and they all layer and grow as you make your way through each level. My favorite is probably this track by Winifred Phillips from the “Fireflies When You’re Having Fun” level. Especially because in the game, the ethereal opening sections play over and over as Sackthing makes its way through a dark, glowing world of fireflies. Nice.

Assassin’s Creed 2 – Ezio’s Family

I loved the soundtrack to AC2, more than I did Brotherhood actually, and this track is why. Jesper Kyd can be a bit hit or miss with me, but in general I really like his work and appreciate the approach he takes to writing videogame music; he’s great at building ambient atmosphere and he writes a mean character theme. I don’t think he’s ever done better work than the Auditore theme from AC2… running across rooftops, lit by the moon, and that ascending four-note motif starts to play.

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World – Another Winter

Here’s a game soundtrack I love, and I haven’t even played the game in question! Recorded entirely by New York punk/electro band Anamanaguchi, the SPVTW soundtrack is a ripping retro thing, a collection of punky anthems with killer hooks and great, rushy energy. I like a ton of tracks, but “Another Winter” gets stuck in my head more than any of them. Most triumphant bridge build-up ever? Possibly.

A Link To The Past – Hyrule Map Music

So obviously a Zelda game had to go on here, and while everyone tends to pick Ocarina of Time as their favorite game in the series, I’ll always be partial to A Link To The Past. It’s maybe the only early-era Zelda game I played, and I loved the crap out of it. This theme is my favorite of all of the classic videogame themes, and this version is always the one I hear when I think of the game.

Deadly Premonition – Whistling Theme

I think this one basically speaks for itself. If ever there were to be a piece of music that encapsulates the incredible, bizarre charm of this awesome game, it’s this. When I saw SWERY give his talk at GDC and he started whistling this music, everyone in the room almost died. There’s a reason for that.

Mass Effect – Death Music

I really liked the music from the first Mass Effect; to the point where I was pretty disappointed by the changes made in the second game. The new focus on electronically augmented orchestral bombast sounded much more generic to me; my favorite musical moments in the sequel were almost entirely the times when the music from the first game would return (most notably the extra epic galaxy map music). I think that the “game over” music from Mass Effect best encapsulates what I so loved about the entire score—just hilarious, rad synths all the way.

Suparna Galaxy – Original Soundtrack

This one’s a cheat, but I love the entire soundtrack to the new upcoming/just-released/still in development game Suparna Galaxy. Composed mostly by John Peter Grant (with the exception of “Credits/Welcome to Suparna Galaxy,” which was composed and performed by yours truly), it brings his many influences—from Williams to Bowie to Bieber—to bear and sets the stage for a truly epic, immersive role-playing experience.

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But that’s just me! I’m sure there are tracks I’ve missed—for example, I have it on good authority that both Chrono Cross and FFVI have amazing soundtracks. So, feel free to share your favorite here or tweet ’em at me.

With so much amazing game music to share, it’s a miracle we ever get any actual playing done.

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12 Responses to “My Favorite Videogame Music”

  1. Michael Walbridge March 28, 2011 at 11:51 am #

    Great list. Also, check out this gem (relevant, not spam): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rTY-MYSMiJU

    • Kirk March 28, 2011 at 2:58 pm #

      Nice! Saturn was definitely one of those consoles I never had or knew anyone who had, so I missed out on that one. Sounds great though.

  2. James March 28, 2011 at 1:14 pm #

    This makes me want to put together an entire list on my own. Maybe I might just do that! Give me a few days and I might piggyback your idea. If you’re interested in what I come up with, shoot me an email, I’m already following you on twitter, I might launch it from there instead of a blog. Good list, though, new stuff for me to listen to!

    • Kirk March 28, 2011 at 2:59 pm #

      Awesome, man! Definitely shoot me a note or an @ or whatever when you’ve made your list and I’ll check it out.

  3. Will March 28, 2011 at 8:11 pm #

    Hi again mister, and thank you for choosing Deadly Premonition’s whistling theme! I’m playing through it at the moment and it’s absolute genius, especially when the song just plays out of nowhere at the oddest times mid conversation. I also love that ‘creepy’ one which starts off with what sounds like an animal howl. SWERY, Keita Takahashi and Keiji Inafune should all get together and brainstorm.

    As for Assassin’s Creed 2, I was one of those players who really loathed how incomplete the first one was compared to how hyped up it had been, but that one moment in the sequel during the introduction when Ezio and his brother climb up the tower and the camera pans out to reveal nearly all of Florence, coupled with the background music – it was brilliant and sent a shiver down my spine. Lovely way to start a game.

    Some of my favourites: the Harry Gregson Williams’ MGS theme, until they were accused of plagiarism. Sad ending there, and MGS4 just wasn’t the same without it (and worse still, they used one of those ‘replacement’ themes that sounds like the original but isn’t, a bit like in those dodgy 80s promotional videos where they have bad copies of popular songs with extremely slight differences). MGS3 had an amazing collection of music.

    I loved the atmospheric music in Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines, and all of the original Fallout 1 and 2 Mark Morgan tracks. “My Chryslus Highwayman” makes a fine ringtone indeed.

    And whilst I’m doing a severe injustice by not being able to remember all my other favourites at this moment in time, everyone knows the main tune of Tetris: long live Type 1, forever.

    • Kirk March 30, 2011 at 11:30 am #

      Hey Will! I dig all of the stuff you mention, and I actually really liked the menu music in MGS4; I was actually very close to including it. The epic acoustic guitar notes of epicness, so perfectly Metal Gear.

      I’m very much with you on that moment in AC2 when Ezio and his brother look out over Firenze – in many ways, that very moment was emblematic of all of the things that the sequel improved over its predecessor. Loved that game.

      And yeah, I guess Tetris really deserved a place on this list, didn’t it. I’ve realized that my list is still hideously incomplete; there are about ten older tracks that should be there that I simply didn’t have space for, or time to chronicle. I’ll have to do a “Part II,” then somewhere down the line actually commit to a real top ten.

      Ha yeah, right! 😀

  4. BlackRaspberry March 31, 2011 at 5:34 am #

    It wasn’t the greatest game in the world, but there was one track in Saga Frontier (the theme for the city “Owmi”) that used to/continues to level me. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-r1VC-8_0B4 I think it’s the use of counterpoint throughout; I’ve always been a sucker for counterpoint, even before I knew what it was. 🙂 But I used to take my characters to Owmi and just put down the controller and let the music run for a few minutes before doing anything else.

    Great article. Videogame music is so needlessly undervalued. It’s always nice when someone gives it its shine.

    • Kumar Daryanani April 5, 2011 at 6:23 pm #

      “Calling” is easily my favourite track from TWEWY. Dialling in the way-back machine, Romancing Saga also had really great music, if you care to listen (legit youtube link, not spam):

      The soundtrack to Chrono Cross has a number of really good tracks as well:

      • Kirk April 7, 2011 at 11:17 am #

        Thanks for these, Kumar! Lots of people have been going on about the Chrono Cross soundtrack, it really does seem to be at the top of a bunch of lists. Sometime I’ll have to play that game (though I’ve heard mixed things), if only to hear the music.

    • Kirk April 7, 2011 at 11:16 am #

      Thanks for that recommendation (I have never even heard of Saga Frontier!), dang. Good stuff. I’m not sure I’d say that videogame music is undervalued, but occasionally it gets overlooked in favor of other aspects of the game.

      But when it comes down to it, the music is what ties us emotionally to games so strongly… so yeah basically, hooray game music!

  5. Tiffany Nevin April 14, 2011 at 3:25 pm #

    I can only say that I’m so incredibly happy that someone appreciates “Another Winter” the same way I do. I was doing a 5K and I literally put that on repeat the whole time. It is, for lack of a better word, completely friggin’ epic. And perfect for the game.

  6. syn June 14, 2011 at 3:29 pm #

    yes! another “you forgot” comment!

    you DEFINITELY forgot terry s taylors neverhood music.

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