I’ve always been a passionate fan of video game music. From my early days tape recording themes from Pokemon Gold and Super Smash Bros. Melee to my more recent adventures at Distant Worlds and Video Games Live, music has always been an area of gaming that I enthusiastically enjoy and cherish. Many of the older games I discover I do so because of hearing a tune I like by chance (it’s certainly the reason I decided to go back and pick 9 out of all the Final Fantasies to give a play) and I cite the music as the driving force behind Journey‘s incredible power.
To celebrate some of my favorite game music (and to encourage readers to introduce me to other hidden gems I’ve never found on my own), I’ve decided to go on an expedition through my iTunes to find my favorite game soundtracks that are often left without the praise they deserve, whether it be because of underexposure, underappreciation, or the natural passing of time. These aren’t necessarily my favorite soundtracks of all time, but I consider them worth a little appreciation. Hope you enjoy.
Truth be told, I played Ico for the first time this year in the HD collection on PS3. Because I bought into Xbox and Gamecube way back when, I systematically shut myself out from some fantastic experiences on PlayStation 2. I’ve been slowly making up for what I missed, but there’s so much to pull from you can excuse me for waiting so long to try this one.
What I found left me conflicted. On the one hand, the game was endearing and moved me in ways games rarely do. Fantastic atmosphere engulfed me in a world that seemed oddly real and I grew to truly care about the characters I was presented with. On the other hand, the game was plagued by some horrendous control issues that left me frustrated and fairly certain that I won’t return to the game any time soon.
But music… oh man. Let’s talk about that.
Ico is fairly ambient in terms of sound, and very minimalist. In fact, there’s really only two songs that I can point to as being incredible. But they’re so good that I can’t help but put the entire game on this list. One is “You Were There”, the haunting song at the credits that accompanied sweeping shots that ended the tale. The second is “Castle in the Mist”, a stringed folksy tune, the likes of which I find very rare in games. Seriously? Why is there not more music like this?
I don’t list this game because it’s good (it’s… problematic) or because it has the best soundtrack of the Final Fantasy games (I declare that to be FF9… or maybe 7… or maybe 3…).
No, I include FF13 on this list because among its many issues, music is not one of them. It almost seems like a social faux pas to make any positive remarks about the game at all, and that’s too bad. It really does have some great tracks, like the battle music.
Not every song is golden, but a few do stick out as great.
In all, the soundtrack may not have been enough to save Final Fantasy XIII from languishing in the eyes of many, but it demands respect nonetheless.
Sim/Tycoon games don’t often get pointed to as having the most superb music. And there’s an acceptable reason for that: most use their ambient tracks for nothing more than to fill the airwaves. Designers often neglect to put much effort into doing so, simply because music in these games never accompanies cinematics or cutscenes (it all basically needs to not be annoying and most people won’t complain).
Maxis on the other hand always goes the extra mile, delivering music in their core games that I personally find outstanding. My favorite soundtrack of their is, undoubtedly, SimCity 3000’s, and not because that game was one of my first BIG obsessions as a child. Its jazz tunes are exemplary. Just listen for yourself:
This is game with a soundtrack that truly embeds you with a sense of power of responsibility; like what you’re doing has weight and consequence. I mean, how can you not feel that way after listening to a track like this?
Ahh.. Not much better than that.
I know what you’re thinking. Everyone’s heard and loved this game’s music, and it doesn’t really fit the criteria. Not so, I tell you! Whenever I get in a conversation about Mario games with people, this one always gets conveniently misplaced, like its the cousin that’s cool but never gets noticed.
Why has there never been a Super Mario Land stage in any Smash Bros? Why is never even referenced in current handheld Mario games? Is it because it was so weird and out of place? Maybe. It was certainly a very strange Mario game, and its music is equally different from the mainstay offerings.
Not that this is a bad thing, of course. I honestly think this game may contain my second favorite Mario music, second only to the superb (and well recognized) Super Mario Galaxy. Too bad it’s all so short. Seriously, here’s all of it (excuse the goofy intro):
Now isn’t that just great? I’m really upset this game gets so overshadowed by its console brethren.
Now that I’ve given you my picks, any suggestions? I’m always on the look out for more music.