Music in games, enough said.
Anyone who has played more than zero games remembers at least one soundtrack that sticks with them for reasons
. I could get into those reasons, but I won't because in this thread I'd love to see posters expound upon why this or that particular game had such an amazing soundtrack.
Let's not focus too much on individual songs, shall we? There are always those poignant
gaming moments that you'll never forget the music to
because of the feels, even if the rest of the game's music washed over you like a tepid breeze.
And let us not dwell on the hyper-dramatic Hans-Zimmeresque (or actually Hans Zimmer
) soundtracks that orchestrate every dramatic moment with the kind of arrangement that costs thousands of dollars to put in a room for a day (or a couple days to synthesize in ProTools or whatever).
Neither shall we focus on the glorious of past game composers
whose artistic talent was only exceeded by their ability to coax beauty out of some of the crudest hardware
to inhabit your living room.
Nor shall we hold up some truly excellent remixes
, for though they have their place in the heritage of game musicianship, we are here instead to celebrate the origins of these fine efforts.
We live in the era of the indie game and the AAA title, the freemium and pay-to-play model. We live in an age of tablets and phones and sometimes
PCs and consoles. We should celebrate those soundtracks that have moved us personally in this new era of gaming. There is a ten year limit
to submissions here, somewhat arbitrary, but sufficient I think to put feelings of nostalgia behind us.
We are here to present those soundtracks that have moved us in our adult lives, in some way, in a game that may or may not have lived up to the promise of its music. Let us share our favorites. Let us discuss why we enjoy them. Let us forge a most excellent thread.
I submit my humble three.NeoTokyo
I couldn't even tell you if this multiplayer-only CounterStrike-inspired game set in a cyberpunk world is still up and running. I don't think that I played more than two hours of it myself. I remember exceedingly little about the gameplay other than I felt like I was no good at it, no matter what I did.
But its soundtrack by Ed Harrison gets frequent play in my WinAmp playlist years later. It is a harmonious mash-up of modern EDM styles with a heavily-Eastern bent, as suits both the time and place (NeoToyko being a futuristic... Tokyo). It presents a wide variety of tracks, some slow and atmospheric, building up the vision of those hyper-metropolis grounded in ancient Japanese culture; others frenetic and driving, emphasizing the brutal and short encounters between teams of warring security forces (I think?) It's fun to listen to, it's really fleshes out the setting, it's complex enough to listen to outside of a gaming context, and never fades into the background.
If I had complaints about it, it's that a multiplayer game gives exactly zero cues to the soundtrack and as such you often find the wrong music playing for the current gameplay moment. When it syncs up, it's unearthly. When it doesn't, it's more like watching a Let's Play with the music randomly thrown over it (except you're trying to be not what the music is). I would also critique it for having too many tracks with a slow build; one of my favorite musical maneuvers, such as here
, it fails utterly in a gaming context. The climax never comes when it should, the build-up glosses over some of the most frantic moments.
But despite these two qualms I absolutely love the NeoTokyo soundtrack. A few samples, to demonstrate:Footprint
You'll see the issue of the slow build-up here, but this creates atmosphere like nothing else. If you took every element that makes the NeoTokyo OST unique together and put it all in one song, you get Footprint. One of my favorites from the OST. I like the slower tempo and the small moments of reprieve.
You can envision a match that plays according to the structure of this song... but none of them ever really do play out that way.
That's ok. I prefer the version of this game that goes on in my head when I hear this track.Scrap I/O
You'll immediately notice what sounds to a novice's ear like Japanese percussion, Western piano, a rising sound of dread, and then all hell breaks loose
Like Footprint, you can see a match going much like this song. It weaves in and out of short interludes and outbursts of sonic violence. But better than that is the voice synth tucked away in the mess, symbolizing that mannequin-like thing that's the objective of so many matches, and the samples that sound like distorted comms cutting in and out. It surprises and delights and rewards deeper listening.
One last submission for NeoTokyoDistance
You've heard a lot of what goes on here in the tracks above, but put together this way it just does such an amazing job at creating this fictional NeoTokyo that it deserves its own mention. Driving glitchy drums overlay a lonely piano, which is as rich a musical allegory as you can get in a track this simple. This is how you do world-building in six minutes.Bastion
You can't say enough about Bastion's soundtrack. I won't even try to elaborate too much on individual songs. If you haven't heard this yet, buy it
. I spent ten bucks on it, which is I think twice what I spent on the game, and it is worth twice that much.
What can I even say about it? I'll start with this: unlike NeoTokyo, whose music often clashes with the game being played at that particular moment, Bastion's soundtrack plays to the rhythm of the gameplay almost perfectly and without jarringly-obvious cues. It is energetic when you're fighting. It is haunting when you're exploring. It is sad when you're watching some heartbreak going on. It reflects perfectly the world in the shambles it's in as you go through it. What more could you ask for?
Well, for starters, you can ask that it be a fantastic work of music in its own right. It delivers. It contrasts eastern and western instrumentation, plays with rhythm and tempo, and is just all around excellent to listen to. Each character has his own sort of motif that you start to pick up on, because it's subtle. And leitmotifs abound throughout, sometimes obvious, sometimes so far apart you only notice them your fourth or fifth time through. It also manages to pack in two fairly dense literary allusions
which fit very nicely with the broader themes of the game's setting, further the development of two characters, and could merit a much longer discussion. And that's just in two songs
The musicianship is amazing, the writers know their American literary traditions, and the game would be a shadow of itself without the soundtrack. Utterly brilliant. One or two samples, posted for awesome but unannotated because what can you really say?
So what could I possibly follow up that with? What could be more perfect for a game soundtrack? What would really redefine your notions of what a soundtrack does
for a game? There is only one game that will totally change the way you look at games forever:Antichamber
"But wait," those of you who have played Antichamber say, "Antichamber has no music!" And with the exception of an unremarkable bit while credits roll, you are indeed correct.
A soundtrack needn't have music. It only needs to suit the game. It has its own raison d'etre, and that is to enhance the gaming experience.
The gaming experience of Antichamber is a stark, minimalist world defined by incoherent rules of space and perception-bending puzzles. Color is used scarcely, and solely to denote the presence of some puzzle that must be solved (even if you don't recognize it). The sounds of Antichamber do much the same.
This soundtrack is one of gentle breezes in claustrophobic corridors; croaking bullfrogs in cave-dark passages where the sounds of nature terrify rather than soothe; faint birdlike twittering, as from a distance, when you scare colored orbs into changing the reality around you unless you approach slowly, slowly; ominous whooshing as you plummet at terminal velocity down shafts, only to land at the bottom, unharmed, with an unceremonious plunk
. Doors open and close, and sometimes you hear that noise and it's not really an important door but it makes you think it is.
The sounds of Antichamber, much like its visuals, are designed to both misdirect and offer clues at the same time. You just have to think differently
about the sounds, and they make a weird sort of logical sense.
And though your journey is one of black and white with the occasional vicious interlude of color, the sounds ultimately soothe you. This is a maze, to be solved in your own order. It is a puzzle to be completed in your own time. Failure to succeed is not failure to progress, and when you have given up on a puzzle in frustration the sounds will be there for you, gently encouraging, when you decide to come back and try it again.
A soundtrack needn't be the sort of thing you can sell for ten bucks. Sometimes a soundtrack does its job effortlessly, and minimally, and enriches your gaming experience better than if it intruded overtly. Antichamber proves this admirably.
Submissions for great soundtracks from the last ten years? You are encouraged to elaborate on why you like it, as I've done above. If you don't feel like it post some favorites and let us bask in that which has made our lives as gamers that much richer.
I'm gonna be honest, I haven't really run into all-out incredible soundtracks that much in recent years.
I suppose Bastion and VVVVVV are pretty great.
Sword and Sworcery's music has this really simple, fresh feel to me. Any one of the tracks from this soundtrack I can hear and say "yeah, that's from S&S", which I think is one of the marks of a good game soundtrack.
After years of bombastic Halo soundtracks like the one described in the OP, the piano/saxophone stuff on the ODST soundtrack was like a revelation. I think it evokes the mood of the game like few other soundtracks do.
I originally had VVVVVV here, but I took it off on reconsidering, as I don't know if it's as strong as I first thought compared to these two.
I'd like to also put forward Bioshock Infinite and Alan Wake for "best use of licensed music" for
The ending theme to Fallout New Vegas is the very best even on its own, but when you overlay it with Ron Perlman narrating everything that you have done in the game it gives such a sense of closure that few games are able to give me. Yes, the game is over, but with this music and the narrator it is a good kind of over.
While I wouldn't call it *the best*, I would make a special mention for it on account of the devs (designers, artists and sound guys) actually spontaniously (no internal band AFAIK) producing them themselves. (4 being rewritten covers and one completly original)
On an unrelated note, Remember Me had a few neat tunes as well. It's amazing what some people can do with a single word.
Gamer Dater - My Video Game Dating Website full of Faygo
Strip Search Wastebasket of Broken Dreams App I made
No One Has to Die (which is free and takes ten minutes to playthrough so you have no excuse:
Payday: The Heist:
Natural Selection 2:
Are all modern games with some really great soundwork.
Nobody will disagree that if 80s throwback music gets you pumped up, then Hotline Miami has one of the best game soundtracks of all time, let alone in the past 10 years:
Evil Genius had a wonderful 60s-esque soundtrack that nailed the whole "secret agent" thing:
Dustforce has a gorgeous soundtrack that blends bleeps and bloops with resonant tones:
I haven't even played Max Payne 3 but I love the soundtrack:
Strike Suit Zero is Paul Ruskay doing what he did for Homeworld but mixing in Eastern-inspired stuff because it's a transforming mecha game:
It is nice to have a game music thread that isn't filled with Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy and whatnot. You are classy gents. I went to sleep after starting this, woke up and then worked 24 hours out of 36, so I haven't been diligent in listening to these. I shall do so tomorrow!
Fallout 3 had a great soundtrack, whether you had GNR playing or soaked up the game's atmospheric ambient music instead.
LA Noire, for the great jazzy original soundtrack, the killer "car chase" theme, and the use of fun old '40s music like 'Stone Cold Dead in the Market.'
Toy Soldiers, just because it hits you in the face right at start-up with the sense of time and place, despite being a game that's supposedly about animated die-cast figurines acting out the tragedy of the Great War, with songs like 'Dolly Gray.' The few bits of period music were right up there with the educational 'ration ticket' collectible items in their importance to grounding this fantastic concept in the reality of a war nearly a century past.
Pretty much anything and everything by Jesper Kyd. 'Nuff said. For example, Hitman: Contracts wasn't one of the best Hitman games, but there's a reason I own the soundtrack on CD.
Halo 3: ODST. My favorite Halo soundtrack, for how low-key it gets where the more famous arrangements from the rest of the series went for awe and wonderment.
Whale. Shark. isn't really what you'd expect from this type of game.
Also, a more awesome mix of Trilobyte.
Well, Valkyria Chronicles is a good place to start. It's the same composer that worked on Final Fantasy Tactics, you'll notice that he has a favorite mix to orchestration. But the soundtrack is super dynamic and fits every situations presented in the game; those moments where you're marching in heroically, or the moments where things turn for the worse, or something sinister or light happens during the plot - it all feels right.
I also want to give a big tip of the hat to Monaco: What's Yours is Mine. Aside from being unique as far as video game music goes, it gets a lot of credit for avoiding being big and boisterous as most soundtracks in video games get. You ever notice how for the most part in video games you rarely hear just one instrument? And if you do, it's rare you're hearing just one of them (violins, for example, you will always hear 20 of them at once instead of just one)? Monaco avoids that kinda shit big time.
On that note, if anyone submits game soundtracks that are full of Latin chorus' or "full orchestra means its epic always," shame on you. That stuff needs to go away for a while because nobody has been using it in any meaningful way - especially Blizzard.
Seriously neat game with a great soundtrack that very much fits the sword fighting theme.
This will be here until I receive an apology or Weedlordvegeta get any consequences for being a bully
Fez too has some incredible music
Also Apple Jack 2. Cough. (and AJ1, I suppose)
Halo Wars was the first non-Bungie, non-FPS Halo game, but Ensemble did a fantastic job. They captured the "Halo" feel perfectly. Insignificantia (All Sloppy/No Joe):
My favorite song from all of the Assassin's Creed games. A great track for racing through a city. Venice Rooftops:
I love the soundtracks to Final Fantasy XIII and its sequel. The game is a corridor run until you reach the Archylte Steppe, which is a vast, open field to explore. It's the first time that the party, who has been on the run from the law, can finally get some peace. It's accompanied by an appropriately cheerful, calming theme. The Archylte Steppe:
What DOES fit is Half-Life 2 and its episodes. I'm on my PS3, so I can't post any examples easily. If someone would be so kind as to post Vortal Combat from Episode 2, What Kind of hospital is this? from Episode 1, and pretty much anything from the game proper, I'd be much obliged.
Switch: SW-3515-0057-3813 FF XIV: Q'vehn Tia
Journey has an amazing soundtrack that gets me all choked up.
Yes, this was an amazing way to start the game:
And then this one at the end:
And not to mention some of the greatest heavy metal ever recorded. Though I'm not sure that meets the "nostalgia free" standard.
Amazing theme, and that the whole point of the main quest of the game is hidden in it is amazing too.
Switch: SW-3515-0057-3813 FF XIV: Q'vehn Tia
While I love love love this theme, it ALSO doesn't fit the ten year limit. Hence my initial cursing. I had to remove BG2 and PST from the post! The travesty!
I reject your arbitrary ten year limit and substitute the best game theme of all time!
I can pretty much agree with everything that's been said so far, though.
NAAAAAAAA NANANANA NA NA NAAAAAAA NA KATAMARI DAMACY
VVVVVV does so much with so little.
I would have sex with all of Jeremy Soule's music, but I will admit that nostalgia has a lot to do with my love of Morrowind in general. Thus it is sadly excluded.