A good videogame soundtrack does a lot to enhance the gaming experience. While it won’t make a terrible game great, it goes a long way to get you into the groove. Whether it is an RPG, shooter or RTS, the soundtrack makes the game more real, sets the mood for the scene and gives you something by which to remember the whole experience. While people don’t generally remember games by their soundtrack, some really shine in that department, and deserve special mention. Here are a few of our favorite videogame soundtracks. SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD Some games are just instantly charming. This is one of those games. Not only does it hit you with a great feeling of nostalgia, thanks to the old-school graphics and gameplay, it even sounds like one. The music is strong and driving, just like side-scrollers of the era this game is channelling, and does a very excellent job of making you want to keep moving. This game is not about strategy, stealth or anything that needs you to be quiet, so high-BPM music, in the charming style of old 16- bit games is a great way to go. While it’s really not meant to be a memorable soundtrack, t’s exactly what you want to hear when playing the game. JOURNEY This game, released first on the PlayStation Network, is an indie title that really doesn’t require you to do very much. Think of it as Zen gaming, and you’ll be right on the dot. You control a robed figure, traveling through a desert, towards a goal in the distant horizon. Occasionally, you will encounter other travelers, though the only thing you can do, really is sing a chirpy, whistle-y musical chime that happens to sometimes have effects on game elements. The game also features dynamic music, which plays with a central musical theme that changes based on player actions. It’s a real visual and auditory treat that is far more immersive than this short description can describe. The beautiful, haunting melody really sets the right feel, and pulls you in pretty deep, particularly for a game that doesn’t have much action at all. Austin Wintery (who also worked on the equally Zen game, Flow) SCOTT PILGRIM VS THE WORLD Some games are just instantly charming. This is one of those games. Not only does it hit you with a great feeling of nostalgia, thanks to the old-school graphics and gameplay, it even sounds like one. The music is strong and driving, just like side-scrollers of the era this game is channelling, and does a very excellent job of making you want to keep moving. This game is not about strategy, stealth or anything that needs you to be quiet, so high-BPM music, in the charming style of old 16- bit games is a great way to go. While it’s really not meant to be a memorable soundtrack, t’s exactly what you want to hear when playing the game. ORIGinAL VIOEOGAmE SOUnOTRACH worked with sound designer Steve Johnson, and interestingly hit the top 1 0 in iTunes Soundtrack charts in many countries, as well as 116 on the Billboard sales charts. It also bears the distinction of being the first videogame soundtrack to have been nominated for an Em my. MIRROR’S EDGE
Mirror’s Edge, a game set in a sterile, dystopian future, has one of my favorite soundtracks of all time, movies included. It’s a very dean-sounding set of electronic tracks that wonderfully conveys the breadth and height of the game you’re playing. In contrast to the other soundtracks on the list, the music in this game is a bit calmer than the actual action. Sure, there are points where the game has a huge BPM count, such as really critical chase sequences, but overall, it’s pretty serene. It sounds like how the protagonist’s mind must feel, despite running, jumping and leaping all over the city skyline. There are also tracks that are appropriately dark, matching the true nature of the oppressive state in which the game is set. This is a soundtrack that uses no gimmicks, just well-thought-out beats used at appropriate points in the actual game. The tracks also blend into each other beautifully, and are wonderfully varied, even within individual pieces. During gameplay, the music creates a sense of urgency not only by upping the beat count, but by subtly changing pitch. It creates situations where you feel differently, but can’t really place why you feel differently, which is something that makes a soundtrack truly amazing. LEFT 4 DEAD Gaming is about being immersed in an experience that is outside ofthose we experience in our daily lives. The game Left 4 Dead 2 takes that to a whole new experience by creating a game that is meant to feel like a movie. Perhaps a little more than games, movie soundtracks have a profound impact. Left 4 Dead 2 wanted to give that same feeling you do when you watch a movie and are inexplicably scared even though there is no action on-screen. The game manages this subtlety through the use of”The Director:• a part of the game that takes charge ofthe game, just like its counterpart in cinematography. The dynamic music, which would actively and intelligently swell, drop and jump at you at appropriate times, was pretty effective in both scaring the pee out of players, as well as creating that movie vi be that the rest of the game was trying to achieve. CHRONO TRIGGER If you were into consoles in the 1990s, I don’t need to explain this game to you. It’s a beloved game published by Square (Now Square Enix) that took you through millennia as you adventure with your party to prevent what is essentially The Apocalpse. The RPG has a soundtrack lauded many times over, and we would be remiss if we didn’t make mention of it here. Each Epoch has a very distinct flavor and does more than its share of setting the tone for the area. The men behind the music of Chrono Trigger are Yasunori Mitsuda for the majority of the tracks, and Nobuo Uematsu, who did a lot of great music for another Square franchise, Final Fantasy. Many people consider Chrono to have one ofthe best VG soundtracks ever made. This was music written and played for the SNES, which might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about music. Mitsuda, then a sound technician for Square, put in extra hours, and made such a great soundtrack by including recurring musical phrases in each of the tracks, in order to give the work as a whole, a consistent feel, while allowing each track its own identity. METAL GEAR REVENGEANCE This is a bit of a cheat. The Metal Gear Rising Revengeance soundtrack is actually split into two: One is the in-game music that you hear while playing, and another, which was made available through preorder, is called Vocal Tracks. They came up with a soundtrack just for the game, and man, is it something. Since the game itself was more action than Metal Gear Solid-style stealth, the Vocal Tracks are a combination of heavy metal, rock and dubstep, with a little classical thrown in for good measure. It is a aurally-heavy combination of tracks that is both refreshing and invigorating to listen to. It’s a very nice change from the themes in the original metal gear games, and goes really well with Revengeance. For the full effect, grab a copy and play that in the background while flipping out like a ninja in the game.
First published in Gadgets Magazine, July 2013
Words by Ren Alcantara