Brendan’s Top 10 Best Videogame Soundtracks

My two favorite forms of media entertainment are videogames and music. Obviously, I enjoy to occasional TV show or movie, listen to quite a few podcasts, and I actually read quite a bit as well. But when push comes to shove, if I’ve got time to space I’d almost always prefer spending with a controller in my hand or headphones over my ears. Luckily enough, videogames are a pretty great source of good music. And to be clear, I don’t mean themes — there are tons of great videogame themes The Elder Scrolls, Final Fantasy, Halo, Uncharted, etc. I mean full on soundtracks. Granted, as games try harder and harder to be movies, we’re left with far less memorable, overly “epic” orchestrated scores that begin to blend together. But there are still some that manage to be impactful and memorable, not to mention the myriad of retro games whose 8- and 16-bit soundtracks went on to inspire an entire genre of music.. Anyway, enough blathering — here are my 10 favorite videogame soundtracks.

10. Brutal Legend

Is it unfair of me to include this game? Probably, but I’m doing it anyway because I love metal. Brutal Legend is a metal-as-fuck game about metal that uses over 100 awesome metal songs in some of the most metal ways ever. The end.

Not only that, but there was a bunch of original music composed for the game as well.

9. Rayman: Origins

Rayman is near and dear to me. While others were picking mushrooms some fat plumber in a pedo stache and suspenders, I was off exploring the magical dreamland of Rayman. The music in the series has always been important. Often, entire sections of the games would be centered around musical notes and timing. But no matter if the music was integral to the gameplay, or just background to it, the dream-like world of Rayman was brought to life by its music. Rayman: Origins is by far my favorite game in the series, and it also features without a doubt the series’ best music.

8. Castlevania 2

Halloween is my favorite Holiday. Many of my favorite death metal and doom metal bands are that way because they sound like Halloween. Every time I pop in a band like Hooded Menace or Graveyard, I feel like it’s Halloween. Castlevania 2 sounds like Halloween. It’s a bit dark, slightly creepy due to minor chord melodies (that are incredibly catchy). Castlevania 2 has probably my favorite NES soundtrack, and is the perfect example of 8-Bit chiptunes music.

7. Metal gear solid 3

Big Boss makes Chuck Norris look like a chump, and James Bond like a pansey. Hideo Kojima’s complex commentary on the future of war began with electro-symphonic rock, but when the series took us back in time, to delve into the inanity and insanity of the Cold War, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater took a page from 007, switching things up with funky, 60-era spy flick grooves, complete with it’s very own “Bond Song.” It’s one of my favorite theme songs to any piece of media ever.

6. Metroid Prime

Metroid always had spacey, strange sci-fi songs that offered an ominous sense of being alone on an alien planet. But Metroid Prime added another element: wonder. The beauty and detail of Tallon IV created a strong sense of place. It was lived in, there was history in every crevice and brick. Metroid Prime certainly made you feel alone, and the soundtrack is appropriately alien and sci-fi, but the wonder you feel when entering Chozo Ruins or Phendrana Drifts for the first time compel you to explore this planet in a way few other settings do, and a large part of that is due to the wonderful soundtrack, punctuating every new secret and discovery.

5. Dark Souls

For the most part, Dark Souls is silent. Often, the only soundtrack to your demise is the ambiance of you environment, and the menacing sounds of the enemies that hunt you. When music does kick in, it is usually understated, dark, melancholic — like the game itself. But when you find yourself face-to-face with the morbid and terrifying bosses of the game, the ordeals are scored by massive sections of brass horns and woodwinds, gothic choirs, piercing string instruments, and pummeling drums. Despite the overwhelming obstacles and depressing atmosphere, Dark Souls provides some of the strongest feelings of reward and accomplishment of any game, and the soundtrack underscores that struggle perfectly.

4. Shadow of the Colossus

Much like Dark Souls, Shadow of the Colossus is a quiet and understated game, for the most part. Traversing this empty land is a lonely and bleak affair; but felling the 16 hulking, majestic beasts that roam the land is daunting and terrifying. Each boss fight  is (again, much like Dark Souls) scored by songs as epic and awe-inspiring as the beasts themselves. And like Dark Souls, there is a sense of accomplishment with each victory. But unlike Dark Souls, you don’t feel like a hero — you feel like a monster. As you watch these beings die, you feel as if you’ve betrayed them of something for more important than just their life. And every note drives the tendrils of guilt deeper into you.

3. The Legend of Zelda (series)

I don’t have to say much here. There’s probably only one other series with as well know and iconic music in the world of videogames (and I didn’t even mention it on this list. GASP!). The Legend of Zelda is the music of my childhood; It’s music I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

2. Doom

C’mon.

1. Mass Effect

Mass Effect’s music is astounding. The synthetic elements of the songs meld into the organic sounds of tangible instruments. This creates and entirely unique sound — you know when you’re listening to a Mass Effect song. But it’s not just the fact that the songs are good, or memorable, or that they give the universe an identity, but that they make you feel something. The mysterious galaxy map song fills you with curiosity and wonder at the immensity of space; Mass Effect 3’s theme weighs down on you as you’re face with an inescapable fate; and the theme for Mass Effect 2’s Suicide Mission may be the most inspiring piece of music I’ve ever heard. Not matter what the final game did or did not do for you is irrelevant because no matter what, when the final moment comes you feel something.

Runner Ups:

Red Dead Redemption

Pokemon

Diablo series

Final Fantasy XII

The Elder Scrolls series

What are you favorite videogame soundtracks? Think I’m insane for including/forgetting something? Sound off in the comments! Also, suggest some other list ideas to me. I realize that they’ve been mostly broad topics, and thus result in a lot of cross over and feature similar games on each, and to be honest I’m running out of things to say about a lot of these games/series, but I still love doing lists. So if there’s a topic or idea you’ve got for a list, let me know in the comments as well, or email us at askpowercords@gmail.com!

Want more video game music? be sure to check out the latest episode of the Power Cast!

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The LOW-DOWN 9/3/2012

We might have missed last week but the LOW-DOWN is back for this week and just in time to inform of the latest PAX announcements. Also other stuff is in there too. If I want to know what watch the video. Also subscribe.

Thoughts on the open-world Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zero reveal

Where have we been lately, amirite guys? Well, as it turns out, we’ve been waiting for this: at Konami’s Metal Gear Solid 25th anniversary press event, the Japanese game development studio unveiled the next entry in one of this blogger’s favorite videogame series, Metal Gear Solid. Dubbed Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes, this new title will feature the classic MGS stealth gameplay, only this time i a fully open-world setting.

I’m gonna let that sink in for a moment.

Open. World. Metal Gear.

Based of the few images leaked from the press event (attendees were instructed NOT to leak the announcement. Seem like that didn’t work out too well), we can glean that this next game is set after the Big Boss story of Snake Eater and Peace Walker, but before the event of Metal Gear Solid. It features a high-res rendering of Snake(Big Boss) in a Militares San Frontieres stealth suit, and reports are that the game is running on the new FOX Engine graphics engine. From those at the event, the game looks to be gorgeous, and features a much richer atmosphere and fleshed out world than previous MGS games.

 

Interestingly, the game will feature no game over screen — something rather iconic to the series. Instead, Ground Zero will have players not only sneaking, but escaping.

“In the demo, Snake crawled to avoid some searchlights. After a quick stealth kill, he hopped in a jeep and called in a helicopter for evac. The concept behind Ground Zeroes[sic] is that this is a “Game without Game Over”. So even if a player is discovered in this stealth title, the part where the game would usually end (their discovery) turns into their escape.”

The game was running on current-gen PC hardware, and is being developed with the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 in mind. However, the FOX Engine is aimed at next-gen consoles, so perhaps we will see more of Solid Snake and Big Boss on future machines. (That would be 6 generations of Metal Gear!)

Poster for Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zero at Konami’s Metal Gear Solid 25th Anniversary event.

Personally, I am way stoke for this. Big Boss’ storyline, to me, has been the best part of Metal Gear. I certainly like Solid Snake’s adventures, but the timeline of Big Boss’ story was always more interesting to me, as well as the jungle settings of MGS3 and peace walker. Admittedly, I’ve never played MGS4. Though I’d really love to, I’ve never really had an opportunity to buy a PS3. Still, despite having missed the latest console entry, I love pretty much every other game in the series… well, MGS2 got kinda weird. Anyway! The setting and fact we’ll be playing as Big Boss once again makes me wonder: will we see a young Solid Snake and the creation of the Fox unit? Who knows. One thing’s for certain, this has jumped to the top of my anticipated games list.

An open world MGS might just be the best thing I’ve hear all year — and that’s including the sentences “Mechs in Halo 4,” and “next Fallout game might be set in Boston.” What about you guys? Excited to hear about the announcement of a new Metal Gear? Have any hopes for the game, or speculations as to what it may bring? Sound off in the comments!