Let’s face it, a good soundtrack is all that really matters when it comes to video games (apart from gameplay, narrative, appearance, value, innovation etc etc). In this semi-regular feature one writer will impress upon you their six greatest video game soundtracks. It’s not a definitive list, nor is it styled as an objective list, but it is, hopefully, a good list. This week: Tom steps up to the sharing, let’s all be welcoming of his choices.
1. Katamari Damacy
The Reason: Katamari Damacy is one of the best games that no one has ever played. If you ever meet someone who has played it then you know they will either be your best friend or your future spouse. End of. Where do you start when you need to make music to emphasise that you’re a tiny prince pushing round a Katamari (an ever-expanding ball of crap) collecting bits and pieces off stuff in order to make stars and planets? All I know is that they nailed it.
The Standout: This is, without a doubt, the greatest song ever. Of all time. Once and forever. Move over Beethoven you deaf bastard, these chaps have functional ears and they know how to make a goddamn song.
2. Star Wing / Lylat Wars
The Reason: Star Wing was the first time I’d played any sort of aviation game and, to be honest, flying games haven’t been at the top of my ‘to play’ list since. What made this more accessible were the lasers and the anamorphic talking animals (which everyone always loves). The music added to the sense of this being part of a sci-fi epic despite the fact there was minimal plot and it was actually a pretty short game. And Lylat Wars? It was really just a graphical update to Star Wing. And it added an improved soundtrack.
The Standout: Now, no saying that I’m cheating here, I just think this is the best version of the song. Sometimes covers are better than the originals and this is very, very true here. If you can listen to this without running round your room yelling ‘pew pew pew motherfuckers’ then you don’t have it turned up loud enough.
3. F-Zero X
The Reason: The F-Zero franchise took off on the N64, even though the SNES had great entry of the series on it. Why was this? True, the graphics were better on the N64 and, yes, there were more flying cars on the track, plus the game was infinitely more violent. But the real reason was the music. The music on the N64 was some of the best music to fly little cars filled with mutants round on.
The Standout: Bwa-bwah-bwa, Bwa-bwah-bwa, do do do do doooo ,do do do do do do doooooooo. Classic.
4. L.A. Noire
The Reason: I’ve spoken before about how Rockstar does its best games when it’s working from films. And when it comes to L.A. Noire both L.A. Confidential and The Black Dahlia (both films based on the works of James Ellroy) play a massive part. Thankfully, when it came to the soundtrack, Rockstar commissioned something totally original and my goodness gosh if they didn’t get it right. The soundtrack to L.A. Noire was dark; it harked back to the history of Noir films and of course it was jazz-y.
The Standout: The chase early on is one of the first times that the music drops in so perfectly that the game really starts to feel like a film; it segues in perfectly to a great pursuit that the music backs up. The score was released in standalone CD form and when you listen to this it isn’t hard to understand why. Note: try not to run around in a fedora when you listen to this – because you can’t pull off hats. Sorry.
5. Metal Gear
The Reason: Metal Gear Solid came at the time of breakthroughs in terms of storytelling; before its release no one had even suspected that gamers would sit through achingly long cut scenes, but Hideo Kojima had a vision where you didn’t play games, you watched them. Yes that’s grossly unfair, but Metal Gear Solid was certainly the closest thing to a film that the PSOne had, from the opening cinematic’s voiceover to the title sequence with the developers’ names presented as in a real title sequence. When a new character was introduced the voice actors name appeared: that’s cinema. The music had the sense that it was a real cinematic score too, and while the graphics didn’t look like a real film, the music sounded every bit like it could have lived in a Hollywood blockbuster.
The Standout: What added to everything was the music before the game even started, the goddamn menu music I mean. It was tense and serious and no matter what part of the game you were about to load up always felt relevant.
6. Mirror’s Edge
The Reason:When Mirror’s Edge was first announced it was a little tricky to understand the hype; there had only really been one free running game before, the informatively titled Free Running on PS2 (and that was woefully bad). When the first trailers started to emerge it was clear that Mirror’s Edge was something else, not just the gameplay and the mechanics but the whole aesthetic of the game was beautiful; the use of colours and negative space was incredible. What really pulled it all together was the soundtrack, making what some considered to be a one trick pony into a fully realised package.
The Standout: The main theme; it’s fantastic. Yes, there is a version with vocals but frankly you’re better off without them. It’s surprisingly relaxing for a game about running away from the 5-0. Sit back and let the music wash over you, then think about how many bones you’d break if you tried jumping off stuff too. Ah go on.
Tom Ascott is too cool to write a mini bio (note the sunglasses in the picture) so Steve has written this one for him, betting he won't notice for a while. You can follow him on twitter @obscurestartist if you want to feel inadequate by comparison