Best game soundtracks: transcending time and consoles
What are the best game soundtracks of all time? What makes them so special?
Video games have come a long way since their early days in the 1970s and 80s, and music has always played an integral role in the gaming experience. It can set the mood, convey emotion, and even enhance gameplay.
Over the years, video game soundtracks have become an art form on their own, and many of them have become as famous and beloved as the games themselves. Let’s take a look at some of the best original soundtracks in video games history.
Super Mario Bros.
It's impossible to talk about video game music without mentioning Super Mario Bros.
The game's theme, composed by Koji Kondo, is one of the world’s most recognizable pieces of music.
The track is a perfect example of how a simple melody can become memorable through repetition and association with a beloved game franchise.
The catchy and upbeat tempo melody captures the game's lighthearted and adventurous spirit, and it has become a cultural touchstone for generations of gamers.
The Super Mario Bros soundtrack is also full of other memorable tunes, including the invincibility and underground themes. The music is incredibly effective at enhancing the game's experience.
The Last of Us
The Last of Us is often praised for its immersive storytelling and emotional depth, and the game's soundtrack is no exception.
Gustavo Santaolalla composed the music, featuring beautiful guitar melodies that perfectly capture the game's post-apocalyptic setting and themes of loss and survival.
The tracks are haunting and atmospheric, in tone with the game's sense of despair and hopelessness. The use of minimal instrumentation and natural sounds also add to the realism of the game world, with simple guitar melodies and sparse percussion.
The soundtrack effectively enhances the game's emotional impact, creating a raw connection to the deep story and making it an unforgettable experience.
Pac-Man is one of the most iconic arcade games of all time, and its music is just as famous as its gameplay.
The tracks are simple but effective. They loop a melody that increases in intensity as the player progresses through the levels—using simple electronic sounds to create memorable melodies that get stuck in your head long after you've stopped playing.
The main theme is instantly recognizable, with its bouncy, upbeat tempo and catchy tune. The game's other music is also memorable, including the intermission theme and the death jingle.
Toshio Kai created an upbeat and catchy soundtrack that matches the game's fast-paced play and adds to the fun factor.
The "Pac-Man Fever'' phenomenon of the early 80s also helped cement the game's music in pop culture. This soundtrack is a classic example of the chiptune genre, and it shows how even the simplest music has a massive impact on a game's experience.
The Legend of Zelda
The Legend of Zelda is one of the most beloved video game franchises ever. The series is known for its memorable characters, epic adventures, and unforgettable music.
Using different instruments and musical styles for different areas and characters adds to the game’s immersive experience. The soundtrack, composed by Koji Kondo, is often cited as some of the best video game music ever. The main theme, the overworld theme, Zelda's Lullaby, Gerudo Valley, and Ballad of the Wind Fish quickly became fan favorites all around the globe.
The music perfectly captures the game's sense of adventure, wonder, and mystery, and it's a big reason why The Legend of Zelda has become such a beloved franchise. In fact, back in the day The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was nominated to many awards for best soundtrack, such as:
- Best Soundtrack at the 3rd Anual INteractive Achievement Awards (1999)
- Outstanding Achievement in Original music Composition at the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences Awards. (1999)
- Best Soundtrack at the BAFTA Interactive Entertainment Awards. (2000)
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time has one of the best soundtracks of all time in the whole series, if not the best. This video game soundtrack was included in the Top 100 Video Games of All Time list by IGN, and the game's music was specifically mentioned as one of the reasons for its success.
Final Fantasy VII
The Final Fantasy series' music is just as legendary as its epic storylines, diverse characters, and stunning visuals. The music is a big reason Final Fantasy has become one of the most beloved video game franchises ever.
The game's soundtrack, composed by Nobuo Uematsu, is full of memorable melodies. With soaring orchestral pieces and electronic tunes, the OST is a masterpiece that captures the game's grandeur and emotional depth.
Some of the most loved Final Fantasy tracks include: "One-Winged Angel," "Aerith's Theme," and "To Zanarkand.” These are so iconic that they are often performed in video game music concerts.
Animal Crossing is a life simulation game that has gained a devoted following since its release in 2001.
Kazumi Totaka composed the soundtrack, and it has relaxing and charming tunes that match the laid-back and quirky nature of the game. Using acoustic instruments and playful melodies creates a sense of joy and contentment that keeps players returning to the game.
The Animal Crossing Soundtrack is soothing and relaxing. It provides the perfect background music for players throughout their daily tasks. Its charming melodies and cheerful tunes make it one of the best video game soundtracks for studying and relaxation.
This game may not have a traditional plot or gameplay, but its music is essential to the overall experience.
Halo is a sci-fi first-person shooter game that tells the story of Master Chief and his fight against the alien Covenant. This game franchise is often praised for its epic and cinematic gameplay, and the music is a big part of that.
The music features a mix of orchestral and electronic elements that perfectly match the game's futuristic and otherworldly setting. Composed by Martin O'Donnell and Michael Salvatori, the tracks "Halo Theme" and "One Final Effort" are often cited as major fan favorites.
The OST is epic, sweeping, and cinematic, capturing the grandeur of the game's battles and the sense of adventure and action. The soundtrack creates a sense of awe and wonders that add to the game's scale by using a full orchestra and choir.
Other iconic arcade game soundtracks that are worth mentioning include:
- Mass Effect
- Street Fighter II
- Pokemon Red/Blue
- World of Warcraft
- Nier: Automata
From catchy chiptunes to epic orchestral pieces, game soundtracks can transport players to other worlds, enhance storytelling, and even inspire them in their everyday lives. The best game soundtracks complement the gameplay and stand alone as music you can enjoy on your own.
Since the early days of gaming to the modern era, these soundtracks have become a crucial part of the gaming experience and will continue to do so for years.
If you want us to expand on the majestic world of game soundtracks (or if we missed your favorite one), comment below, and we’ll talk about them next time!
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