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Nowadays, it is hard for otakus to conceive a Video Game without an interesting plot, characters, decent graphics or good music. The advancements of technology have facilitated the diversification of entertainment in ways that could only be imagined before. That is how we went from pong to the most sophisticated virtual reality proposals nowadays. From just a few sounds per game to a whole new industry (video game music), we can find several memorable soundtracks throughout our gaming journeys. These are just some of the best video game soundtracks.
- System/Platform: PlayStation 4 and PlayStation VR
- Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
- Developer: Plastic
- Release Date: August 16, 2016
Created by Michal Staniszewski, Bound transports us to a surreal environment. We take the role of a dancing princess sent by her mother, the Queen, to fight a monster that wants to destroy the world. Bound is an audiovisual experience inspired by the art of the beginning of the 20th century. Although its gameplay is not the best, people who are looking for a different and shorter game than the usual quest will get an interesting option that crosses the boundary with performance art.
The self-taught Composer Oleg Shpudeiko “Heinali” from Ukraine composed the Soundtrack for Bound. Heinali has specialized in commercial music, mixing electronic sounds and classical music. Therefore, the soundtrack for Bound is a rendition to the most contemporary musical composition technology with a marked European solemnity. If you have enjoyed the game Journey, you will understand what we are talking about, although Bound has a retro feel. This score received the best soundtrack award by PSNStores and Best Polish Game Audio award.
9. Napple Tale: Arsia in Daydream
- System/Platform: Dreamcast
- Publisher: Sega
- Developer: Chime
- Release Date: October 19, 2000
Napple Tale is a hidden jewel that takes us to a world full of fairies, monsters and bright colors. The novice spirit guide called Straynap had his first mission ever… and he failed it. Instead of bringing the person he was supposed to bring to the Napple World (somewhere between the worlds of the living and the dead), he brought Arsia Poach. Now Straynap will have to team up with her to find a way to return Arsia home.
Yoko Kanno is one of the most well known Japanese composers, especially in the anime realm. However, her long professional career started with composing for video games. Kanno was one of the first to create 8 bit tunes that have become masterpieces. By the time she had to compose the soundtrack for Napple Tale, Kanno could use real instruments. And that is exactly what she did, incorporating xylophones, cymbals, bells, very little synths and most importantly, soft choruses and a playful piano. Based in romantic and impressionist composers, Kanno’s apparently childish compositions are one surprise after the other, joining different musical styles in a cohesive whole. Of course, she invited her long time collaborator Maaya Sakamoto to sing the vocal pieces.
8. Metal Gear Solid
- System/Platform: PlayStation and Windows
- Publisher: Konami
- Developer: Konami Computer Entertainment Japan
- Release Date: September 3, 1998
Metal Gear Solid is a classical stealth game created by Hideo Kojima. It was a sequel for other video games in the franchise. The protagonist is Solid Snake, a retired soldier who has to infiltrate a nuclear weapons facility to confront the terrorist group called Foxhound. Oh, and he also has to rescue some people and stopping a possible nuclear holocaust.
Metal Gear Solid’s soundtrack was composed by a group of Konami’s musicians. Among them, we can cite Kazuki Muraoka, Hiroyuki Togo, Takanari Ishiyama, Jeon Myung Lee and Maki Kirioka. The music had to accompany cinematic cutscenes, thus, orchestra and chorus were important compositional elements. We also should mention the powerful celtic style ending “The Best is Yet To Come”, created by Rika Muranaka.
7. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
- System/Platform: PlayStation
- Publisher: Konami
- Developer: Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo
- Release Date: March 20, 1997
The sequel for Castlevania: Rondo of Blood was created by Toru Hagihara and Koji Igarashi. So, welcome to the world of shadows and blood! You can become Dracula’s son Alucard in order to solve a mystery. Thanks to the fans, Castlevania is considered a classic and one of the best video games of all time.
The soundtrack was composed by Michiru Yamane, a veteran video game composer who started her career with Konami. For Castlevania, she was heavily inspired by European music, both classical and metal. However, we can also hear touches of techno, new-age and jazz in the tracks. Bells, chorus, organ… when you listen to this soundtrack, you get transported to a mysterious gothic night. We should also mention the ending theme, “I Am the Wind” by Rika Muranaka.
6. Chrono Trigger
- System/Platform: Super NES
- Publisher: Square Enix
- Developer: Square
- Release Date: March 11, 1995
One fine day, a freelance designer under the name of Yuji Horii, the creator of Final Fantasy (Hironobu Sakaguchi) and the creator of Dragon Ball (Akira Toriyama) got together to create a video game. Chrono Trigger presents us with a group of adventurers from different historical eras in a time travel quest to prevent the destruction of the world. This is yet another video game considered among the best of all times. That is why its music could not fail...
Yasunori Mitsuda is a song programmer who dreamed of composing for video games. As many aspects that were novel in Chrono Trigger, Mitsuda wanted to create music for an imaginary world, which made him incorporate acid jazz in it. However, the work overload was too much for Mitsuda and his computer hard drive. One crashed and the other went ill, so Nobuo Uematsu had to finish the soundtrack. Despite so many problems, Chrono Trigger’s music is easily one of the finest video game soundtracks of all times. Electronic Gaming Monthly gave it the Best Music in a Cartridge-Based Game prize in 1995.
- System/Platform: PlayStation 3
- Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
- Developer: thatgamecompany
- Release Date: March 13, 2012
Jenova Chen is a Chinese computer scientist and video game designer. He created other video games for his own studio (thatgamecompany) before releasing Journey. This game has been prized for its visual art. The player takes the role of a robed figure in a desert who has the objective of reaching a distant mountain. Occasionally accompanied by other anonymous players, we are invited into a world where singing is power and emotional experience is central. Journey has been considered as one of the greatest games of all times.
The American Austin Wintory, who has worked for video games and other commercial media, composed the soundtrack for Journey. A cello, a flute, a harp and a viola take the central role, although the composer considered the cello as the main instrument. The type of music is considered as abstract, although some pieces have a folk influence on them. All in all, there is a spiritual flow in the music that fits Journey perfectly. Perhaps it is the result of Wintory having played the full game before composing. We only have to listen to the first track, “Nascence”, to confirm how great this soundtrack is.
- System/Platform: PlayStation 2
- Publisher: Capcom
- Developer: Clover Studio
- Release Date: April 20, 2006
Okami was created by Hideki Kamiya. This game is notable for being deeply interlinked with nature and having a unique gameplay with a paint brush that grants the player the power to affect the world. We follow the adventures of the great Sun Goddess Amaterasu and her companions while they try to save the world. Okami has a heavy influence of traditional Japan, which is evident in the visual style… and the music.
The composers of the Okami soundtrack were Masami Ueda, Hiroshi Yamaguchi, Rei Kondoh and Akari Groves. Every character (usually inspired by a Japanese traditional “god” or historical character) has their own tune, while every village or scene also has a theme. It is curious that most famous Japanese games are inspired by occidental cultures, so we decided to throw the superb Okami soundtrack to the mix. It won the best score award at the 2007 BAFTA Video Games Awards after all.
3. Kingdom Hearts
- System/Platform: PlayStation 2
- Publisher: Square Enix, Diney Interactive Studios
- Developer: Square Enix, Jupiter, h.a.n.d., BitGroove Inc., Success
- Release Date: March 28, 2002
Created by Shinji Hashimoto and Tetsuya Nomura, Kingdom Hearts is notable in being a crossover of Final Fantasy with Disney characters. The protagonist is Sora, who along with his friends, journeys to stop the many incarnations of the evil Xehanort. He also encounters the Disney characters and their worlds along the way. The first Kingdom Hearts would open the door for seven sequels and ongoing...
Yoko Shimamura is mainly a composer for video game music, while Kaoru Wada also has titles in the anime world (InuYasha, anyone?). They created music that ranges from dark passing through sorrow to cheerful for this soundtrack. However, what steals the show in the music of Kingdom Hearts is the two themes composed by the famous Utada Hikaru. Who doesn’t remember Hikari and Passion (Simple and Clean and Sanctuary in the English releases)?
2. Final Fantasy VI
- System/Platform: Super NES
- Publisher: Square Enix
- Developer: Square Enix
- Release Date: April 2, 1994
Of course, in any top list of video games soundtracks, we should not leave Final Fantasy out. However, which one of their scores deserves to represent the franchise? Well, none other than Final Fantasy VI. Considered by some as the number one RPG of all time and winner of numerous awards, this Final Fantasy installment tells us the epic adventure of a group of rebels in their quest to overthrow a dictator.
Of course that Final Fantasy VI’s soundtrack was composed by the main musician of the franchise: Nobuo Uematsu. He composed themes for each major character (14 in this case) and for every location, as well as music for battles, enemies and for special scenes. Some notable tracks are “Tina’s theme” and “Aria di Mezzo Carattere”, powerful songs that have passed the test of time. Electronic Gaming Monthly recognized this soundtrack for Best Music for a Cartridge-Based Game in 1994. If you don’t have it in your music collection, you are missing a jewel, point.
1. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
- System/Platform: Nintendo 64
- Publisher: Nintendo
- Developer: Nintendo EAD
- Release Date: November 21, 1998
The Legend of Zelda or Super Mario? That was the hard question. Both are iconic video games that even non hard core otakus can recognize. Well, Princess Peach and company will have to forgive us, because we could not resist the call of the Ocarina of Time >
Music has morphed from a simple ornament to an integral part of our favorite video games. With so many passionated composers and producers backing it, it is expected that high quality video game music will continue to surprise and win fans in the future. Tell us, which video game soundtrack is your favorite? Which video game soundtracks did we miss? Don’t forget that we are open to all your comments and suggestions. See you soon!