Yesterday we posted the first part of our roundtable discussion on whether or not soundtracks in video games are important as well as listing some of the staff’s favourite tracks. Due to how thorough our staff are when giving their thoughts and opinions, the feature was split into two parts, this being the second and final piece. As a friendly reminder, these are the three questions we asked each of the staff:
How important is a game’s soundtrack in your opinion?
Which game do you feel has the best soundtrack and why?
What is your favourite video game track?
Hugh “Bear” Simmonds
“Gaming soundtracks are so important, the better games use it to help convey emotion. A fine example of this is Unfinished Swan where the music creates the emotion as too does the absence of it in a certain section too. GTA San Andreas had one of the best soundtracks in my opinion, although the GTA games all have good soundtracks (the 3D ones anyways.)
Favourite songs are the Joker singing at the end of Arkham City, after what had just happened and was slightly haunting and sums up Joker and Batmans relationship. Or it has to be Bury Me Not On The Lone Prairie from Red Dead Redemption it fits perfectly with again what has just happened, burying his parents and going for revenge”
Aaron “You Can’t See Me” Boland
“The soundtrack behind the game is one of the most unappreciated parts of the game. It’s the thing most people just look over or don’t notice, but if you imagine a game with no music then you might think differently. The music sets the stage for the game your playing, fast paced music for some upcoming action or slow and emotional for a dramatic scene. The soundtrack is a very important part of the overall experience for me.
My favorite video game soundtrack would have to be Shadow of Colossus because it just emphasizes that feeling of exploration and wonder. It makes you want to try harder to succeed while you’re playing and it is just full of epic orchestral performances that make each moment memorable.”
Robert “Keyblade” Key
“While I do and will always believe gameplay is the absolute most important factor in video games, the music and sound in video games still play a vital role in how a game pans out. Just try and picture a game without music and sound. How dull would that be? To me, music does two things for a video game: sets the mood and makes the experience emotional/memorable. Imagine having an instrumental version of the song ‘Girls’ by Beastie Boys playing in the background while you’re walking down dark narrow halls in Dead Space. Doesn’t fit right? It’s because music can increase the excitement or adrenaline rush of an ever intense moment in games. Music is also a gateway to, in a way, access the games even if we are not playing them. For example, whenever ‘Kokiri Forest’ appear on my iPod’s shuffle, it instantly takes me back to the time when I was a ‘wee little lad’ and I first merged myself into the magical world that I now know as ‘The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.’ Instances like that where I don’t even have to play a game to relive an experience is something not even gameplay can do.
As far as my favorite soundtracks, one of them is, as you may have already guessed, Ocarina of Time’s. It’s something I could listen to for hours on end and something about it has made me appreciate it even more with age (not that I’m that old). Every song, and I do mean every song, matches with the scene perfectly every single time. Even if it makes me think of all the annoying times the damn owl stops me in the middle of my quests to save the world, I even manage to crack a smile when Kaepora Gaebora’s Theme plays. Of course one of my favorite songs from Ocarina of Time is definitely Ganondorf’s Theme. It always makes me think of the long journey up those stair steps when you’re on your way to the final battle against the King of Evil.
Of course I have to mention Halo’s soundtrack in general as well. Mixing orchestra, electronic and a bit of rock into the concoction, Halo’s soundtrack still has one of the more unique sounds to date. One of the most memorable moments of the soundtrack/series is towards the end of the second to last level as Master Chief in Halo 2. You face off against the best the covenant has to offer: Hunters and the white-armored Elites, the elite of the Elites if you will. Even back when I was a n00blet still getting use to using two thumbsticks on Easy mode, I honestly thought I was screwed, but then something happened. An awesome, awesome song that I still listen to today starts playing and I suddenly wanted to charge head on the danger harder than the 300 Spartans. It was an instrumental of Breaking Benjamin’s “Blow Me Away.” If that song doesn’t get you pumped then I’m sorry, but you are instantly deducted of any previously earned man points. Pardon me while I go listen to it.
Excuse me while I go skipping through a field of nostalgia.”
George “Yippee Ki-Yay” Sinclair
“A soundtrack should be able to be applied to the game in a way that can really make it stand out. I think that video game scores are something that are over looked. I often look to the example of the opening of Infamous 2 with Cole fighting the Beast. In the background, there’s this thunderous music that really caught my attention. There’s people flying around everywhere, the city is burning and at the centre is Cole. What really made me cherish the soundtrack to Infamous 2 in general was the 2:06 – 2:22 mark which had Cole stagger to his feet after blasting the Beast who was rising up behind him.
It just really stuck in my head and I think there are few games that can really stick a piece of music to a scene in that way.”
Eric “Filthy Achievement Whore” Pepper
“While the soundtrack isn’t the most vital aspect of a game, it is still capable of making or breaking a title. You can have an incredible game that is a ton of fun to play, but if your soundtrack is lacking or doesn’t fit the game at all, your game won’t be the hit you’re hoping for. It could easily become one of those games that a small group of people like because of how obscure it is (I’m looking at you Deadly Premonition), but it won’t become a best seller by any stretch of the imagination. All you have to do is look at some of the highest selling arcade titles on XBLA or PSN and you’ll see that combining a stellar soundtrack with quality gameplay results in huge sales numbers.
I assume it would be cheating to pick a game like DJ Hero 2 for having the best soundtrack, so I’ll force myself to pick another game. There are a lot of games that have phenomenal soundtracks which makes narrowing it down to one nearly impossible, but given that I’m forced to pick, I’m inclined to choose Donkey Kong Country 2. The folks at Rare (in pre-Microsoft times) were known for not only having high quality games, but the soundtracks were always incredible. The tracks in that game were varied and always suited the levels perfectly. Some of you may wonder why I chose the second title rather than the first, third, or even DKCR, and the answer is because Donkey Kong Country 2 had quite possibly the most diverse level environments, and DKCR lost a bit of the charm in the soundtrack. The songs just didn’t stay with you quite as well.
Oddly enough, I actually have an easier time choosing my favourite video game track of all time than I did in choosing the game with the best soundtrack. For me, the reining champion for best track is the Gerudo Valley theme from Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. It’s a tune that almost every gamer is familiar with and for good reason. It has a haunting melody, it’s perfectly matched to the desert environment you’re in, it has a very exotic feel to it, and if you ever hear an actual orchestra play this song, you’ll love it even more.”
That wraps up our roundtable discussion on the importance of video game soundtracks. Now that we’ve chimed in with our opinions, we’d love to hear yours. Let us know in the comments below!
Eric is an editor for Analog Addiction where you can find all the latest gaming news, previews, reviews, and everything else that rhymes with those words. ‘Like’ Analog Addiction on Facebook to receive all of the updates as they’re posted.