When we talk about video games that we love, we invariably find ourselves often praising elements such as graphics, gameplay, re-playability, addictiveness and so on. These factors are, of course, very important and without some or all of these factors being done well, a game may well end up dead on its feet and relegated to the 3 for £10 section of used game stores. One element that I seem to remember most about many of my favourite games is the strength of their soundtracks. For me, this can either make or break a video game. In recognition of this fact I’ve put together a list of my top 5 video game soundtracks and in game music.
Pokémon (All generations)
Ok, we all know that this was going to feature on my list somewhere, but its place on the list is well warranted. The original Pokémon theme is a classic in its own right and the very sound of it summarises childhood for many video game fans. Not only are the main themes for the Pokémon games extremely iconic and catchy, but the in game wild/trainer/gym leader battle music is incredibly emotive and addictive. Even in the earlier generations when sound quality from those tiny speakers was pretty dodgy at best, the music still managed to worm its way into your brain to be regurgitated at the most socially inconvenient times. Humming the Pokémon theme tune on the bus is guaranteed to get you a seat by yourself and earn you reproachful looks from all and sundry.
This is one of my favourite games of all time. People who have read my posts before will probably be tired of me talking about this game but it really is that good. The gameplay, level design, characters and atmosphere are all phenomenal, and the soundtrack is no less than brilliant. From the jolly opening sequence theme, which creates immediate happiness to all familiar with the game, to the in-game music the quality is outstanding. Noteworthy mentions include the melancholy spiral mountain soundtrack, Mayahem Temple, Witchyworld, Terrydactyland levels and, my personal favourite, Hailfire Peaks (both Icy and Fire sides) which never fails to blow me away.
The Legend of Zelda Majora’s Mask:
To be honest, almost any Zelda game could feature on this list, Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess in particular have some cracking soundtracks to their levels which are incredibly memorable and emotive. However, Majora’s Mask just edges it for me. The music to most of their levels and the ocarina melodies are just so incredibly moving, melancholy and just downright weird. The song of healing, Clock Town’s main theme and the music for the Stone Tower stand out in my mind but there are many other examples of stunning musical composition in this game (I’m looking at you Elegy of Emptiness.) The audio effects for Zelda have always been spot on. I would recommend, if you have not already done so, to pick up a copy of the special orchestral soundtrack CD which was released with Skyward Sword, the 7 or 8 tracks included on the CD are all beautifully performed by a full orchestra.
Donkey Kong 64
Jazz. Bongo drums. Singing Simians. This game literally has it all. The music for the in-game levels is exceptional from the joyous Jungle Japes to the dank Gloomy Galleon. Each level’s music perfectly mirrors the intended atmosphere of the level in question. My personal favourite is the classic Angry Aztec level but there are many others of an equally high quality. Except the DK rap. Never the DK rap. That can go straight to hell. (As a side-note, I never actually got to finish this game; the stupid mini game was too hard.)
Super Mario 64:
Where to start with this game? Super Mario 64 is one of the best games of all time with a soundtrack to match. This game features some of the best level design on a 3D platformer ever and the music only helps to enhance the gameplay. Each tune complements the level perfectly and creates a distinct atmosphere, making each level a hugely memorable experience. I defy anyone who has prior experience of this game to hear any of the level themes on this game without being transported into a state of childhood delight. Honourable mentions include Lethal Larva Land, Shifting Sand Land, Cool, Cool Mountain and Bowser: In the Dark World. The music on the run-up to the Bowser confrontations is epic and really ramps up the tension. It’s hard to believe that anyone could not have played this game, but if you haven’t do so, but make sure it’s the N64 version rather than the DS, its way better.