Graphics, gameplay, environment, story, characters, controls, dialogue, these are all important aspects of a video game and if even just one of these elements is off, it can ruin the entire game. Equally, if a game’s score is out of whack, the player can really be taken out of the action. As it does in film and TV, music in gaming sets the mood and can lead a player down the correct emotional pathway. If GTA’s soundtrack was filled with One Direction and Justin Bieber, it wouldn’t make sense to both the plot and the storyline. Sure the player may be inclined to kill a lot more NPCs but it still wouldn’t make sense in terms of the game. As a background element, music in gaming can often get overlooked. Which is a shame because there are some great game soundtracks out there and for that reason, today I have decided to compile a list of some of the best game soundtracks of all time.
Super Mario Bros.
Apart from the phrase, “It’s a me, Mario” there is no more recognisable sound from the Mario games than the scratchy, calypso, electronic tune that would greet you every time you booted up the little red plumber. It’s not just the main theme, or “Ground Theme” as it was originally known, that deserves all the praise. Every track in the Super Mario Bros. game will release a flood of nostalgia in any little game boy or girl’s heart. Koji Kondo is a man that probably deserves more recognition than he garners because we must remember that he is also responsible for a lot of the music over in the series of The Legend Of Zelda.
Above ground everything sounds happy and cheerful as Mario goes about his daily business of rescuing Princess Peach. Fall down a pipe and everything takes a turn for the worst. What is so impressive about this theme is that it encapsulates a lot of different motions in the few minutes it allows itself. Put that alongside the very limited soundscape that was available to Nintendo on the Game Boy and it becomes even more impressive.
Burnout 3: Takedown
In the year 2015, it both saddens me and fills me with joy that I can say Burnout 3 is still the best racing game of all time. Surely, in the eleven years that has passed since its release, you would have thought that one game, just one game could have stepped up to reclaim the trophy. Alas, that has not been the case and Burnout 3 still reigns supreme. Racing, takedowns, creating as much carnage at an intersection as possible and the beauty that was the aftertouch takedown, this game was nothing but fun. It would be very easy for me to use my entire word count on how great this game is but that’s not the point of this article.
If you’ve forgotten, like I did for a second, this article is about music. Now I don’t know who was responsible for compiling the soundtrack to Burnout 3 but whoever that person is deserves as many crash dollars as possible. Whether you are into indie/pop punk/emo/alternative music or not, it’s hard to deny that the tracks chosen to play in the background of this demolition racing experience are perfectly suited. The songs provide the right mix of anger to fuel your ambition and triumphant inspiration to add that little boost to keep you in the lead. Even on its own, this soundtrack is a joy to listen to and I don’t ever see the day where I delete this playlist from my music playing device.
PaRappa The Rapper
Before I get into the music, can I just remind you how mind-numbingly hard this game was and still is today? I was a little bit late to PaRappa The Rapper and I never played it as a kid but I don’t imagine I would have stuck around for very long then either. When you have a game as hard as this, you need to keep in mind how often certain levels are going to be replayed. When these levels, by which I mean all of them, are being replayed, it’s important that the soundtrack doesn’t become stale or even worse, annoying.
For all the annoying aspects of PaRappa, the music never made me angry. In fact I had the “Chop Chop Master Onion” song on my iPod for two or three years before I ever investigated the game any further. Of course, once I did buy the game, I quickly gave up on completing it but I never got bored of any of the music. It’s just so fun and catchy and I even found myself looking up the last few levels on Youtube just for the songs.
The Last Of Us
Pretty much any list I write that includes the words “best” and “game” is going to include this masterpiece. We all know how brilliant every other aspect of The Last Of Us is so I’m not going to bang on about anything else but the music. When Naughty Dog set out to develop a game heavily focused on the story, it was only right to contact a dual Academy Award winning film composer. Gustavo Santaolalla is known for his minimalist approach to music and for a game so heavily focused on scavenging and making every supply count, his music is the perfect fit. Santaolalla and his team didn’t just take the cheque, spit out whatever rubbish that first came to their minds and run with it, this is a score than has had a lot of effort poured into its notes.
Sometimes the music sets the pace of the story before the story has even had a chance to begin. There is urgency to the action scenes, a beauty to the quiet scenes and a deep well of sadness to the emotional scenes, all heavily highlighted by the music unpretentiously playing in the background. Music is very closely related to memories and when a game as a heavy as this hits you with its score, it’s going to be a long time before you can dissociate the music from the feels. The Last Of Us soundtrack is one of my most played soundtracks and it is very helpful if you want to wallow in your pity, take a moment to reflect on life or just remember how much this game has affected your life.
Woah, after that very deep topic, why don’t we try and talk about something much happier? How ‘bout aaahhhhh, Russia? There are very few things I know about Russian culture outside of vodka, bear skins and the cold. I don’t even know what their national anthem sounds like but if I had to hazard a guess I would say it sounds a lot like the video below.
To be fair, I must mention that this song is in fact an instrumental version of the Russian folk song, Korobeiniki but just the fact that I didn’t know that until researching it for this article proves just how much this song is now associated with Tetris. Catchy, fast and joyfully repetitive, this is the kind of music that impeccably suits a game full of catchy, fast and joyfully repetitive gameplay. Tetris is the most successful game of all time and it is a crying shame that the creator, Alexey Pajitnov didn’t receive any royalties from his creation until 1996. Still you couldn’t be prouder of your achievements as a Russian if you were the person responsible for finally putting a shirt on Putin.