When you spend all day playing video games, your eyes and your hands are totally satisfied. Your brain, maybe not so much, but those eyes and those hands, baby. But what about your ears? Yeah, those cute dangly guys jutting out of the side of the melon you’ve got balanced on top of your no doubt ripped, glistening torso. What are those poor guys to do? Well we here at Pop Modern, serving, like always, as the triumphant voice of the oppressed, have compiled a list of video game soundtracks that will satisfy your often squandered gift of hearing. Your twitchy digits and pupils, too, may enjoy these choices.
Chrono Trigger: The soundtrack to this critically-acclaimed SNES JRPG is almost more famous than the game itself. It’s endlessly listenable, both in and out of context, and its legacy can be felt in game soundtracks to this day. It’s also one of the most remixed and orchestrated soundtracks of all time, with the standout being a remix album that overlays Jay-Z’s most famous verses onto the songs of one of the best games of all time. The album can be found here: http://2mellomakes.bandcamp.com/album/chrono-jigga
Bastion: Darren Korb was the composer and sound designer for 2011’s indie hit Bastion, which has captured the hearts of millions of gamers to this day. Even as Supergiant Games’ next title, Transistor, is looking to be a better game, it’ll be tough beating its predecessor’s soundtrack. A combination of folk guitars, smooth vocals, and surreal blues instruments, the soundtrack is as integral to selling the game’s magical universe as the painterly art style and gruff narration are. Zia’s Theme (Build That Wall) is a personal favorite of mine: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t8cELTdtw6U)
Hotline Miami: Continuing the theme of selling a game world with music, I can’t help but add Hotline Miami to this list. For a game that lets you play as an insane, masked serial killer in the 80’s, it’s only fitting that the soundtrack is loud, disturbing, and trance-like. It’s a 50/50 split on songs that make you feel dirty and corrupted, and thumping techno beats that make you want to jump into the game and smash a few Russian mobster heads in yourself. The entire soundtrack is available as one long track on YouTube here (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oKD-MVfC9Ag), but I wouldn’t recommend listening to it all in one sitting if you want to keep your sanity.
Fallout 3: In this post-apocalyptic world, the deserts are full of mutants, the water is full of radiation, and the air is full of music from the 1940s. The dichotomy between futuristic technology and jazz songs, such as “I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire,” provides humorous relief to the horrific scenarios that the hero from Vault 101 undertakes.
Halo Reach: Let’s make one thing clear: I am not disparaging any other Halo soundtracks. As a personal preference I like Reach the best. The Reach theme strikes the right tone, somber yet inspirational, the perfect tone to complement the storyline. The instrumentals are downright beautiful, and the singing borders on ethereal. This is definitely one of the highest quality video game soundtracks ever produced.
The Pokémon Series: Let’s be honest. People pretend that the Pokémon soundtrack isn’t great, but they are just lying to themselves. Wandering through the grass, there is no greater pleasure than hearing the spiraling sounds that precede the battle that is sure to commence. The music is infectious, pleasant to the ear, and most importantly, the songs can withstand 300 hours’ worth of playthroughs.
Civilization IV: The Civilization games have a lot to be proud of: from historical intricacies, to detailed units and buildings, to addictive gameplay, it’s easy to get sucked into the experience. The music is certainly a big part of that. Civilization V especially offers a great musical selection, featuring ambient themes (ones for war and ones for peace) for every civilization in the game. Why, then, did I choose to highlight Civilization IV? It’s for that opening song, “Baba Yetu,” which is incredibly beautiful. That song is the only reason I have the opening cinematic of Civilization IV forever seared on the inside of my skull.
Eternal Champions: To be fair, this choice is a biased one. I had a Genesis as a kid, and for whatever reason this was one of my staple games. I don’t remember where or when I bought it. I don’t remember how much I played it. I don’t even remember if I was any good at it. But I’ll tell you one thing I do remember: the music. The main theme is classic pump-up, chip-tuney stuff, and I’m not afraid to admit that I still hum and dance along whenever I encounter it. Did this choice bump some better-orchestrated game music off the list? Maybe, but just listen to that and tell me it’s not fun: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9_MZk3wE-lA
The Legend of Zelda Series: Yeah yeah, I know it’s a huge cop-out to just go ahead and name a series, but I felt like I had to go wide to compensate for that last esoteric choice. Besides, it’s so hard to pick a specific Zelda game, since they all have such knock-out music. I suppose I’m partial to Ocarina of Time or Twilight Princess, but that’s because those are the two that I’ve spent the most time with out of any Zelda game. That all being said, I think I can safely say that “Song of Storms” will be my favorite video game song for a long time. If you like the music of The Legend of Zelda, I highly suggest you check out Zelda Reorchestrated. They’re a group that has taken the music of the series and given it an orchestral sound. Check them out here: http://www.zreomusic.com/
Hate one of our soundtrack choices? Have to just scream out your favorite choice, despite noise limitations in your home or place of business? How about instead you head on down to the comments and sound off? Help yourself! Heaven knows we want to hear every last opinion we can.