With Classic FM’s Hall of Fame 2014 due in this Easter weekend, Juan and Bat decided to collaborate on a Top 10 of their favourite game scores. Expect both familiar and suprising titles as we count down our most memorable and favourite gaming soundtracks!
Juan’s 5 Favourite Game Scores
Final Fantasy – Series
For me, Final Fantasy VII was a game of many firsts. It was the first PS1 game I bought (that didn’t come bundled with the console), it was the first time I’d played a ‘JRPG’, and it was the first time that I really noticed the impact music can have on a video game. Just thinking about Aerith/Aeris’s Theme, has the hairs on the back of my neck standing on end, and evokes memories of a period in gaming that I will always consider the greatest. FFVII was the biggest game I’d played, eating up some 60+ hours on my first play through (and I’ve played through it several times since), and if it wasn’t for Nobuo Uematsu’s sublime score, I’m not sure that journey would have been half as enjoyable. The music, as well as the great characters, really helped me create an emotional attachment, and as those who have played through the game will no doubt agree with, that horrible sucker punch of Aeris meeting a premature end.
Uematsu continued the fantastic run of game scores with Final Fantasy VIII, with another excellent array of music, ranging from the dramatic, to the mellow, and the odd bit of jazz thrown in. Again, the music adds to the emotional weight of the game, with there being more than one romantic subplot, and this time, with the abilities of the Playstation at the time being pushed to its limits, the audio quality improved significantly, which was even more evident in Final Fantasy IX, which was probably the best looking and sound Final Fantasy to hit the PS1, with score seeming to take on a more traditional English sound for its main theme. As the gaming technology improved, so did the scores, ranging from the beautiful piano numbers of Final Fantasy X, to the upbeat, but seemingly over recycled music from Final Fantasy XIII. All of the games tend to play on the same motifs, but FFXIII seemed to use the same tune in the majority of the soundtrack, although this is the first main FF game not to use Uematsu as composer, it’s still a great score, to accompany a fantastic game.
While the first six FF games also have great scores, they are perhaps not quite as memorable as the FFVII onwards, but if you happen to own a 3DS and have a love of Final Fantasy’s music, then assuming you don’t already, you really need to invest in Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy, it’s a rhythm game featuring several of the games, from Final Fantasy to Final Fantasy XIII, best scores.
Metal Gear Solid
If this games soundtrack didn’t inspire the music behind 24, I’ll be very shocked. The music for Metal Gear Solid, while often ominous background music, often added to the tension of this espionage thriller, particularly in times of panic. The game is all about taking your time, sneaking around and avoiding your enemies eye line. If you get spotted, things get tense, and the score assists that feeling, be it certain A to B sections, or boss fights. MGS has a great sound, that wasn’t uncommon in most big action blockusters of the early 2000’s before things started getting Zimmery. Subtle yet elaborate, there’s very few games of its time that the music feels like it was there as a part of the experience, rather than just something in the background.
The Legend Of Zelda – Series
From the very first game, The Legend of Zelda has produced some fantastic music. Even in its 8-bit infancy the music was memorable and really gave you a sense of adventure. As the quality of videogames improved, so did the score, which became more and more orchestral and more diverse with each game. The music really came into its own with the N64 classic Ocarina of Time. With the capabilities of the game and console, the score was as close to perfect as it could get at the time, with Gorrudo Valley striking a cord with me in particular, with its wonderful Spanish guitar sound. Things only improved with the epic score for The Wind Waker. A game that was written off by many for its drastic change in art style, boasts probably the best score of the entire series, in particular the field music, evoking the wonders of the open waves.
Twilight Princess, Zelda’s opening entry on the Nintendo Wii, saw even more improvements to the sound quality, but also more of an experimental sound when the game takes place in the shadow realm. The Wii also saw the arrival of Skyward Sword, which again boasts a great soundtrack, cannot beat the sublime sounds of The Wind Waker, which also, recently saw the HD revamp treatment.
Grant Kirkhope’s mesmerising score is the main draw for me with this unique title. In essence, a gardening simulator in which you breed sweet based animals, which sounds utterly bizarre but is a genuinely rewarding experience. The score adds a serene quality to the game, which always raises a smile. The orchestral score really does sound like one of the most accomplished scores ever composed for a videogame. If you had never heard it before and it came on Classic FM, you would be none the wiser as to whather this was a classical piece or composed for a game. Tracks like ‘Tranquil Hours’, and ‘Daily Dance’, really capture the essence of the game, and it’s one of those where as soon as you hear the music, you’re instantly taken back to that time in your garden, trying to rear a Mousemallow, Sherbat or Profitamole. Easily one of the greatest scores ever composed, regardless of format.
Super Mario Bros. – (Series)
How can you have a list of the best game scores and not have the dumpy plumber included? The original platform star has some of the most memorable music in videogame history. Over the last 30+ years (in no way is that depressing) we’ve been in awe of the continuous adventures of Mario, who more often than not has to rescue Princess Toadstool/Daisy/Peach. Accompanying the many games has always been a memorable soundtrack, and none more memorable than the opening level of the first Super Mario Bros. on the NES. Since then we’ve seen homages, variations and revamps of the classic music, over many different formats, ranging from the NES, SNES, Game Boy, N64, Game Cube and the Wii. Much like every other long running series over several platforms, the music gets better and better with each new title, and there’s no better example than Super Mario 3D World. Not only is there a great original score, it borrows from all the previous games in some shape or form, really adding to the sound of the game whilst invoking some misty eyed nostalgia.
It’s no exaggeration that Super Mario 3D World is the best Mario game yet, and the score more than contributes to that, following on from the fantastic music heard in previous titles. The grand Super Mario Galaxy, and the exotic and underrated Super Mario Sunshine, again had great unique main themes, but also used and reworked the music from previous games. And we can’t go without mentioning Super Mario World, which is still yet to be beaten as a 2D platformer, completely revamped the Mario score, with the only hint of music from the old NES games being present at the Special Stage. If there’s one gamer out there over 25 that doesn’t know the theme tune to Super Mario Bros., they’ve obviously been doing it wrong.
Bat’s 5 Favourite Game Scores
I can only testify for the first two generations of the game (blue + red, silver + gold), but Pokemon is up there with the best of them. I have many fond memories of my character, a master Pokemon trainer in the making, hopping on his bike to pedal to the next village, dueling other Poke trainers, finding wild Pokemon in the tall grass and surfing up and down the water on Lapras searching for Missingo (yes, you recall that don’t you?). With each of those experiences I have attached firmly in my mind the iconic, catchy sounds that were presented for each scenario.The tempo was certainly upbeat and intense during a pokeduel whilst the floaty and tranquil sounds were reserved for sailing on the water. A tremendous game of its time that will always be a game-changer and a memorable one at that. Hell, I still make the cycling music noise when anyone pedals down the street!
From Square Enix comes Kingdom Hearts, one of the greatest games ever created. An RPG that includes characters and worlds from the Disney universe, the story is of a teenage boy named Sora who is whisked away from his island home and must defeat the evil Heartless with they keyblade to save King Mickey’s world, to find his friends Kairi and Riku and to return home.
The orchestrated music in Kingdom Hearts is so emotional, just listening to it brings a load of memories flooding back from the time spent playing the game. It’s funny how music has the power to move people, and Kingdom Hearts’ score definitely has the ability to do that. I’d probably say out of all the music I’ve heard in games, this has to be my favourite.
Crazy and upbeat is the only way to describe the music and sounds of the bubble popping game, Bust-A-Move 2. The aim of the game is to shoot coloured bubbles to other bubbles of the same colour on the chamber, with the aim to get 3 touching in order to pop the touching bubbles. The overall target is to clear the entire area, which is easier said than done when extra bubbles are added every so often. The player must also prevent the bubbles from mounting up and passing a certain line. Sounds simple, and for the most part, it is. But with each level, the intensity increases, as does the music as you’re nearing defeat.
The music is zany and uplifting and will capture the imaination of anyone who plays this classic PS1 and arcade title.
I was originally going to write Sonic the Hedgehog or even Harvest Moon: Back To Nature, but then I thought about the soundtracks that affected me in either a memorable or emotional way, which is why I selected Hitman. The score of the Hitman games, particularly Hitman Contracts, is so dark and moody, it really affects you subconsciously. But it was one song in particularly from the amazing Jesper Kyd that has me in a complete meltdown: Ave Maria. Yes, a song that is used in church and classical music. But not like this. Jesper Kyd’s version has me in absolute pieces. With Ave Maria played over the ending of Blood Money, I was in bits. A breathtaking track in what is an incredible series of scores (pre-Absolution).
Are you surprised to see Goat Simulator listed? Well, you shouldn’t be cos not only is it the greatest game of the year, and maybe of all time (GOAT? 😉 ), but it has a loopy soundtrack to accompany the headbutting antics of our favourite long, sticky-tongued goat!
From bouncing on trampolines and flyng through windows, to sliding down a waterslide, rolling a giant boulder onto a garden party, blowing up a petrol station like Michael Bay and becoming a satanic goat that can fly, these marvellous activities are made infinitely more exhilerating with this cracking soundtrack. Enjoy!