Videogames have come a long way, not just in how they look, but also how they sound. Today they can hold their own against the soundtracks of the big cinema releases. However bigger isn’t always better, as the best soundtracks are the ones that add to the feel and tone of the game.
There are so many excellent soundtracks to choose from and everyone will have their own personal favourites. However this is my list, so if your favourite isn’t here that doesn’t necessarily mean it is bad, just that either I prefer something else over it, or I might not have heard it. Also I have decided to only include individual games, so there won’t be an entry for a single series.
So with that disclaimer out of the way, here is my list
10: Pokémon Red & Blue
I might have started by saying how far videogame music has come, but the soundtracks that were present over 15 years ago knew how to make a simple tune that could be immensely catchy despite its required repetitive nature. I (and many others) listened to the sweet chip sounds of Kanto for many hours and I still enjoyed them. Even today I still marvel at its excellence.
9: Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Human Revolution had a surprisingly unique aesthetic. It managed to combine European Renaissance style with something that can easily be thought of as being “futuristic” but still grounded within this century. The combination of the two made the game stand out whilst simultaneously feeling familiar and strange. This same logic was applied to the soundtrack by Michael McCann, who managed to combine traditional instruments with electronic elements. Recently this sort of sound, whilst not prevalent, is not a rarity either. But McCann was slightly ahead of the curve.
8: Remember Me
This was a game that caught me by surprise. I remember (that was not intentional) when the game was first announced being intrigued by the memory altering parts, but being put off by the contrasting reviews. Then when it became available on PS Plus I gave it a go. The game is by no means perfect, but I can recommend that people give it a go. In many ways it shares a lot of its aesthetics with Human Revolution partly because of its near future setting. This extends to its soundtrack, although whilst it utilises a mix of old and new, the new is more of a case of making the tracks sound as though they have been corrupted, complementing the feel of the game. In addition to complementing the game, the tracks are really outstanding on their own merit because of their style, Olivier Deriviere almost seems to take McCann’s concept and build upon it.
7: Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory
Chaos Theory still stands out in the Splinter Cell franchise. It is possibly the most polished and also one of the best stealth games so far. It managed to prove that stealth doesn’t have to mean powerless. The level design and the control of Fisher were both perfect, and so was the sound design. This was because of the excellent dynamic soundtrack that was created by Brazilian Trip Hop artist Amon Tobin. The music would often just be ambient noise, but would gradually alter based on the actions that were taking place on screen. Then if everything went to hell, the music instantly reflected this, with a dramatic increase in tempo before gradually fading out when the situation had returned to normal. Listening to the released soundtrack is not the same as in game due to the way it interacts with the game. However the recorded version is an excellent electronic album that stands on its own.
Oh Killer7, you wonderfully absurd game. Japan is known for creating some of the weirdest games; and Killer7 is no exception. A mature cel-shaded third person adventure game that is also at the same time an on-rails first person shooter from auteur Suda51. Where you control a wheelchair bound assassin and his 7 completely different personalities to try and stop a terrorist organisation known as the Heaven Smile. All the while relations between the US and Japan have broken down and either sides destruction is imminent. With all of this going on, a suitable diverse soundtrack is required, which Masafumi Takada and Jun Fukuda were able to provide.
Come back next week as I disclose the remainder of my top 10.