Game lovers, unite. Yes, we purposely avoiding going down that path and invoking the “gamer” status that so many people argue over in YouTube comment sections. For a game to be a good one, what exactly does it need? There isn’t a single universal answer, such as video game music or graphics. That’s because some of the greatest video games in history managed to ascend to stardom by providing players with the perfect balance between every element.
It needs a good story, good characters, engaging gameplay, thrills and twists to keep our interest piqued, and an atmosphere. Let’s stay here for a while. The atmosphere can often make the difference. Take for example Amnesia: The Dark Descent and its status as one of the greatest horror games of all time. Despite not being riddled with jump-scares and gore all over the place, the constant feeling of dread and the building atmosphere are what made the whole experience.
And let’s be honest – nothing can contribute to a well-established atmosphere better than music. A game’s soundtrack is remembered as vividly as the experience, if not more, for the plain reason that you can always press play on your music player and revisit those tunes. So, based on how memorable the OST alone is, we give you the Top 10 Video Game Music We Will Never Forget.
#1 The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Image Courtesy of Nintendo
When you think of orchestra music in video games, you need to give credit to Ocarina of Time for its presence. Composed by Koji Kondo, the tunes heard in the background of Link’s journey is as timeless as it is magical. Even though Kondo had previously worked on other notable projects (such as Mario 2, 3, and World), many argue that nothing neither he or Nintendo created after managed to surpass it.
Image Courtesy of Sony Computer Entertainment
No game has been given a more proper title than Journey. It may not be riddled with combat and action sequences, but the sheer atmosphere, messages, emotional value, and soundtrack managed to beat any other action-packed game. Having won several “Game of the Year” awards, its music, composed by Austin Wintory, was also rewarded for its three years of production with a nomination at the Grammy Awards.
Not many people have heard about Ico and it’s definitely a shame. An old-school PlayStation 2 game released in 2001, it tells the story of Ico and Yorda, two runaways who try to escape their fates as sacrifices for different people. Although the game lacked commercial success, it made it for it through critical recognition. It was a work of art by many means and Michiru Oshima’s music perfectly captures the vibes by tapping both into the light and the haunting sides of the story.
#4 Chrono Trigger
Considered to be one of the most influential soundtracks of all time, Chrono Trigger’s music was the result of relentless dedication from Yasunori Mitsuda’s side. Many sleepless nights, weariness, and even sickness served as obstacles but, nonetheless, it was Mistuda’s dream to break the time’s barrier and prove that video game music can be given just as much thought as anything else.
#5 Streets of Rage 2
Image Courtesy of Sega
Back in the days when Sega was considered to be an underdog living at the mercy of the much more successful Nintendo, Sega managed to land a harsh blow on its competitor through the Sega Genesis. While Nintendo didn’t want to steer away from its family-friendly image, Sega released several titles much more oriented towards a mature audience. Street Fighter 2 was one of those violent, bloody, and grim examples, with the Yuzo Koshiro music that backed it up also dropping all chirpy soundtracks typical of Mario or Sonic the Hedgehog.
#6 The Last of Us
Image Courtesy of Sony Computer Entertainment
Remember when we talked about how a game needs all edges to be good in order to succeed? The Last of Us came out on top as one of the most acclaimed games of all time, receiving numerous accolades for the innovations it brought to storytelling, acting, and character development. The emotional factor balances out the dark post-apocalyptic landscape, and it’s fully complimented by Gustavo Santaolalla, writer of scores for Babel or Brokeback Mountain.
#7 Silent Hill
Speaking of acclaimed games, there isn’t a person who hasn’t heard of Silent Hill and the influence it had on all horror games that would be made from then on. The gameplay was innovative, the ambiance was atmospheric and filled with dread, and Akira Yamaoka’s score came as the perfect completion of the picture. Decades later, the static FM sound and the unsettling music still haunt the dreams of those who’ve played the game.
#8 Final Fantasy VI
Through a silent consensus, the gaming word has come to the agreement that Final Fantasy VII is probably the greatest game of the franchise. However, there’s one place where it had its thunder stolen from. Its predecessor, Final Fantasy VI, gave us one of the most iconic soundtracks of gaming. Composer Nobuo Uematsu was just beginning his ascension through the writing for VI and managed to set his reputation in stone by the time it was finished.
#9 Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
Image Courtesy of Konami
A list without Castlevania would be no list at all. There are many titles to pick from, but we assumed that it was only natural for the one with the word “symphony” in it to come out on top in terms of music quality. Brought into the game by Michiru Yamane, Symphony of the Night’s soundtrack was treading on a very thin layer of ice with its risky techno – classical combos. Luckily for us, it turned out to be one of those rewarding risks.
#10 Red Dead Redemption
Image Courtesy of Rockstar Games
Composed by the duo Bill Elm and Woody Jackson, the soundtrack for Red Dead Redemption mostly stood out through its unique partnership with the cinematography that managed to surprise everyone. They managed to prove that, not only does music matter and can be given a lot of narrative undertones, but that it can be even more impressive when packed with cinematic visuals worthy of matching those of Hollywood movies.